white button down outfit

Fight the Frump: 12 Easy Ways You Can Fix Your Frumpy Outfits

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A vast majority of people might assume that to create stylish outfits, you only need to wear designer pieces and trendy clothes. But that’s not the case. Believe it or not, expensive pieces can create frumpy outfits, as can trendy and classic clothing items. It’s not what you’re wearing as much as it’s how you’re wearing it. The focus of any outfit should be on putting together a flattering look that highlights your best features. On that note, it’s time to revamp your style by learning how to fix your frumpy outfits!

What is looking frumpy?

In order to fight the frump, you have to know what it is. Looking frumpy can mean different things to different people, but for this post, looking frumpy is dressing in clothes that are shapeless and do not flatter you. If you wear a flowing maxi skirt with an oversized shirt (without a tuck) and a scarf, it’s possible you are dressing in a frumpy outfit.

Dressing frumpy can also mean looking old-fashioned and dressing in a way that makes you look older and less stylish than you really are. Examples of dressing old-fashioned are wearing capris with polyester floral shirts, elastic waist jeans (and not in a trendy way), and graphic t-shirts with rhinestones.

Now that you know what frumpy is (ill-fitting and outdated clothing), now it’s time to fix it!

1. Belt It

how to not look frumpy

dress | belt | shoes

When in doubt, belt your outfit. It makes a huge difference to your overall look. This tried-and-true style tip helps to emphasize the waist to create a flattering silhouette.

Whether it’s a shift dress, shirt dress, or pencil skirt, a belt will turn it from frumpy to flattering. Keep in mind that a shirt dress in and of itself isn’t a frumpy piece and doesn’t always have to be belted, but if you feel like it’s swallowing you up or making you look shapeless (the dreaded “garbage bag” look), that’s when you know it’s time to break out the belt.

Wondering how to wear a belt the right way? It depends on what you are wearing. Generally, when you’re trying to add shape to a dress, it’s best to place it slightly above the belly button or wherever your waist starts to curve inwards. Avoid belting directly below the chest or on the widest part of your hips.

2. Wear a Cropped Jacket

how to fix your frumpy outfits

dress | jacket | flats | watch

Another great way of emphasizing the waist is with a cropped jacket. This trimmed outerwear is shortened just at the waist, so it creates the illusion of a defined waist without accessorizing with a belt.

You can pair a cropped and structured jacket with a high-waisted skirt or a shapeless dress for a more defined body shape.

3. Unbutton Your Shirt

how to fix your frumpy outfits

shirt | jeans | shoes

One of the easiest ways of fixing frumpy outfits is simply unbuttoning your shirt. When a shirt is buttoned-up to the top, it can make an outfit look stuffy, boxy, and dated.

Give your shirt a chic and relaxed flair by unbuttoning the first three buttons. Not only can creating a v-neck be flattering and elongate your neck, but it’s the perfect backdrop for layering on some stylish necklaces.

4. Tuck It In

how to fix your frumpy outfits

shirt | jeans | shoes

Having your shirt go way past your waist can make your outfit appear frumpy. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution for this. Just tuck it in!

Tucking in a shirt can make the biggest difference to an outfit. And the best part is this style tip can be flattering for any body type. There are different ways to tuck in your shirt, depending on your body type and personal style.

If you carry weight in your midsection and are afraid that fully tucking in your shirt would highlight your stomach, then do a front tuck. Simply just tuck the front of your shirt into your bottoms. This leaves fabric hanging out on the sides and it’s a perfect way to add definition but keep some coverage.

Another popular style is the half tuck. All you have to do is tuck in one side of your top and leave the other side out. These techniques not only make your outfit look less frumpy, but they give an outfit a chic yet casual finish!

5. Create Fitted Clothes by Altering

how to not look frumpy

pants | blazer | shirt | shoes

Do you have a pair of dress pants or a jacket that you wish would fit you better? Try to find a good tailor to resize your pieces to the right size.

You’ll see how taking your pieces a few inches in or shortening a hem can transform your entire look from frumpy to stylish. A few minor fixes are the best way to save money if replacing your ill-fitted clothes with all new pieces is out of your budget right now.

If you want to fake the illusion of tailoring your clothes and you have some extra money to spend, then invest in a well-fitting blazer and pair of dress pants. These polished items that fit your body well are a foolproof way to avoid frumpiness.

Related: A Timeless French Capsule Wardrobe for Women Over 50

6. Remove Excess Layers and Accessories

how to fix your frumpy outfits

jeans | top | necklace | shoes

An important part of learning how to fix your frumpy clothes is knowing what layers to keep and what to leave behind. If it doesn’t flatter your body type, then wearing multiple layers can drown you.

Another great example of effective layering is to not over-accessorize your outfit. Adding oversized earrings, a chunky necklace, bracelets, sunglasses, and a watch to your outfit can add visual clutter and make you look frumpy. There is a good reason why the late Coco Chanel said, “Simplicity is the keynote of true elegance.”

By keeping your accessories simple and minimal, you won’t run the risk of making your outfits frumpy. On top of accessories, mastering how to combine clothing pieces to achieve a stylish and comfortable outfit is another key to fixing your frumpy outfit.

For instance, wearing a long sleeve top under a short sleeve dress isn’t always the best look. If your aim is to stay warm, then instead, remove the long sleeve top and team up your dress with a cardigan.

7. Balance Out the Proportions

how to fix your frumpy outfits

top | pants | necklace | shoes

Wearing an oversized sweater and baggy pants is one of the best examples of an outfit that is not well-balanced. Swap the baggy pants for a pair of slim jeans or the oversized sweater for a fitted top.

By keeping the top slimmer below and the bottom fuller, your outfit will look well thought-out.

8. Tone Down the Loud Prints

how to not look frumpy

top | jeans | boots

I love a good mixing prints moment myself, but it’s not for everyone. If it’s starting to look overwhelming on your frame, then consider toning it down a bit. We all love chic prints like stripes, polka dots, and florals, but be careful not to bury yourself or your outfit with too many loud prints.

If you are going to rock a polka dot shirt, then don’t pair it with floral pants. Offset the polka dots with plain black, white, or beige bottoms. The same goes for printed dresses. A floral dress will look frumpy if you accompany it with a floral kimono. Swap the kimono with a neutral-hued cardigan for a simple and polished look.

9. Ditch the Outdated Accessories

how to not look frumpy

jumpsuit | purse | shoes

Since frumpy can also mean outdated, another piece of advice for fixing a frumpy outfit is to ditch outdated accessories.

Purses with old-fashioned embroidery or shoulder bags with sequins can ruin a perfectly chic outfit like a little black dress or jumpsuit. The best thing to do is stick to elegant accessories with a simple silhouette and timeless material.

10. Remove Bulky Shoulder Pads

how to not look frumpy

blazer | jeans | top

Some jackets come with bulky and pointy shoulder pads that can make your outfit look gimmicky and old-fashioned. Simply removing the shoulder pads can give a more fitted silhouette and polished look.

To keep the integrity of your jacket intact, get the right tool (such as a seam ripper) and identify the right seam to open instead of wildly cutting into the jacket (oops, been there done that). Then gently make a small opening and reach your hand inside to remove the pad.

11. Add a Few Current Items to Your Wardrobe

how to fix frumpy outfits

coat | jeans | top

Not like you need it, but here’s your permission from one classic fashion lover to the next to add a few current and trendier items to your wardrobe. If your outfits are bland and look frumpy, even though everything fits well, then it’s time to change not the silhouette, but the style.

Thankfully, there are more current pieces you can add to your wardrobe to freshen up your look that can also be something you’d wear again. Because who wants a closet full of one-and-done outfits?

Consider adding pieces like leather leggings, a leopard print coat, or statement shoes to your wardrobe to jazz up your looks. These will make your outfit look more exciting but not be so unwearable that they will retire to the back of your closet.

12. Switching Up Your Clothing Retailer

If you find that you keep wearing the same bland item after the same bland item, then it’s time to shop somewhere else. Depending on your age, you may need to avoid certain clothing styles, such as pants that are trying to be jeans, embroidered vests, and orthopedic shoes or Sketchers.

But it’s hard to tell anyone to avoid any certain style. Maybe back in the day, velcro shoes made you look old. But now, with popular sneaker brand Veja coming out with velcro shoes, they’re cool again.

Same with elastic waist jeans. Back in the day, that was a “granny” thing to wear, but now that brands like Madewell have come out with pull-on jeans, they’re not such a fashion faux pas.

So if you are over 50 and want to continue to keep wearing these styles, then simply change the place you shop. Less Dollar General, Dress Barn, and Chadwicks. More Banana Republic, Loft, J.Crew, Madewell, Ann Taylor, Everlane, and Nordstrom.

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Learning how to fix your frumpy outfits is your solution to a classic and fashionable look, no matter your age. Follow these tips to ensure you are achieving your best style.

Looking for a stylish dress for a special occasion? You’ll find non-frumpy options in the next post!

Up Next: Dresses for Wedding Guests Over 40 That Are Stylish, Not Frumpy


Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making mychicobsession.com a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.