The Secret To Endless Outfit Ideas? Use This Smart Technique Chefs and Bakers Know Well · Effortless Gent


Feel like you’re always starting from scratch when getting dressed in the morning? Or do you resort to wearing the same 3-5 things over and over, because you’re too lazy (or unsure how) to switch up your look in a simple, straightforward way?

You’re gonna love this little hack. Yes, you can use your basic outfit and zhuzh it up (or zhuzh it down, if that’s a thing?) and it doesn’t have to be complicated or take up too much brain power.

We’re utilizing this idea of “master recipes” which bakers and chefs know very well.


What is a Master Recipe?

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You may not have heard of this concept of master recipes before. I became familiar with it a few weeks back and I immediately saw the parallels between master recipes and a Lean Wardrobe, a concept we always discuss here on Effortless Gent.

A master recipe is like a basic guide for cooking something that you can change up easily. Think of it as a main idea for a food, like muffins or pancakes, but you can add different things or try new ways to make it special.

So sticking with food examples (before we get into outfit examples):

  • Pancakes: A basic pancake mix can be customized with blueberries, chocolate chips, bananas, or nuts
  • Muffins: A standard muffin batter can be transformed by adding fruits, nuts, or other flavorings
  • Soup: Having a basic broth base recipe can lead to numerous soup variations, depending on the proteins, vegetables, and seasonings you add
  • Stir-fry: With a basic stir-fry technique, you can mix and match noodles, proteins, vegetables, and sauces

Think of master recipes like the base of a tree. Just like branches can grow in different directions from the trunk, you can take the basic recipe and make many different dishes from it.

How does this relate to getting dressed every day?

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You can apply this concept to your wardrobe and outfits! The master recipe is your base outfit from which you put together many different outfit variations.

With just one, or a handful, of base outfits, you can change up individual elements and come up with endless outfit combinations that work no matter where you’re headed.

Or if you’re feeling lazy and uninspired that morning, totally fine, you can just wear that base outfit and know you’re solid.

Before You Start: Know Your Levels Of Formality

On EG we call it the spectrum of style formality. Mastering this will help you know what is traditionally more formal versus more casual and you can choose pieces based on how dressed up or dressed down you wanna go.

And whenever you need to alter your master recipe, all you have to do is use the swap trick to gradually adjust the style and formality of your outfit.

Master Recipe Ideas For Your Wardrobe

So, are you digging this idea? Want to try it out and put it to good use? Start with your master recipe / base outfit first.

Here are a few ideas when putting together your master recipe outfits.

Make One Master Recipe Base Outfit

This is the most general way to utilize this idea. You have one standard outfit—For this example, T-shirt, denim, white leather sneakers—and you use that as your base for everything else. 

Good To Know: Situation and Surroundings (SIS)

Part of building your Lean Wardrobe is knowing your SIS: Situation, Income, Surroundings. You can read more about SIS here, but for this master recipes concept, you just need to think about Situation and Surroundings.

As a quick recap, here’s how it breaks down:

  • Situation: What do you do on a daily or weekly basis? A 36-year-old web developer working from home every day, fully remote, will have a different master recipe than a 55-year-old orthodontist who owns his own practice and spends 5 days a week at the clinic.
  • Surroundings (part 1): Where do you live, and what’s the climate like? If our web developer lives in San Francisco, CA, while our orthodontist lives in Miami, Florida… they’ll gravitate towards different master recipe base outfits.
  • Surroundings (part 2): Also consider the people in your everyday life, like your colleagues, your peers, your friends, your family, and the larger community. How do they dress? What’s the accepted level of style and formality among those around you? While you don’t have to restrict yourself to a specific style of dressing, it’s worth considering as a guide to what’s generally accepted and “normal” in your circle.

By the way, if you want a wardrobe in which every clothing item works well together so putting together outfits is easy, check out our guide on building a lean and minimal wardrobe.

Anyway, back to this master recipe base outfit example.

Base Outfit Example: Dressed Down

It’s already pretty casual, but say you needed to take it down another notch. You could throw on track pants or fleece joggers, and socks with slides instead of sneakers.

Base Outfit Example: Dressed Up

If you needed to dress it up one or two notches, Swap the T-shirt for an Oxford shirt and the white leather sneakers for suede loafers.

You can even keep going if you need to; instead of denim, throw on gray wool trousers, and a tan sportcoat.

Base Outfits For Cold / Hot Weather

You can get more granular, and have one master recipe for warm weather (spring / summer), and another one for cold weather (fall / winter).

An example of a warm weather master recipe outfit could be light tan shorts, a navy linen shirt, and white canvas sneakers. A cold weather outfit example could be dark cotton denim, chambray, shirt, and brown leather Chelsea boots.

And just like any master recipe base outfit, you could dress these up or down as needed, or wear them as-is.

Base Outfits For Specific Situations Or Activities

Finally, you can create master recipe outfits based off of the things you do, the places you go most often, or the typical situations you find yourself in.

For example, you could have a base outfit for work days, one for the evenings, and another for the weekends.

You could have a daily casual master recipe outfit, and then one for your workout / active life, or outdoor activities.

Think about where you go or what you do most often and you can group outfits based on those parameters.

Here’s My Master Recipe Base Outfit

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This is my go-to master recipe base outfit (it’s one I’ve used for years): Dark denim, white Oxford cloth button down, brown leather loafers, and a field jacket.

Based on my own SIS, this outfit would make sense for like 80-90% of situations, e.g. seeing friends, in-person meetings, grabbing lunch, Zoom call, etc. 

As I mentioned earlier in the article, you have to evaluate your lifestyle, what you do on a daily or weekly basis, where you live, and the general climate in your area, before determining the best master recipe for you.

And this might take a bit of trial and error, but you will get there if you’re open to a bit of experimentation.

A dressed up variation of my master recipe base outfit

This simple base outfit could work year-round.

In the summer, I switch it up to a cream color pair of shorts, chambray or linen shirt, and unlined grey suede loafers. And in the winter, I might go with a flannel shirt instead of the Oxford cloth, and Chelseas or my Timberland lug sole leather boat shoes.

How I Would Switch It Up 

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Dressing Up My Master Recipe Base Outfit, Level 1

Depending on how much I need to dress it up, I could easily make those adjustments. Level 1 would be tucking in my shirt, and ditching the field jacket for a sport coat.

The outfit would look something like this. Pretty much the same exact outfit, but since it’s already “smart casual” in styling, all I really need to bring up the formality a bit is to tuck in the OCBD and throw on a sharp sport coat.

Dressing It Up, Level 2

Maybe I need to actually dress it up and go more formal. Well, I could change the loafers to lace-ups, the jeans to wool trousers, and the OCBD to a dress shirt.

Dressing Down My Master Recipe Base Outfit, Level 1

I could go the other direction as well. If I need to dress it down, I could go with a T-shirt instead of OCBD and chukka boots instead of suede loafers.

Dressing It Down, Level 2

Let’s say I’m really just chillin, hangin out with friends or something. I could wear the same T-shirt, but maybe a crewneck sweatshirt instead of a sweater, lighter jeans instead of dark denim, and white sneakers instead of chukkas.

The possibilities are endless!

What’s Your Master Recipe?

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Hope this was helpful! What does your base outfit consist of? Hit me up on Instagram and let me know!