What is an Outfit and Why is it Different from Attire

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

What is an Outfit?

An Outfit is a coordinated assembly of clothing, footwear, and accessories to convey either a classic fashion style or the wearer’s personal style.

Outfit is a term laden with cultural symbolism and aesthetic considerations. Unlike isolated articles of clothing or purely functional garments, outfits embody a convergence of aesthetics, functionality, and social meanings. [1]

As such, an outfit is a curated blend of clothes, footwear, and accessories according to strict aesthetic considerations and functional imperatives to convey social stratification and group identity.

Aesthetic and Social Meaning

Outfits incorporate aesthetic elements such as motifs, palettes, forms, and fabrics into visuals that communicate layers of social status, group belonging, and even functional considerations.

For example, a Preppy style outfit consisting of a Navy blazer, boat shoes, and a rep tie communicates classical values, tradition, and heritage.

Preppy style: Navy blazer, shirt, chinos, boat shoes, rep tie - conveys tradition.
Preppy style: Navy blazer, shirt, chinos, boat shoes, rep tie – conveys tradition.

On the other hand, a Boho-style outfit comprising flowy clothes in ethnic patterns, a fedora hat with feathers, and sandals radiates exuberance and free-spiritedness.

Outfits also communicate through the choice of colors; for example, a minimalist outfit in a monochromatic palette echoes simplicity and restraint.

On the contrary, a maximalist ensemble with bright colors, elaborate motifs, and a cornucopia of textures evokes opulence and grandeur.


Functionality also plays a critical role in the conceptualization of an outfit.

Clothes, footwear, and accessories must not only harmonize aesthetically but also serve the practical needs of the wearer.

What is the Difference Between Outfits and Attire?

While “attire” is construed as formal and occasion-specific, “outfits” encompass formal and casual ensembles depicting various fashion styles.

In comparison, “clothing” and “garments” lack the curatorial intent imbued in an “outfit.” [2]

For instance, one might have an assortment of clothes in the wardrobe.

What is the Difference Between Outfits and Attire
Elegant business attire

However, only carefully curating these clothes, coordinated for their aesthetic and functional coherence, can result in an Outfit ready for a gallery opening event.


[1] Thompson, C.J. and Haytko, D.L. (1997) ‘Speaking of fashion: Consumers’ uses of fashion discourses and the appropriation of countervailing cultural meanings‘, Journal of Consumer Research, 24(1), pp. 15–42.

[2] Gibbins, K. and Schneider, A. (1980) ‘Meaning of garments: Relation between impression of an outfit and the message carried by its component garments‘, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 51(1), pp. 287–291.

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

Similar Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.