Have you ever heard of the third-piece rule? We hadn’t either until we came across a former Nordstrom employee’s interesting account of her manager’s outfit advice. In order to encourage a more stylish sales staff, some retail associates are given the style guidance to wear outfits on the job comprised of three pieces, not including your shoes. Your pants and top are your first and second pieces, and your third piece is an extra outfit element such as a jacket, blazer, sweater, vest or statement accessory. The Cut reported that the third-piece rule is in effect at Banana Republic, and according to one of our editors who previously worked retail at Madewell, they encourage the practice too.
So what’s so special about a third piece? It adds nuance to an otherwise run-of-the-mill outfit, making you look put together, polished, more interesting, and like you put a little effort into your look. Essentially it’s a simple rule of thumb that promotes more stylish outfit choices. If you’re in doubt about the third piece’s power, just take a look at some of our street style favorites—you’ll notice all have adopted the guideline, with many even adding fourth and fifth pieces to take the effect to the next level.
Scroll down to check out some photos of the rule in practice. We swear you’re going to start asking yourself Am I wearing a third piece? before you leave the house—we already are!