Pattern Your Style

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Renowned architectural designer Christopher Alexander once stated that “no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it.” Indeed, similar sentiments can be said of patterns in the fashion world. But there are certain fashion do's and fashion-don’ts when it comes to how to play with patterns, so let’s go through some of the ground guidelines (not rules, if you’re confident in what you’re doing):

1.    It’s okay to mix up stripes and dots but keep them scaled proportionally. This means that you can mix pinstripes and pin dots, but not the former with huge polka dots. Likewise, you can have larger dots with thicker stripes, but don’t try to pull off thick stripes with the tiny-dotted patterns. Apply this to (almost) any two patterns and you’ll be safe by mixing it up. You can actually use this on the same two patterns, meaning don’t mix up large polka dots with smaller pin dots, which is some advanced level of styling. Just use your best judgment in ensuring the patterns are complementary rather than clashing.

2.    Regardless of if you go subtle or stand-out, color management is important in playing with patterns. Monochromatic colors mean you can get away with more simply due to the nature of muted tones. If you have a pop (or two) of color, then just make sure that the color + pattern combinations aren’t competing with one another. When in doubt, subtlety is key.

3.    Another way to add a pattern subtly is through texture. Texture – like tweed or chambray – adds a unique level of design without necessarily having a concrete pattern. The guideline to keep in mind here is to keep the fabric families similar, i.e. cotton and wool go better together than cotton and silk.

4.    It’s probably a good idea to not get too matchy-matchy with your patterns. Basically, don’t have a pinstripe shirt with a pinstripe suit and a pinstripe tie. Leave that look for fashion shows.