Of all the tenets of dressing well, ‘do not clash patterns’ seems like one that have always held water. Pattern on pattern might have been a fashion tragedy back in the day, but (thankfully) not anymore. Fashion world is evolving with taking risks and making it work somehow. Today it is trying to push them boundaries. Deliberately playing around with prints and patterns is to design an outfit that looks like it shouldn’t go together. How could that be stylish?
Mixed-print dresses dominated the fashion industry over summer, but as things get cooler – and our whimsical summer midis are rendered a *tad* impractical – there’s an autumnal alternative that’s a whole lot more versatile.
Checks are arguably the most popular pattern (on account of being the one people find most easy to wear). Checks have infiltrated every corner of the wardrobe, from suiting and knitwear right through to street-wear.
By no means a surprise, we foresaw the imminence of the clashing check trend back in February having spotted the likes of A.W.A.K.E, Marta Jakubowski and Ashley Williams showcasing the idea within their AW19 London Fashion Week collections.
What we didn’t pre-empt, however, was the gusto with which the street style set would launch themselves into the trend mere months later when the season rolled around.
During September’s SS19 shows, the likes of Eva Chen and Emma Bonneaud expertly proved that there are several ways to tackle the potentially intimidating look.
The easiest way is to opt for a single piece made up of the clashing patterns, requiring little creative input from yourself (and ideal for those days that your sartorial antenna seems to be struggling).
The check gene pool is deep and rich with variation, from subtle windowpanes, herringbone and Prince of Wales to bolder buffalo styles, tartan plaid and Madras.
A check-on-check look is surprisingly simple to pull off provided both are noticeably different and aren’t competing for attention. “The joy of checks is the infinite variety of combinations if you just apply some imagination,” says stylist Eric Down, who has dressed the likes of David Gandy, Tinie Tempah and Chris Hemsworth. “The key is to vary the size. If you’re feeling braver, pair two differently-checked pieces with one another. A great way to do it is to keep the palette complimentary – pastels, for example, or different tones of the same shade – while contrasting the size or orientation of the check.
Another effective way is to keep the shape and size relatively similar, while clashing colors in a big way.
But, as is the way with the fashion world right now, there’s no real right – or wrong – answer. Be fearless…
But just in case if you are trying to experiment a little more, here are some of the other key prints and patterns you can try crisscrossing as well:
The horizontal stripes of the Breton top have long been a menswear favourite (if you’re in any doubt as to why, just watch James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause), but in recent seasons bars of a vertical persuasion have also climbed the ranks.
Historically, this would have meant discreet pinstripes and chalk stripes on suiting and shirts, but now almost anything goes (within reason).
“There are many ways to clash stripes with stripes,” says Farfetch fashion features editor Ryan Thompson. “One is to keep them uniform throughout your outfit. Other is to vary the width of the stripes on your trousers and top. While one other way is to wear vertical stripes on your torso and horizontal stripes on your legs.”
For a smarter look, keep the color palette pared-back. “Perhaps mix shades within the same color palette, so it looks considered but not too matchy-matchy,” says Down. “Just be prepared to bat back the Beetlejuice jibes if you go for black and white.”
A tonal navy look with a variety of stripe styles can take contemporary formalwear to the next level, while a mix of neutral colors works well for a casual look, especially when layering something like a striped shirt over a striped T-shirt.
Although houndstooth has been blown up to oversized proportions in the past, it’s typically what’s known as micro-check (in fact, it’s a broken or ‘tessellated’ check, if you want to be pedantic).
Comprising a repeated four-pointed shape designed to resemble and canine’s incisor, it’s often not as visually impactful as a Prince of Wales check or tartan plaid, but it can be an excellent pattern to layer with.
“Most often in a black and white weave, houndstooth (and its smaller puppytooth variant) looks good as part of a monochrome outfit,” says Thompson. “It’s most at home in tailoring, especially on suits and overcoats where the uniformity of the pattern adds to the formality.”
Houndstooth works best with simple, given that it’s a busy pattern, complementary motifs like uniform pinstripes or larger polka dots.
For a go-to smart outfit using houndstooth, put the pattern to work on a neatly cut blazer – fit is key if you are to pull off any daring outfit – and pair with a crisp white shirt and monochrome knitted tie. Winner winner, dog’s dinner.
Until recent decades, polka dots were seen as a traditionally feminine pattern – the term itself even means ‘Polish woman’ in Polish and ‘little girl’ in Czech – but they can take on a playful role in the modern man’s wardrobe.
To give blokes an easy entry into dressing in dots, most brands tend to use them on formal accessories – think ties, pocket squares and socks – allowing the little flashes of color to pep up traditional suiting.
Because of their round shape, polka dots work well with straight-lined patterns like checks and stripes – for example, a polka dot tie against a gingham shirt. Match the palette of your accessories with your suit and let the pop of the dots do the talking.
Actually, mixing prints can look extremely fresh, and elevate your look from ordinary to street-style ready in no time. Style pros know that anything goes when it comes to melding motifs (florals with stripes! polka dots with Ikat!), but beginners should start with this tip: Treating leopard or camo (or both) like neutrals is the easiest way to break into pattern mixing. Whatever colored print you choose, add a leopard or camo belt, shoe, bag, blouse, or anything else.
There are many more ways you can mix and match fashion as long as you are brave enough to pull it off! It can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s nothing you cannot handle.
Millennial fashion is all about breaking the rules and pushing boundaries and making it work!