Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reader Questions: Pattern Mixing

Reader Questions Header

Hi Tina,

I have been enjoying reading your blog for several weeks now. I enjoy your daily outfits, and also your daily menu.

I'm pretty timid about mixing patterns and colors like I see you and many fashion bloggers doing. But I would like to try and get a little more daring. Do you have any suggestions on how to break out of my "everything must match" mold?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!


Hi Caroline! Thanks for following the blog. I'm glad that you enjoy the outfit posts and the meal posts. I am trying to be more consistent about including my meals.

I understand your interest and hesitation about mixing patterns. It can be a bit intimidating to start out. I do have a couple of suggestions that are baby steps to ease you into pattern mixing.

Add a Scarf:

Scarves are a really simple way to mix in some patterns without any commitment. If you feel inconspicuous or uncomfortable during the day, simply remove the scarf and stuff it in your purse. Easy peasy. My suggestion would be to start out by tying one on your purse. This way it isn't even officially part of your outfit, but it can help you get the feel of what types of patterns and colors go well with each other.

Once you are comfortable with a little pattern near you, you can actually add some to your outfit. A simple scarf thrown around your neck or tied in your hair can really jazz things up. If you start out with colors that match the colors in your main outfit, the patterns will mix in seamlessly.

pattern mixing 1

  • Picture 1: The scarf tied around my purse picks up the teal from my shoes and cami, while the circles mimic the polka dots on my cardigan.
  • Picture 2: The floral scarf draped around my neck has the exact colors of my striped shirt and by simply draping it around my neck, I can remove it at any time.
  • Picture 3: The scarf picks up not only the two shades of blue in my striped sweater, but also the black of my skirt. The rest of the outfit is so simple that the pattern mixing is not too much.

Wear a Graphic T-shirt:

A simple graphic T-shirt can add a little punch of pattern while not looking too much like mixed patterns. Pick a shirt with a simple graphic that color coordinates with the dominate color in your outfit.

pattern mixing 4

  • Picture 1: I picked a skirt with a very simple brown pattern and the added a graphic T-shirt with a very basic pattern in the same brown.
  • Picture 2: Again, the pattern on the skirt is a simple repeating pattern with only 2 colors, so when I added the graphic T-shirt, it punches up the feel of the outfit without being over the top.

Some Patterns "Read" as Solid:

Our eyes ignore some patterns and just don't see them as patterns. The most obvious of this, is a fine gauge pinstripe. Men wear patterned ties and shirt with pinstripe suits all the time, and we can also mix patterns with pinstripes without any fear. Simple plaids and tweeds can often be treated the same way.

pattern mixing 5

  • Picture 1: The heavy black and white tweed of my skirt can easily be treated as a solid, especially by keeping the rest of the outfit in the same colors.
  • Picture 2: This tweed jacket has 4-5 different colors in it but doesn't come across as an obvious pattern, especially when mixed with a floral skirt in similar colors.
  • Picture 3: Can you even tell that these pants have a faint grey pinstripe on them? I can't. Enough said. Easy to mix.

Mix Bold Patterns in the Same Colors:

Once you feel more comfortable mixing simple patterns or "non patterns" together, try a bolder combination. If you keep the colors in the two patterns the same, the outfit will come together more easily.

pattern mixing 2

  • Picture 1: The pattern of the skirt almost exactly matches the background pattern of the skirt.
  • Picture 2: The blue and white stripes of the shirt are the exact same colors of the blue and white of the skirt.
  • Picture 3: While this is a fairly bold pattern mix (plus there is a LOT going on in this outfit), by keeping everything in the same two colors, the outfit still works.

Move On to Mixing Colors as Well as Patterns:

Once you feel comfortable with mixing bolder patterns, you can try also mixing colors. If you pick this in the same "style" of colors (neons, pastels, jewel tones, etc) then the mixed colors will seem to go together better.

Don't be afraid to try, even if you don't always succeed. Not all pattern mixing works. Just try again with another outfit.

pattern mixing 3

  • Picture 1: The sweater and the dress have none of the same colors as each other, but I kept the two patterns pretty simple and in the same jewel tone family.
  • Picture 2: I thought this skirt and cardigan might mix b/c they both are a paisley pattern in th same colors, but it just did not work well at all. So now I know not to wear those together again!

I hope this helps you start mixing a few patterns in your wardrobe. Good Luck! And I would love to see what you come up with!



If you have a question, feel free to email me at tminustplus (at) gmail (dot) com

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