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Mixing Textures and Patterns

October 19 2011

With all of the new tweed, boucle, flannel/textured skirts in my fall closet thanks to early sales…can one wear a textured or patterned jacket on top? In other words, are the skirts treated as solids or patterns? I see so much mixing of patterns on the runways and in ads, but for the office? If a solid jacket, could the jacket and the top/blouse/sweater underneath be an entirely different color or should the top portion be tonal?


What a great question, particularly since I’ve been wanting to talk about mixing patterns with patterns for a long time on Corporette and just haven’t had a chance. First, I think textures shouldn’t be thought of so much as a “pattern,” but thought of in terms of volume. For example — if you’re trying to pair a thick tweed skirt (let’s say, for now, in a solid color), your consideration for the top should probably be a much lighter knit — think a close-fitting silk sweater, or even a tucked-in or fitted blouse. Similarly, if you’re wearing a boucle sweater, you might want to pair it with a slender pant, or a pencil skirt. IMHO, it seems like it’s a very rare outfit where a voluminous top works with a voluminous bottom — or vice versa, where a close-fitting sweater truly looks great with a pencil skirt.

Now — can you mix patterns with patterns? For my $.02, this is something that every fashionista should aspire to. If you think about it, men do it all the time — how many pinstriped suits paired with printed ties do you see on a daily basis? For women it can be trickier, and I’ve kind of been compiling examples of times I thought it worked well –for example, The Sartorialist shot a woman (detail shot above) wearing a plaid jacket, a dotted sweater, and a ribbed sweater, and I thought overall it looked amazing.  Similarly, here’s another Sartorialist link to a woman wearing two graphic prints together.  Similarly, here’s a shot Perez Hilton posted of Victoria Beckham wearing a plaid with pinstripes…  While it can be tricky, I think these are some helpful guidelines…

  • Stay in the same color family.  For example, try pairing a black and gray houndstooth skirt with black tights with a vertical ribbing.
  • Have the second pattern be only a small component, proportionally, of your outfit — try layering a floral blouse beneath a solid-colored sweater vest, topped with a pinstriped blazer.
  • Balance the size of the prints — this comes back to volume.  Two huge prints, worn together, are going to be a dramatic look — if one print is bigger (a wider floral, or a large swoopy abstract) it may be better paired with a smaller, tighter pattern (a houndstooth, a windowpane, even some animal prints).
  • Ask yourself if it would work in a tie/suit combo for a man.  This works particularly well with preppier patterns — try pairing a patterned grosgrain belt with a skirt or dress in a suiting material.

More Articles on Dressing For Success

Professional Clothes for Women: What You Can Learn From Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron
Sparkle and Shine: Dressing for the Office Holiday Party

Staying Business-Ready in Unpredictable Weather


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