Mixing and Matching or Mindful Mismatching?


Look like a fashionista!

The first time I went to an event after COVID restrictions lifted I threatened to wear everything I loved most in my closet and my beloved accessories all at the same time, because I had missed them so much.  I didn’t do it, but I have been making more of an effort than usual to rotate what I wear out, to give it all some airtime.

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the new trend to mix and match patterned clothing.  If I wear a patterned skirt or pant, I wear a solid top in a color that goes with it.  Boring, I know, but safe.

When a catalog arrived in the mail recently and I saw the image below of the model wearing two patterns, it caught my eye.  J.  McLaughlin is my staple go-to (great t-shirts) but it has always been on the safe and preppy conservative side of dressing.  Am I brave enough to dress like that?

mix and match patterns                                                                                                           Image courtesy of J. McLaughlin

The WSJ article said the outfit that mixes but matches should feel “unexpected and effortless”.  Really?  Since this will be a leap for me, I expect it to feel self-conscious and gaudy. I decided to give it a go, and here are some tips I’ve learned.

  • Allow time to experiment. Don’t begin mixing and matching when you are in a rush.  Start playing around with what’s in your closet and try it all on.
  • Start with your accessories to get a feel for how you’re going to like this new approach. Wear your leopard heels with a floral dress, or an abstract patterned scarf with a patterned top with the same color hues.
  • Choose one dominant, main attraction print and the other one as an accent.

mix striped tee with floral skirt

  • Think about scale and don’t pair two pieces of the same scale. In other words, your pattern sizes should be contrasting.
  • Stay within the same color family. Choose two different prints that share a single color. Wearing the same brand for all pieces can often solve the problem because many brands use the same limited color range each season.

mixed patterns

  • You can use the same pattern, like a stripe or dots, but invert the colors. For example, black stripes on a white background are paired with white stripes on a dark background.
mix and match clothing polka dots                                                                                                                      Credit: Erin Glover


  • Avoid mixing 2 bold patterns, but rather, the way J. McLaughlin paired above, a bold floral pattern blouse over the subtler pale blue gingham pants.
  • If you are feeling the need for some cohesion, break up the patterns with a solid color belt.
  • Stripes are considered neutral, and polka dots, animal prints and grid patterns are also easy to mix with more complex patterns.
stripes and paisley                                                                                                       Credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
  • Don’t mix two dense, complex patterns. Instead, mix a complex pattern with a sparse one.














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