Friday, June 15, 2012

Balancing Patterns

Last week I (hopefully) defined balance as a style term. It’s about taking the highs and lows of a style aspect and combining them to create an effective look that works right down the middle. Also last week, I couched the definition in terms of formality, like how you can “dress down the middle” by wearing a blazer with jeans. This week, I’ll attempt the same explanation, but in terms of pattern
Pattern, as I define it, is the repeated decorative design on a piece of clothing. You can have stripes, gingham, plaid, tye-dye (though hopefully not), or nothing at all. Walk into any menswear store and you’ll see dozens of products in varying patterns. 

gingham- a checked pattern, typically with white and a bold color. From J.Crew

plaid- a checkered, tartan pattern. From Gant Rugger

stripes- long, narrow bands of the same width. From Brooks Brothers

and of course, your plain colors. From Lands' End

Mixing and matching patterns is really a game played at the office. Casual outfits rarely encounter pattern problems, because typically the pants, be they jeans, shorts, chinos, or whatever, are found in a plain color. Finding the right shirt/tie combo however, is more likely to cause problems. 

…..except that it really won’t, as long as you strive to achieve balance of some sort. Check out these shirt/tie combos from a J.Crew ad. Notice how a patterned shirt is paired with a plain or solid tie, while a plain shirt is paired with a patterned tie. Mix subtle and bold patterns to strike a balance.  Not too hard, right? 

You can even mix and match the same patterns, as long as they're in different, corresponding sizes. The stripes on the shirt should be much smaller than those on the tie (although I'm not particularly fond of this look, that's not to say it can't be done). 

via Bloomberg Businessweek

As style novices, this should be enough to build some basic ideas around, so we'll stick with this for now. Once you get this down, you can start experimenting more by mixing patterns. For example, one of my favorite shirt/tie combos is a very soft, pink gingham shirt paired with a dark, evergreen plaid tie. 

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. Elements of pink in the tie help tie the two things together

Thanks for reading, and look out next week for more,

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