Q&A: How to Work Pattern into your Wardrobe

September 25th, 2008

Q: My wardrobe is mainly solids.  Any suggestions as to how to work patterns into your wardrobe both for work and for play?



Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: It’s common to be uncomfortable with pattern and color–it’s just so easy to fall back on the safety net of black or other monochromatic neutrals.  Though these neutrals are easy, they’re not always the most flattering.  Even neutrals can visually drain color from your face–and they leave you as a bit of a fashion wallflower. 

How to Choose a Pattern

Be sure the pattern is scale to your own proportions.  Petites should look for small patterns so as not to overwhelm the body.  Those with larger frames, however, would look frumpy in small, delicate prints. 

How to Choose Colors for your Patterns

Choose colors that enhance your own coloring.  How do you know what colors work for you?  Here’s a simple test: Hold two pieces of construction paper under your face: one orange the other pink.  Whichever color softens your features and lessens shadows on your face is the tone you should look for.  If orange works better for you, look for warm colors like reds and oranges.  If pink makes you look better, look for cool colors like greens and blues.

How to Wear Pattern
An easy way to ease pattern into your wardrobe is through accessories.  A scarf added to a solid dress or dark suit adds a pop of life.  Look also for patterned belts, tights, and handbags. Once comfortable with pattern on accessories, you can move on to blouses, skirts, and even dresses.

The easiest way to wear a pattern is to wear one single pattern against a backdrop of solid colors.  Pick a color from the pattern to wear as your primary solid color. For example, if your sweater is red, yellow, and pink, you can pair it with a skirt that’s red.  Note that the shade of red in the solid colored skirt doesn’t need to match the shade of red in the pattern.

If you’re really daring, you can try mixing and matching patterns.  If you’re matching the same type of pattern (e.g. stripes and stripes), mix up the size of the pattern - one big and one small.  If you’re matching different types of patterns (e.g. plaids and stripes), keep the scale of the pattern the same.

Have a great tip about how to work patterns into your wardrobe? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Ready Made Outfits, Women, Women's

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Miss Moneypenny  |  September 25th, 2008 at 5:43 am

    Fantastic color and pattern mix, but I felt it was only fair to say it’s hard to wear a pencil skirt with absolutely flat shoes (dig the MJ jellies, though!) One runs the risk of looking frumpy unless the skirt is hemmed to just above the knee. Any longer and one’s legs start to look stumpy.

  • 2. Mimi  |  September 25th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I love the orange + turquoise. Nice how the blues go together so well and the orange makes it pop

  • 3. A Few Goody Gumdrops  |  September 25th, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Where did you get those adorble turquoise rain shoes? Are they Marc Jacobs? Anywhere to get them now??? Thanks, Betsy

  • 4. Trisha  |  September 26th, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Miss Moneypenny - True, it is difficult to wear a below the knee (or even at the knee) skirt with flats. A nice pair of kitten heels would do the trick :)

    Mimi - Thanks! Orange + turquoise is one of my favorite color combos right now.

    A Few Goody Gumdrops - Yes, they are Marc Jacobs. You have a good eye! You can get them at Net a Porter: http://www.net-a-porter.com/am/product/27452?cm_mmc=LinkshareUS-_-ProductFeed-_-Marc+Jacobs-_-Flats&siteID=Hy3bqNL2jtQ-90Mp8uIQh0dcswTIF9asjA.

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