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How to Sartorially Combine Patterns

Eager to add a dash of flair to your work wardrobe? Add a pattern or two, or even three. Here are the rules to mixing and matching patterns when it comes to dressing well.

Mixing two patterns of the same design

What to do:

For the novice, the easiest way to carry off patterns is by wearing two different items with the same pattern, such as a checked shirt with a Prince of Wales check suit. The secret to this is to ensure the pattern on one item is of a different scale to the pattern on the other. Hence, team narrow stripes on a shirt with wide stripes on a pinstripe suit.

What not to do:

If the patterns are almost identical in scale, such as a fine checked tie against a fine checked shirt, the eye is forced to work overtime and strain for focus.

Mixing two different patterns

What to do:

While blending two patterns of the same design means you need to keep the scales different, mixing two different patterns means you must keep the scales similar. For example, a suit with wide checks can beautifully complement a wide checked tie.

What not to do:

The exception to the rule is when combining very small designs. Therefore if you're wearing a shirt with very fine stripes, don't add a tie with very fine stripes. Instead, add a wide striped tie which is easier on the eye.

Mixing three patterns of the same design

What to do:

While mixing three patterns of the same design isn't for the faint-hearted, it's certainly possible. The key is to keep the scales of all three items different. As a rule of thumb, try to graduate the scale of the pattern from small out to large. So wear a fine stripe shirt with a medium-sized stripe suit jacket, followed by a wide strip top pocket handkerchief.

What not to do:

Combining very small scale patterns in all three different items is a recipe for disaster. Three fine checked items is the poorest combination of all - avoid at all costs.

Mixing three different patterns

What to do:

Following on from mixing two different patterns, the secret to mixing three different patterns in one ensemble relies on keeping the scales similar. Therefore, keep medium-sized stripes with medium-sized checks and so.

What not to do:

Again, the exception to the rule is when wearing very fine patterns. So when you wear a fine striped suit, ensure the pattern scales on your tie and shirt are noticeably larger.