How to Mix Patterns like a Professional

With a growing number of employers opting for casual and business casual dress codes, employees like you have more flexibility with what to wear to work. However, taking advantage of a flexible dress code while still projecting a credible and professional image can be tricky.

I consulted with local stylist Kristin Pielech (aka Stylistriss) for tips on walking this line, and she recommended pattern-mixing. It's a chic way to incorporate some personality into your outfits while remaining put-together. Below, Kristin explains how to manage mixing patterns without looking like the ringleader in a traveling circus.

Note: Pattern-mixing may not be appropriate for all business situations: When interviewing, I recommend sticking with traditional colors and simple patterns. See Decoding Dress Codes for knowing what dress code to follow when interviewing.

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Boston Stylist Stylistriss

Both men and women can use the three techniques highlighted below to pattern mix with success. Each technique focuses on mixing patterns in two garments: For men, I recommend using the shirt and tie as the two garments. Women have greater flexibility due to greater clothing options, however, if these techniques are new to you then focus on mixing with a blouse and scarf, or blouse and jacket while keeping the bottoms classic.

Play with Scale:

OTB Pattern Mixing

Woman photo via | Man photo via

Choose two garments that have the same pattern and same colors. The pattern on one of the garments should be larger in comparison to the first garment's pattern.

For example, if your pattern is a basic stripe, make sure the shirt pinstripe is smaller than the tie stripe. Likewise, for ladies, make sure the scarf stripe is larger than the pinstripe on your shirt.

Color Inverse:

OTB Pattern Mixing

Woman photo via | Man photo via

This one is a little more eye-catching than the last. Use the same scale, same pattern, same colors, but make sure one garment is the inverse of the other. Wear a white shirt with black polka dots and pair with a black tie with white polka dots (men), or a black scarf with white polka dots (women).

Pattern Mashup:

OTB Pattern Mixing

Woman photo via | Man photo via

Choose garments with the same colors but different patterns. Proportions are still important for this technique - one pattern should be visibly larger than the other. For men, this could mean a plaid shirt combined with a tie that has polkadots. However, make sure one pattern is spaced further than the other.

For women, this could mean a pinstripe blouse combined with a jumbo-plaid jacket. Or, as showing in the image above, a patterned skirt with a striped necklace/scarf in those same colors. 

Practice, practice, practice!

Once you have these three techniques mastered you can expand by using different colors that complement each other instead of the same color scheme on each garment.  Practice these combos when you go out with family and friends - it's the perfect "tester" crowd before debuting your eye-catching style in the office.

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Thanks for the tips, Kristin!

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Stylistriss: Kristin Pielech is a personal wardrobe stylist based in the Boston area. She started her styling career in Los Angeles by working in film and fashion photoshoots. Since then she has made her way back to the East Coast to continue her passion for fashion in her hometown. 

Contact Kristin for personal style consulting, personal shopping, and at-home closet organization via Stylistriss.com.


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