For both men and women, solid neutrals are the easiest pieces to employ when curating a capsule wardrobe. Utilizing them simplifies the task of mixing and matching. It’s a great strategy when learning how to build a wardrobe versus a set of completely incongruent outfits.
So if solid neutrals are so great, why experiment with patterns?
I hit a point where I felt limited in my ability to express my individuality with what I had in my closet. Patterns can give your style a distinctive tone. To reaffirm that gut feeling, I don’t see a lot of them among my sources for minimal wardrobe, fashion and style inspiration (I could not be looking in any of the right places so if you have suggestions for sources please leave a comment below).
Identifying the Road Block
A lot of times we avoid patterns because it can be a little daunting to confidently put together an outfit when you have yet another aspect to coordinate around. Furthermore, ensuring you can utilize a patterned piece in various outfits (we’re still aiming for a capsule wardrobe after all) might cause a mild panic attack. To summarize, fear, that’s what held me back.
But today, we’re going to seize the moment and talk about the easiest, foolproof way to introduce some patterns into a wardrobe dominated by solids. It’s a two step process that (thankfully) builds on those lovely neutral pieces we’ve acquired thus far. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a pdf you can download outlining “levels of style,” as I often refer to them. Today, we’re going to explore taking it up a notch (to level two!).
Where to Put the Patterns?
The easiest way to incorporate a pattern is to stick to a single patterned piece at a time. Combining patterns is a whole additional level of style savvy and one we’ll tackle in the future. For now, just pick where your pattern is going to go and it can be one of these two places:
One Patterned Piece + One Solid Piece
The pattern can go on the top or the bottom. For instance, your skirt is solid while your shirt has a pattern. Or you have the most fashionable plaid trousers and a solid polo shirt.
How do you pick? The general rule is to put the pattern where you want to draw the eye. If you feel you’re a bit bottom heavy and you want to draw the eye upwards, pick a patterned top and vice versa.
Alternatively (and perhaps even easier) you can dip a little toe into the pool of patterns with a patterned accessory. For men, this could be a tie and for women, a scarf or very cute hat (I am all about putting on hats). The carefully selected accessory is also your perfect option if you’re a woman who loves to wear dresses.
Picking a Pattern?
The ability to reuse the piece is going to depend primarily on the colors in the pattern. When I first started incorporating patterned pieces, I looked for patterns that had one of my primary colors in it. My summer wardrobe has a few different blue tops (different cuts so I swear it’s still minimal). When I found a yellow skirt with a blue plaid pattern, I knew I could mix and match it with at least all my blue tops before getting into matching colors without being identical.
My journey to incorporate patterns started in the fall. I was originally drawn to very classic patterns: plaid, houndstooth, herringbone, but sticking to these patterns in traditional tweed with neutral colors all of the sudden made me feel as though I was a costume designer for a period piece drama. By incorporating a few non-traditional patterns or traditional patterns in brighter colors, I felt a little bit more in the here and now with a “strong nod to” and “inspired by” the classics style (I also think this makes pieces look a bit more youthful and I’m not quite ready for retirement yet).
I love patterns as a way to spruce up the personal style that is unique to you. Selecting a single patterned piece that shares a color with one of the solids in your outfit is a foolproof way to incorporate patterns into your style. Adding a pop of unexpected color or straying a bit from the classics (like houndstooth, plaid, windowpane, etc) can give you look a bit of youth and fun while maintaining an inspired yet timeless look.