I’m a recovering color-phobe. My instincts draw me to neutrals (lots of neutrals), not colors. A few months ago I didn’t believe you could mix black and navy – I’m still not sure you really can, but my accidental combination worked out okay. The majority of the shirts in my wardrobe are light blue, dark red, teal/peacock, and black, with the occasional brown. Until this summer, I didn’t own many dresses with colors or prints. When I got put in olive and lavender together for the Paper Doll Project, I thought the world was going to end. It was a huge epiphany when I realized I could wear a colored tee under that maxi instead of a white one, and when I realized it actually looked okay when I wore a teal cardigan over an olive tee.
So you can probably guess that mixing patterns is about as intimidating to me as quantum physics.
Still, when I found myself with a need to layer and a craving to wear a scarf, a little idea surfaced, borne on the same little voice that told me it would be okay to wear teal and olive together. I could wear this Breton-stripe shirt and a floral scarf and…
And I got to wear my new hat! I’ve never owned a proper hat before. I feel supremely chic, even if it is from Target.
So, if you’re color-phobic and pattern-phobic like me, here’s how to work through it:
1) Stay in a color family. I’m pretty sure you should do this whether you’re a noob or not, but it’s easier to get away with wearing polka-dots and plaid if they share colors. Check out Michelle’s floral & geometric combo, Katie’s stripes & floral look, and Clare’s stripes & polka dots outfit. Mia even managed to put together a mix of pieces so similar that the overall effect is almost dress-like.
2) Start small. The reason this outfit came together so easily for me is because I don’t even think of the shirt as having a pattern. Pick small florals, pinstripes, tiny polka dots, etc, and match them with a bolder print, or stick with another smaller print. This tutorial will clear everything up nicely.
3) Work with accessories. I’m not nearly brave enough to try a patterned skirt with a patterned top. Well, I don’t own any patterned skirts, but if I did, I wouldn’t be brave enough. Accessories, as with most fashion adventures, are good small places to start: scarves, shoes, scarves, bags, and more scarves.
And if you’re really feeling up for a challenge, you can take a look at Everybody Everywear’s pattern-mixing challenge and Suze’s more thorough pattern tutorial I’ll be here with a teddy bear and a cup of tea if you need it.