Some of the most creative and exciting developments in fashion today involve combining unexpected patterns and colors. To some, pairing black with brown, mixing disparate patterns and tonal dressing may be seen as breaking conventional “rules.” But I welcome the unforeseen—and love to create artful looks by reconsidering fashion norms.
Black and brown
I like to open up an all-black ensemble to touches of brown. Creating contrast is the key. Juxtaposing black with lighter browns and tan—rather than rich, full-bodied browns—differentiates individual pieces and keeps the look from appearing murky. I’ll use brown accessories like belts, shoes, ties, pocket squares and scarves to add just the right amount of warmth and depth, or incorporate patterns that include both black and shades of brown.
Building an outfit around pieces in dissimilar patterns can radicalize a look. I think the key to creating an artful effect when mixing patterns is to focus on scale—patterns should counterbalance one another by varying in size. Maybe I’ll start with a chalk stripe sport shirt paired with a tie in a medium-size glen plaid. I might then include a vest in a subtle basket weave and top it with a sport coat in a slightly exaggerated windowpane pattern. I’ve found it’s even possible to incorporate a fifth pattern—a scarf in a subdued plaid, for example—to unite the look. Taking a tonal approach brings congruity to the look.
Tone on tone
Tonal dressing is a contemporary way to showcase refined tastes by simply choosing pieces in the same color family. Various shades of gray or other neutrals like taupe are known for creating undeniable elegance. Sometimes I keep it simple by incorporating just a few pieces—or I’ll show some fearlessness with careful layering, mixing textures and patterns and bringing in accessories like scarves or pocket squares.
Tackling fashion’s taboos is a brilliant way of evolving personal style. When I apply these methods thoughtfully, the look moves forward. I relish finding new avenues for dressing with distinction—and am always inspired by reconceiving paradigms of dressing well.