How do you mix two, three, and four patterns? Which patterns look good together? Which patterns clash?
Consider the two images below:
The image on the left shows three patters, all of which are stripes. Also, notice that the scales of the stripes are also quite close. The mixture of the three similar patterns (stripes) has resulted in disharmony. It’s too busy and our brain perceives this combination as clumsy.
Now, consider the image on the right. In this picture, a striped jacket is paired with a shirt with micro-check. They don’t clash because the scales are different. The third pattern, the tie with dots is not only a completely different type of pattern but also the scale is dissimilar to the other two. The result is a harmonious combination of three patterns.
Therefore, the first rule of pattern mixing is scale. Do not mix patterns of the same scale. In other words, mix patterns of varying scales.
Next, consider the following two images:
The image on the left shows all three items of clothing, jacket, shirt, and tie as checks. Also, the scales of the three items are very close. The result has been a jumbled image and it’s not looking particularly attractive, This is what is called “pattern clash.”
Now, consider the image on the right, the same jacket as the first image is here paired with a shirt with micro-checks. As the scales are very different, they do not clash. Next, a solid colored tie completes the ensemble quite nicely.
One may ask after considering the second image, “is it not possible to add a check necktie instead of a solid tie?” Yes, possible but use caution. Mixing three checks is probably the most difficult undertaking and it can be done with practice.
The photograph below shows my attempt to mix four patterns; three checks, suit, shirt, and pocket square; and one stripe (tie). I also use color to my advantage so that the patterns do not clash.
Given below is another example of mixing four patterns. The suit is glen plaid check, the shirt is a micro-check, the tie is print pattern, and the pocket square is also check.
As shown in the above example, bold check suit, micro check shirt (not visible in the photo), small dots on tie, patterned pocket square. From a distance, the tie and shirt appear solid. The checks on shirt and tie are only visible from up close.
The above is another glen plaid suit. The shirt is graph check, the tie is patterned (not check) and the pocket square is of medium check.
Consider the two examples presented above. The first, on the left, is a sold colored suit, a micro-check (candy check) shirt and a solid tie (looks like silk knit, which provides additional texture). The patterns do not clash.
Now consider the example on the right. A light colored herringbone patterned jacket worn with a darker shirt with micro-check. The tie is of dark color with dots (polka dots). Here also the patterns do not clash.
Now let’s consider the following two:
The jacket on the left is of bold hounds-tooth design. The shirt is a micro-check (graph-check). The jacket and shirt, though both are checks, do not clash because of the variations in both pattern and scale.
In the second example, an upward slanting check jacket is worn with a darker single-color shirt—they don’t clash. The tie is also an upward slanting check but of higher scale and therefore, they do not clash.
Below is another example of mixing four patterns: Light blue pinstripe suit, blue/white Bengal stripe shirt, multicolored/patterned necktie, and patterned pocket square.
The above is another good example of successfully mixing four patterns.
In the above example, three patterns; suit, tie, and pocket square. The shirt is of solid color.
Therefore, we can summarize that successful pattern mixing requires varying type and scale of patterns. Also try to utilize the fabrics texture to your advantage, such as, mixing smooth with rough fabric, etc.