How to Wear a Patterned Suit
Patterned suits are no longer a thing of the past. Many men have begun wearing the same types of suit that their grandfathers wore in previous generations, only in designs and fits that update them for the modern world. When properly selected and styled, a plaid suit can make a bold statement and help you stand out from the pack. All you need to trade in your humdrum business look for something more vivacious is an idea of what patterns to model, and when and how they’re best worn.
Choosing a Pattern
Begin with basic stripes.Try on a suit that’s streaked with stripes of various colors, widths and thicknesses. Stripes are a familiar part of many men’s wardrobes, and are one of the least daring pattern choices, meaning you can safely pull them off with just about any outfit. Stripes look great with a solid color shirt and tie or mixed with other patterns.
- Vertical stripes are excellent for formal wear. They are visually slimming and create a sleek, fitted look.
- This style can be worn by men of any height, size or build, though if you're trying to cut an imposing figure, you may want to choose a pattern that accentuates your size rather than streamlining it.
Pick a plaid.Take a look at different plaid designs. In the world of men’s fashion, “plaid” is a kind of catch-all term that refers to patterns made from intersecting lines or squares. Plaids are very versatile. Smaller, more subtle plaid patterns can be worn in the boardroom or the bar, while louder patterns are an especially eye-catching way to do something a little different with your formal look.
- Plaid comes in a wide enough variety of sizes, colors and configurations that it can be worn with just about anything.
- Some of the most common plaid patterns include glen, window pane, madras, Prince of Wales and checked designs like gingham.
Do dots.Dotted patterns are similar to stripes in that they add some texture and depth without looking garish or distracting. Like other patterns, dotted suits can be found in different colors, sizes and spacings. These will look smart with both muted accessories and louder patterns.
- Dots look the most refined when they are small and evenly spaced, as in bird’s eye and pin-dot patterns.
Go for herringbone.One of the most recognizable of the traditional suit patterns, herringbone is characterized by its zig-zag chevron pattern. Most herringbone suits feature small-scale, understated designs, making them both tasteful and versatile. Herringbone is a pattern of choice among many executive professionals.
- Herringbone is one of the easiest to pair with different patterns.
- This style is similar to chevron, though the jagged lines in chevron are usually thicker and feature more color variation.
Try houndstooth.Houndstooth is another hallmark pattern that’s known universally, and can be found on dishes, furniture and wallpaper in addition to clothing. It is marked by asymmetrical tessellations of alternating colors. As long as you let the suit do most of the work pattern-wise, you can’t go wrong with houndstooth.
- Because of its sharp contrast, houndstooth looks best over simple, solid colored shirts and ties.
Dare to wear paisley.Though it’s most commonly spotted as a tie print, paisley suits exist, and they say a lot about their wearer. With its oddly floral scattering of shapes, paisley is one of the more adventurous patterns, and one that should be worn with panache. It might not be practical for all occasions, but because it’s so visually interesting, it will get you noticed.
- Paisley should be worn with consideration. It is often thought of as a dated pattern, and may make you look out of touch if it’s not properly colored and fitted, which is the opposite of what you’re aiming for.
Styling and Accessorizing
Wear a solid shirt and tie.When you’re first learning how to pull off patterns, play it safe and stick to solid (or very subtle) shirt and tie combinations. That way, the pattern design will stand out without creating a jarring effect. Keep your look consistent by complementing the color of your shirt and tie with the dominant hue found in the suit.
- A dark gold herringbone suit will look perfectly exquisite over a solid beige shirt and maroon tie, for instance, but when paired with a bright plaid shirt and pinstriped tie, it might be too much.
- Solid shirts and ties can also be reworn more often without anyone noticing, as they're not as conspicuous.
Mix patterns carefully.You also have the option of wearing multiple patterns in combination, but this requires a keen eye. Your best bet is to select patterns that are visually distinct so that there’s no off-putting blending effect. Make sure you also provide a contrast in the colors of your shirt, tie and other accessories. If you choose wisely, you can pattern your outfit head to toe.
- A light gray glen plaid suit will look right at home with a navy pinstriped shirt and pastel yellow dotted tie.
- It’s best to avoid wearing the same pattern on two different items of clothing. If you do decide to duplicate patterns, make sure they’re different enough not to interfere with each other.
Start small and work your way outward.A good rule of thumb is to keep smaller, more subdued patterns closest to your body and let them become larger and bolder as they move outward. This helps produce the appearance of depth. Try wearing pale or plain colored shirts with tight designs under an attractive jacket and trouser combination with a vivid pattern like glen plaid or black-and-white houndstooth worn over the top.
- Patterned vests and overcoats should also be consistent with your suit. Otherwise, it could throw off your completed outfit.
Match your accessories.In general, the guidelines for finishing with the right accessories are the same as when wearing a normal suit. Hats should match the color and pattern of your suit, while an overcoat can either match or offset it. Your shoes and belt should always be the same color, and preferably the same material, as should your metal watch band and tie pin. Use your best judgment in making sure these items go with the patterns you’ve picked out.
- Keep earth tones and neutral tones consistent. A tan or olive suit will go best with a brown belt and shoes, while black accessories should be reserved for grays, whites and matching blacks.
- Though opinions have swung back and forth through the years, it’s usually a good idea not to wear black together with brown or navy blue.
Wearing a Patterned Suit Appropriately
Distinguish yourself in formal settings.The next time you’re laying out clothes to wear to the office or art gallery, lend some flair to your look by incorporating a patterned suit. Search for suits in neutral, respectable tones like black, gray, navy and khaki. Pinstripes and dots are particularly popular for business attire, along with less conventional patterns like window pane.
- Avoid wearing brightly colored or mismatched suits for formal or professional engagements.
Dress for the season.Just like colors and materials, the patterns you clad yourself in should reflect the time of year. Designs like seersucker and madras plaid offer a splash of color and are breathable enough for the mid-summer heat, while dark patterns like herringbone and Prince of Wales plaid have long been favorites in the winter months. Take into consideration other types of seasonal clothing (shorts, scarf, overcoat, etc.) you might be wearing and match your colors and patterns accordingly.
- Think big, bright and bold in the summer and dim, modest and elegant in the winter.
- In addition to pattern, shop around for fabrics that are light (cotton, linen) or heavy (wool, flannel) enough to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
Put your personality on display.Show people your fun-loving side with snazzy chevrons, paisleys and multi-colored plaids. Feel free to go as wild as you please. Parties, night spots and celebrations are just a few situations when unusual styles and colors can be put to best use. Just be sure not to let the different parts of your outfit clash too much—you’re going for wacky, not tacky.
- There’s a difference between choosing a suit that says you’re laid back and carefree and one that says you escaped from a circus.
Unwind with casual selections.Layer a patterned suit jacket over your favorite pair of jeans and a solid t-shirt or collared shirt of contrasting color. You have much more leeway as far as what goes with what in non-formal settings, so your options are nearly endless. Most iconic patterns are adaptable enough to go straight from the workplace to a friendly get-together with equal success.
- Trading your patterned suit bottoms for a pair of khakis can instantly make your outfit more casual.
- Throw on a chic patterned jacket and tie when you attend a graduation ceremony, opening night at the theater or fundraiser event.
- Matching patterns can be tricky, and sometimes comes down to personal taste. Instead of picking out each pattern individually, look at the outfit as a whole. Use your intuition.
- It can be easier to match a suit, shirt and tie that all have different patterns if they're a similar color.
- Be prepared to spend a little more money on a suit with a fanciful pattern than you would on a regular suit.
- If you're wearing several patterns, the one on your suit should be the most noticeable.
- For best results, have your suit tailored to match your body's contours. A natural looking fit works wonders in making patterns suits look stylish and modern.
- Use your necktie to bring the outfit together. It should complement both your shirt and suit.
- Though the advice offered in this article focuses on men's fashion, the same general guidelines are also applicable to styling women's patterned suits.
Video: How to Wear Bold Patterned Shirts
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