The Fashion Rule Book: Match Or Clash

The Fashion Rule Book: Match Or Clash

Welcome back to The Rule Book, the feature in which our Fashion Editor talks through a rule to follow for better style. This month she’s tackling print, and the easy way to get it right.

It’s a pity so many people shy away from print. Some may dabble with florals or a little check here and there, but time and again we hear from women who are fearful of busy patterns, preferring instead to stay in the monochrome safety zone. But perversely this cautionary approach is often part of the problem. 

When you wear just a hint of print, it's hard to make a statement. Imagine yourself in a pink patterned blouse, or grey checked trousers. Now add jeans or a jumper and voila, you have yourself a normcore outfit formula. Trying to work print into a minimalist wardrobe is the very reason it can be pretty underwhelming.

Enter the ‘Match Or Clash’ rule. A failsafe way to get prints right: essentially it means identifying the key colour in any pattern and matching the rest of your look or clashing it entirely. Let’s imagine that pretty pink blouse again. We’ve already established it looked alright with jeans, but how about a pair of pink wide leg trousers? Or a pink leather midi? Or even pink acid wash denim? Suddenly, you have a runway-inspired way to wear it. Now those grey checked trousers – how might they look paired with the pink print blouse? Or a houndstooth knit? Or – if you’re feeling brave – a mismatched check? You can instantly bring these pieces to life by following the ‘Match Or Clash’ formula.



The only exception to this rule is a really good printed jacket. A great statement blazer in a pattern, however subtle or busy, will always work over a block colour pairing – head-to-toe white or black. But it really is the only exception, and that’s because it’s layered over an unfussy base layer.

Helpful examples come in the form of influencers. Emma Rowen Rose in bright orange proves quite how effective this rule can be, as does the ever-stylish Rabea Schif. Lucy Williams’ fashion-forward clashing may not be for you, but it’s the perfect example of how to put a cool spin on even the trickiest of pieces – Hawaiian shirts don’t always lend themselves to great styling.


And finally, a moment for Jen Wonders’ creative use of 'Match And Clash'. If you can find two pieces in similar colours, with a similar print, that still manage to clash, you’ve found the holy grail. See also mix and match houndstooth prints and polka-dot separates. Because Jen pairs her with an otherwise simple edit, it’s not too overbearing – if you can replicate this look, it’s the perfect place to start.

Follow @EmmaRowanRose@LucyWilliams02, @RabeaSchif

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