Friends, today I want to talk about mixing patterns.
This is something I should be able to discuss with ease (this is MPB, after all) and yet it's complicated. Most of us were schooled in What goes with what as children, when we were told by (anxious) parents-or-guardians that our paisley shirt and striped pants simply didn't go together (They were only trying to protect us, poor things -- as you do your children) and we took it to heart, never again daring to pair a print with anything other than a dark solid -- if at all.
Usually we just played it safe.
Or wore jumpsuits.
Let's face it: mixing patterns takes confidence. It also takes competence.
I flatter myself in thinking that my pattern-matching competence (ability) outweighs my pattern-matching confidence (I've never worn that beret-and-scarf outfit out of my apartment and probably never will.). But sometimes the opposite is true.
I chose my BurdaStyle sew-along fabrics from a thick (235 page) Westminster Fabric catalog. I had hundreds of choices but I had to choose one or -- since I knew the dress pattern in question called for contrasting trim -- two. I thought of Leah and the colors she'd look best in, and I came up with these (click on photo to supersize). But it's nearly impossible to choose patterns well without seeing the exact scale of the fabric on the bolt, and I was, frankly, overwhelmed by the wide selection.
It wasn't until I received my fabric and realized how narrow the bolts were that I decided to cut the pleat underlay in the contrasting paisley.
I assumed the pleats would hang completely closed and you'd rarely see the underlay and when you did, it would be a fun surprise. Instead, it was a very obnoxious pinwheel.
As my mother always says, when you're young, everything looks good on you (though she no longer says it to me), and lovely Leah would look cute wearing a lobster trap, but this dress does not work for me. Maybe you like it -- it's your right -- but to me it looks like something Madame DuBarry would wear to a sock hop.
Do the two fabric patterns go together? Well, you can see that in the catalog, they share a similar palette. But the dress -- and again, this is purely subjective -- doesn't look right, and I'm not talking about the fit, which as you know, needs work. The fabric patterns could work together, perhaps: a lot depends on the scale and proportion of the garment. On those pleats, the contrast is too great, imo.
Anyway, yesterday, I took the dress completely apart. Since I'd been sent extra blue fabric (even with the contrasting underlay, I didn't have enough), I recut the underlay panels and remade the skirt.
Now I know, based on your comments yesterday, that some of you are going to be like, I loved the contrasting underlay, why did you change it? and others are going to heave a sigh of relief. I place myself squarely in the second camp. The fabric is bold enough as is. If you want to mix patterns, throw a paisley shawl on top. At least that's removable.
Tasteful readers, in closing, how do you feel about pattern mixing? Do you consider yourself more confident than competent, more competent than confident, or a disaster all around?!
Even the pros can get it wrong.
If you are highly skilled at mixing patterns, how did you learn and do you follow any particular method, or just go with your gut?
I'm a native New Yorker and self-taught sewing fanatic! I've been sewing obsessively since 2009 and today make all my own clothes using mostly vintage patterns and vintage sewing machines. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!