In Defense of Matchy

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I have long declared myself the Mayor of Matchy-Matchytown. (Never forget that Audi is the Sheriff.) And I do this with a mixture of rebellious pride and giggly shame because, in recent years, the Style Goddesses and Gods have declared that it is far more chic to “go” than match. It takes more creativity, it looks more modern, it creates a more multifaceted and interesting look. All of these things are true. And although I have been pushing myself to match less and go more, my heart will always reside in Matchy-Matchytown, and here’s why:

Matching makes instant sense

Harmonious outfits are borne of matching. When colors are repeated – in accessories, shoes, bags, jewelry, or even within the prints and pieces of the garments themselves – the entire ensemble is united. When you see someone who has matching elements within her outfit, what she’s wearing is likely to make visual sense to you. And just about everyone else, too.

Matching is hard to screw up

Now, you know that I don’t believe in “right” and “wrong” ways to dress, but here’s why I think this is important: Many other women DO believe in “right” and “wrong” ways to dress, and those beliefs may inform their dressing choices. Picking items that “go” in sophisticated yet harmonious ways can feel daunting. Picking items that match and then adding some complementary items to the mix is a simple way to generate outfits that feel complete and polished. Less stress, more fun.

Matching feels retro

If you love vintage looks but don’t like, can’t fit or find, or don’t enjoy wearing actual vintage CLOTHING, matching can create a throwback look using modern items. Of course part of the reason that matching is disdained by many style experts is that it feels old and stodgy, but feeling playful with your matchiness can be a great way to indulge in retro looks while flouting the current trends.

Matching can be done in degrees

While wearing a bag, necklace, belt, shoes, and sunglasses all in the same shade might feel like overkill to some, slightly less intense versions of matchy looks are always possible. Style experts might not want you to match your shoes and bag right now, but doing so and adding a contrasting belt and unmatched jewelry can help make the look feel more balanced and mixed.

Matching can be a launchpad

There are some women who were born able to assemble effortlessly chic non-matched outfits. The rest of us have to learn over time, using trial and error. Going matchy at the start and learning how to craft outfits that feel right using those simpler parameters can help build the confidence to branch out. If you start with necklace, belt, and shoes that are all red, you’ll feel marvelously matchy. But at some point you may look at that combo and think, hmmm, maybe a silver necklace instead. And what about cognac shoes? Would that work, too? Starting with matchy and swapping out is a great way to experiment with outfits that “go.”

Everything related to fashion is cyclical, so I’m quite sure that 10 years from now everyone will be expected to match from top to tail. But even now, when unmatched looks are the thing, I’ll continue to dabble in the world of matchy-matchy for these reasons and more.

Are you a fan of the matchy? Do you prefer a few items that match, and a few that “go”? Or are you just plain done with matching and prefer intentional but unmatched mixes? Why do you think these have become your preferences?

  • http://www.jauntydame.com Rebekah Jaunty

    You’re a good mayor! I’d elect you again. Nothin’ wrong with matchy-matchy.

  • http://Facebook Janice

    I am a matchy matchy person. At 66, I will probably never change, but love the unmatched looks on others.

  • Lara

    I have a very strong preference for matchy that has nothing much to do with fashion. My life is very stressful, I’m quiet and don’t like to draw attention to myself. I don’t care for strong color contrasts in my environment or clothing, it jangles me. I do appreciate seeing it out in the world, and if I like the colors, sometimes I try to create a quieter version, with less contrast. Matching accessories helps, to my eye, create a quiet, peaceful flow, nothing jangles or jumps out, unless you make it do so with strong contrast. I can’t control circumstances, but I do try to create peace and flow, and matchy paired with quietly harmonious color is one way to do that.

  • Sarah

    I love matching. I get the whole “go” thing but I will never be able to walk out of my house in a pink blouse with a red skirt. It will never happen. I appreciate it on others, but on myself, I feel like I got dressed in the dark. I am old-school about black too – it’s a neutral, it matches everything just like grey and white. I am aware that at my age (32) I may be making myself look a little older by not wearing purple skinny jeans and a blue blouse, but I am okay with that!

    • Olivia

      I’m 35 and feel the same way. I don’t match my purse because I don’t change it everyday, but I do match my shoes to the neutral I have in my outfit that day (black, brown, grey, etc) and I even wear jewelry sets sometimes.

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    It’s funny what a difference the phrasing can make. Do I want to look matchy-matchy? No. But “harmonious”? Yes please.

    Oddly, this morning I pulled on a kelly green top with a vibrant bird print in pink, taupe, and navy. (Yep, it’s adorable.) My first instinct was to reach for a yellow necklace that would pop, but I traded it in for a matchy-matchy pink one. :)

  • poodletail

    I come from a long line of matchers so it’s in my bones.

  • Stacie

    I love the outfit in this post, you look perfectly put together! I want to go instead of match, it just takes more work. I love the look of mixed prints too, but again, pulling it off is daunting. My mom would hate the fact that I love black and brown together though, so I guess I’m moving in the right direction. LOL!

  • Linda L

    I also love matchy-matchy. But I try to make an effort to switch it up sometimes and go with complimentary colors instead. I have actually used the start matchy then switch out method as well.

  • Anne

    Sometimes things match, sometimes they go, sometimes I deliberately wear something that kind of clashes. It just depends on my mood.

  • http://widecurves.com WideCurves

    I admit to struggling between matchy matchy and go. I do fear when I just go…I go badly.

    I do like the idea of starting with matchy and then swapping out. I’ll have to try that!

  • http://CorpGoth.blogspot.com Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    Longtime lover of the matchy-matchy! It feels elegant & pulled together to me. And it’s easy, let’s not forget that. Anything that cuts off a little outfit planning time in the morning is a win.

  • Lorrie

    I was raised to match clothing, to be “coordinated” as my mother would say. I’m 49 and at a crossroads in the style department. Don’t want to look matronly but also don’t want to look like I’m trying to dress as a 20 year old. All this “go” stuff was really confusing to me until lately. I think I finally get it now thanks to you. My wardrobe is pretty boring as I work in a office/warehouse and need to wear sensible shoes and pants mostly. I have chinos and jeans and t-shirts and polos I wear most days. My goal for shopping for new clothes is to expand my wardrobe a bit and change things up. Thanks for all the tips. Please keep them coming. If you could post some style tips for those of us who work in an office/warehouse like me that would be great.

  • ChiLibrarian

    I do outfits that go a lot, but Matchy Matchy is my hometown. I still secretly long for Doris Days’ matching ensembles from movies made before I was born. And while I’d not wear fur, I still am a little jealous of her mink with the changeable satin colors that she has in ‘That Touch of Mink.’ Sigh.

  • Susan In Boston

    I’m a matchy-matchy for all the reasons you’ve named. I have several friends who are visual artists, and they have the eye for “go” that I never will. I love it I stumble into the world of “go,” but I’ll never be able to speak the language fluently.

  • Monica H

    I have many challenges in finding things that “go.” One of the biggest ones is that it seems that I would need to have about 10x the selection that I currently own in order to find the right mix of items. To use your outfit as an example, I can often imagine that my aqua blue dress might “go” beautifully with a mustardy cardigan, but the only cardigan I actually own is a bright orange that doesn’t go at all. I find it much easier to create matchier outfits within certain boundaries that make it easier to work within my limited wardrobe and limited selection of accessories. I’m still exploring things like pattern mixing and other types of not-matching-but-harmonious dressing, and it is a look that I like and it has a sophistication that appeals to me, but at the moment it seems a little bit beyond me. I do appreciate the inspiration and support!

  • Sherilyn

    I am a strong advocate for matched items in colors. I have a highly developed sense of color acuity. When I see an orangey red next to a burgandy red, I cringe, just like a musician would cringe at a sour note. Don’t really care if it is the trend, to put unmatched items together. One of the things about being a little more mature is you can snub whatever trend you want. That said, I don’t think all colors need to be the same, your lovely outfit has 3 primary colors, it works beautifully because it is obvious that they are supposed to be different.

  • Vildy

    Often I will match thematically but I do like matchiness because it anchors the look at various points. Ties it down. :D I would even wear the dread matching large earrings and necklace set.

  • http://eclecticadventurer.wordpress.com Dianne

    I like to match colours rather than materials in an outfit. For example, I will often match the colour of a pair of leather boots to a jacket, or the colour of a necklace of glass beads to a leather belt, or the colour of a scarf to shoes. I don’t find it difficult, as my palette is autumn, and most of my accessories match with at least some of the others (does that make sense?). I rarely match footwear to handbags, as it is too much trouble to swap purses, although I sometimes try to match footwear, or handbag, to a belt.

  • Jackie

    Sally, I love that in this post about matching, your cardigan even “matches” the bits of golden/mustard on the branches behind your head! For me, making a conscious effort to notice the colors in the clothes I had on and then add other matching pieces helped take me from “clothes” to “outfits.” Once I had mastered making “outfits,” I felt a little more comfortable with trying to make things “go” also, but I’ll always default to matchy-matchiness!

  • http://www.franticbutfabulous.com Heidi / Frantic But Fabulous

    I am a happy citizen of Matchy-Matchytown. I recently acquired various candy red accessories (belts, shoes) and I just love the way they look when worn together, especially with black-and-white patterns.

    Sometimes I wear ensembles that “go,” but matching is just so much easier for us mortals :)

  • http://www.shorelinewriting.com Debby

    Proud resident of Match-Matchytown here!

    I like to think I’m reasonably creative, but one of the great mysteries of life (along with why my size is always the one to sell out first) has always been why, when looking through magazines like Vogue or Elle, a model will have an entire outfit of blues and greens and then either neon yellow or orange pumps. I have spent *minutes* trying to figure out how some of these outfits go together, and am always at a loss.

    This is further exacerbated by the mention of the color wheel. I understand complementary vs. contrasting color and hue vs. tint vs. shade and all that kind of thing, but it still doesn’t help me understand why some outfits go and others don’t. If I have purple shoes, there’d better be a purple print scarf, or a beaded necklace, or something to tie in those shoes to my outfit, or I’m not wearing them that day. Too stressful. :) :)

  • Annabeth

    Some outfits I put together to match, others to “go.” I admit that I try hard not to be too matchy too often, but it’s not because I dislike it; it’s because I think sometimes matching leads you straight into a rut. “Oh, this goes with this,” you think, and then you realize the last eight times you took that blouse out of the closet, you paired it with that skirt and those earrings, and here you are, doing it again for the ninth time. So while I have my matchy outfits that I really like, I try to force myself to think creatively and come up with new combos — which often take you out of “match,” over to “go.”

  • Brigitte

    I’ve also been trying to “go” more even if my default setting is for matchy. I also noticed that I get more compliments on matchy outfits- I think regular folks get matchy much more than going, even if it’s not in fashion as much, a lot of people just don’t follow those edicts. Still, I’m trying to stop myself from putting on the grey belt with the grey boots and the grey bag… At least some of the time!

  • Mae

    Matchy-matchy belongs to an earlier era, when people had fewer garments and accessories, so “match” was easier to achieve than “go”. I’m happier with fewer things, so matchy is my style. If you have 2 pairs of ‘good’ shoes – 1 red and 1 black- and you have a red and a black necklace necklace to match your shoes, voila! Wardrobe coordination, with anything else!

    • http://www.bpjewelry.com Jill

      I believe you can “go” with fewer things as well…it depends on the things. I like to do more with less, but I don’t like to match. It feels old to me. I find that when I buy something that utterly suits my taste, it will “go” with other items I already own. This happens with home decor as well – I think the trick to feeling a comfortable with a “go with” wardrobe is to stay within your own taste preferences. :)

  • http://www.superiorhairremoval.com Marie

    I have always been match type person, I feel as though it’s built into me at this stage, and it’s a trait I’d find very difficult to change! :)

  • http://www.fashionistastyle1.blogspot.com Londyn

    Totally depends on my mood as to whether I like matchy matchy or not. Sometimes I like a little bit clashing :) Mostly though, I just like things to “go”.

  • http://www.secretsoftheredcarpet.com Luke Reichle

    Great site Sally! I’m glad you posted about this. I think that Matchy-Matchy gets short shrift these days. As a costume designer for the ABC series, Castle, I use Matchy-Matchy as a way to define character with image. It is a fabulous tool to create visual impact. You can make a strong statement by coordinating the colors and shapes of a look. You can also lead the eye of your ‘viewer’ around your body and draw attention to your assets.

  • Chris

    I like both. However, as a person who has studied color a lot (commercial printer, graphic artist, photographer) I find certain color combinations intolerable. I think in that case that the person is trying to be modern, daring, bold. Of course it is her or his right to do so, but I find it nerve jangling to look at.