Here’s a concept that manages to be both simple and tough to master: Outfits that match, versus ones that “go.”
This outfit matches. My red accessories mirror the red in the pattern of the shirt. And although the khaki skirt isn’t anywhere in the shirt’s color scheme, it is definitely in the same color range and family.
To steal a phrase, this outfit “goes.” The shoes and belt are different colors, and neither picks up on any elements present in the design or colors of the dress. But everything is harmonious, similar without echoing.
Outfits that match were my default for a long time. Since matching outfits draw on pieces within the existing mix for color and textural inspiration – pulling shoe color from a scarf pattern, for instance – they are easy to assemble, unify automatically, and have a retro flair that I always enjoyed. But I feel like my outfits that “go” tend to be more refined and sophisticated looking. Mismatched accessories that compliment each other without mirroring each other are the new standard, so looks that utilize them feel modern and contemporary.
Here are some tips for assembling outfits that “go”:
Color families: Muted tones will play nicely together, as will brights, pastels, and jewel tones. Learn which colors work well when combined, and throw two or three into the mix.
Juxtapositions: Ladylike with masculine, flowy with constructed, rough with smooth, and loose with tight. These pairings create balance, but also keep an outfit from skewing matchy. When you match, everything is in stylistic alignment. When you “go,” everything works but often in contradictory ways. This one can be tricky, but experiment with it a bit and you’ll find your personal juxtapositional groove.
One outstanding element: A wash of neutrals with one colorful accessory is a great way to make an outfit “go.” Or an extremely simple ensemble with a single, bold piece of jewelry. Looks that match typically have several elements in alignment so a quick way to subvert that paradigm is simply to pare down.
This is not to say that matching is bad! Far from it! Just that if you find yourself defaulting to outfits that match and would like to master outfits that “go,” too, there are some simple formulas for puzzling it out. Matching has been the standard for ages because it is visually comprehensible. If you love that, go with it.
And if you prefer to “go,” consider dabbling in the matchy once in a while. A well-rounded style often incorporates both philosophies!