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Suits that look like pyjamas

14 December 2007
This first post is about how simple yet subtle style can be. Smart dressing can sound so easy: dark suit, pale shirt, dark tie. Then you see someone with a striped shirt under a striped suit. The stripes on each are the same width apart; suddenly it looks like he’s wearing pyjamas. The items on their own were fine, luxurious even. But they don’t work together. He might not know why, or care. It’s a subtle problem, solved by a simple guideline. 

That guideline is that patterns have to balance. Don’t wear a striped suit, shirt or tie next to each other unless they are sufficiently different. A dense, pale, striped shirt may be fine against a sparse, dark, bold pinstripe. It can get more complicated than that, but this is a simple starting point. 

Suits look good because the plunging V of the chest gives an impression of being slim and broad. This is amplified by the fact that in a normal, lounge suit the jacket and trousers are the same colour – it creates a long, lean silhouette. If the shirt and suit are the same pattern that effect is lessened. You are a single block of pattern and may as well be wearing a jump suit.