New year, same closet: Use patterns for a fresh look

January is a confusing time for fashion. Most likely you’re tired of your old wardrobe, but you just got new things for Christmas. Spring styles are coming out, yet all you can think about is snow, and you’re already struggling to keep up with your new year’s style resolution.

It doesn’t have to be the start of a new year to make you feel like your closet is full and you’ve got nothing to wear. Part of this could be because you’ve built a wardrobe on trends rather than style and function, but correcting that requires purchasing new items. Instead, I challenge you all to make a resolution to wear old clothes in new ways! Fashion is about taking risks. While it’s true you’ll never hear me complain about sticking to the classics (think trench coats, pearls and the LBD), no one ever made fashion history by staying safe.

Now for the fun part…how exactly do you find inspiration in a worn-out closet? I’d say, start by picking two pieces of clothing you would never wear together and try to build an outfit. I highly doubt you’ll actually come up with anything you like, let alone would wear outside (at least I hope not), but the idea is to start thinking about why these pieces don’t work. Is it the cut? The material? The color, or function? This silly exercise will help you understand why certain pieces don’t go together so you can figure out which ones do. If you’re still stuck, try Pinterest.

Most people don’t have too much trouble matching clothes by function or cut. Daywear goes with jeans, sweats go to the gym and a suit schedules interviews. Most people can even mix and match between functions, such as a blazer with jeans or an edgy Athleisure style that combines leggings and a sweater or joggers and boots or heels – color and pattern tends to be more of a concern.

I love patterns. I wish I could walk outside and see everyone dressed head-to-toe in neon floral. Maybe that’s a bit extreme (nah), but most of my friends tend to each stick to their own basic color palette. Of course, you like what you like and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it can be fun to try something new.

Would it surprise you if I said it only takes one common color to tie together two patterns? What if I said leopard print is a neutral? I swear I’m not making this up. The easiest way to pair patterns is to pick one print and stick it with a bunch of neutrals. Neutrals are colors and patterns that go with everything. The obvious ones are solid colors like white, black, navy, and gray. The more exciting ones are metallic, stripes, and, yes, leopard. Denim is a neutral for casual wear too.

Matching prints and neutrals is a pretty sure-fire way to dip your toe into pattern plan. It gets a little bit harder when you want to start pairing prints, though, to be honest, nowadays haute couture seems to be any pattern anytime. Regardless, there are a few general guidelines that might make going bold a little easier.

First, match colors rather than patterns. Either stick to the same color family, look for a single common color or get fancy and pull out a color wheel. Next, try varying sizes. Match a large print with a dainty one or match two of the same prints in different sizes. The general rule of thumb is large prints can be paired with other large prints but mixing tiny prints gets a bit too busy. You can also pair two inverted patterns (is the zebra black and white or white and black?), or two of the same exact patterns in different colors. The best combinations usually keep both color and size in mind. For example, two different sized prints with one coordinating color.

And of course, there are always those perfect combinations that work simply because they break all the rules. If you’ve ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean, then you know, “they’re more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”