Sweet & Sour: Busy Work

By Catherine Addo • Aug 24th, 2009 • Category: Obsessions of the Week, Trends   

We like to consider ourselves pretty hardy when it comes to fashion. Sure, every now and then a trend takes an unexpected turn and catches us off-guard. But for the most part we bounce back into action pretty quickly—which is why we were thrown when we took one look at designers’ recent menswear and resort collections, and just about went cross-eyed. Stripes with prints, florals everywhere—okay, fine. Given recent trends, maybe we should have expected these little twists. Still, the coming season’s use of patterns in wild combinations is pretty much unprecedented. We want to know, is there such a thing as a no-go combo?

Why It’s Sweet: Perhaps the best part of fashion’s recent print and pattern orgy is the exuberant spirit it lends to an outfit. Pops of color and crazy textures are fabulous, but when they come in the form of one or more eye-catching patterns, the whole look just says, “BAM!” Busy, clashing patterns are a straightforward way to let the world know that not only have you arrived, but that you don’t particularly care what cardigan-and-khaki types have to say about your look. The aesthetic is defiant, in a fun way. For some reason, this look is especially striking on men. Maybe we expect women to take more fashion risks while it’s more typical of guys to stick closer to the status quo? We can’t quite put our finger on it. All we know is that it takes some serious swag for a man to walk confidently in a psychedelic floral button-down or patchwork flood pants; and if you’re rolling your eyes thinking, “Yeah, right; no man would ever wear something like that,” take a second to peruse some of the looks that designers like Comme des Garçons and Etro sent down the runway. Enough said.

Why It’s Sour: Crazy pattern combos: interesting? Sure. A realistic way to dress oneself on a regular basis? Hmmm, not so much. While we certainly appreciate the bold new direction designers have taken when it comes to the game of mix-and-match, some recent looks we spied looked a little excessive, even clownish, in their use of pattern. Because of the runway show context, we actually found ourselves wondering if the featured ensembles were meant to be emulated in ‘real life,’ or if designers just seized the opportunity in each model’s walk to showcase all their prized patterns at once. We guess that’s an option, but our favorite shows are the ones whose styles look so scrumptiously wearable from head to toe that we have to restrain ourselves from tackling the models and stealing the clothes for ourselves. A good-in-theory, bad-in-life outfit brings us right back to that fork in the road we always seem to reach—the place where the fabulous skip off to Fashionland while the rest of us stand scratching our heads and wondering how we can make their look work for us.

Our conclusion: First, a brief disclaimer: The Supermelon is in no way responsible for the looks and comments you may get should you choose to wear, say, a striped blazer over paisley trousers. That’s allllll you. We do, however, fully advocate the artful blending of unexpected prints and using the resulting boldness to make a splash. See, for example, the way Diane Von Furstenberg threw a zigzagged overcoat on top of a spotted one-piece bathing suit. Are the patterns exact matches? No, and neither are particularly subtle. But the color palette of both pieces is in precisely the same range, and the patterns are disparate enough—big, block stripes against tiny, detailed animal spots—to give the outfit contrast and depth. Likewise for small bursts of patterns against otherwise plain apparel, as exemplified by the detailed belts and cuffs in Etro’s show or the subtly mismatched plaid prints in Moschino’s line. When you look at busy patterns for what they are—a burst of freshness in a color-block world—they hardly seem so intimidating. So go ahead, get busy.


Tags: patterns, prints,

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One Comment

  1. I still shy away from pattern mixing … SO much can go wrong! But this is a superb guide to the pros and cons, and I love your super-detailed instructions on how to pull this look off with aplomb.

    August 24th, 2009 at 8:35 am

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