Ask AJ :: How to Match without "Matching"

I received a comment the other day asking how I match things:

Thanks for your comment Anon (I swear, I don't bite)! Matchy matchy is the downfall of all women, isn't it? Back in the 80s it was all like, "Hey girl, cool pumps in the exact same color as that full suit! And your nails! And those earrings! Rock on!" Now it feels like you can't even match your shoes to your bag without looking fussy.

To be honest, I'm not sure I even have the concept of matching down. But I'm going to walk you through the process I go through when I get dressed. It's a lot of trial and error, seriously. I always know about what kind of outfit I want to wear, and probably which pieces, but from there I just try to eyeball it. The piece we're starting with today is this adorable Rory Beca skirt featured in Thursday's outfit post:

It's adorable, right? Fun pastel colors for spring and a watercolor print (which I hear is totally hot right now). It's a flowy, A-line shape which isn't easy to match. I started by trying a similarly colored pink tank underneath. It looked a little drab, so I added a belt to break it up.

Not exactly inspiring. The whole look kind of washes me out. Okay, no big deal. We just need a brighter pop of color to anchor the look, so I chose the teal color in the skirt and added a jacket.

See how the color in the jacket helps the whole outfit pop? Choosing a color in a pattern you're trying to match that isn't the dominant color helps keep everything from matching too much. Since we went all matchy underneath, I liked putting the dominant color on top. I chose the coral shoes because we needed something a little more "neutral", but I like that they're just a darker color than the rest of the outfit. Choosing a similar color in a darker tone for your accessories keeps it from going overboard while still giving it a polished, put together feel.

A different approach would be to choose a color that's not in the skirt at all, but compliments it.

There is not a speck of green in this skirt, but by choosing a pastel top, it basically completes the color palette without looking too drab. I liked the idea, but all of the pastels seemed much more suited for day than night, and as I was dressing for dinner I thought I'd save this combo for some flat sandals and a Saturday afternoon.

My final attempt before settling on an outfit was to start with a neutral and build from there. I chose this white tank with sequins because it's a little more cool than just plain, and grabbed this wide belt to break it up.

This was actually my least favorite combo of the three. At least the white provided contrast where the pink left me hanging, and the belt broke up the two and made it look a little polished. I still felt like I needed a pop of color, so I threw this weird vest on top. All in all, both were too casual so I scrapped it.

What I finally ended up with was pulling a bright, smaller color from the skirt and wearing it on top, while matching the shoes.

So why does this work? Well, since I went with a bright color on top I wanted to match the shoes. I chose these shoes because while they were the same light pink as the skirt, they had extra details that made them different. I love that the skirt is so sweet but I'm wearing it with studded pumps. But the pumps aren't so tough, because they're pink with bows. It's all about putting together contrasts.

Does this help at all? NO IDEA. The thing is, instead of trying to perfectly match everything, pull inspiration from your own outfit. Choose contrasting colors to mix things up. Say you're wearing a navy striped shirt - add red pumps instead of navy for a nautical look, pop of color, and you're nowhere near "matchy-matchy". Instead of choosing pink pumps to go with a pink dress, choose a lighter shade of pink that compliments the dress without looking like you bought the set. And when it comes to accessories, keep it simple. I never try to match my earrings to my necklace - it's too much all upstairs. If I wear a bold necklace, I skip earrings (or just wear small studs). If I rock a big ring, I don't bother with bracelets. And usually a pair of dangly earrings takes center stage so I try not to compete with them anywhere else. It's all about mixing and matching and finding what works for you.

So next time you're feeling too matchy, just take a few moments and examine your outfit and see where you could pull ideas, change pieces, and get a little creative. Always leave yourself plenty of time to get dressed, too :)

Anyone else having fashion issues? My door is always open. And if you have any suggestions of your own, make sure you add them!