Pattern mixing and matching can definitely be an overwhelming process, which can often lead to opting for a boring combination or, worse, something that just doesn't quite work the way it should. Trust me, I used to have to plan four outfits on Sunday nights for my weekly work travels. Thankfully that's not the case anymore, but through that process, I learned to streamline and simplify pattern matching with one simple rule: 1 bold, 2 solids.
One simple rule for pattern matching: 1 bold and 2 solids
I mix and match easily by following the 1 bold, 2 solids rule. What do I really mean by this? If you think of your outfit as the pants/jacket (suit) as one item, the shirt as another and the tie as a third, then go bold with only one of them and simple with the other two. This works outside of a suit too when you're pairing denim with a blazer and shirt (forget the tie).
There are several more detailed dress combinations below to help with a more complex suit and tie pairings, but let me summarize a few scenarios here:
If you're wearing a plain or more subtle pattern suit, then pair it with a basic dress shirt and a bold tie. This is an easy and classic way to elevate a look. If you happen to have a bold suit, then pair it with a plan dress shirt and a more subtle tie.
If you're wearing denim and a plain blazer, then you can definitely go bold with the shirt if you want to let it stand out. Or if you're wearing denim and a bold blazer, then make sure to go with a plain shirt (I'd recommend a plain tie in this situation as well.
If you're wearing bold pants, then I would pair it with a solid shirt and blazer combination.
In essence, let the bold pattern stand out on it's own and you should be safe! If you start mixing and matching patterns, make sure the patterns vary in size. Below are a few complex examples of pattern matching:
If you're wearing a gingham shirt (tight check pattern), make sure a tie is a wide stripe tie or a wide plaid blazer/suit.
If you're wearing a wide vertical stripe shirt, then a tight pattern on the tie works. If you're wearing a narrow vertical stripe shirt, then a wide pattern on the tie works best.
If you're struggling to pair a tie with a shirt and suit/blazer combination, I would highly recommend purchasing several solid color ties or even solid color knit ties. A dark, solid color tie will be your crutch with any combination. My navy blue tie gets a ton of use!
Below are several more detailed examples with pictures for your dress clothes matching!
Combination #1: Windowpane suit paired with a gray shirt and a very bold pink linen tie. This combination follows the rule: the tie is the 'one bold'. Although the blazer is technically windowpane, the fact that the windowpane pattern is pattern is large helps tone the look down. This allows the characteristics of each to work together instead of clashing. If I were wearing a very bold windowpane blazer with the bold pink tie, it would come off as too bold. I also toned down this blazer and tie with the solid gray shirt.
Combination #2: A blazer paired with a bold gingham shirt and a solid silk knit tie. The black blazer has a light, wide windowpane pattern, which allows it to be paired with a patterned gingham shirt. The silk knit tie does have a texture to it, but it’s a tighter pattern than the others. I paired this combination with a solid color dress chino so I could wear a great pair of monk straps.
Combination #3: A casual combination with a bold blue blazer paired with a navy blue polo and a light pair of chinos. Matching patterns is much easier when a tie is not involved in the process. The bold blazer is a linen blend, so in this case the texture is the ‘bold pattern’. I also went with a pair of bold loafers since are several solids in this outfit. If I wore these tan loafers with the bold suit above, it would probably be too much.
To recap, 1 bold pattern and 2 solid patterns. To include patterns, just make sure the patterns differ enough (e.g. see above for the wide windowpane blazer, gingham shirt, and very fine textured knit tie).