Superfantastic reader Ginny wrote in with a work wear quandary. Seems our heroine, who is in the process of entering a more professional work environment, happened upon a pair of wide-legged navy pinstriped trousers and is at a loss how to wear them.
“Logically the pants should work almost like jeans because of their colour – they should kinda go with everything? But they don’t seem to.
Am I just overanalyzing because I’m not used to formal pinstriped trousers? Should I just wear it with my navy cardigan despite the slight colour mismatch [her navy tops are different shades of blue]? Am I just going to have to wear black or white button down shirts with these pants? Why don’t the pants seem to work with purple or brown? Could I do a blood-red slim sweater with these trousers? Help!
Okay class, raise your hand if you’ve made the rookie mistake of buying a fantastic separate without being sure anything else in your closet is actually compatible. Of course you have, it’s a rite of passage like bad bangs or ritual sacrifice. Now you’re stuck with making it work.
First the jeans thing.
Jeans “go with everything” because we’ve trained ourselves to believe that.
Just because you’ve got a pair of pants that are the same color as your favorite pair of 501s doesn’t mean you can wear them the same way. If it did I could wear my blond mink in place of my favorite khakis (ha ha, just kidding. Could you imagine me owning khakis?)
Jeans are sui generis as a pantular species, so just save yourself some heartache and abandon the whole idea.
You’re also wise to be wary of donning mismatched shades of navy. Trust your instincts and skip it.
It takes a quadruple black belt fashion ninja to be able to wear colors that are ultra-close-but-not-quite the same. I’ve only known one personally who could do it and although she could, she didn’t.
Let me touch on the idea of pinstripes.
Pinstripes are a little tricky these days. I call it the Curse of the Naughty Secretary.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good pinstripe, but when a design element becomes porno shorthand for an office worker, it’s something that should be approached with fear, trembling and a concerted effort to say “I am a professional” not “I am dressing up as a professional.”
So, on to your neutral matching woes.
Ever wonder why some people can wear brown and black together and look amazing while others look like mentally deficient beagles?
The most successful dressers have a strong understanding –either innate or taught– of color theory. They keep their cools with their cools and their warms with their warms if they want a cohesive look and mix them thoughtfully if they want something purposefully disjointed.
If you’re having the dickens of a time getting colors that should go together in theory go together in practice, I almost promise you it’s because one is warm and the other is cool.
Your two go-to neutrals for navy other than white (which you mentioned you didn’t like wearing) are camel and gray, but any color can work.
The trick is making sure your neutrals –or any color, really– are the same temperature.
Most of us think blues are naturally cool, but it ain’t necessarily so, so color check yourself before you color wreck yourself.
What this means to you is if your pants are a warm navy, make sure your grays are warm too. If they’re cool and you want to wear a red sweater, make sure it’s a cool red sweater.
Purple works with navy only when the navy is has a good bit of red in it. Browns can go either way but generally cool on cool is more successful than warm on warm for that particular combo.
So analyze, but analyze wisely, brush up on your color theory, be careful with pinstripes and don’t ever come home with a separate unless at least you own three other pieces that can work with it right off the rack.
Oh, and sit up straight, get that hair out of your eyes and give me some grandchildren. I won’t be around forever you know.
Gin and Tonics,