Match vs. Go

What does it mean for an outfit to match? What about an outfit that "goes"? This post explores the differences.

Here’s a concept that manages to be both simple and tough to master: Outfits that match, versus ones that “go.”


This outfit matches. My red accessories mirror the red in the pattern of the shirt. And although the khaki skirt isn’t anywhere in the shirt’s color scheme, it is definitely in the same color range and family.


To steal a phrase, this outfit “goes.” The shoes and belt are different colors, and neither picks up on any elements present in the design or colors of the dress. But everything is harmonious, similar without echoing.

Outfits that match were my default for a long time. Since matching outfits draw on pieces within the existing mix for color and textural inspiration – pulling shoe color from a scarf pattern, for instance – they are easy to assemble, unify automatically, and have a retro flair that I always enjoyed. But I feel like my outfits that “go” tend to be more refined and sophisticated looking. Mismatched accessories that compliment each other without mirroring each other are the new standard, so looks that utilize them feel modern and contemporary.

Here are some tips for assembling outfits that “go”:

Color families: Muted tones will play nicely together, as will brights, pastels, and jewel tones. Learn which colors work well when combined, and throw two or three into the mix.

Juxtapositions: Ladylike with masculine, flowy with constructed, rough with smooth, and loose with tight. These pairings create balance, but also keep an outfit from skewing matchy. When you match, everything is in stylistic alignment. When you “go,” everything works but often in contradictory ways. This one can be tricky, but experiment with it a bit and you’ll find your personal juxtapositional groove.

One outstanding element: A wash of neutrals with one colorful accessory is a great way to make an outfit “go.” Or an extremely simple ensemble with a single, bold piece of jewelry. Looks that match typically have several elements in alignment so a quick way to subvert that paradigm is simply to pare down.

This is not to say that matching is bad! Far from it! Just that if you find yourself defaulting to outfits that match and would like to master outfits that “go,” too, there are some simple formulas for puzzling it out. Matching has been the standard for ages because it is visually comprehensible. If you love that, go with it.

And if you prefer to “go,” consider dabbling in the matchy once in a while. A well-rounded style often incorporates both philosophies!

Originally posted 2010-08-12 05:07:00.

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45 Responses to “Match vs. Go”

  1. Peter

    Matchy fan here! Outfits where everything "goes" look very clean and pulled-together to my eye. Provided they're not taken to an extreme of course. Love that first outfit with the red shoes!

  2. eek

    I am a tried and true "matchy" girl, but over the last year I definitely like and appreciate looks that "go" better because they feel more current. I'm still learning as I go, but blogs like your are definitely inspiring me to push my little boundaries 🙂

  3. Rosie Unknown

    I like both. Sometimes something is just dying to be matched, and other times things that go feel more right.

  4. Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    I'm not a matchy person, so I definitely veer towards go. Great description of the difference (and some great examples too).

  5. Nique

    Looks that "go" are definitely more interesting, but, for me anyway, are more difficult to put together, so I often fall back on matching (old habits die hard.)
    One thing that I recently re-discovered is the color wheel. After reading about it on your blog and Academichic, I decided to purchase one, and it is really helping me to make more and different color combinations that "go," and to be more confident about those combinations since I know that there is reasoning behind the combos. I highly recommend getting one of these handy wheels.

  6. Erin

    DEFINITELY a person that "goes" here.
    I actually have a little trouble matching because it always reminds me of my grandma lecturing me to match my shoes to my purse 🙂

    That said, I know a lot of women are in the "matchy" category, every day at work I have women come in with a skirt, or shoes, or whatever saying "I need an entire outfit that matches this color"

    and in the interest of getting them out of the rut I usually start my lecture of "neutrals go with everything, as long as its in the same color family, try jeans, ect. ect."

    just yesterday a woman came in with gold earrings saying "I need a gold top to match these".

  7. Anonymous

    I like them both – but the matchy outfit is one of my favorites! (Love the tee and red shoe!!)

  8. Toby Wollin

    Match. I don't have the confidence for 'go'. Today, I'm wearing a plaid skirt that has in it: navy, aqua, yello, red, pink, and a bunch of other stuff in it with an aqua top, a yellow jacket and yellow sandals. My younger daughter would say, "Too matchy, matchy, Mom" – I, however, look in the mirror and say, "ooo, clever girl."

  9. Tina Z

    Sounds silly, but I usually feel too self-conscious to match. Like I should only wear outfits that go. In my head, outfits that go convey a "I didn't try that hard but still look really good" attitude. Sad because I will put on outfits that match and look good only to deconstruct them right away into ones that go. My own hang-up, I guess. Maybe it's the preppy northeast connotation; I grew up in a preppy NE town and tried to rebel but really looked like everyone else. I've been hyperaware of that connotation since the age of 15.

  10. Future Lint

    I was for sure always a "match" kinda girl, but there is just something interesting about things that somehow "go"… coming up with interesting color schemes is much more fun!

  11. cvb

    I don't object to Match, but I like the versatility of Go. I've gotten to the point where I hesitate to buy many print separates, because some patterns are very hard to Go with, and I feel constrained by only being able to wear the item with a Match. (I faced this conundrum this morning with a newly thrifted skirt that I love.) Maybe that's a topic you could address?

  12. EvaNadine

    i tend to be a matcher, because it is easier. find a color, pull it out and match it.

    but i prefer looks that go — they impress me more. for me, at least, they take a lot more thought and effort, but they are always the outfits i am most proud of.

  13. Rebecca

    I tend to prefer looks that "go". Matchy outfits can look great, but things that go just appeal to my personal sense of style better.

  14. Cynthia

    Let's see, yesterday in San Francisco, I was wearing dark grey cords, a flowy burgundy tunic, and a flowy brown cardigan, with olive-grey shoes. Nothing matched but it all "goes" partly because nothing stood out offensively. I wouldn't necessarily do that with brighter colors though.

    I love to match. I don't care if it's dorky. I could never wear your matchy yellow outfit (though it was cute) because I'd feel like I was in costume, but I usually like to pick up a color, maybe even a minor color, in a print with another piece of the outfit. It's very arty to combine things that all look good while nothing matches, but in the end I like a little subtle matching best.

  15. bubu

    I like both, but agree that I get a real deep satisfaction when I get an outfit to "go." Like yesterday, put a navy wrap dress with brown heeled sandals and all silver "hooped" jewelry and it all pulled together so well without matching. Would love if you could add more examples of your outfits that "go" – you have so many great ideas. (I probably stole the navy plus brown idea from you without realizing it!)


    I always aim to be a "goes" person, but never fail to end up as a "matcher." Thanks for your tips, though – if I can rationalize the less obviously matching outfits, then maybe my eye will start to follow!

  17. Jenniferocious

    I definitely do a bit of both, though I don't usually like being too "matchy-matchy", I find myself going toward that aesthetic on occasion. Though my "matching" outfits look more like your first pic here than your extreme example. 😉

    I do like the retro look that very matchy outfits have, but I like to push my boundaries with the pieces I put together, keeping everything pulled together with maybe one item like a scarf, but having the rest of the outfit not necessarily "match".

    There is another option, though: choosing colors that "pop" against each other, that technically speaking neither "match" nor "go". Like wearing a navy or violet sweater over a goldenrod colored tank, or coral and turquoise, rusty orange & grassy green, etc. That is definitely my favorite way to play with color… to keep things interesting and vibrant, while not looking like a Rainbow Bright doll.

  18. Jodi

    I LOVE outfit # 2 on you.. the dark colors are great and I really like the color combo!! great informative post, as I am usually a MATCH person myself and the whole point of my even blogging and taking pics is to funk it up more.
    Thanks Sal!!

  19. Lise F

    I've always been more "match." It's only recently that I've started trying looks that "go."

  20. leah

    I'm a go, and perhaps even clash girl when I can pull it off.

    My mum always tried to put me in matching outfits as a kid and I would scurry off and mismatch them while she wasn't looking. I'll never match my shoes to anything!

  21. Jenn Barley | The KickStart Coach

    I would love to see a photo of your closet and dresser — it is amazing how many outfits you have! Do you ever show photos of where it all hangs?

  22. spacegeek

    I think I like "go" better than "match". It can feel so contrived to me when I match too much, and like another reader said, I feel a bit self-conscious when I match. Today is a match day, though. Navy trousers, navy-peridot green-white top, peridot earrings. Not feeling the outfit, but somehow more safe and appropriate for the meetings I have scheduled today.

  23. angie

    I prefer looks that go almost exclusively. That being said, very occasionally I do match up a scarf with a handbag or shoes with a bag.

  24. WendyB

    The neutral khaki is perfect in that first outfit. Breaks up the matchiness of the top and shoes nicely.

  25. Melrose

    I'm such a matchy-matchy person, i definitely need to try things that "go: a little more…. maybe printing out a color wheel would help me out a little. I loke your suggestions about color families and juxtaposition!

  26. Heather

    Love the wrap belt the outfits look wonderful….I think I need to make some of those belts for sure I can think of a ton of outfits I would add them to and I have seen you wear the belt in other posts looks great on what ever you seem to add it to! ~Heather

  27. Fer

    "Erin said…

    DEFINITELY a person that "goes" here.
    I actually have a little trouble matching because it always reminds me of my grandma lecturing me to match my shoes to my purse :)"

    replace "grandma" with "mom", and that's exactly how I feel 😉

  28. tinyjunco

    i got razzed for wearing a polka dot mini with striped knee socks in fifth grade – im a 'go girl' all the way.

    like 'nique said – get a color wheel and study color theory (not just opposites and triads – things like tints, warm vs. cool colors, muted vs. clear, etc.). analyze 'go' outfits that you like to see what pulls them together. basic design helps too – proportion, line, volume…take a deeper look at ANY visual art or nature that appeals to you to get a feel for it's aesthetic.

    The Triumph of Individual Style by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor covers all of these concepts in one place.

  29. lisa

    I try not to be matchy-matchy and to put together looks that "go" because they increase the versatility of the items that I have. That being said, there's some stuff in my closet that I haven't figured out how to wear without being matchy-matchy. 😛

  30. gingerR

    I think individuals have a lot of personal and cultural latitude in deciding what matches. I've observed many co-workers from other parts of the world in combinations that I, a white-bread midwesterner, would not have put together. But, on second glance they often look fine, once you get over your initial perspective shock.

    I think we all filter color and pattern through our own eyes. If you like the combination then I think it's good to go.

  31. Kelly

    I think in my personal style, I tend towards "going" more often. But I love seeing good matching on other people – like in the first outfit, the flowers and the shoes both make each other POP a million times more.

    I don't know why I don't like matching on myself. I think it reminds me of my childhood outfits because that's all I knew how to do. So even though I like it on others, it feels off when I wear matching things myself. Like I'm reverting.

  32. Jen

    I have to say, I love that second outfit with the navy dress, green belt and brown shoes, it's one of my favorites you've posted…I guess I'm more of a "go" person, since I tend toward more neutrals and rely more on jewelry and textural layering with tights, scarves when I get dressed.

  33. Audi

    I have a split personality on this one. As much as I love to put together combinations that 'go' but are not immediately obvious, I can't resist a little matchy-matchy when the opportunity presents itself. As long as it looks good, I can roll with either. The 2 outfits you used as examples are two of my favorites of yours, BTW. Those and the awesome explosion of yellow from the other day. 🙂

  34. Mae

    I always found it difficult to match things up, so once I discovered how to make things "go" together, I embraced it! I wear a lot of earth tones, so I tend to use a variety of them (different shades of brown, red, and yellow especially). I feel more creative when trying to find ways to make pieces go together…matching stifles my creativity (or maybe I just put too much pressure myself)…

  35. Frances Joy

    I like looks that "go". I feel like it opens up a whole range of possibilities for potential outfits. Matching reminds me of my dad – who wore a uniform to work for many years trying to wear green with green all the time, because if it works for the military, it should work in real life. 😉

  36. Melissa

    I tend to have a need to add more color, so I'd rather "go" than match.

    It's hard for me to only have one color, or sometimes only two colors. More is better in most cases, in my opinion!

    I do like the streamlined simplicity of matching. I really should do that more often! It's classic and pretty.

  37. whenlifehandsyouapear

    I'm way too matchy-matchy for my own good, but I'm still learning, and I can now appreciate things that 'go' better.

  38. lyrebirdgully

    absolutely off topic, I have to say how fabulous you look in the red-and-green flower outfit.It is a winner on every style point and I love repeat viewings of it. It has the bonus style point of still being the most beautiful complement to your green tattoo that I have seen so far!

    The second outfit is also stunning on you, but the reason I'm especially fond of the first is its very individual character. It really highlights what makes your style unique, and demonstrates so well your creative side, showing how you don't just copy current trends.

  39. Chris

    I like both. However, some folks attempt to “go” and look bold/daring come up with what I think are awful color combinations.