Reader Request: When Matchy-matchy Makes Sense

matchy matchy

Reader Patricia had this request:

I know you mentioned a little while ago that soon you’d write a post about the benefits of matchy-matchy — yes please! I’d also love to see that expand into something about the different attitudes and situations when matchy-matchy works, as opposed to more contrast (if that makes sense?).

I must’ve been born too late, friends, because 50’s style matchy-matchy STILL makes more sense to me than looks that “go.” Pretty much across the board. I feel that matched accessories create unity and visual harmony, and that striking the right balance of complimentary but different accessory colors is often more trouble than it’s worth. Two matched accessories total is a good cap – when your belt, shoes, bag, and earrings are all the same color, it can get a little overwhelming – but those two matched accessories are like outfit bookends. Neat, harmonious, unifying.

Since that is not the current preference, though, I’m happy to suggest a few times when matching will trump going:

If your outfit is retro-influenced

Since this is a practice born in a bygone era, vintage and throwback outfits are the perfect time to employ it. Anything that hearkens back to the 40s through 60s will make visual sense with matched accessories. Not a requirement, obviously, but a choice that will seem natural.

For formal occasions

This is a personal preference for me, and I’m not sure how others will feel. If I’m getting truly dressed up – like just-shy-of-ballgown dressed up – matching accessories feel sophisticated and appropriate. I’m unlikely to do complementary but different shoes and clutch if I’m fancied up.

When you’ve got three solid colors at play

If your outfit already includes three (or more) colors, introducing accessories in multiple colors or tones will make things look a bit chaotic. Use matched accessories to create cohesion.

Whenever you need visual unity

Even if you’re not wearing three solids at once, you may feel like your outfit isn’t hanging together quite right. This often happens with print/pattern mixing and outfits that contain juxtaposed genres (moto jacket and tulle skirt), but it may surface unexpectedly in any outfit. A little bit of matchy can fix you right up.

Aside: If matching your shoes and belt or belt and bag doesn’t appeal, try matching your shoes and earrings/necklace. Naturally, this works best when you’re doing colorful shoes, but it’s a great, subtle way to bracket your look with harmonious accessories. And feels more modern and less matchy to many women.

NOW. In terms of matchy clothing? Matched sets are extremely trendy right now, but I think this is a trend that’s still evolving. I honestly don’t know what to say yet because the matching that is happening is rather suit-like: Top and skirt in the exact same print. I think if you were to do a scarf and pants or skirt in the same print, it wouldn’t fit within this particular trend, but might still look appealingly retro. I’m curious to know what you all think.

About matchy in general, too! Do you prefer to match a couple of your accessories? Absolutely never match? What are your personal guidelines and tips?

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7 Responses to “Reader Request: When Matchy-matchy Makes Sense”

  1. Heather

    I, too, love 50s fashion, but every time I reach for those full-skirted dresses, I change my mind if I have to go outside. How do you keep the hems in place on even slightly windy days? I live near Lake Ontario, so gusty winds are the norm.

    • Ginger

      I live in North Texas, which is also quite windy more often than not, and I wear full skirt quite a bit. I always make sure I have at least a slip. Unless it’s a drapey fabric, I usually wear a very slight petticoat. Mine is a hand-me-down in the family, similar to this (no lace, and less full):
      Soft sheer fabric, not super full, over a narrower slip-like lining. It’s looks intentional if the wind catches my skirt. With the narrow lining I have confidence knowing that there won’t be any flashing. I know that sudden gusts and swirls can happen, but I know I’m covered so I don’t worry about it.

      In particularly strong/steady/gusty winds, I also like to pinch a couple of folds of skirt in one hand. That reduces the fullness and helps me hold it down if things are really going crazy.

  2. lindaloui232

    I guess I’m in the “matchy more often than not” club. I often wear multiple colors in an outfit and use the matching shoes/belt/jewelry to get some cohesion. I also enjoy outfits that have non matching but complementary shades but I agree that requires more thought and effort to get right. I don’t really set any rules for myself, just trust my instincts.

  3. Rebekah Jaunty

    I’m right there with you on Team Matchy, and “harmony” is exactly how I always think of it. The ‘bookends’ idea is great, too. T

  4. crtfly

    I can go either way. I agree with you on when matching is preferable. However, I detest the term “matchy-matchy”. I think it’s an alright term for kindergarteners, but not for anyone older than that.


  5. No Fear of Fashion

    This was a good post. I absolutely agree with everything you said. I like matching in an outfit for exactly the reasons you describe. Sometimes it is fun to add a bright yellow bag to an all black outfit. But I like matching shoes and belt or matching shoes and bag just as much.