Pattern of Perfection

One of the questions I hear frequently in my studio is “What kind of patterns can I wear?”

And usually, when I hear this question my heart sinks and I realise that, if I’m not careful, we could still be here at midnight…

Because the realm of patterns is huge and scary. In fact, so huge and scary that this image is totally appropriate…

And you know what they say about dragons, don’t you?

 So – should we just stay safely at home on the plains with our plains then?

By no means! Let us throw a knapsack on our back, slap our thigh in true pantomime fashion and sally forth to catch a ship and seek our fortune – and those dragons!

So – patterns. Making sense of the bewildering array…

Well, for a start, for the most part we have patterns with straight lines, and patterns with curves…

Straight Lines

Although, just to throw us occasionally, the designers like to throw us something like this, which is straight lines with curvy bits…

Not Straight Stripes

And then they like to muddy the waters even further by combining straight and curvy patterns like this…

Quite Simply, Everything!

Then (returning to a logical approach) we have small, medium and large patterns in straight lines and in curves and we have sparse patterns, dense patterns, and all the shades of grey – er that is density – in between.

Are you confused yet? Just bear with me, I’ve hardly started. In fact – would you like to listen to Genesis’ Land of Confusion while you read this? I think it might just be appropriate.

And you still want to know which ones you can wear – don’t you?

Well I’ve been doing this job for thirteen years now, and the only general rule I’ve found that doesn’t get broken regularly is, “If you’re really curvy, then don’t wear stripes – they tend to distort on you.”

The area of patterns is one that is so individual that general rules don’t really apply here (sorry).

We look at your body shape on the Personal Style day, so you get a good idea of your body geometrics and we can start to say, “Well, you’ve got a rounded top, so curved patterns are going to work best for you above the waist. But your bottom half is more straight, so you could probably put some straight and angled patterns there.”

Note the word “probably”. What then happens is that my client pulls out a skirt that should work in every way, with an angled pattern on it and says, “But I’ve never liked this skirt much.” and we realise that, actually, her personality means that hard lines and angles are never going to work and that this girl needs hearts and flowers everywhere, with occasional injections of little birdies and butterflies, because they’re sweet – and, after all, there are times when we all need one of these…

Fortunately, we do have another class with a module specifically focussed on patterns. I’m going to give you a little taster of it just now.

Let’s look at straight line patterns first. Large ones.

We have large dense patterns, medium and sparse patterns. What do we mean by that? Well, sparse patterns have lots of space between the parts of the pattern, and dense patterns have hardly any space. Medium – well, look, if you can’t work it out for yourselves, loves…..

A picture always tells a thousand words, and with this lot – I reckon I’ve got three chapter’s worth or almost an eighth of a novel (writer gene rising to the surface there for a moment. You don’t mind, do you?)

Large Straight Sparse
                                                                        Straight large medium density

Straight Large Dense
Sadly, I couldn’t find a diamond pattern for the medium density, but hopefully you get the drift.
Straight Medium Sparse
Straight Medium Medium
Straight Medium Dense

Hmmm – not quite sure what the difference is there between the large and medium sized patterns for dense… sorry about that. It looked different on the John Lewis website.

And, of course, straight small – and a small straight whisky is what I feel is called for right now – and blow the fact it’s only Thursday night….

Straight small sparse
Straight Small Medium
Straight Small Dense

Now – do you begin to see what I mean by curves distorting the straight lines on that last one?

If straight lines fit your figure and your personality then brilliant! You go for that crisply striped breton sweater and the whole yachting look. I knew there was a reason why I’ve never taken up sailing in spite of having a family all mad keen on the activity. I just can’t wear stripes: too curvy by half!

Right then, en avant mes amies and we will explore the delights of curvy patterns.

Big ones….

Curvy Large Sparse
Curvy Large Medium
Curvy Large Dense

Medium ones….

Curvy Medium Sparse
Curvy Medium Medium (But Becoming Sparse)
Curvy Medium Dense

And (last one – gasp) Small…

Curvy Small Sparse
Curvy Small Medium
Curvy Small Dense

So – there you have your own personal tour around the basics of patterns. Thank you so much John Lewis, for your superb on-line dress department, and thank you, my lovelies, for your patience in reading through all those ( I hope Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford et al made it a bit more bearable for you).

And to return to your own burning question, which patterns are right for you?

Oh, this is such a individual thing. What I personally found in the Style Confidence Class (which, if you’ve done your Style Class more than a year ago I would really recommend doing – email me, OK?) was that I can do curvy patterns of any size – just so long as they are sparse. The moment any of the patterns start moving towards dense, then they become “mumsy” on me. I can’t do straight patterns on my top, but they’re fine on my bottom (being, as I am, severely challenged in the bum stakes) just so long as they are sparse or medium. I have known clients who can do large and small but not medium, clients who can do large sparse stripes and small curvy medium patterns  – sometimes even together – like Roger the Natural Gamin from last week. I promise – next time I visit him I will get a photo of him wearing his stripey blazer, navy shirt with the tiny old gold floral pattern and the bright orange tie and I will share it with you. I think that you will fall in love with him just as much as I have – although, I have to warn you, his wife is a very scary woman: I wouldn’t take her on! (No I wouldn’t, Margaret – honest!)

I have no idea why this is. If I have a sudden enlightenment I promise I will let you know. It is one of these alchemical combinations of body architecture and personality that makes each one of us totally unique. My best advice, outside the Personal Style Day and Style Confidence Class is to trust your instincts. If it feels right, then it probably is right. If you’re not sure, then try to think where the “not sure” is coming from. If it’s from your head, then it’s probably all the mixed messages from the media we’ve been receiving since we could first read competently. If it’s from your gut, then take notice. Once we learn to follow our heart and stomach then, pretty much, we’ve got it sorted.

And next week I’ll talk about putting patterns together…. (gulp)!

Oh, but before I go… there are of course, those people who like to wear their patterns very personally on their skin. I am so torn here. I have comments that say that the muscled young men of whom I post pictures are the only thing that make this blog worth reading (thanks girls!) and also comments saying you feel they are faintly tacky and that you are disappointed that I like looking at what is nothing more than pornography…. (again – thanks girls).

What can I say? You all have a perfect right to your opinions.

So, if you’d like to take a look at a handsome young man who illustrates large curvy patterns inked on his skin to perfection, then click here. Otherwise, I’ll see you next time for the combinations class.


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