patterned clothing, yes or no?

If I dislike wearing color, it’s nothing compared to how I feel about patterns in general, and patterned clothing specifically. Actually no, that’s not it. I have to face the issue head on. I don’t like cheap patterns! What are cheap patterns? 

Cheap patterns are patterns that haven’t been designed but copied. A cheap pattern is an idea of something that already existed that the “designer” just had to more or less apply to the fabric, like a stencil or template. It’s like looking in a book at a tree and copying it, versus visualizing a tree in a new and imaginative way and creating it.

Donna_Karan_SS15_New_York_Catwalk_Style (1)If you look at those Donna Karan Spring Summer pieces, it’s pretty clear that they were inspired by something, but then someone used their imagination to design the patterns that wound up on the fabric. They are original; they’re not just pictures of things, pictured on cloth.

Like this…

chicosWhile the pattern on the dress above is large, sometimes it seems like designers just downsize patterns to make them more palatable and less apparent. But you have to ask, if you have to do that, why bother? Why bother to design something if you don’t really want it to be seen?


The patterns on the two dresses above are great examples of what I call “decorations.” They haven’t been designed, there’s nothing original about them, and the woman who wears them will simply look decorated. Patterns like this don’t flatter, they’re pedestrian, good for couches maybe but not for us. 

Tomorrow I’ll talk more about decorations with a post on embellishments versus details. For now, for the fun of it, I want to leave you with something I call “No, just no.”

kim-kardashian-kanye-west-met-gala-2013-red-carpetDo you wear patterns? What kinds? Is there any designer or brand that you think does patterns really well?




  • CARLA says:

    being a midlife woman 🙂 with a tattoo hip to ankle I avoid the SHORT AND PATTERNED but love the long dress above.
    love love.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      Actually, I’ve never thought of this, but people who get tattoos must like patterns!? When I lived in California, I considered getting one but something always stopped me. Hip to ankle, you must look great in a skirt with a slit up the side. Built in pattern 😉

  • pia says:

    My mother hated patterns–especially small ones except for black & white

    I love big patterns–especially the second one in the first row but tend toward a monochramatic wardrobe right now as it seems to suit me better.

  • I rarely wear patterns, though on dresses I find they can help to camouflage less-than-perfect parts of my body. But they have to be sophisticated patterns on simple silhouettes.

  • Kimberly says:

    I’m with you, I rarely wear patterns. The exception is a well made dress with simple shoes and accessories. Thanks for a great post!

    • Anita Irlen says:


      I think more people are agreeing with me than not, and yet there are so many patterns/florals out there. Maybe something else the fashion industry isn’t giving us that we want?

  • penpen says:

    There are patterns and there are Patterns. Anything really busy is hard to pull off–as even the models in your photos prove. But the middle Donna Karan–I couldn’t deal with the neckline [do real people actually wear that neckline?] but the pattern looks smart and flattering.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      True, but I think the models do pull them off. I agree about the neckline, can’t be busty or shy. All the pictures I put up are meant to be more inspirational than strictly realistic. Thanks for the comment!

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