Work Style

Suit Combinations 101: 3 Rules for Mixing and Matching Your Separates

by Leah Bourne


We all have a few suits hanging in our closet—our favorite interview suit, the suit we exclusively wear to important meetings, the formal skirt suit that comes out for special occasions—that definitely don’t get as much use as they could. The trick to making the most of the suit combinations you already own is to mix and match them. But like all things style, there are a few rules you’ll need to keep in mind.

1. Make Sure the Colors Aren’t Too Close

One of the biggest fashion mistakes that women make is pairing suit separates in colors that are too close, such as a dark navy jacket and black pants, a white blazer and ivory pants, or a brown jacket and a skirt in a different shade of brown. Pairing those combinations will likely make it seem like you were trying to match but just didn’t quite get it right.

Instead, opt for colors that are completely different. A red jacket and a pair of navy pants will look great together, and so will a royal purple jacket and an ivory-colored skirt. Pro tip: Think back to the color wheel you learned in elementary school and try to pair contrasting colors.

2. Mix and Match Patterns with Solids

The easiest way to mix and match your suits is to pair patterns and neutrals. Have a floral pencil skirt? Pair it with one of your neutral suit jackets. Red pants? Wear them with a pinstripe blazer. It’s hard to go wrong with this strategy because the combinations that you put together will immediately feel new and fresh, and you won’t run the risk of putting together two items that don’t quite match, but look like they were supposed to.

Start by pulling a color from the print you’re starting with—such as the pink from a floral printed jacket—and find a solid-colored piece in that color to match with it. Another tip: Black and white prints, particularly black and white stripes, go with everything. Leopard is another great neutral print that will match practically any other solid color you pair it with.

3. The Fabrics You Mix Should Literally Feel Different

Make sure the textures of your suiting separates have different enough textures, or you’ll look like you’re trying to match two separates that don’t go together instead of wearing two distinct separates. Pair a velvet blazer with wool pants or a tweed jacket with a thick ponte skirt so you don’t make this mistake. Another trick: Stock up on suiting separates that are the same material so you can easily mix and match different-colored separates.

Take another look at the suits in your closet: You’ll have a lot more outfits available to you when you start mixing and matching them. Create combinations that highlight contrasting textures, colors, or prints, and let your personality shine through the combinations you try.

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