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Style clash: how matchy-mismatchy became the new matchy-matchy

In 2018, it is far more fashionable to flout style rules than follow them. You know the rules we mean: don’t wear navy blue and black together; never wear more than three colours at once, don’t wear black or white as a wedding guest, don’t wear cream and white, ever; try to match your shoes to your handbag. In the past five years, we have had wilfully clashing colour-blocking. A fuchsia pink shirt and red trousers is now a classic colour combination for fashion editors, as acceptable as wearing black and white. We have had monotone dressing – the Kim Kardashian-approved way of wearing one very specific shade, typically matching your skintone, head-to-toe. Then there is no-holds-barred clashing, with four different prints in the same outfit on purpose. Best saved for days without a hangover, when you are hoping to be snapped by a street-style photographer, or at least post a particularly memorable selfie. But the newest take on no-rules dressing? That would be matchy-mismatchy.

Silk blend check button down shirt, £79 and
check high-waisted shorts, £49,

It might be a mouthful but the concept is quite simple. You’re grouping items in a similar print or colour and wearing them together, in a way that would really annoy pedantic colour theorists. Wear red but feel free to mix a tomato blouse with crimson trousers and wine-coloured trainers. Or try checks – a kilt worn with a lumberjack shirt, a Prince of Wales blazer over a gingham dress. Leopard – speeding ahead as the print of the year – is the kill-two-birds choice. Make like Beyoncé on her On the Run II tour, in various shades of leopard, or influencers such as Kat Farmer (@doesmybumlook40), who posted an image of herself in two different takes on leopard – one on a dress and another on her handbag.

The matchy-mismatchy trend feels right for now – it is considered and curated enough to make its wearer look creative and playful, but has a devil-may-care nonchalance that is always going to score points on social media. Think of it as dressing for the multi-screen generation – it is a look that allows the wearer to do everything at the same time and use the term “disruptor” when referring to their outfit.

Matchy-mismatchy has been growing as an idea for a while. It was on the spring catwalk in Phoebe Philo’s penultimate collection for Céline, where several shades of beige were spliced together, and at Maxmara for autumn, where multiple leopard print was worn by a Bardot-ish Gigi Hadid. It is on celebrities beyond Beyoncé including Cardi B, who went matchy-mismatchy with scarf prints earlier this year, and Millie Mackintosh, who very subtly broke all the rules by wearing ivory and white to her own wedding.

Patchwork print dress, £69.99,
Zara Photograph: Zara

But this is a trend that has really gained traction in street style images, and those posted on Instagram. Matchy-mismatchy was a consistent trend at both Oslo and Copenhagen fashion weeks earlier this month, and is worn by Farfetch’s Yasmin Sewell and Susie Lau from Stylebubble – women who are regularly snapped at the most high-fashion events wearing clothes that could, at least in part, feasibly translate to less glamorous occasions, such as shopping for dinner at Tesco on a Tuesday.

Gigi Hadid for Max Mara during Milan fashion week earlier this year. Photograph: Swan Gallet/WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Because, really, matchy-mismatchy is more wearable than you might think. Think of it a bit like a software update on your phone. It might take a bit of getting used to, but your eyes will adjust to the newness in no time. After all, with more and more of us wearing colour on a regular basis, you can shop your own wardrobe and make those pieces work harder. Spend an afternoon grouping your clothes into genres or themes. That canary yellow sweatshirt now works with a lemon-coloured skirt. Or a floral dress might be given new life paired with the hothouse flowered bomber jacket you had forgotten about.

Monochrome leopard shacket, £42 and
yellow leopard zip-up skirt, £32

It is available to buy, too. The high street has a new sub-genre of clothes that provide the matchy-mismatchy look within the same garment. Asos’s animal print is so extensive that it evokes a visit to the zoo – see a wrap top that mixes python, tiger and leopard print. Topshop, meanwhile, is showcasing its leopard-print pieces together on its site, suggesting matchy-mismatchy pieces from the same store are now a thing. Mismatching polkadots and checks are also an option – available at Wallis, River Island and Zara, where mixing checks now comes as standard. The delightful sub-strata is matchy-mismatchy florals, AKA dressing like a bouquet of flowers – a ditsy blossom mixed with a tropical lily, or a pansy and a daisy spliced together. Rixo is the influencers’ favourite – but Ganni, French Connection and Zara are upping their game too.

Of course, as with everything in fashion, there are rules to no-rules dressing – or let’s call them guidelines. If you are doing matchy-mismatchy with clothes and bag, shoes might be a stretch. Also, it is probably best to keep makeup to a minimum (after you have taken your selfie). And – this is a big one – remember to be nice. Matchy-mismatchy is a conversational trend if ever there was one. When you are breaking the rules with what you wear, people will want to know why.

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