Rhythm In Dress

Rhythm in DressThink of your favorite piece of music. Of how the instruments play together in harmony. Of how the chorus repeats itself. Of how it ebbs and flows. The pattern is familiar, comforting.

Now imagine a grade school band trying to replicate that song after only a few months of lessons. They’re out of sync. Pitchy. The drummer is full of himself.

They take a perfectly good piece of music and mangle is beyond recognition. If you’re the parent of one of the kids in the band, you just have to sit there and take it. It’s like fingernails on a blackboard. You can’t wait for it to be over.

So it is with rhythm in dress.

Rhythm creates order through repetition. You know what to expect. To anticipate.

In dress, it looks like this:

Good RhythmStylebop

Good RhythmStylebop
Tamara Mellon

Good RhythmStylebop

The eye flows easily over the patterns. There is no clash, no stumbling over elements. You’re able to take it all in.

But when there is no rhythm – or if one element calls obnoxious attention to itself like an overzealous drummer – it’s as hard to look at as a grade school band is to hear, like this:

Bad RhythmStylebop

Bad RhythmStylebop

Bad RhythmStylebop

Too many rhythms, too many patterns. There’s just too much to take in. It’s chaotic.

You don’t want that.

Keep the rhythms simple and easy to take in – like a catchy tune.

If the garment has a pattern, allow that to do the bulk of the work. Then, use your accessories to subtly echo the pattern – but don’t repeat it more than three times (the rule of three).

For example:

The circular earrings and the coat buttons create an easy rhythm:

Repeat RhythmChadwicks

Here, the circular earrings and circular watch face echo the polka dots:

Repeat RhythmChadwicks

The rectangular two drop earrings repeat the houndstooth pattern:

Repeat RhythmChadwicks

Again, these are really subtle, but they work. You could also repeat patterns with other accessories, like belt buckles, bracelets, purse shapes, etc. Just remember to limit the pattern to three.

Is this starting to make sense?

So next time you’re standing in front of the mirror, trying to figure out if an ensemble works or if it doesn’t, think about proportion, balance, and now, rhythm. I will definitely help you dress better.


Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton is an image consultant and author of Signature Style Blueprint. Ready to find the clothing styles that suit you best and build a wardrobe of your best looks? Signature Style Blueprint shows you how.

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