How do I go about choosing separates that match?

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Answered by: William, An Expert in the Wardrobe 101 Category
So you've got a new job, huh? You want clothes that work together, so that you can wear something different every day. Choosing separates that match is an easy way to go about it, and you won't have to buy all different outfits. Also, you won't have to wear black every day, and believe me, that's a good thing. Here are some tips for buyers wondering, "How do I choose separates that match?"



First, screw black. It works, and a black shirt doesn't always hurt, but if you've got more than one black suit, you're running in place. As a matter of fact, black separates do NOT often match the other wonderful colors of the spectrum.

Second, after buying what I tell you to, below, go to a tailor. Some tips on tailoring are mentioned below. Let's get right into it, shall we?



Buy four shirts. I prefer collars that button down, as they cost the same as a lay collar, and you don't have to worry about them becoming disjointed. It's your choice, though, and these days, some colors and combos may not be available in a button down collar variety. Choose two white shirts, and two of the following colors to start with: light blue, light blue and white vertical stripe, light grey, light grey and white vertical stripe, tan, yellow, brown, or light green. I do not recommend dark blue, unless you work at Chase bank. I do not recommend red or maroon as these stand out and repeated wearings will be noticed.

Now choose three pairs of slacks and two pairs of khakis. Start, if your budget dictates, with less, but keep your eye on the full load- out. Buy the slacks in any of the following colors: navy blue, tan, light or dark brown, grey, dark grey, or light yellow. Do not buy black. Additional pairs in other colors will work infrequently, but the awesome pair of navy slacks with light stripes, if you can find them, should be worn minimally. Don't go too light. Cream colored slacks are spectacular, but for work, they should be worn sparingly as they may dirty. This choice may be substituted with khakis, as follows: Buy regular khakis, one pair, and cream colored khakis, one pair.

Next, choose three TWO- BUTTON casual jackets. Do not buy black. I would suggest a navy blue blazer, a grey sport coat, and a third in patterned grey, taupe, mid- green or brown. This brown should NOT attempt to match the brown slacks. You don't want to look as if you're trying to match but can't. You want to look like you threw something together, and it happened to look better than anything anybody else in the office is wearing. If you follow my advice, that will happen every day.

Finally, the incidentals: You'll need two pairs of shoes, three or four belts, socks and ties. I begrudgingly admit you can get away with a pair of black shoes. I would suggest two different browns from Johnston and Murphy, or a black and a brown pair. Do not get black shoes with giant rubber soles. DO consider dress shoes with a red tinge. Attempt while shopping for shoes to get a belt that matches each pair.

Most retailers will have a belt that DOES match the shoes. This is my opinion, as I enjoy the way belts that match shoes pull everything together. For work, men often do not want a leather belt, as it is a bit heavy and can be constricting. These days, cloth belts for casual clothes are still available, come in a multitude of colors, and do not have to match your shoes. They should have leather ends, NOT loops. Do not buy white. Do not buy black. You know the kind, right? The thin, lightweight cloth belts with stripes? Boom. Get a couple. For socks, get any color you like except white. Argyle is awesome. Light or dark grey, navy or brown is fine. Yellow can work, with the yellow or lighter colored separates, above. Black works for the darker separates, above. (Barely, but it does.) Now... GO TO A TAILOR.

Get the jackets tailored for sleeve length and girth, get the slacks tailored for length (and girth if necessary.) If they ask you what "break" you would like at the bottom, say, a "slight" or "short" break, or medium break, unless you are tall and fear the high-water look. I would suggest a standard medium break for you, though a full break is possible. If they ask about the cuff at the bottom, and whether it should be trimmed or folded up with a cuff, you decide. I take the cuff if there's enough material, usually, for work. This usually looks just fine, and there is a weight to the cuff that helps keep the slacks from clinging to your sock.

If you are slim, and the shirts you have purchased are not "tailored fit" as offered by some retailers, have them done as well. The length of the sleeve should extend below the sleeve of your jacket no more than half an inch. I know it sounds complicated, but tailors do this stuff for a living.

That's it. Get some ties if you have to. Don't go too shiny, or perhaps, only for one or so. Don't buy black. Stripes are good and flat is good. Paisley looks good in the store, but how often will you wear it? Exactly. (The same can be said for ties by Jerry Garcia.) Stay sane while choosing a tie.

Now, for what I estimate cost you $2000, you have enough new casual clothes that you can mix and match for a six weeks or more before seeing the same get- up twice. And you don't look like a sap whose clothes don't fit, trapped in black oblivion.

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