A Guide to Fabric Pairings

June 15th, 2016

Building a great wardrobe is like building a great business – it takes research, planning, and help from experts who know more than you.

A great tailor, for example, should be more than just an expert at measuring and fitting. He should be a trusted advisor that you can turn to for all matters related to menswear and style. Because making an investment in quality menswear is about more than designing a perfect garment – you should always consider the larger context and develop a plan to build a long-term wardrobe based on versatility and fabric pairings.

Of course, each client has different needs (different climates, careers, skin tones, body types, current wardrobes, etc.) so it can be hard to condense all the concepts of “wardrobe advising” down to a few bullet points, but generally these are the things we consider when putting together fabrics and building a “capsule wardrobe“:

1. Color

The first question is what color is going to be the most foundational for you? This is the starting ground. For conservative businessmen we almost always start with a navy blue or medium grey. For other clients who have more flexibility in their day-to-day dress codes, we often start with a base of brown, khaki, or olive. For nightlife guys or entertainers we look to a base of charcoal or black.

Of course, color decisions have a lot to do with your skin and hair color, too. We’re working on an in-depth article breaking down “color theory” in fashion styling, but generally we try to avoid washed-out colors on pale skin + light hair (navy better than light grey, for example) and avoid saturated colors on dark skin + dark hair (khaki better than chocolate brown, for example). More on this later…

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Houndsooth Tweed Topcoat, Rust Hopsack Jacket, Cherrywood Flannel Waistcoat & Trouser, Blue Bengal Stripe Oxford Shirt 

2. Weight

Once we’ve figured out the best color to start building from, the next thing to consider is the appropriate weight of the fabrics. Important questions here are: what is the climate where you live? Does your dress code change with the seasons? Do you often travel to other climates? How is your natural body temperature – do you run hot or cold?

The beauty of wool-based fabrics (like tweed, flannel and hopsack) is that they can cross-over between seasons and be paired together to create a middle-ground for those in-between days.

Check out our Guide to Fabric Weights for more on this.

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Tobacco Cashmere Overcoat, Olive Worsted Suit, Rust Hopsack Waistcoat, Buttercream Broadcloth Shirt

3. Texture

The key to pairing textures together is contrast. Think about breaking your fabrics into three different categories: 1) smooth/flat, 2) light textured, and 3) thick/dense. For example, below we have one smooth/flat fabric (the glenplaid worsted), one light texture (the wool crepe tie), and one thick/dense texture (the beefy 4-ply wool of the mac). This is not very different than the basic principles of mixing patterns – check out our Simple Guide to Pattern-Mixing.

If you’re looking for more examples of fabric & pattern pairings, you can always use our Style Guide to sort through our library of looks and articles.

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Navy Wool Mac, Classic Glenplaid 3-Piece Suit, Contrast Club Collar Shirt

Wardrobe Packages

Finally, if you’re interested in a custom wardrobe package, we’re here to help you put together fabric combinations and start planning your long-term wardrobe. Since many of you have asked, we are now offering the following discounts for multiple garment orders:

Thanks, as always, for reading and feel free to contact us with any questions. 

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

Photography by Alex Crawford.

  • door2dorties

    Definitely looking forward to the color piece

  • http://thefashionformen.com/ centimo123

    I agree that building wardrobe like business.. It needs research and planning. About the color, what do you think about fashion color wheel? And I have an idea to make an interview with you. Is it okay with you Dan? Its a big pleasure for me if you agree to share your successful story to my readers.

    Thank you
    The Fashion For Men

  • http://www.vertstone.com Sunil Daniel Dass

    A superb post full of useful hints! Plenty of considerations that need to be addressed when looking into pairings day-in-day-out.

    Handmade Exotic Leather Accessories: Made in England

  • AdamE

    Definitely looking forward to the color piece. And totally agree on the role of texture when matching pieces… Fabric weight is the trickier one, since traditionally people equate weight and warmth, but that’s not always the case (like why you might opt for a two ply shirt in the summer, to help hide sweat more than some thinner shirts, or how wools may be heftier than synthetic materials, but breathe better)…

  • TO

    Interesting with the flat/light texture/dense combination :-)

    –>Wouldn’t you like to add that you can mix all light textured items together? (which has been a huge part of the history of this site !!)

  • tommyjohn_45

    Great info… Really looking forward to your piece on color. Love the tobacco/olive combo in look 2.