The Science of matchy-matchyness

I googled “Clashing Fashion” and this was one of the hits… I would call this too matchy matchy, to be honest.

Today I came across an article published by Slate about a scientific article published last month on the study the fashionability of matching and clashing.

The Slate article can more or less be summed up by the following:

Across genders, researchers found these preferences follow an inverse U-shaped curve: Participants unsurprisingly recoiled from combinations that were seen as “clashing,” but they also balked at “matchy-matchy” outfits that reeked of desperate overplanning.

In other words, there is a sweet spot in the middle of the color-coordinated spectrum where you add just enough individualistic flair to hint you are the kind of person who collects vintage Japanese textiles or appreciates records on vinyl, but not so much as to ignite suspicion you are on your way to a cosplay convention. As the saying goes: Too much rosemary spoils the soup.

However, if you wade through the graphs and the text in the actual article, Men’s clothing peak fashionableness was linked with moderately coordinated colours, and Women’s clothing peak fashionableness was linked to more colour coordination (check out their regression line).  It really depends on how you interpret their data.

Also, only 4 palettes were tested, and most of the subjects (n=243) were Caucasian women (mean age 33).

I can’t help but wonder just a little bit about how much stock to put in the paper’s results.  Not to say that it wasn’t a scientifically rigorous study, but I feel the sample size could have been larger and more varied.  I imagine demographics and even geographical location (level of affluence, education, etc.) could all significantly affect results, as the language of fashion depends entirely on who is wearing the clothing, and who is viewing the clothing (none of this was mentioned in the article’s discussion, which was sadly only a paragraph long.  Hence my skepticism.  Results and discussion from a study should be much, much longer than a paragraph each!  This is where you get to talk about how interesting and exciting and relevant your work is.  Alas, the academic in me digresses).

Furthermore, those of us who understand fashion know how complex and subtle the language of dress is.  Colour is simply a tiny part of this mystifying (well, to many anyways) cultural institution.

For myself, I shall continue to attempt not to be too matchy matchy, yet still coordinated.  Science has a lot of catching up to do, as one of the main points I do agree with in the article is that fashion still isn’t regarded as a serious scientific pursuit.  When in reality, fashion is just as an important part of human culture as any other form of communication and art.



8 thoughts on “The Science of matchy-matchyness

  1. It sounds like most people prefer to see a middle ground between clashing and matching. It’s a hard balance to achieve and I’m sure that goes without saying. Hehe. It’s especially true in my case. Though, I think there is something to be said for taking it to the extreme and going beyond what most people are comfortable with. I think those risks can pay off, too, though the number of people for which this applies may be few and far between. ;P

    – Anna

    • You are a master of balancing and creating a complete looking ensemble (often with little surprises!)!

      I think balance in all things, but mixing it up is important too. Everything in moderation, including moderation?!

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