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Teach Kids to Mix and Match


© Whitney Ferrall
Teach your kids how to mix and match clothing to express their personal style. This lesson will benefit your budget as well, as your kids will learn how to do more with less. A dozen well-chosen items can come together in twice as many ways. Add accessories, and the options multiply further.

Whether starting from scratch or pulling items from a larger wardrobe, beginning with a good foundation will make it easy and fun to mix and match. As your skills grow and boxes of hand-me-downs arrive at your door, you can break your wardrobe into capsules.

Tips for Easy Mix and Match

Consider Lifestyle Needs:
  • Does your child wear a uniform to school?
  • Do you live in a beach culture, rural area or urban jungle?
  • Does your family attend formal religious services or other dressy events regularly?
  • Do seasons vary widely in your area?
Answering these questions will help determine basic needs. Build a wardrobe that accommodates the way you live, with pieces that can be worn in various ways.

Build The Basics:

  • Start with a foundation of simple tees, blouses and button-downs in varying sleeve lengths.
  • Add a couple of sweaters and outer layers. Light windbreakers and cardigans can act as accessories or be layered for warmth.
  • Simple tops are easiest to mix and match, but don't stop at solids. Understated graphics and tone-on-tone embellishments add interest without overpowering the mix.

A few neutral options will carry an entire wardrobe. Decide between shorts, skirts and pants based on personal preference and lifestyle needs.

One Pieces

Don't overlook rompers and dresses in the mix and match equation. They're less versatile than separates, but layers and accessories can transform any item.

Play With Color and Patterns:

Choose the Go-Tos

  • Begin with neutral basics for the most versatility. Darker tones like gray, black, brown, khaki and navy are especially great for bottoms, and allow for more playful colors on top.
  • Add in two or three of your child's favorite colors. Kids can pull off any color they like -- just look for shades that flatter.
Once you have a solid foundation, mix in stronger colors and prints.

Go Bold With Color

For color inspiration, note what pairings attract your eye in nature, home design and fashion spreads. Does your child agree?

If you're the scientific type, look to the color wheel.
  • Colors opposite each other are complementary. Pair them in high contrast hues or vary the intensity for a more subdued look.
  • Dividing the wheel into thirds highlights interesting color combinations, like teal and mustard.
  • An outfit built on neighboring colors is calm, yet more playful than a monochromatic neutral look.

Embrace Patterns

Mixing patterns is playful and fun, especially for kids, who can get away with more than adults.
  • When choosing a coordinating item to pair with a print, keep it simple with a solid color plucked from the pattern.
  • To mix separates with similar prints, keep the color palette consistent, but choose different scales. A large floral looks hip when worn with dainty flowers.
  • Follow the same rules when mixing different prints.


Accessories can completely transform an outfit. Even a simple change of shoelaces can pack a big punch!
  • Have fun, and don't be afraid to stray outside of your comfort zone. Colors outside of your basic palette will freshen a look.
  • Use accessories to unite. Patterned accessories that contain one or more of your foundation colors will help tie an outfit together.
  • When wearing patterned pieces next to each other, use a solid accessory to give the eye somewhere to rest.
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