Indecision is not confined to Brexit-era politics. Fashion is having an ambivalent moment and, with shoppers apparently unwilling or unable to choose between two distinct designs, the trend for “pre-clashed clothes” is growing.
At high street retailer Zara, there are dresses with ditsy prints alongside big swirling florals, as well as wrap dresses in contrasting colour blocks, usually with a vertical split. At both Rixo and Kitri, blue blooms jar with neighbouring polka dots – a dress in this design has become Kitri’s bestselling item since it launched earlier this month. Rixo also stocks a range of skirts, tops and dusters featuring “abstract florals” clashed together on a single item, while at Topshop, a pair of mom jeans sees black denim vie with another of this year’s biggest trends – leopard print – with a leg in each material. Across the board, the question appears to be: why wear just one print, when you can wear two – or more?
“This trend can be a good way to show the different and contrasting parts of who we are,” says the fashion psychologist Kate Nightingale. “But the uncertainty driven by political and economical situations can [also] create a stronger need for control,” she adds. “The intentional chaos [of pre-clashed clothes] can be a way of coping.”
On the catwalk, the “half-and-half” look was big at Marni, Gucci and Sacai where it spanned dresses and coats as part of AW18 collections. More recently, Gosha Rubchinskiy sent macs in black and beige down the catwalk as part of his SS19 show for Burberry – as well as one mac comprising half of each. On the red carpet and elsewhere, celebrities including Suki Waterhouse, Sigourney Weaver and Rita Ora have also adopted the “split” or “ambivalent” dressing trend.
Pre-clashed clothes are a progression from last summer’s matchy-mismatchy layering – a nod to nonchalance and no-rules dressing. In the current climate, the look can certainly be seen to embody a “have your cake and eat it” mindset, but it’s not the first time this trend has proved popular. In the early 80s, Elton John favoured a monochrome half-and-half suit, and the 70s embraced psychedelic florals meshed together for a mismatched look. Earlier still, pre-clashed clothes were fashionable for a more practical reason, according to Susanna Cordner, senior research fellow at the London College of Fashion.
“Elaborate and matching print designs require the pattern on the fabric to be perfectly aligned … which can result in metres of fabric being wasted,” says Cordner. “This was a proponent for ditsy and contrasting prints in the 1930s and 1940s, as they were seen as a way of creating maximum effect with minimum waste.”
Be it sustainable styling or organised chaos, it’s a trend that’s set to stick around far beyond 29 March. “It’s a way to give the customer something a bit quirky without the customer having to work it out for themselves,” says the fashion historian Tony Glenville. “At its chicest, it’s spots with stripes or geometrics with florals. It’s less fashion and more collage or assemblage; the unlikely forced into a new harmony. I think we need look no further than the state of the world to understand why this might be.”