Coordinated vs. ‘Matchy’

Royal Hats  During a recent hat related Friday discussion, regular commenter Jimbo posed the following question:

I’m confused about the term “matchy” which is oft-times bantered about on this blog. 99.99% of what Queen Elizabeth (I always hear sweet music in the background when typing her name!) wears is matchy to a fault. Same color, material, pattern – the term I’d use is that she’s always perfectly coordinated. Where is the line to be drawn where her ensemble is balanced and coordinated or it’s too “matchy?” 

I think, Jimbo, you’ve ventured into completely subjective territory! However, as we’re already into a season of major hatted events, clearing up terms such as this one can only help our discussion.

For me,  the line from ‘coordinated’ crossed over into “matchy” territory in one of three ways:

Formula #1: The ensemble is one-note in texture and colour, without something to visually break it up.

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Formula #2: A particular pattern or motif is repeated on significant item(s) of clothing AND the hat

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Formula #3: One item- often a jacket or dress- is chosen as a focal point and ALL other elements of the ensemble (including the hat and all of its trimmings) are matched to it to the point that the ensemble feels too much. Usually, the focal piece is in two or three colours, all of which are repeated throughout each of the other pieces of the ensemble. However, this formula also includes single colour ensembles where all the accessories (again, including the hat) are in the same colour family as the focal piece, like the orange one below.

Embed from Getty Images Apr 8, 2014 | Royal Hats May 10, 2017 in Kristina Dragomir | Royal Hats
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A disclaimer here- while Queen Elizabeth appears in each of these three categories, I don’t think all of her ensembles warrant the “matchy” label. Most, I would consider as beautifully coordinated!

So- what do you think of my classification of these pieces as “matchy”? What other ensembles with hats do you think are overly matched? What, in your estimation, takes them from ‘coordinated’ over the line into “matchy” territory?

Photo from Getty as indicated; Edwin Veloo/PPE;  Tanja Carstens Lund / Ritzau Photo via Kongehuset;  Mainichi; Patrick van Katwijk via Corbis; and  The Royal Family of Romania

25 thoughts on “Coordinated vs. ‘Matchy’

  1. It seems that I’m late arriving at the party, and it’s the one I’m throwing! The discussion has been very interesting, and at times confusing, if not contradictory also. I’ll toss out a couple ideas to chew on, primarily based on Queen Elizabeth. I propose that “matchiness” is more prevalent in the wintertime, when the coat and hat are created from the very same fabric, and must be worn together, no substitutions allowed. On the other hand, HM’s spring/summer ensembles are beautifully “coordinated,” using different materials and textures, even if the color is exactly the same. Yes, there are always going to be exceptions to this line of thinking.

    Christmas, 2017
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    Easter, 2018
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    Step back in time to 1972. The “Garanimals” clothing line for children was created where the top and bottom of the outfit “matched” according to different animals. My youngest sister had a set of giraffes. The philosophy behind the brand was “by making it easy for children to choose coordinated outfits by themselves, a child can gain self-confidence through early decision making.” Perhaps AK purchased these for her kids, then got the idea that Lilibet needed an occasional shot of self-confidence also, and thus began the Royal trademark look.

    Speaking of animals, remember when HM wore that “matchy” pale blue/grey ensemble to the zoo on March 17, 2016, then appeared later, on December 24, 2017, with a new matching hat for the same coat?
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    I discovered that the opposite is true also – one hat and different clothes. I’m sure there are other examples, but this struck my fancy. A go-to tan straw hat from 1999 and 2000.
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    Finally, HM was seen today at Epsom, in a wonderfully coordinated outfit. It was especially nice to see her hat and dress, no coat!
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    Oh, I almost forgot, the best “matchy-matchy” coordinated ensemble EVER!

    • It’s an interesting hypothesis… I DO think ensembles take a large step toward “matchy” when the hat is covered in the same fabric as the coat. However, a quick search shows it happens more with summer hats than you might think, shown with a few examples below. When I look at all the new hats introduced over the past 5 years, none of them could easily be worn with another outfit. I’m afraid, Jimbo, the straw hat you provide as an example is an anomaly! And, as you cite, it’s nearly 20 years ago.

      That all being said, don’t think that all hats made to go with a certain outfit are “matchy”. If you look at the examples below, I think what saves some of these hats is something that breaks up the look. It could be: a) high contrast trim on the hat b) contrasting collar of the coat OR c) the patterned dress peeking through.

      Winter hats covered in the same fabric as the coat:
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      Summer hats covered in the same fabric as the coat:
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  2. While I have reactions on all the above hats, they’re generally not based on the matchiness but on something else: style, number of elements to concentrate on, color, color combination, texture. I like some of the outfits in each formula above, dislike others. When designing for someone with the extensive collection of Queen Elizabeth or Queen Maxima, I suppose the whole wardrobe must be taken into consideration, designing outfits in each category to avoid becoming too formula-based.

    The more matchy an outfit, the more I concentrate on and appreciate other elements. If an outfit is neither matchy nor coordinated (or worse yet, mis-matchy) I tend to fixate on that color or texture clash and tend to dislike the whole outfit.
    I’ve always thought this purple would be better if the hat were made of the same material as the coat. While these two items may match in some lights, they don’t in most photographs, and because of that I tend not to focus on what could be nice elements in the hat or in the coat. The hat and coat are coordinated, I guess, in that they’re both purple and black, but I wish they were a little more matchy actually.

    The same is true for these two outfits.
    The first bothers me because the hat’s close in color but not close enough or far away enough (if the hat were turquoise, for instance, that might be fine). The texture of the coat is amazing, but what jumps out at me is just that hat and its color. That problem is solved for me in the second outfit. While too matchy-matchy for many people, I guess, this outfit forces me to appreciate the fabric and the style, which I tend not to do in the first outfit because I’m always thinking, “If only the pinks didn’t clash.” What first appears just as a tan blob really is quite interesting when concentrating on the fabric, without the distraction of other colors of textures.

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    As numerous people have stated, this certainly is subjective.

    • Lighting also plays a big part here- the pink hatted ensemble doesn’t look great in this photo but I have seen others where the pink shade of the hat brings out the pink threads in the coat and the two look beautifully coordinated!

      This comes into play when I am choosing photos to post here on the blog. Sometimes, there are few photo options to choose from. When there are more choices, I always look for multiple views of the hat AND photos where the lighting is consistent between those views. There’s always a handful of shots where a cream hat looks distinctly yellow, or where the hue of a straw piece suddenly looks different than the dress it is worn with. Sometimes, the one shot of the back of a hat is one with colour variation. Several times, I have been contacted by someone who attended a royal event live and they always say that the hat looked better in person!

  3. Interesting discussion and clever of you, Hat Queen, to dissect the definition of overly matched into three formulas. Formula 2 is what I usually feel is overly matched. Formulas 1 and 3 are more subjective for me, in that some I find pleasing and others not. Dressing in one color seems to be a queenly practice, to stand out in a crowd. I appreciate their styles, even though they are not my own.

  4. I love Maxima but she is the queen of matchy-matchy. There is one particular outfit I am thinking of – it’s a black and white print dress and then she wore it with green hat, green earrings, green belt, green purse and green strappy shoes. Two or three green items would have been plenty. Not sure how to post photos here but if you google “maxima black white print dress green belt” I guarantee you will find it !!!

  5. I’m a little afraid to comment now as I feel I’ve often been part of the problem complaining about matchiness vs. coordination and contributing to this problem and creating confusion! Nevertheless, I will try to explain a little better my thoughts and feelings on this subject.

    Let’s be real, HM The Queen, Elizabeth II, is in a league of her own when it comes to hats and outfits. Nevertheless, I find that most of her hats seem to only go with one, or if we’re lucky two, outfits. While I’m glad we get to see so many variations, I’m also disappointed there is very little mix-and-matching of hats and outfits. The positive is usually HM wears a coat over a dress, and when we get to see the ensemble sans coat, it does visually create a different look, even if the color scheme hasn’t really changed (i.e., the peacock hat from the recent garden party; with the coat, the colors are solids and made to match, even if they’re made of different fabrics, whereas the dress alone has a completely different pattern, even though it still has the same colors). The only exception to these trends would likely be her black hats. So usually, HM falls into Formula #3 or #1, but occasionally #2.

    Queen Margrethe is perhaps the matchy-matchy offender that annoys me the most when it comes to hats and outfits. More often than not, her hats include parts of the fabric of her outfit, and therefore it’s almost impossible to pair the hat with another outfit, especially as these fabrics usually have a specific pattern (i.e. the pink hat from the other day, or the plaid grey ensemble cited in this post).

    Formula #1 can sometimes work, and sometimes not depending on color, fabric, and texture. Margrethe’s pale turquoise outfit and hat cited in this post is one look I actually like, whereas Maria Teresa’s shiny magenta is too much; I blame the shininess especially for my dislike. Even though the hat and outfit are worn together to create a unified look, there is still the potential to mix and match otherwise.

    Formula #2 is where I dislike matchiness the most, and usually what I refer to when I say “matchy”, “matchy-matchy”, and/or “matchiness”.

    Formula #3 is where I’m most likely to say “coordinated look” or “coordination”, and find matching the least offensive (and often a positive!). I do dislike this formula in cases like Margareta’s white, blue, and green hat and outfit; while this hat is of a different material and the trim/detailing is a different pattern from that of her outfit, it was still clearly designed to go specifically with this outfit, and therefore it’s more difficult to find another outfit to pair with it. I’m all about color-coordination and will go up to 4 colors sometimes in my outfits, but I will use different fabrics and patterns to not overdo it (for me, this often goes for my accessories, like ties, socks, pocket squares, shoes, and hats, and I let my shirts and trousers be more toned down or be of solid colors). But I also recognize it takes a certain eye, talent, and courage to pull such coordination off well, especially with bolder colors, or using 3-4 colors in an outfit. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, you can find some of my outfits on my Instagram: @bestdressedmenno. Sorry, not trying to plug myself, but visually I think it helps better explain where I’m coming from!

    Overall, I recognize that in many cases I may be too bold or willing to try color combos and/or coordination that others are afraid to do, and that others find going matchy-matchy may be easier and simpler to deal with than trying to think so much about an outfit. But that’s what makes this great world of ours go ’round, and I’m glad to be on the ride with you all, my fellow hat lovers!

    • I see what you are saying, and agree with much of it! The ‘coordination’ you describe in Formula 3 is where I run into trouble. I would describe these two looks as being ‘matchy’ because all the colours in the dress prints have been used for the hat trim – colours I’m not sure look attractive together (while looking fine together in the floral prints). Michell used the idea of veering into the comical- I think both these hats do just that! Are they coordinated? Yes, but it’s to that extreme that makes it overy “matchy” for me.

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      • I also wanted to say, Jake, that I’m intrigued by the idea that what makes a hat “matchy” is its inability to be easily worn with a different outfit. I’m going to ponder this further but my first thought is to wonder if we’re getting into a generational divide here. As you said, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Margrethe (along with Queen Silvia, Queen Sonja, Princess Beatrix and even the Grand Duchess) tend to have hat and outfit combinations. The next generation of Queens (Maxima, Mathilde) along with the Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Wessex, Crown Princess Mary etc. have a wardrobe of hats that are, for the most part, not tied to a single outfit. I wonder if this has to do with this generation working with stylists, who are used to pulling pieces together to form an outfit? Or the result of our digital age where every public royal look is captured and shared millions of times (often followed by a disappointed chorus of “She wore this already…”)? Or perhaps, it’s a shift across the board in fashion? I suspect my own mix and match approach to fashion is very different than how my grandmother approached her wardrobe.

        • Yes, I definitely understand where the comical aspect comes into play! There are always exceptions to every rule, of course, and my thoughts on each formula are usually what I think, but not a hard “always”. Hope that makes sense!

          And yes, I also think there is a generational aspect to this, but when I’m selling fancy hats for events, even young people come in, trying to find a hat to match an outfit, and are often resistant to a complimentary or contrasting color (hence why the Duchess of Gloucester surprised and excited me a the garden party the other day!), which frustrates me when we don’t always have a hat to match their outfit (hence also why I suggest to people to find the hat first, because it’s much easier to find clothes to go with it). The hats in neutral colors (black, white, beiges) seem to be the only time people are usually fine with hat not matching the color of the hat.

          But again, my approach to colors is far different than most people, so I recognize that I am often in a minority in these lines of thinking. Thank you for facilitating this HatQueen! In some ways, I think it would be easier if this was a live chat, or in person! (Wouldn’t that be something, a live gathering of royal hat lovers?)

  6. This is a great question and fun to ponder the answer. My hat expertise is limited therefore my answer is less intelligent and more a gut feeling. Somehow the matchy-matchy look ends up as you say “trying too hard” when the person is attempting to have absolutely everything go together to the point of looking comical. Yet there is a fine line…. I have seen some royals in a simple, elegant and streamlined look where the color is monochromatic and they look fantastic. The Queen is the pro on looking very coordinated without straying into comical. Maxima on the other hand can look very coordinated at times and then at others she veers into comical.

    • Michell- I think this is entirely a question based on instinct! I had to gather photos of looks I thought were ‘matchy’ to be articulate a definition- this isn’t a question of knowledge or intelligence, it’s about your own perspective. I really like your description of crossing into ‘comical’ and quoted it above!

  7. One more comment. In my youth I thought it the height of fashion to have shoes and purse that matched your dress like Princess Diana did. I thought this showed they had the money to get a new pair of shoes for every outfit unlike us middle class paupers! Though I see what everybody means when an outfit is improved by contrasting colors and textures I still think of QEII’s hats as “special” because they often have the same material as her outfit which I could never do. So, I get why Formula 1 is too much sometimes though it shows a high monetary/status of matchy/matchy. Formula 2 may be more of personal preference. The only ones I really don’t like is the middle picture on top with all that orange and Mathilde’s hat and jacket on the bottom right. Although, it looks like the rest of Mathilde’s outfit is a black skirt which would help to alleviate the matchiness if I saw the whole outfit. In Formula 3 the only one that really bothers me is all the orange Maxima is wearing. I may be in the minority, but those are my thoughts.

    • IntriguedByRoyals, interesting comment regarding the ability to have matching shoes and purse as an indicator of a person’s financial status. When I was growing up, some sort of coat was needed 8-9 months out of the year, and it was the coat that represented such an indicator. Everyone obviously had an everyday coat, and a woman who was able to afford it would have a “good” coat for church/synagogue and special events, always in a neutral color that would go with everything. Only the more fortunate women were able to afford extra coats in various colors to match particular outfits, and it did indeed seem like an extravagance, particularly since they might only wear it for a few years before it went out of style. To this day, when I see even a royal with yet another blue coat that isn’t that different from the previous blue coat, part of me always hears my mother decrying such “wasteful” spending.

      HatQueen mentioned the possible generational divide, and I wonder if that might also be not simply the change of fashion styles, but also because the younger royals are more conscious of their celebrity, both in terms of being influencers and themselves being influenced. Older royals set fashion trends too, but I think in a much more discreet way.

  8. Hi. This is a very interesting topic. I also think that “matchy” has an element of trying too hard…like the orange outfit with the orange earring and orange hat. The gold accessories seem more restrained, by adding a compliment, rather than a complete match. That restraint adds an elements of effortlessness. Matchy=trying too hard. Coordinated=restrained and effortless. That’s hard to quantify or gauge, but it seems readily apparent in all of the matchy examples.

  9. To me – “.matchy” means equal colours for everything (the whole outfit) and “coordinating” means to compliment the original colour with another colour !

    • On this point, I’ll respectfully disagree, Nonie- here are some outfits that are the same colour but that I don’t think are “matchy” thanks to either contrasting texture or a design feature (collar on a coat, upswept brim on a hat, some sort of interesting hat shape etc.) that breaks up the overall look and leave it looking less one-note. So, while these are all one colour, I don’t think they are “matchy”.

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      • Thanks for these examples. For the most part I agree with you, but I have to say all the photos of various women in red dresses and red hats leads me to create a rule: no all-red! Too much!

  10. Category 3 is tricky but I think about this as the kind of outfit where you can remove a piece or two (often, replace the hat with something in a more solid colour) and bring it back to the land of the coordinated. Example- Queen Maxima in the same Natan dress and Fabienne Delvigne hat below. The June 12, 2015 outing on the left is thrown into “matchy” with the dark orange/red earrings (not to mention the orange shoes, not visible in this photo!). The same hat and dress, shown on the right on September 2, 2013, looks far more coordinated with the gold earrings (and a neutral shoe).

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    • HatQueen, in this Queen Maxima example, the gold cuff bracelet and the neutral bag (which I assume matches her shoes) also help to alleviate the “matchiness”. (Can’t tell what color her bag is in the 2015 photo.)

      I definitely consider it matchy when the hat is actually made from or covered with the dress/coat fabric (all of the examples in Formula #2!) — that to me is too much and I have never liked it, though looking at your first and third photos under Formula #1, I think it can sometimes be difficult to tell if it’s the actual same fabric or just the same color.

      Formula #3 is more interesting to consider, in my opinion, because you have to take into consideration multiple uses of a hat. For example, was The Queen’s blue and turquoise hat matchy with the coat, but not matchy with the dress at the recent garden party? Diana’s pink and purple hat was matchy with the pink and purple suit because she only ever wore them together, but she wore lots of red and white outfits over the years, mixing and matching them with various red and white hats. I don’t think I ever thought of those outfits as matchy because even as I was looking at one, I could mentally picture the others. So Maxima’s blue and brown (is that brown?) coat and hat under #3 may be similar. If she has never worn them apart from each other, then maybe too matchy, but if they’ve been paired with other coats/hats, then maybe not.

      I will be interested to see what others have to say on this topic!

  11. Interesting question. For these are varying degrees of coordination. It’s when someone opts for a bold colour and then ties every accessory in with nothing to break it that it ventures into bridesmaid territory. I think Queen Mathilde has a few examples of this; Máxima has loads…

    • Are you referring to either of these looks, James B? You’ll notice the same raspberry hat, purse, leather gloves and shoes on both outfits. The pairing with the purple dress veers close to “matchy” but I wonder if the purple/raspberry colour clash saves it from “matchiness” (although I wouldn’t exactly call it coordinated). The orange dress has the same dark raspberry in its pattern to coordinate the accessories- while the accessories are all the same shade, I think they coordinate with the dress.

      If all the accessories are one colour, does that make an oufit “matchy” for you?

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      • The orange/raspberry dress/outfit looks coordinated to me. The outfit on the left doesn’t look too matchy to me because of the different textures of material of the dress and shawl. It don’t like that the accessories seem to clash, but I think the fact that the shoes are not pumps or court shoes helps it not to seem too much of one color along with the fact that the purse, shoes, gloves and hat are of different materials.

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