I recently acquired this navy plaid suit from Black Lapel, and while it’s not the boldest suiting fabric ever, I can see its pattern posing a challenge to a Lean Wardrobe student venturing out past his basic solid navy or gray suit.

A Step Above Solid Navy

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Solid navy is always a great first choice, but if you relish the tiny details, you may be dying for a more interesting suiting fabric.

This navy plaid strikes a great balance. The lighter plaid pattern is visually interesting without being too bright, since the navy ground balances and tones it down.

You may have something similar in your closet, or you might have been interested in a suit with a bolder pattern, but weren’t sure exactly what to wear with it.

In this article, I’ll show you three different ways to wear a bolder suit. I love mixing and matching suit jackets and pants, as well as pairing with more casual pieces to downplay formality.

Check out some of the ideas below. Do your best to identify the basic principles behind my suggestions and apply it to the next bold fabric you choose!

Look One: Full Suit, Simple and Straightforward

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navy plaid suit, white dress shirt, plum tie, black wingtips

The one concern you may have about wearing a bold suit is appearing too “loud” or attention-grabbing.

Neutralize the boldness of your suit’s fabric by choosing a subtle shirt and tie combination (balance is a good rule of thumb for any suit, shirt, and tie combo). Black or dark brown lace-ups would complete this look nicely.

Then again, don’t be afraid to punch up the contrasted pattern in your tie if the pattern of your suiting fabric is as subtle as this one.

Look Two: Mix and Match

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navy plaid suit jacket, gray dress pants, light blue shirt, dark red knit tie, burgundy lace-ups

We’ve chatted a bit about separating basic suits to create new outfit combinations. This is basically the same idea.

That solid gray all-season wool suit you picked up for your Lean Wardrobe? Grab those nicely-tailored pants, pair with the jacket from your navy plaid suit, and BAM, killer combo.

If you have a pair of gray flannels; those would work nicely as well. Throw on a light, light blue dress shirt, a deep burgundy knit tie, and dark brown lace-ups, and you’re good to go.

Look Three: Dressy Casual

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navy plaid suit jacket, wine-colored dress chinos, light pink dress shirt, cognac loafers

My usual day-to-day outfit consists of something very similar to the pieces in look three. Chinos, a dress or a sport shirt (sans tie), and my favorite pair of cognac loafers.

I wear this outfit for after-work drinks (which means it would work well in a business casual office), casual client meetings, or a relaxed weekend hanging out somewhere in the city.

I may even swap the dressier chinos for something more laid back and rumpled. This is a good example of the high / low approach we discussed in this article. You may want to substitute an OCBD for that crisp dress shirt as well.

Look Four: A Pants-Focused Bonus!

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navy plaid suiting pants, white leather sneakerslight blue chambray, charcoal sweater

You’re not stuck with jacket-only options; the trousers can be just as flexible.

Using the pants as your starting point, throw on your favorite blue chambray, white Chuck Taylors (the ones pictured are leather!), and a medium gray V-neck sweater. (Want to lighten it up a bit? Try a cream cable knit sweater.)

What’s Your Favorite?

There we have it. Three (well, four) ways to wear this killer suit. And best of all, these aren’t your only options.

Can you think of other ways to make use of either the jacket or the pants? Let’s hear your ideas in below in the comments!