Question: All too often I play it safe and avoid patterns, even though I love them. Are there any golden rules for mixing and matching pinstripes, checks et al? Ben, via email
Answer: There can't be many readers' wardrobes that aren't bulging with stripes and checks, from Prince of Wales jackets to Breton tops, but put them all together and you risk looking like a migraine and forcing those around you to have a lie down in a darkened room.
The first rule of thumb is to flip proportions - so if you have a bold check make sure the stripe is subtle. The second is to keep it tonal without falling into the trap of being too "matchy-matchy" (to borrow a phrase from Anna Wintour). So, for example, if you wanted to match a navy polka-dot shirt with a madras jacket, look for one that includes some navy.
The third rule is not to go mad. Keep it simple with the rest of the outfit, such as shoes, bag and scarf.