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How to Style a Necktie

Updated: Jun 25

"Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it."

—Diane von Furstenberg

flat lay of ties in a variety of colors, sizes, and patterns

"What would I even do with this thing?"

A fashion guide for the politely confused: Necktie edition

Hi Friends, Whenever someone sees my work at an art fair, fashion show, or online, it's common for me to hear something along the lines of, "Wow, your ties are really cool!" I also frequently hear a "but" after that statement: "...but I don't wear ties for work anymore." "...but I have nowhere to wear it." "...but I've never tied a tie." "...but I don't know anyone who wears ties nowadays." "...but I could never pull that off." "...but these are too edgy/flamboyant/loud for the work that I do." A lot of versions of, "I love it, but honestly just don't know what I'd do with it." Ties have a rep for being worn in very specific ways, which is why you don't see bold and artsy ones like mine quite as often. One of the reasons I started painting ties is to show off their lesser-tapped potential as unique accessories, unrelated to traditional usage. They can easily work with a much wider variety of people and situations than you may think! Whether you're wondering if a statement necktie would make a good gift, want to be a little more adventurous in your own wardrobe, or are already on board but always love new inspiration, today I'm sharing a couple of tips for styling these things. Tip 1. The "Costume Change" Hack

If you have a job or situation that requires you to dress up but be boring while you're at it, this hack is a way to up the fun factor of your outfits without sacrificing "professionalism." Choose a tie that has a more exciting part on the bottom half, and looks more neutral on top/towards the knot. Wear a vest to work (which looks pretty sharp anyway). When work is over: unbutton the vest, loosen the tie, and roll up your sleeves. In a few seconds without actually changing clothes, you've just changed into a casual off-hours outfit that's both stylish and original.

A man smiling and wearing an open vest, and a tie hand-painted depicting a surfer in a wave

A woman wearing an open white suit coat, and a hand-painted tie depicting a hummingbird and flowers

This hack works with jackets as well as vests.

Tip 2. For the Fancy Times

Everyone gets invited to a wedding, celebration of life, black tie gala, or nice dinner every so often. Formal events are a great opportunity to lean into the most "you" parts of your wardrobe. Whether it's a piece you already own but don't have as much chance to wear, or a desire to buy something new, dressing in something special and expressive of your personality is one of the joys of fancy occasions. Ties are available in so many colors and themes, you're sure to find one that matches the vision for your outfit and the event. Plus, their more "one-size" nature means you get to worry less about fit. Another bonus: once the event is over, a tie has potential for more frequent re-wearing opportunities than the gown or suit. Keep it around to use when implementing the other tips in this list!

A female mannequin dressed in a blue dress, a black velvet suit coat, and a blue hand-painted tie featuring celestial bodies

The torso of a man wearing a hand-painted tie depicting a scuba diver in a coral reef

Tip 3. Complete an Everyday Outfit

It's likely that you've at least once livened up an outfit with a unique necklace, scarf, hat, or other statement accessory--maybe you even do it regularly. A necktie can be used in the same way, and feels especially fun in casual contexts. Next time you plan an outing with friends, choose a tie to build your outfit around. If you feel like taking it a step further, try matching your tie to the activity or location.

Whenever I do a photoshoot or fashion show, I like to let my models choose what they want to wear with my pieces. They always provide great inspiration with their creative ideas! 👇

Top row: Meli Guzman wearing the Rainforest tie, Julio Maisonet wearing the flamingo tie, Rebekah Jensen wearing the Kite tie

Bottom row: Isber Baez wearing the coral tie, Deborah Taute wearing the Meadow tie, Terrence Lee wearing the Leaf Viper tie

Tip 4. "Not a Tie" Looks

At the end of the day, a necktie is just a long strip of cloth and you can use it accordingly! If you don't know how to tie a tie and don't feel like learning, lose the traditional knot. Experiment with using ties as hair ribbons, headbands, belts, bag straps, or anything else you can think of. If you still want it around the neck, you can also tie it as you would a scarf, or use a neckerchief/scarf clip to hold it together.

Tip 5. Holiday Parties

Any holiday is an excuse to gather and dress thematically... i.e., a chance to wear something fun. The winter holidays are especially perfect for out-of-the-box choices (yay OppoSuits and Ugly Sweaters!) Next time you're headed to a seasonal celebration, consider showing off with a festive tie.

a man next to a fireplace holds up a glass in a toast. He is wearing a hand-painted black tie with silver and blue snowflakes on it

Snowflakes tie and cozy toasts

a woman dancing in red suspenders, green pants, and a hand-painted green tie with poinsettias on it

Poinsettias tie and dancing

Final Tip: Solo Fashion Show

I've saved the most important tip for last! This is especially helpful if you feel intimidated/are in the "I could never pull that off" camp. Next time you've got a bit of time to yourself--like relaxing before bed or during a work-from-home lunch break--gather together a few ties and start trying them on with different styling/outfit ideas. (If you don't own any ties, chances are you know someone who does, who you could borrow from for a day or two.) Playing dress-up is a way to try out all of these tips (and other ideas) without worrying about what others will think. It takes any potential pressure and anxiety out of exploring something different. The more you do it, the more you get a sense of your own personal style preferences and figure out what makes you feel good and confident. Over time, you'll get more used to the new looks in the mirror, until you eventually feel excited enough to try them out in the real world!

A woman taking a picture of herself in a mirror with a silly pose while wearing a hand-painted sailing tie around her head

In case you were wondering: this look did not make it into the "approved for the real world" pile.

If you're now feeling inspired to do some tie wearing or gifting, consider exploring the hand-painted ties I have available right now, or commission one of your own!

The Assistant makes frequent use of the studio mirror for his own solo fashion shows...though the outfit rarely varies from his favorite unadorned fur coat look. I suspect he's a closet minimalist.

a pet rabbit looks at himself in the mirror

Until next time!


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