A few seasons ago, standard square denim patches in varying shades of blue made a splash when they were sewn on things like jeans, button-downs, skirts, and jackets, but this season, the trend has taken a decidedly bolder turn arguably thanks to trendsetting designer Phillip Lim, who showcased a full denim jumpsuit covered in retro-looking patches. As soon as we saw the look come down the runway at New York Fashion Week, we immediately knew the piece—and the trend—would be a thing.
What we love most about the look is the fact that there’s a certain element of nostalgia associated with it: World War II-era aviator jackets, 1960s hippie denim, and, of course, Girl Scout uniforms. Another thing we love? It’s literally a cinch to DIY (not handy with a needle and thread? That’s why iron-on patches were invented!)
In fact, one of our favorite blogs, Beckerman Bite Plate, has a killer tutorial—they took a pair of black H&M jeans, distressed them, and used old-school Bart Simpson patches they collected on eBay and at flea markets to create a jaw-droppingly cool statement piece, below.
So, how to wear a colored patchwork piece without looking dated? The trick is to keep the rest of your outfit fairly basic. If it’s a slouchy denim jacket that’s covered with patches, try adding a solid neutral tee and a pair of dark jeans. If it’s jeans, keep your top neutral.
If you’re interested in making your own piece, we suggest you start with a denim jacket. Troll eBay, Etsy, or your local thrift store for an authentic vintage style—whether oversized or shrunken—and space out colored retro patches along the shoulders, the sleeves, and the back. Depending on your taste, you can choose patches that range from basic to totally quirky (or a healthy mix of both.) See below for 10 cool patches to get you started!