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How to mix prints and patterns

Learning the art of mixing patterns couldn't come at a better time. Designers have been featuring more beautiful patterns and prints recently. 70s fashion with its love of stripes and patterns is on trend, as well as florals. With so many good prints in style to choose from, it’s time to get bold and try combining your favorites.

In general when you mix prints and patterns: keep colors cohesive.

This rule prevents you from making an obvious fashion faux-pas. Five easy ways to look like a master at mixing prints include:

  1. Sticking to two colors. The easiest color combo for mixing prints is black and white.
  2. Picking the busiest print item and coordinating it with a simpler pattern piece that has fewer colors in it.
  3. Mixing and matching patterns from the same store or brand. This will help you not clash, since most brands often work with a limited color range each season.
  4. Breaking up the different printed pieces by layering a solid on top to quiet down all the pattern. A good way to do this is with a coordinating solid jacket or cardigan, where only a touch of pattern from the top shows through.
  5. Buying a dress where the print is already mixed for you.


How to mix prints and patterns like an expert |

Some prints are naturals for mixing.

Start with the naturals and build up to bolder prints as you get more confident. My favorite, versatile prints that are easy to mix with almost any pattern are:

  • Polka dots
  • Stripes
  • Grid patterns

You can use the three patterns above to mix with more complicated prints like busy florals, swirls or abstract prints.

how to mix prints and patterns! |

One patterned circles trouser (above), 3 different ways to wear it

Another idea to successfully mix prints and patterns is repetition. Try making a whole outfit out of different stripes or nothing but polka dots together. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Use a large pattern for the top with the same pattern in a smaller scale for the bottom, or vice-versa
  2. Use the same scale for both patterns, but keep the colors the same. A fun, inventive way to do so is by using a white skirt with black polka dots with a black top with similar sized white polka dots. The mirror effect of the pattern's colors in reverse is interesting and unique.

Ideas for outfits that mix patterns and prints |

If you decide to stay monochromatic with your pattern mixing, have some fun with a bold accessory statement like a brightly colored belt or contrasting shoe, like above.

I asked a few other style experts that love to mix patterns on how they do it. Here is their advice:

ali-levine-shotLos Angeles based stylist Ali Levine:

"You don’t necessarily have to stick to the same color, but try shades based around a central color palette or theme. The easiest being neutrals to build around. Once you’ve mastered putting prints together in blacks, browns, and even greys, it’ll be much easier to step up to shades of purple, blues, reds, etc… and eventually mix up colors too!"


Lindsay_Narain_Portrait-8_mediumSingapore based Lindsay Narain, founder and designer of the women’s label VAUGHAN:

"Stripes in a complimentary color palette will befriend your houndstooth without a second thought - especially if the two prints are contrasting in size (for example, a thick, bold stripe with a smaller houndstooth). Layer a striped sweater over your houndstooth blouse, or pair the latter with a horizontal striped skirt. If you keep it in the same color family, you can't go wrong."




Lauren Vacula (above), mixed print lover and fashion blogger at A Lovely Side Project:

"Take notice of the size of the prints you're working with. Pair a smaller print with a larger print (think thin stripes with bold florals) and vice versa (delicate polka dots with a substantial ikat print). Varying print scales will keep your outfit looking interesting instead of too busy."

annette-150Annette Harris, a Washington DC stylist and Certified Image Consultant

Annette trained under Stacey London, famous stylist and host of TLC's "What Not to Wear". She offers my favorite advice:

"Own the look! Looking confident is half the battle to stylishly mixing and wearing prints."


In spring 2017, almost anything goes, so this is your time to be a little bit more adventurous and mix those patterns and prints!