How to Mix and Match Patterns Without Clashing

How to Mix and Match Patterns Without Clashing

Patterns, prints, and florals are all the rage. From flora to fauna, stripes to spots, and just about anything else you can imagine, patterns are taking the fashion world by storm. Jumping onto this style bandwagon can feel a little intimidating, as there seems to be a fine line of which patterns mix and match or mess and clash.

Truth be told, there are no hard rules about how to mix and match patterns without clashing. Much of it is left up to instinct, creative eye, and personal expression. That being said, there are definitely some rules to help guide you as you explore your own style through mixing and matching prints and patterns.

Where to begin navigating the pattern world? There’s certainly a lot to work with, including some items you likely already have in your wardrobe. Leopard print, gingham, checkers, polka dots, stripes, paisley, plaid, and florals are all likely candidates when you peek into your closet. Pull them all out, and let’s get mixing-and-matching to see what’s best for you!

Colors and Tones

One choice when mixing-and-matching is to go bold or go subtle. When mixing and matching patterns, either try to match the tones and colors, or use contrasting colors instead. Mixed prints in the same tonal or color range can go quite well together. Wearing a red-toned flannel shirt with a burgundy polka dot skirt will peacefully unite the two patterns without clashing. Alternatively, wear a reddish flannel shirt with a white and black striped T-shirt underneath for a clashing look that somehow works well together.

When mixing and matching patterns, the colors are almost more important than the patterns. Correctly paired colors can make what would otherwise be a messy pattern mixing into a gloriously styled outfit. Rather than following any hard rules, start by pairing colors that you would normally wear. See the patterns as simply giving the colors an added dimension. No patterns can truly be married unless their colors go together smoothly.

Similar Patterns

Make dizzying patterns match by wearing them with similar patterns. For example, wear a pair of gingham shorts over a checkered one-piece swimsuit for a cute and contrasting retro look. The similarity between the gingham and checks will help them mesh together in a way that is easy on the eye.

Another example of this is stripes on stripes or florals on florals. Wear a thin pinstripe blazer over a thickly striped shirt of different tones to mix and match these two contrasting patterns. Try a bold and bright floral women’s blouse over a subtler and finer paisley printed skirt. Mixing and matching similar patterns with different tones or textures can be an interesting way to explore styling patterns together.

One Bold, One Subtle

A good technique for mixing and matching patterns is to have one piece preside as the bold pattern, and another hang back as the subtler accent pattern. One of our favorites for this technique is to wear a stunning and brightly colored bold floral midi skirt with a simple, subtle striped blouse. Pair with a solid, neutral blazer or cardigan to smooth it out and bring the whole outfit together. The skirt leads the way, and the rest of the outfit follows.

Total Contrast

Going wild is also appropriate when mixing and matching patterns. Wear a pair of leopard print leggings with a floral blouse and a solid cardigan for a wild look that works. Leopard print has been trending for ages and is a great contender for mixing and matching with other patterns for bold and fun combinations.

Same Print, Contrasting Tone

Wearing a similar print with opposite toning is a great way to marry different patterned pieces for a chic and dare we say, more subtle approach to prints and patterns. For example, wearing a predominantly white and minimally blue striped pant with a predominantly blue and minimally white blazer is a great way to combine two same style prints with contrasting yet complementary tones.

Mix and Match These Tips

Some other elements to keep in mind when mixing and matching patterns are to not forget about the rest of the garment beyond its color and patterns. When pairing with another patterned piece, also consider textures, cuts, designs, fabrics, and shapes. Two loosely fitted patterned pieces could clash where a fitted patterned piece might look more put together. Fabrics such as cashmere and silk can add a whole other dimension to an outfit beyond patterns and colors. For example, a striped women’s cashmere sweater is an entirely different experience from a striped shirt.

Another great tip is to smooth out the entire outfit with a solid, neutral colored cardigan, jacket, or pair of pants. The solid will complement the patterns in a way that brings the outfit together.

Have Fun

Don’t take yourself too seriously when trying to mix and match patterns. If you feel a bit ridiculous, that’s kind of the point, so relax and enjoy. When exploring mixing and matching patterns, have fun, and allow your creativity and intuition to shine through!


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