Have you been sticking to solid-colored clothing because you find prints and patterns intimidating? Well, it's time to try something new! When you know to wear everything from houndstooth checks to stripes with style, you can add some pizzazz to your look with a single tee or skirt, freshening up the basics that form the building blocks of your wardrobe.
Mixing prints – like combining a plaid skirt and a polka dot cotton sweater – is easy when you wear items in the same color family. That way, everything will blend together and you won't look like a fashion train wreck. Delicate patterns and bolder ones can mesh together easily and wearing one dominant print along with another that serves as an accent looks lovely, too. A neutral item, like a solid-colored sweater, will also ground an outfit that includes differently patterned pieces.
You've probably heard to horizontal stripes are a don't all of your life, and that they'll make you look enormous. It's simply not true, but they must be worn the right way. Avoid wearing them across the widest part of your body; if you have fuller hips, a striped skirt might not work. And thin horizontal stripes can be more flattering than wide ones, which can have a shortening effect. You can also downplay the effect of stripes with something solid, like a black blazer worn over a striped tee.
There's something irresistible about novelty prints, whether it's a kitty-covered dress or a cupcake-festooned top. Since these pieces are undeniably bold, match them with something simple, like dark skinny jeans or a plain cardigan and simple flats. And if you want to add jewelry, keep it basic, like a couple of silver bangles on your wrist. A flashy necklace and a wacky print worn together can be overkill.
Though floral patterns are associated with spring and summer, they can be worn during fall and winter, too. Look for floral pieces made from cold-weather fabrics, like velvet, satin and cashmere; a thin cotton tank won't seem right in January. Darker colors also tend to look more appropriate when it's cold outside and keep your outfit grounded in one season – a heavy cardigan and knee-high leather boots will likely clash with a flimsy cotton dress normally reserved for the beach.
Whether you're having a portrait done or taking family photos, you can wear patterns – but don't go crazy. A little splash of pattern, like a flowery blouse under a cashmere sweater, is better than something bold; after all, you're the star of the picture, not your shirt! Sometimes, very small patterns can appear distorted in photos, so avoid anything teeny-tiny. And if you're still in doubt, ask your photographer for advice.
A retro classic, polka dots are fun and flirty, but you can also wear them in more conservative settings. A polka dot pencil skirt, heels and a plain blouse look smart in the boardroom, but go for smaller dots, which appear more toned down. A polka dot pussy bow blouse, sleek heels and black slacks looks smart, and is a nice way to avoid that hard-to-escape humdrum corporate look.
There's no reason to shy away from patterns if you're plus-size! Vertical stripes are always slimming and can make you seem taller. Match patterned pieces with solids (like some plaid leggings and a flannel tunic) to create a sense of balance and look for items that fit just right – burying yourself under a too-big dress or shirt won't flatter your figure. And avoid super tiny prints, which can make you seem larger.