Prints

Mixing prints for maximum style

Yes! You can mix prints! It’s likely that you learned the basic tenets of dressing from your parents, the women in your family, and your seventh-grade peers. Especially if you hail from a conservative area of the country or grew up in a family that prioritized classic good taste in clothing, you may believe that mixing prints is just for eccentric golfers, but we’re here to help you branch out! Mixing prints isn’t strictly for the Paris runway and bold fashionistas; when done tastefully, it’s for any woman who wants to amplify her style. Showcase your flair and extend your wardrobe flexibility by mixing prints for maximum style!

Using color when mixing prints

The first thing to consider when mixing prints is color. Outside of high fashion where off-the-wall combinations rule, there are three possibilities to consider: monochrome, matching, or mixing in neutrals. Let’s consider these choices for mixing prints:

  • Monochrome—Your favorite navy and white floral skirt paired with a pin-dot navy and white blouse. This is a low-risk way to mix prints that shows style within the parameters of fairly conservative dressing. You might consider this even at a law or finance office, or a solemn occasion.
  • Matching—Picture a splashy paisley knee length skirt in shades of turquoise and green. Select a shade from the skirt to match a women’s blouse to, but instead of a solid go with a low-contrast stripe or quatrefoil print. Choose the main color from the skirt for a relatively cautious experiment, or one of the accent colors for bold impact.
  • Using Neutrals—You took a risk and bought a midi skirt in a bold floral or wild giraffe print, and nothing you pair with it seems quite right. Rather than trying to match, use a neutral, but with a pattern for flair. A black-and-white striped bateau-neck tee would probably look charming with an overblown floral, and a beige checked blouse would let a giraffe print shine. Neutrals can help statement pieces take center stage, while a pattern keeps those neutral from being a blank space in your ensemble.

Using scale to mix prints with purpose

Another important factor in mixing prints is scale. For example, three big, splashy prints in one outfit is blowsy and messy. Three small-scale prints in one outfit confuses the eye and looks busy. But if you select one large or oversize print, one medium pattern and one small pattern, you can mix three prints successfully.

Picture a pair of trousers in a huge oversize gingham—so crisp, so preppy! You could wear a plain blouse or tee with them, but what if you wore an aspirin-dot blouse? Or a dainty seersucker button-down? An oversize print and a small print would still leave you the option of wearing a medium-scale floral blazer or pullover sweater if you were so inclined. Mixing the scale of your prints shows that there was thought and purpose behind your choices, and looking intentional is key to maximizing your style with mixed prints.

Mixing types of prints

This concept is a basic part of mixing prints but a complex thought process. A key part of mixing prints for maximum style is balancing organic and geometric shapes. Organic shapes are irregular or asymmetrical, expressing movement or elements of nature. Florals, paisley, watercolor and animal prints are all good examples of organic prints. Geometrics feature straight lines and defined angles. Plaids, including gingham, chevron, stripes and houndstooth are examples of geometric prints. Polka dots are a grey area—are they randomly placed or laid out in a grid? Are they perfect circles or do they have a hand-drawn look? Dots are a judgement call as to whether they are geometric or organic.

Balancing organic and geometric shapes helps you achieve mixed-print ensembles that look stylish and purposeful. A floral blouse softens houndstooth trousers, while a gingham button-down lends polish to whimsical-print shorts. As you think through color and scale, evaluate the proportion of uniformity to nature-inspired. Finding parity for these elements shows that you’re making chic choices, not having a laundry crisis.

Getting up the nerve to mix prints

If mixing prints is a new idea to you, or you have wanted to mix prints but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. Anchor an ensemble with a favorite solid piece that always makes you look and feel your best, such as your go-to blazer, and mix prints in the rest of the outfit. Start small. Carry an animal-print bag with a floral dress for women. Wear a whimsical-print scarf (think flamingoes or hedgehogs or mushrooms) with a heathered sweater or plaid shirt. Notice that heathered counts as a pattern—all strong textures do—so begin experimenting with mixing prints by wearing a floral blouse under your favorite tweed blazer, or a striped shirt with a bouclé skirt. Pin-dot shirts are technically a pattern, but they are fairly neutral and when you squint the print disappears. That makes them a terrific gateway piece to help you get started mixing prints. Remember that your clothes are supposed to be fun! You’re so full of life; dress that way!

Even the most conservative taste in clothing leaves room for some discreet print-mixing. You can increase your wardrobe flexibility as well as showcase your style and creativity by mixing prints for maximum style.

Quick Tips for Mixing Prints

  • Think color before print to make new combinations
  • Balance the scale of prints—choose a small, a medium, a large—to show purpose
  • Mix organic shapes and geometric shapes
  • Anchor your look with a solid piece
  • Mix prints with your accessories to punch-up simple ensembles
  • Strong textures count as prints when you’re mixing up a look
  • Stripes and dots are the neutrals of patterns
  • Enjoy yourself!

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