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Prints are everywhere. There have never been more prints on runways, on fashionistas, and in a single outfit. Every time I think of mixing prints and patterns, I have terrible flashbacks to when my parents let me pick my own outfits as a child: it was the late ’80s and early ’90s, and I had no concept of matching or coordinating. My childhood photos are marred by combinations of checkered and floral leggings (yes, in the same pair), neon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sweatshirts, and watercolor scrunchies all thrown together into one terrible outfit.
I’ve been petrified to try mixing patterns ever since. It took two decades to work up the courage to wear a striped blouse with an argyle sweater vest or plaid shorts with a graphic t-shirt. However, mixing patterns is so in right now that even I may mix prints again. Hopefully, this time around I won’t be ashamed of photos of my outfits.
If you’re a beginner with pattern mixing, ease yourself in with accessories. Try one patterned piece of clothing like a top or bottom, then add a patterned purse, belt, or shoes. It’s a small step toward full-on pattern mixing and the solid piece will keep you close to your comfort zone. This is a great way to play with the trend when your look has to say “pulled-together” more than “fashion plate.” Try this out for the office or big interviews. AskMen sums it up well when they warn to stay on the safe side with this trend because “people won’t give you the benefit of the doubt the way they would if you were, say, André Benjamin.” You should definitely experiment, but maybe do it in front of your mirror instead of at a big meeting.
Think of building your outfit like you would build a home’s décor. There should be a common color theme, so each piece should have that color in it as a common thread. Just say you’re pairing a leopard print blouse. Black or tan could be your common colors to continue into your bottoms. The common color can be any shade; it doesn’t have to be a neutral. For bonus style points this fall, it could be color-of-the-minute burgundy. The Chicago Tribune warns that to have the common color be dominant in both pieces will miss the idea behind the look so choose items that have just a touch of the common color.
While it’s good to keep the colors in the same family, the patterns should be completely different. Two stripes or a stripe and a plaid would look odd. Try large, flowy prints with smaller polka dots or stripes. Speaking of size, make sure that your patterns are of two different sizes. One should be large, like a wide stripe, while the other is small, like a floral print. The smaller print will act more as a neutral.
Since the two different patterns are already providing contrast, you don’t need any more contrast from garment styles. Instead of putting a printed bohemian blouse with a preppy striped pencil skirt, stick to all preppy or all bohemian. The Chicago Tribune recommends buying your different patterns from the same store or brand to make sure that the style is the same. AskMen recommends thinking of it like keeping up a theme.
Well, I’m going to go put on a few patterns and burn all family photos from the early ’90s. Let me know how your pattern experiments turn out!