Pairing mixed-and-matched prints and patterns can be tricky and intimidating. It may take some time for you to adjust to this new look if you’re used to everything matching, but go out on a limb and have fun with it. From cheetah to floral and chevron to polka dots, stay confident and you’ll look like a rock star. The good news: Once you master the art of mixing, your wardrobe will seem a heck of a lot bigger, as your outfit options just doubled.
Here are six tips and tricks to help you get mixing:
1. Match colors, not prints
Similar shades and palettes will help to better blend your prints, while still allowing you to make a bold statement. If you’re not sure what works in terms of matching colors, just try to keep it in the same family. This means you should pair jewel tones with jewel tones, earth tones with earth tones and pastels with pastels. As a last resort, use the color wheel to find complementary colors. After all, opposites do attract!
Remember: If the colors look good together, the prints will look good together, too.
But you may be asking, “What if I want to wear two garments with the same pattern?” Try your best to avoid this, as you might look too matchy-matchy. If, however, you do want to wear the same pattern, work with inverted or contrasting colors. For example, pair black stripes on a white background with white stripes on a black background. Or, try a neutral-colored leopard top with a bright blue leopard skirt.
Wearing the same pattern also works well when one print is significantly larger than the other. Still, try to stick with one color scheme, as you’re already taking another risk by pairing the same pattern.
2. Mixing stripes and polka dots
Mixing polka dots with stripes will always give you a chic look, especially if your color scheme is black and white. Scale is key in any mixed-and-matched outfit, but especially when you want to pair these two classic prints. Wearing both thin stripes and tiny polka dots will blend together, throwing your outfit out of balance.
Choose the smaller pattern as a backup and incorporate a larger print to dominate your outfit. Remember: Your prints are supposed to complement each other, not compete.
3. Follow the rule of thirds
Tone down your mixing and limit yourself to two patterns. Three or more prints comes on a bit too strong and will be harder for your brain to process. If you do want to give this look a try, though, go with a white blouse or simple cardigan to reduce the intensity of your ensemble. Or, choose a blouse that already has a combination of prints on it, such as a half-striped, half-polka-dotted shirt paired with pants that are printed with thicker stripes that are perpendicular to the ones on your top.
4. Embrace flower power
Looking to add some life to your outfit? Start by choosing a floral pattern that catches your eye. Next, work with that color scheme when choosing a contrasting pattern.
Complex patterns such as florals or animal prints look best when paired with a simple graphic print. Consider pairing a floral pencil skirt with a black-and-white-striped blouse, as these two patterns always mesh well together. Leopard and and polka dots also complement each other. Consider pairing leopard pants with a polka dot blouse.
Color and scale are extremely important here, as you don’t want it to look like you got dressed in the dark.
5. Add texture
Still lacking the confidence to walk though the office in your mixed-print outfit? That’s OK because guess what? Texture counts as a pattern, too!
As a more subtle approach, mixing one pattern and one textured piece will still give you the same effect that mixing patterns gives off. Rock a ruffled blouse with a lace skirt or pair a chunky striped sweater with leather leggings. Slip on a pair of metallic stilettos to spice up your polka dot dress.
For the bold, brave and confident, go ahead and mix multiple patterns with texture. The sky is the limit when you combine a patterned and textured piece!
6. Break it up
If you feel like your outfit is looking a little busy, avoid pattern overload by spacing the prints out a bit. This also allows you to get used to this new mix-and-match approach you’re testing out.
Distribute your prints more evenly to create a more subtle appearance. Start by pairing a patterned skirt with a printed shoe, or try a solid skirt with both a patterned scarf and bottom. Incorporating at least one solid is a great way to break up the print-on-print-on-print that is your outfit. Another way to divide your patterns is to throw on an oversized belt to divide your floral blouse and black-and-white pinstriped pants.
Give these outfits a try and you’ll look like you just stepped off the runway. When in doubt, stick with black and white and you’ll be golden. And treat stripes as a neutral: It’s all about balance, color coordination and imagination. Go ahead, take a risk.