I realize it might be really easy for me to walk into my closet and walk out wearing floral patterns head-to-toe and looks fine, but it’s often harder for other people. I use these eight simples rules when mixing patterns and with a little practice and confidence, anyone can rock the look. (I’ve included real-life examples at the end!)
1. Mix patterns from the same color family.
Using hues from one main color when mixing patterns can create a very subtle look, while still showing your daring side. It’s still visually stimulating for the eye, but in a refined way.
Diane von Furstenburg, Anna Sui
2. Think of some patterns/textures as solids
If you have a houndstooth skirt, think of that as a solid. Same can go for small polka dots, thin stripes or checks. They’re small enough and understated that the eye can view them as a solid, even though they’re really not.
Jonathan Saunders, Marc Jacobs
3. Look for patterns that complement each other
The last thing you want to do is look like you got dressed in the dark. One way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to choose patterns that complement each other. Stripes and floral always mesh well, as do leopard and stripes or polka dots.
Alexander Wang, DKNY
4. Don’t go too matchy-matchy
Mixing patterns is supposed to be fun. Although it can look cool, don’t go out head-to-toe in one pattern. That’s too matchy-matchy and can make you look more like Peg Bundy than you want. Although, if you want to push the envelope, switch up the colors of the matching patterns like Rihanna did. It’s a new twist on pattern mixing that keeps the overly matchy-matchy concept fresh.
Anna Sui, Rihanna
5. Space the patterns out
There is no need to wear a patterned skirt with a patterned jacket, or top. Sometimes mixing a top or skirt with patterned shoes can give your outfit the right amount of “wow” you’re looking for. Or try a patterned scarf with a solid top and patterned bottoms.
Alexander Wang, Zac Posen
6. Include neutrals in your outfit
When you add a solid with two or more patterns, you allow the visual space of the outfit to be broken up. You do this with stockings, shoes, accessories or another article of clothing. Whatever you chose to add, it’ll help your outfit look even better.
Dries van Noten, Zac Posen
7. Combine patterns of different densities/sizes
Rather than mix dense prints with dense prints, which can cause a big mess, try mixing a dense print with a sparse print. The same goes for larger prints and smaller prints. Usually if you mix different densities and sizes, the prints balance each other out, because one becomes the focal point and the other becomes the sidekick.
Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen
8. Use accessories wisely
As discussed in #5, sometimes spacing out patterns can help breakup the visual space. Accessories are your friend and your foe when mixing patterns. They can overwhelm or balance an outfit. Using a colored belt to break up two different patterned pieces can work really well, as can colored shoes or a neutral purse. Just be careful not to overdo it, because the focus of the outfit is the pattern, not the accessories.
Proenza Schouler, Anna Sui
Here are some great examples from other bloggers who’ve taken that bold step into the world of pattern mixing:
Vanessa of Snappy and Savvy mixes different sizes, densities and stays within the same color family for a fun, graphic look. Plus, her accessories add a pop of color.
Jenni of Pixie in Pumps mixes complementary patterns in the same color family, of different sizes and makes sure to work with her accessories.
Nicole of Employed Panache mixes her polka dots and florals with ease! (See what I said about polka dots and florals?! Amazing!). She also keeps her accessories minimal and understated.
Collette of Statements in Fashion mixes stripes and dots in similar colors for a strong, graphic look. She even varies widths of stripes and size and density of polka dots.
Erin of Work With What You’ve Got shows how easy it is to mix stripes and floral, while adding a pop of color with her tights.
Tiffany from A Reason to be Fabulous is a girl after my own heart with stripes, florals and bright colors! (Not to mention the twin-like hair!)
Heather of Embracing your inner cupcake mixes stripes and florals, showing how navy can be a neutral and a focal point!
Me! Rockin’ out floral and polka dots from the 30 for 30 challenge.
Do you mix prints? Why or why not?
(runway images from style.com)