Pattern Mixing: The “Mis-Matched” Chic

Print Mix
Left: A solid black skirt pulls these two classic prints together in a polished but understated Parisian look. Middle: The contrast of the neutral, small-textured pattern and large, colored-print are grounded by a solid neutral heel. Right: The zig-zag and floral print combination are tied together by black. The heeled booties add a pop of color to complete the look. Little to no jewelry is needed for these stand alone ensembles.

Once a faux pas, recently a trend, now a skill for all fashionistas: Pattern mixing is a great way to expand your wardrobe without spending money. Alison Freer, costume designer, and author of How to Get Dressed has 6 simple guidelines to keep you from looking like a fabric sample sale.

  1. Stay in one color family. The monochromatic look is a good way to start. For the novice, neutral colors are a safe selection. Try a zig-zag with a large floral print. (See above.)
  2. Color repetition from one pattern into the other. A popular look is to wear a striped shirt that echoes a color from a floral skirt or bottom. Vice-versa works, too.  This is also an easy way to start since stripes are a staple print – you probably already own one. (See stripes and plaid here.)
  3. Stripes and floral prints work well together when balanced.
    Stripes and floral prints work well together when balanced.

    Try wearing small classic prints as if they were a solid or neutral. Thin stripes, small checks, tiny houndstooth,  mini polka dots and highly textured fabrics, like nubby or boulce can be styled with a pattern that incorporates the other item’s base colors. (On right: The tiny floral print skirt acts like a “solid” paired with the bold stripes on top.)

  4. Balance scale and size. Two prints of the same size tend to clash. A bigger print on the bottom is usually better.
  5. When mixing two “wild” patterns, always add a solid or neutral piece to ground the outfit and tone it down. (See top right: zig-zag print with floral skirt plus solid heels.) Navy is a trend proof classic quick fix.
  6. Practice makes perfect. Try it out running errands rather than your high school reunion. When you start to feel comfortable and get a few compliments, try it at work.

Next FF: Welcome back flare leg pants!

A reader comments on Fall Capsule Wardrobe:
AJ writes:  “For the very first time in my life, I’m packing away summer/spring clothes and just keeping the fall and cold weather clothes in my drawers and my closets. I think it’s saved me time already because I don’t have to comb through all those weather-inappropriate clothes. Also, this is inspiring me to just stick to the clothes I have. Getting my bank account statement the last few months has been sobering because those “little” clothing purchases online add up so quickly and cost a lot more than expected. Thanks!”

Please Comment:
Have you tried print mixing yet? How did you put your mix together?

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