Mixing prints like a pro

Mixing different prints in your outfit can be intimidating. This post shows you how to use this styling skill for vibrant and unique outfits.

Photo by Lucian Andrei

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“Who is that one? The one with the matching, everything. She looks…tidy.”

Overheard at a San Francisco Marina District bar circa mid-to-late 90s.

About me.

Tidy = boring, sterile, no fun, bland, and of course very clean, which is a label I wear proudly.

But the rest is not how I want my style to come across.

If you too feel like you need a little mess amongst the tidy of your style, this blog is for you.

There are lots of ways to give your look some va-voom. But one of the easiest is print and pattern mixing. Wearing different prints in the same outfit.

The problem is people aren’t sure how to do it, so they don’t.

I was taught at a young age you don’t mix patterns. One print per outfit. These “rules” no longer hold true. Pattern mixing is totally acceptable in modern fashion and a fun way to make your look notable.

This is also a great way to spice up your capsule wardrobe if you have one. If you don’t have a capsule, but you’ve always wanted to try it out, check out my freebie on how to do so.

How to pair different prints

There are a few pattern on pattern guidelines. But remember, this is fashion, it’s supposed to be fun so take these with a grain of salt and play with them a little bit. These six simple steps are meant to help you get going.

Scale in each print


Scale is very important in pattern mixing. You have to pair a large scale with a small scale, otherwise, it won’t work, they will compete with each other, overwhelm you and your outfit will look like your grandma’s curtains. Sorry, Grandma, I did love your curtains, I just don’t want to wear them. See examples below.

Color

The colors in the patterns either have to be the same, have some overlap, or work together. The examples below show the various ways you can use color to create a cohesive look with pattern mixing.

Materials matter when pattern mixing


A printed flowy dress, with a different print in the same fluid material, will clash. You need to wear something with some structure to it for contrast. If you don’t, it can look like a mistake.

Balance pattern placement within an outfit

Don’t wear all the different patterns just on top or just on the bottom. For example, if you have a patterned blouse and wear a different patterned jacket with solid pants, it’s too skewed to the top portion of your body. Spread it out.

Introduce solids when mixing prints


A solid block of clothing, a purse, or shoes can be a good break for the eye when doing heavy pattern mixing. Use it. Try to stay away from head to toe in different patterns.

Play with shoes that have a pattern


Using your shoes that have a print is an easy way to do some mixing. It’s in a small amount of space so it can feel less intimidating. The same rules apply, scale, colors, etc. Remember that stripes and leopard print are considered neutrals when pattern mixing. Use them accordingly.

How to get started mixing prints

I know it can be intimidating, so here are a few steps to dip your toe in the print mixing pool. Soon it will be second nature.

Color

The easiest colors to start with are black and white. They always work together, so it takes the guessing piece out of the equation.

Then move on to the same colors in the different prints. Pink stripes with pink polka dots.

Next, choose one color from a print and use that color in a different pattern. For example, floral pants paired with a striped blouse. The strip in the blouse has pink from the floral print.

Lastly, try prints that have coordinating colors and pallets that are not the same but work together. Green camo pants with a blue striped oxford are an excellent example.

Prints

The easiest patterns to start with are stripes and polka dots. As long as the scales are different, this will always work. These are classic and somewhat neutral in that they work with tons of different prints.

Then try florals and pair them with stripes. Graduate to geometric shapes with polka dots.

Just keep going and going. Soon you’ll be mixing prints like a pro, but you have to practice.

Start with the baby steps listed above and play. Keep trying and take risks. Not everything will work, but you won’t know until you put them together, and most times you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

So head to your closet and pull out a few patterns and see what you have in there that you’ve never thought of wearing together before.

Let me know in the comments, what did you learn today about mixing prints that you’ll be trying out soon?

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MEET KIM

Kimberly-7

I teach women to dress with more confidence and joy. By understanding a few style concepts, how to dress your body type and how to curate a capsule wardrobe everyone can leave the house feeling great.

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