Pattern Play: 6 Tips for Mixing Prints


We tend to shop full speed ahead when there are racks on racks of basics. Work-appropriate silk blouses in soft tints? Check. A quality black leather jacket? Absolutely a staple. Fresh white tees? You can never have too many. Neutrals and solids go well with everything, which makes for a practical closet. What’s more, these pieces are less conspicuous when worn multiple days in a row. Er… you’ll get to that wobbling pile of laundry soon enough.

Prints, however, are more likely to stop us abruptly in our tracks. They are loud, we demur, and entail extra consideration for effective styling. Sure, there are some patterns peppered here and there in our outfits, but they typically come out to play only when paired with an ordinary pair of jeans or an inoffensive black blazer—never, ever with another print. 

OK, we’ll admit it: Mixing prints can be intimidating.

But, it’s finally time for us to shake things up and allow our Technicolor souls to escape a drab sea of monotone. We’ve recruited fashion bloggers Kat of Love & Ace, Julie of Street Lily and Alicia of River City Chic, three stylish ladies who certainly know their way around a print or two (and then some). With their assistance and our own diligent research, we’ve formulated some guidelines to help you step out of a neutral-hued comfort zone. 


1. Take one step at a time. Hey, there’s no rush! First, select a solitary statement-making print as a starting point. Then, lay out your options for the first item’s potential mate and decide from there.

2. Earn your stripes. New player in the mixing print game? This basic but loveable stripe print plays nice with everyone. Though stripes produce increased visual impact compared to a non-print parallel, their straightforward simplicity can still tone down a va-va-voom print, such as a neon floral print or a busy camouflage print.

3. Involve your accessories. Another good tip for mixing-print novices is to begin on this smaller scale. Rather than dive headfirst with a printed top and printed bottoms, try out one focal print in a larger item (e.g., a black-and-white graphic skirt) and a supporting print in a smaller item (e.g., colorful and tropical sandals), as shown via Kat‘s quirky take on adorable weekend attire. The prints on the skirt and sandals are separated by exposed skin, which slightly subdues the two-print look.

4. Stay in the same color family. A foolproof approach to mixing disparate prints is never straying from a shared color palette. Unified shades can help blend different patterns. When using this method, at least one color should repeat throughout the various prints.

5. Vary your scales. We all know that opposites attract, and this golden rule of courtship applies to prints, too. Demonstrated by the lovely Julie, you can offset a structured print, such as a grid pattern, with something sinuous and loose, such as scattered florals. Another scale-focused example would be a tiny gingham print alongside an exaggerated scarf print. As long as you aim for a harmonious balance, the duo will look fabulous together.

6. Take risks! Mixing prints is meant to be fun. The technique is eye-catching and guaranteed to make a dynamic impression. So if you feel confident in doing so, throw in a third motif for a very print-happy ensemble! Alicia does this perfectly, pairing two classics—stripes and polka dots—with a trendy leopard print, albeit in the more subtle form of a clutch. Again, balance is key.


GET THE LOOK: Kat of Love and Ace

Top: Japanese Brand Mercury Duo (similar)
Skirt: ASOS
Shoes: Kimchi Blue (similar)
Fedora: Dynamic Asia (similar)
Bag: Longchamp


GET THE LOOK: Julie of Street Lily

Pants: H&M (similar)


GET THE LOOK: Alicia of River City Chic

Blazer: LOFT (similar)
Top: American Eagle 
Skirt: Ruche
Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell (similar)
Clutch: Love Cortnie
Necklace: J.Crew Factory
Rings: H&M and Urban Outfitters 


What prints populate your closet? Any wisdom in mixing prints that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!