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To Mix or Not to Mix

You ask a question about mixing prints and patterns, I deliver the answer! I, myself, am quite a traditional dresser – I pair up loud colourful prints with solids to tone the whole look down. Yet, every time I watch Sex and the City or other style provoking shows, I am tempted to experiment with my wardrobe and get a bit bolder!


It is obvious that mixing different prints and patterns is a great way to add variety to your style and create different and exciting looks even when you have a small or limited wardrobe. It allows you the most optimum use of your clothes and accessories, and make your personal style more exciting and unique. It lets you express and stamp your individuality and your style in an emphatic fashion.
This trend opens up your wardrobe to dozens of new possibilities, provided you do the choosing right. You want to mix patterns for an overall finished look. It’s not an easy task and there is a fine line between being stylish and looking ridiculous.
But after some research, I have found few helpful tips on how to mix patterns successfully:
  • First you need to build a solid foundation of a few basic colors and then add rest of the structure according to your taste.  Stick to one or two colors (or a few in the same family) when mixing and matching to avoid the crazy-lady look. Key to starting to feel comfortable mixing patterns is to find a base color.
Here green is a base colour
  • There needs to be something that unites the patterns together. It could be the color tones, it could be the size of the pattern, it could be the graphics. There must be a common bond between the prints and the fabric should be the same.
  • Stay in the same color family. You want your patterns to have the same overall hue with certain colors found in each. Brown and orange plaid can work with a brown and orange floral design but will not work with pink and green roses. Also find what kind of colors best suit your skin tone i.e. warm colors or cool colors.
  • Put the two (or three or four) patterns next to each other and imagine that the fabrics are all the part of one garment. Would you buy it? Would you wear it?
  • Vary the pattern sizes and look for very different patterns that won’t compete with each other. If your plaid happens to be large and loud, pair it with something that has a delicate pattern, like tiny roses with minuscule vines. We want slightly different scales, and different density when mixing prints. Wearing medium/large with small patterns create balance. However mixing large patterns make your outfit look overpowering, or combining two or more small prints make your overall appearance busy.
  • Use some patterns as neutrals. Think tweed skirts and dress pants or small houndstooth. And even black and white, navy blue and white. They are so classic and understated, they become a neutral. If you decide to base your outfit on such basic patterns, make sure you add a couple of other multi colored accents, like a paisley scarf.
Tweed looking jacket serves here as a neutral base to colorful dress
  • Play with polka dots or stripes. Polka dots are an easy choice to mix, since they are not bogged down with a lot. Stripes also are not really considered to be a pattern, so you can mix them with any print, from floral to graphic.
  • Break it up with a basic, solid color to even it out a bit. This makes your outfit look more balanced and modern. Sometimes patterns work well together if they’re completely on top of each other. For example, pair ark blue jeans or black skinny jeans with a pair of cute multi colored ballerina flats and a print top. You can also break a print top and skirt with a black wide belt or black cardigan.
  • Make sure at least one item is tailored. Unless you want to end up looking like a giant drapery factory, choose a form-fitting blouse with a flowing skirt. Or go for a pencil skirt with a boxy top.
  • Accessorize. Patterns don’t have to be limited to tops and bottoms. You can mix more subtly with a scarf, shoes, hat or belt that plays on the patterns you’ve chosen. Wise use of accessories like jewelry, handbags, shades, scarves, belts etc, is also an important tool for mixing and matching. Radically different accessories with almost same dress end up giving you a completely different look.

And here are some pitfalls of mixing prints:

  • Be careful with mixing and matching bright colors, you don’t want end up looking tacky.
  • Beware of mixing too many colors in the same outfit. That’s not eye pleasing.
  • Similar polka dot patterns on head and toe make it look like you’re following rule number one. Like your outfit is too well-thought and predictable. It just isn’t exciting to look at. Add a few surprises.

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