By: Brad Schultz
When it comes to risky trends, the art of mixing prints is definitely intimidating. The good news is, once you master the art of mixing, the options for potential outfits in your closet will drastically increase. This trend isn’t only reserved for the ladies; men can employ these same guidelines to liven up the daily, monotonous suit – in the simplest form, think shirt and tie combinations.
Since we were kids we’ve been practicing the skill of matching, so while it may take some time to build up the courage to start pairing the unexpected, I promise it’s worth the challenge. From leopard to floral, to the printed pieces already in your wardrobe, all you have to do is start mixing.
Match colors, not prints. One of the easiest ways to keep your mixed prints looking chic instead of just plain confused is by keeping them all in the same color family. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to all be the same shade, but having a central color theme or palette to work from allows you to blend your prints more easily. Try picking a color that repeats throughout the entire outfit. You can’t go wrong when you mix two different black and white prints, so this is a great option for beginners. Black and white polka dots work nicely with black and white stripes or gingham.
Scale matters. If you have too many prints in the same size, your outfit could end up looking busy. Think of prints in terms of their scale, and choose a big size and a smaller size to go together. The contrast of big prints with small, and thick prints paired with thin, makes your overall look visually appealing while still making a strong, not overwhelming, statement.
Keep it simple. While pairing your various prints into an ensemble can be a liberating, you don’t want to go overboard. No more than two prints at a time is a good rule for beginners. Sometimes two prints that would otherwise clash need something solid to break them up. If your look calls for a third piece, go with a white blouse or a simple cardigan to tone down your prints.
Sisters, not twins. Prints that are similar in scale, but come in slightly different colors, can layer beautifully. This is a great way to mix prints if you’re after a more conservative, monochrome look that works as well in the office as it does on a weekend. The organic patterns in animal prints like leopard and tiger stripes naturally look great together, as well.
Use accessories. If you’re just not sure if those floral pants are going to look right with your paisley top, try experimenting with print mixing using accessories at first. Introduce a bold new print to your wardrobe in the form of a scarf or belt instead of a blouse. Wear a pair of patterned earrings instead of buying a funky-printed jacket to see how it feels to mix prints. Once you get used to mixing and matching prints, you’ll start sensing what works and what conflicts.
Brad Schultz is a fashion designer and sewing teacher in Gainesville, FL specializing in special occasion apparel. His work is a fusion of clever design and beautiful, couture-quality execution. Each dress is a thoughtful collaboration between the designer and the client celebrating her unique beauty, style, and personality.