Mix Prints and Patterns Like a Pro

Playing with patterns may seem daunting, but it’s actually really simple to put together an eye-catching ensemble with pieces that initially seem dissimilar. Whether you want to go all out with a dazzling array of prints or keep it subtle with two tonal pieces, here are some easy tips on how to mix and match items in your closet with pizzazz:

While you’re first starting out it’s easiest to keep things simple, so begin by experimenting with wearing two prints that are in an identical color scheme—black and white is a no-fail combination. For example, you can pair a polka dot printed skirt with a striped blouse (both in black and white), and break up the differing prints with a plain wide belt in an eye-catching hue like red or yellow. J. Crew showcased several outfits in their fall 2013 presentation that were artfully combined, including a lime-and-black blouse and skirt ensemble (pictured above). The reason this outfit works is because the top and skirt utilize the same colors, and the patterns are similar in style but differing in scale. The large diamond design of the blouse draws your eye to it and pulls focus, while the smaller diamond print of the skirt complements the look but visually fades into the background.

To get a little more complex, try wearing two or three different patterns that are in the same color families, like both Matthew Williamson and Anna Sui designed for their fall 2013 runway shows. Williamson’s graphic print top and floral skirt combination (pictured above, left) is fairly daring, but the look is pulled together by the similarity of colors within each piece. Anna Sui’s outfit (above, right) uses pattern on the dress, jacket and tights, but the effect isn’t overly jarring because all three elements have the same deep turquoise hue running through them. The continuity of color helps to ‘ground’ the outfit and keep it from looking too busy.

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