How to Mix Prints and Patterns Like an Expert

by Sylvia

How to Mix Prints and Patterns Like an Expert |

There’s always a cool lady that turns heads as she walks by in her effortlessly put together outfit. She’s smart, stylish and has an eye for color and pattern. Do you ever wish you can mix prints and patterns like an expert? It’s not as hard as it looks.

Learning the art of mixing patterns couldn’t come at a better time. Designers have been featuring more beautiful patterns and prints recently. 70s fashion with its love of stripes and patterns is on trend, as well as florals and graphic, grid prints. With so many good prints in style to choose from, it’s time to get bold and try combining your favorites.

I have one rule that serves me best when I mix prints and patterns: keep colors cohesive.

This rule is what saves me from making an obvious fashion faux-pas. Five of my easy, secret ways to a cohesive color story that makes me look like a master at mixing prints include:

  1. Sticking to two colors. My favorite color combo for mixing prints is black and white.
  2. Picking the busiest print item and coordinating it with a simpler pattern piece that has fewer colors in it.
  3. Mixing and matching patterns from the same store or brand. This will help you not clash, since most brands often work with a limited color range each season.
  4. Breaking up the different printed pieces by layering a solid on top to quiet down all the pattern. A good way to do this is with a coordinating solid jacket or cardigan, where only a touch of pattern from the top shows through.
  5. Buying a dress where the print is already mixed for you.


How to mix prints and patterns like an expert |

In the floral mix collage above:

Top by: P.A.R.O.S.H.
FSkirt by: Chicwish
Two-Tone Belt: Marni
Flats: Nine West

Some prints are naturals for mixing.

Start with the naturals and build up to bolder prints as you get more confident. My favorite, versatile prints that are easy to mix with almost any pattern are:

  • Polka dots
  • Stripes
  • Grid patterns

I like to use the three patterns above to mix with more complicated prints like busy florals, swirls or abstract prints.

how to mix prints and patterns! |

One patterned circles trouser (above), 3 different ways to wear it

Jacquard Trousers: John Lewis
Kimono Cardigan (layer with a white tee or tank), top left: East
Yellow Stripe Jacket: Herno
Pink Top: Zimmerman
White Wedge: Alice and Olivia

Another idea on how to successfully mix prints and patterns is all about repetition. Try making a whole outfit out of different stripes or nothing but polka dots together. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Use a large pattern for the top with the same pattern in a smaller scale for the bottom, or vice-versa
  2. Use the same scale for both patterns, but keep the colors the same. A fun, inventive way to do so is by using a white skirt with black polka dots with a black top with similar sized white polka dots. The mirror effect of the pattern’s colors in reverse is interesting and unique.

Ideas for outfits that mix patterns and prints |

If you decide to stay monochromatic with your pattern mixing, have some fun with a bold accessory statement like a brightly colored belt or contrasting shoe, like above.

Pants: Diane Von Furstenberg
Blouse, top left: Vanessa Bruno
Blouse, top right: 3.1 Phillip Lim
Clutch: Alexander McQueen
Grid blouse, lower left: Ax Paris
Pumps: Jimmy Choo

I asked a few other style experts that love to mix patterns on how they do it. Here is their advice:

ali-levine-shotLos Angeles based stylist Ali Levine:

“You don’t necessarily have to stick to the same color, but try shades based around a central color palette or theme. The easiest being neutrals to build around. Once you’ve mastered putting prints together in blacks, browns, and even greys, it’ll be much easier to step up to shades of purple, blues, reds, etc… and eventually mix up colors too!”

Lindsay_Narain_Portrait-8_mediumSingapore based Lindsay Narain, founder and designer of the women’s label VAUGHAN:

“Stripes in a complimentary color palette will befriend your houndstooth without a second thought – especially if the two prints are contrasting in size (for example, a thick, bold stripe with a smaller houndstooth). Layer a striped sweater over your houndstooth blouse, or pair the latter with a horizontal striped skirt. If you keep it in the same color family, you can’t go wrong.”


Lauren Vacula (above), mixed print lover and fashion blogger at A Lovely Side Project:

“Take notice of the size of the prints you’re working with. Pair a smaller print with a larger print (think thin stripes with bold florals) and vice versa (delicate polka dots with a substantial ikat print). Varying print scales will keep your outfit looking interesting instead of too busy.”

annette-150Annette Harris, a Washington DC stylist and Certified Image Consultant

Annette trained under Stacey London, famous stylist and host of TLC’s “What Not to Wear”. She offers my favorite advice:

“Own the look! Looking confident is half the battle to stylishly mixing and wearing prints.”



Have you gotten any good ideas? How will you sport the mixed print look?


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patti

Great post, with lots of fresh ideas. I agree, feeling confident is the most important element. xo


2 Cynthia Bowman

Hi Patti,
Confidence is key, regardless of what you wear.


3 Samantha

Great mixing tips. I think that over half the battle of looking good in mixed patterns (and bright colours) is to just believe you look good… If your gut tells you it works, then it definitely will! A confident stride can rock anything, regardless of shape/size/budget. XXX


4 Cynthia Bowman

It sounds like you’re an expert pattern mixer. Kudos to you, Samantha!


5 Jodie filogomo

These are some nice examples…i’m still a novice at print mixing, but I’m getting braver!! jodie


6 Cynthia Bowman

We all have to start at novice some time. With all the beautiful prints in fashion right now, it’s a good time to be brave!


7 lorena

I make an effort here and there… but pattern mixing is an art !


8 Cynthia Bowman

It really is an art! Luckily, all you need is one or two good tricks to make patterns work.


9 Lisa

I do this very rarely. Usually one of the patterns is something basic like stripes.


10 Cynthia Bowman

Stripes are a great pattern to mix. They work well with many other patterns.


11 Greetje

This is a very enlightening post. But even with this help I know I am not very good at print mixing. Only two of my outfits are bold print mixing and both were done by the shop assistent ……


12 Cynthia Bowman

Having a trusted shop assistant to help you is GOLD. Lucky you!


13 Maryann Adaezeilide

I love this ideas never thought pattern mixing will look so classy thanks


14 Amy Christensen

Thanks for the info. I am exciting about delving into my closet to see what prints I can put together.


15 Sherry Edwards

I used to wear a lot of different prints, however and got tired of them. (I think everyone else did too). Then I got interested in Parisian and Italian styles (also “some” British). Those books and articles said to avoid patterns and only stick to wearing 2 colours at the same time. This is the new technique which I am trying to implement for myself now. Yes, I have cleaned out a lot out of my closet. Sometimes now when I see other women dressed in patterns I am checking to see that the seams are lined up probably and that stripes aren’t wonky-wonky. And no strange prints on the breasts. I also sometimes think that the outfits look “thrown” together. Ok, so I have a flower printed blouse. What shall I wear with it? I don’t have anything. Guess I’ll slide in the multi-striped pants. ohhh, now I don’t have any shoes, I know – I’ll wear the purple ones and I’m not buying a new purse so I’ll grab the blue one. Now, I feel great – I’ve matched all the flowers in the top. Now, what about accessories? I’ll wear my favourite red necklace from my aunt. This may not be what she was thinking – I’m guessing she “planned” her outfit but this is how I see her outfit. If I did this other’s would be looking at me and thinking the same thing.


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