Fashion 101

Style Guide: How to Play with Patterns

Six rules on pairing prints that I learned from the style experts at Modcloth.

By Emily Juhasz March 8, 2017

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This is the advanced level, kids. 

I always like to add a bit of flare to my style—and what better way then by mixing patterns? This being Texas, I'm all about go big or go home. But throwing together an ensemble chock-full of mixed prints can be an overwhelming endeavor.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered—and everything I know I learned from Modcloth's amazing #ootd ideas on Instagram. Here's my list of dos and don’ts for pattern mixing.

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Beginners can add contrasting prints in small doses through accessories.

Image: via Modcloth

DO start simple by adding more prints to your ensemble through your accessories.
DON’T get carried away. 

If you’re new to the pattern mixing game, it can be a bit daunting. Where do you start? How do you know what patterns go together and which don't? I recommend starting small and working your way up to the big leagues. Try adding accessories like a purse with a bold geometric print and/or heart-shaped polka dot tights. Keep your mixing to a minimum though—head-to-toe prints are, as Tim Gunn would say, a lot of look.

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DO build an ensemble from simple patterns.
DON’T mix prints with clashing color palettes.

Start small: I suggest mixing a black-and-white striped piece with a bold print. The simple stripe is just subtle enough to provide contrast to the bold print but not so much so that you don’t fully appreciate this eye-popping combination. In this case, the bold leopard print is balanced out by the simplicity of the dress, and the neutral palette is pumped up purrfectly by the red cat purse.

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DO watch the scale.
DON’T go over the top with busy-busy prints. 

The key here is consistency. Yes, we are mixing patterns, but we are doing it in a way that prevents you from looking a hot mess. This Modcloth outfit—a pale pink blouse with oversized polka dots paired with adorable cherry-print culottes—is the perfect example. The outfit is pulled together by a common color—pink—and the print on the top is both more muted and less busy so it doesn't compete with the bolder pant. The result is not only adorable, but also appealing to the eye. Again, keeping everything in proportion is key.

Ultimately, you should just have fun with it. Pattern mixing is meant to inspire creativity and add an extra bit of oomph to your ensemble. Keep it simple and you will have a full-proof look every time.

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