3 Ways to Play with Pattern Mixing

by | Mar 29, 2018 | Fashion Advice | 0 comments

Young kids mix patterns with abandon and rock it. I don’t know when or why it happens, but at some point, prints become scary. I looked in my closet not that long ago and I didn’t have a single printed item. How boring! I decided to make a change and started adding prints and patterns back into my life.  I have since found that prints and patterns are often just the thing to add a little sizzle to your outfit. If you’re still feeling a bit leery of mixing prints, read on for 3 ways to play with pattern mixing.

Pattern mixing

Let’s start with the basics. All prints are patterns, but not all patterns are prints. A pattern is any repeated design regardless of whether it’s floral, geometric, plaid, stripes, or what have you. A print, specifically, is a pattern that is printed on top of fabric versus woven in. The turquoise shorts to the left have a woven pattern, but aren’t a print whereas the floral scarf has a floral pattern that is printed on the scarf. Promise, I am done with technical speak, so let’s just agree to use the terms interchangeably from here on out. Regardless of the definition, a lot of people are fearful of mixing patterns. Once you learn a few simple tricks, you’ll be mixing patterns like a pro and having fun while you’re at it!

Play With Neutrals

pattern mixing

If mixing patterns is a bit unnerving, then start with the neutral patterns. I know it seems crazy, but stripes and leopard prints are considered neutral because they literally go with everything -including each other. I know that you are probably calling me crazy, because you think leopard is only for “those” people, but believe me when I tell you that leopard can look classic and add a bit of “pop” to your outfit (read this post on the 2-part fashion recipe). Also, you can wear it regardless of your Season. My personal color palette is fairly cool, but since I wear leopard shoes (not shirts) and it’s neutral, it looks great with all of my colors.

Since they are neutral, they literally go with everything, these are just the examples I personally have to show you. You could also pair either of them with plaid, houndstooth, or anything else.



Play with color

Pattern mixing basics is to have each pattern/print have at least one color in common. For instance, mixing a black and white stripe with a leopard print or a blue stripe with a floral print that has a blue background. You honestly can’t go wrong with pattern mixing in this way, but don’t sell yourself short. I mix navy and white stripes with my green dotted shirt and leopard print shoes all the time – remember leopard is neutral! Also, think about the color wheel. I mix my green dotted shirt with my blue striped shoes, because green and blue are next to each other on the color wheel. Speaking of the color wheel, you can also take opposites, like navy stripes with an orange floral scarf. I don’t have a picture, because orange isn’t my friend. Another tip, is you can wear inverse colors. like the white and black houndstooth slacks pictured with the black speckled jacket.

leopard and stripes  polka dots and stripes  pattern mixing with houndstooth

Play with proportions

The experts say that the same print in different sizes, regardless of color, works well together. For instance, my green dotted blouse with a white skirt that has large black polka dots on it. Although this would be cute on someone, it would not be a comfortable look for me. My formula is that if one pattern is busy the other needs to be simple. I think this is why I like leopard paired with stripes and stripes paired with floral. Busy, for me, also has to do with scale. I like one of my floral tops with leopard, because there’s a lot of space in the print and one of the colors in the flowers relates to the leopard. Although the colors work on my striped shoes and green polka dot top, I don’t wear them together, because both prints are so small – I prefer to vary the scale of my prints.

Lastly, be adventurous and just give it a try! Like with children, the best pattern mixing happens by accident. I would love to hear comments about your favorite patterns to mix and match and pictures would be a bonus! Here are a few of my favorite ways to wear leopard – floral, stripes, and dots!

If you’re wondering, most of the items are from my closet and many were purchased from ThredUp. ThredUp is an online thrift store where you can buy quality used clothes at a fraction of the price. Read about why I love it.

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