STEP 01: CHOOSE ONE PATTERN AS DOMINANT
The first step to mixing patterns is picking the one thats going to be the focal point of your look. A dominant pattern is the focus either because it's bolder, louder, or there's more of it than the other pattern(s). The dominant pattern will be the one that's the most eye catching or noticeable and it will command attention when you look at the outfit.
Here's a few things you want to look for in a dominant pattern, try to shoot for 1-2 of them:
- Bright colors: saturated hues or eye catching colors like red, pink, yellow, etc.
- Large scale print: big flowers, big geometric lines, etc.
- A lot of it: Even if the pattern doesn't have bright colors or a large scale, it can still be the dominant pattern if it covers a large surface area. Think dress or jumpsuit
In my look, the dominant pattern is the green floral print top. It's has bright and bold colors and the large print stands out more than a smaller print would (i.e. big flowers vs little flowers). Because it had bright colors and a large scale, I balanced the look by layering it with my accent pattern (step 02) so that there would be less of it.
STEP 02: CHOOSE A SECOND PATTERN AS AN ACCENT
Your accent pattern compliments your dominant pattern, and adds interest without competing for the spotlight. What you're looking for in a accent pattern is essentially the exact opposite from your dominant pattern and again you're choosing any two:
- Muted colors / black and white: this helps balance out the bright colors in the dominant pattern so the look isn't overwhelming with too much going on
- Small Scale print: Think smaller flowers, fine lines, or small details
- Not a lot of it: If you have a lot of two different patterns, your outfit gets busy fast. One of the keys to mixing prints is to balance the amount of them so that you don't have prints all over.
In my look, my accent print is the black and white jacket. I chose to go with the muted colors + small scale print options as my two from above. The black and white doesn't look too busy with the green print, but if you had this same printed jacket in a different color, it would definitely be too much to handle.
STEP 03: LEARN SOME OF MY TRIED AND TRUE PRINT RULES
Treat stripes as a neutral
If you want to mix the same pattern on top and bottom or in a layered look either 1. Invert the colors or 2. use a larger and smaller version
Mix prints with neutrals for a polished look
For an outfit that mixes patterns more subtly, keep your patterns in the same color family (i.e. different hues of the same color or warm tones and cold tones)
To "match" different patterns, mix patterns that have a single color thats the same between them
To "contrast" prints, pair the same print in contrasting colors
If you're not as print crazy as I am, substitute strong textures as prints
Don't let your prints touch for a more muted look
For a lazy girl alternative, choose tops with pre-mixed prints to take the guesswork out of it
When in doubt, throw on some polka dots or stripes
Photos by Katie Leigh
About the look
This top is from Stitch Fix, which is a personal styling services that delivers a box of pieces picked just for you right to your door. You try them on, pick out what you love, and send the rest back. You can get them as often as weekly or as infrequently as you want. You fill out a style profile to tell your stylist what types of things you like, how you like it to fit, how much you like to spend on pieces and the types of pieces you need - like business casual or going out attire.
I love stitch fix because 1) I don't have to leave the couch to go shopping and I still get to try it on and 2) I get to see how the pieces work with my existing wardrobe, which means I know ways I can actually wear them and I can pair them with things I already own when trying them on to see if they actually work.
Shop the rest of my look below.
What's your favorite way to mix prints? Any questions about my "Print rules"?
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P.S. The shoppable links in this post are affiliate links