how to: mix prints

One of my favorite fashion concepts is print mixing. It comes from my interior design background where it’s much more expected. Bedding is a good example where there will be pre-designed groupings where there are a variety of patterns. Designers go to great lengths to find a perfect room story with wallpaper, pillow fabrics and window treatments. Each textile will be varied in scale, color, and texture. This is what creates drama in an interior.


Menswear also celebrates mixing. A window pane plaid pairs with stripes and checks with the general rule being that you need to change the scale of the pattern or print. Patterned ties on top of checked shirts has been trending strong in menswear along with wide stripes with a micro print tie. Gingham is also getting larger in menswear to make more of an impact with the texture of a sports coat and then adding a smaller print tie again.


Consider your own scale when mixing patterns. If you are petite, stay with smaller scaled patterns but still vary them. If you’re tall and/or curvy, you can wear large prints and vary them to smaller prints; keep them relevant to one another by not jumping to far in scale. Somewhere you should “ground’ the overall look and this could be with accessories like a belt, shoes and bag in solid colors if you don’t have a solid “ground” item on already. This is key to the success of mixing prints. The eye needs somewhere to rest.


I chose a mix of prints for my street style shoot this week. The top was a smaller print than the skirt so there would be enough definition and the whole look was grounded with the wide belt in a solid neutral along with the booties in black. Another way to mix patterns is to make sure they have similar styles. I used animal prints to marry the two fabrics together in similar colors. Staying in the same hues can also bond the look.


A bolder interpretation is color blocking with patterns. You’ll see this with designers such as Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and Jenna Lyons at J. Crew. It’s fun and fresh to pair a polka dot blouse with a large scaled floral pant. When your closet is feeling boring, try channeling one of these designers to inspire you with a little walk on the wild side of mixing.


There are a variety of ways to play with mixing prints and patterns. Don’t be afraid to try something new. This fall, consider trying an animal print shoe such as the Becker by Sam Edelman, the Mila Wedge by Tory Burch, or the Uffie by Diane von Furstenberg. Look for an item in a print to wear with any one of these instead of a solid dress. Not only will you expand your wardrobe, but you’ll polish your look by branching out beyond the expected.


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Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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