Mixing It Up

by Cathy Starnes

Mixing prints is a fun way to punch up your look this fall and an opportunity to get more mileage out of pieces you already own by wearing them in unexpected ways. This idea may seem scary when you look at fashion magazines and see some combinations that make you scratch your head, but there are a few guidelines that you can follow to pull off an imaginative blend of patterns with grace and style.


The first rule of thumb is to pair a dominant print with an accent print. The former will be a bolder, larger scale print while the later will be a smaller, more understated print. For example, a sizable, brightly colored floral print can be paired with a tiny polka-dot print in a lighter color, or attention grabbing wide stripes with a dainty floral.

Color Coordinate

Keeping your prints in the same color family is an easy start for beginners. Start with neutrals — such as pairing two black and white prints — as a safe way to dip your toes in the water. For more confident mixers and to pull off multi-colored patterns, making sure your prints share at least one common color will keep your look cohesive.


Another beginner trick is to pair two of the same print in different scales. Picture a wide stripe with a subtle pin-stripe, large window-pane print with a small scale plaid or large polka dots with tiny polka dots and so on.

Keep It Limitless

If you’re wondering which articles of clothing are best to mix, the options are endless. You can go casual with printed shorts and a T-shirt, dress it up with a patterned skirt and blouse, mix a dress and a blazer or combine pants and a cardigan.


Accessories can come into the mix in two ways: one is to use an accessory as your second or (gasp!) third print. For example, pair a leopard belt with a striped dress or with a geometric scarf. The second way to use accessories when pattern mixing is by incorporating neutrals to pull everything together; this could be a gold jewelry story between your earrings, necklace and bangles or a black belt, shoes and handbag to polish off the look.


If you’re feeling a nervous about mixing it up or prefer a more understated look overall, toning your look down with neutrals will leave you comfortable and confident. Try pairing a neutral print with a colorful one or add a solid blazer or scarf to mellow out your two prints. When in doubt, both polka dots and stripes can act as neutrals that pair well with other prints, such as florals and plaids (or with each other!).

Now, scoop some prints out of your closets and get mixing!

Cathy Starnes is a personal stylist and the owner of new retail concept, Iris Boutique, which offers unique women’s accessories with a side of personal styling.



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