Ever wonder how to combine two or more unlike patterns together to make a cool, effortless outfit? This fashion trend is called pattern mixing! Sounds simple right? Maybe. This fashion trend can be tricky *tries on every every possible combination of printed garments in one’s wardrobe before inevitably leaving the house in clothed in solids*
At least that’s how it used to go for me. Except if I’m being entirely truthful with you ladies, more often than not these pattern inspired try on sessions also resulted in tears, a bedroom floor covered in clothes, and an increased likelihood of being late to work that day. I just couldn’t ever seem to figure it out. It seemed like no matter what I tried I looked like a three-year-old who was just given freedom to dress themselves for the first time. So how did I unleash my inner fashionista?
Personal Fashion Evolution, What’s Yours?
But looking back at it, my inability to properly pattern mix was probably because I dressed exclusively in simplicity for the first 25 years of my life. A classic cut dress in a solid or floral print, matched with a pair of neutral heels, and topped off with some small jewels - and I was out the door. Easy peasy!
At that time, the concept of pattern mixing was nearly foreign to me, and something I would scarcely imagine even attempting. After all, wearing multiple patterns at once, just like wearing white denim in winter, was a major fashion faux pas. Or so I had been taught. But as I rounded the quarter-century mark, I began to realize that the rules of fashion written by women of my grandmother’s generation, however well intended they may have been, were outdated. So, my dears, it is with pleasure and self-taught wisdom that I share with you my top tips for how to pattern mix like a pro and step out of your fashion safe zone.
1. Stick to One Color Family
When matching patterns, I always try to pick pieces that have at least one common element to them, such as their color family. For example, try mixing pieces that are all varying shades of blue or purple. Having a common color scheme will automatically make the entire look more cohesive and will disguise the fact that you have multiple patterns on at once.
2. Pay Attention To Pattern Sizes
Before mixing two patterns, pause to take a look at the physical size of each piece’s print and make sure they are about the same scale. (Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you literally have to measure things here, just make an approximate analysis.) Finding two pieces with roughly the same size pattern helps to ensure that your pieces will work together to create one look, instead of competing against one another for attention and clashing as a result.
3. Look for Similar Shapes
My third tip is to find pieces with a similar shape to them such as florals and polka dots or stripes and plaid. Although pattern mixing is all about contrasting patterns, creating too much of a contrast can be jarring to the eye. There has to be a certain level of commonality to make the entire look cohesive. Pairing two pieces with similar lines will help your entire look to flow together.
4. Match Major and Minor Patterns
When it comes to prints, some patterns are considered major, while others are considered minor. A major pattern would be one that is large and occupies the majority of the fabric, leaving little to no background color peeking through. A minor pattern, on the other hand, is a pattern that is smaller in scale or more delicate and allows a lot of background color to peek through. When I pattern mix, I try to choose one major pattern and one minor pattern. I have found that pairing two major patterns together can cause clashing, while pairing two minor patterns can just be underwhelming. One of each lends to a nice balance.
5. Add a Splash of Solid
If you find yourself questioning if your look is too busy and bold, try toning it down with a solid piece somewhere. Perhaps add a plain cardigan or a scarf to your ensemble. Throwing in a sprinkle of solid somewhere in your outfit can go a long way towards toning down a pattern-mixed look that you think might be pushing the envelope just a little too far.
6. Have Fun and Be Confident!
And this, my lovely ladies, is my final and biggest piece of advice yet – be confident in yourself! Trying new things always presents the opportunity to be a little uncomfortable and second guess yourself, especially when it comes to matters concerning one’s appearance. But I urge you to be confident and believe in yourself when it comes to pattern mixing. Have fun with your closet. Mix it up. Be whimsical. Try new pairings that you would’ve never dreamed of before. Find a look that makes you feel confident, empowered, and positively charged all day long. After all, isn’t that what great clothes are supposed to do?
Still unsure of where to begin with pattern mixing? Try giving one of these classic combos a try:
- Florals and stripes
- Florals and polka dots
- Stripes and plaid
- Stripes and polka dots
- Animal print and stripes
About The Author
Rebecca Lynn, fashion blogger
Rebecca is a 20-something teacher and Instagram blogger navigating life's adventures one dress at a time!