10 Ways to Mix Prints with Beauty, Style & Grace

January 20, 2016

Mixing prints in an outfit is all the rage these days and one of the hottest trends. Of course, it used to be that if you wore two different prints in the same outfit people assumed you got dressed in the dark or everything else you had to wear was in the laundry. Now, instead, it is de rigueur.

But, if you get it wrong, you still look like you got dressed in the dark!

Short of ignoring the trend completely (which is certainly an option), how do you know what prints can be mixed well and which combinations to avoid at all costs?

Getting help with this can be tricky. If you look at the runway or even at the online or in-store combinations and you would think that every print can be matched with any other print. Often there does not appear to be any rhyme or reason to the combinations they have created and I have to believe that many times this is true. Just throw them together and you’re in style seems to be what they are saying. Then if you check out online articles about how to mix prints, it can be at once enlightening and mind bogglingly frightening.

Mixing prints well is not necessarily easy, but if the concept intrigues you it can be so satisfying to find a combination that shines.

To help make the experience more manageable and fun here are 10 basic tips for mixing prints.

1. Keep Colors Consistent

You can go pretty wild (or keep it as understated as you want) if you repeat the colors in two totally different prints. Here is an example from the runway with the neutral taupe and white repeated which works particularly since the prints each have a roundness to them so they relate on that level as well.

And, here is an example that I put together repeating plum, beige and teal. It basically reverses the colors – off white background in the top with small amounts of the other colors vs. darker background in the skirt with lots of plum and less of the teal and off white.

The fact that the skirt has a teal waistband helps separate the prints and give the outfit more balance.

You will see many more ideas of mixed prints available at the stores with examples of repeating colors HERE. There are a lot of examples so be sure to give it a minute to load all the pictures.

2. Pay Attention to Scale

Scale is important but super tricky to apply a hard and fast rule. Some women (and this can have to do with their coloring as well as their personality) can handle combining two large geometric brightly colored prints and rock it. While others would be completely overwhelmed and need softer colors, lower contrast or smaller scale of the prints.

It can be very lovely to combine a larger print with a smaller scale one like this:

Using those two guidelines above, my next suggestion is to start simple!

Start Simple

Mixing prints does not have to be overwhelmingly difficult and complicated. There are a few basic rules that will have you mixing like a pro. Here a few to get you started:

3. Treat Stripes as a Neutral

If you are experimenting with mixing prints for the first time a great way to do that is to begin with a striped garment. Of course, keep in mind the tip above on repeating colors in each print. And, it is important to know that stripes do not work for everyone sometimes because of body lines (curvy bodies with straight stripes can conflict) and sometimes because of personality – not everyone is stripe kind of gal at heart!

But, for those of you who love them, it can be a great ‘neutral’ print.

See many more including a large selection of black and white combinations HERE (entitled: ‘Black & White Stripes Winning Combinations’)


4. Add a Little at a Time

If you do not feel totally confident combining a top and bottom in a different print or worry it will be overwhelming why not add a printed scarf to a print top or bottom. This can be an easy and less overpowering way to experiment.

Here is an idea starting with a striped dress:

Add a scarf in the same combination of colors but a different print – triangles and stripes play well together:

Or pick up the same colors and add a third color:

See many more scarf ideas for this dress HERE entitled: ‘Start with Stripes’ and more scarf ideas under the ‘Black & White Stripes Winning Combinations’

5. Replace a Print with Texture

Afraid to take the plunge into all out print mixing? Why not combine texture with a print instead. It is more subtle, but still has the energy and vibrancy of an unexpected mixture.

See more HERE entitled: ‘‘Mixed Prints Texture, Size & Pattern’

6. Repeat an Element of the Print

In this skirt you will see aqua colored leaves repeated in the cardigan.

See another example HERE using the same skirt (entitled: ‘Repeat a Pattern 1-3’) and see another example below with a paisley print.

7. Leave Space Between the Prints

Separate the prints with solid colors. There are several ways to do this.

  • Add a belt to break up the connection of the two prints.
  • Wear a solid colored cardigan or shirt over the print top so you only see a small amount of the print around the neck and perhaps the cuffs.
  • Choose a garment that has some solid color combined with a print. Perhaps a skirt with a print at the hemline or a solid colored blouse that has a print only on the collar or cuffs.
  • Pair print shoes with a complimentary print skirt so the prints are separated by your legs.

You can see examples of these throughout all the examples HERE.

8. Reverse the Print

Another option is to keep the same print but reverse it. Here is an example using a window pane print:

See many more examples HERE(entitled ‘Reverse Prints’).

9. Is Animal Print Neutral?

Some stylists will tell you that animal print is neutral. Nice try, but not so fast. I suppose at times it can be, but you cannot throw any animal print with any other print and expect it to work. You still have to pay attention to all of the guidelines I’ve mentioned above.

Here is an example using shoes as a great way to add a hint of animal print and a nod to the trend of mixing prints—all in complimentary colors:

You can see another example with several animal print options here including a warmer toned animal print combination HERE.

10. What Does Your Personality Say About Mixing Prints?

You always have to keep your personality (your inner beauty) in mind whenever you get dressed and this is never more important than when mixing prints. Prints, in general, take focus away from you and they can easily be overwhelming. When you combine prints the energy is very busy and has much more movement. Someone who is dynamic, quirky or passionate, for instance, has the personality to balance that energy. This is not to say that someone who is refreshingly graceful or softly elegant cannot mix prints. They will just have to be very careful to keep it obviously refreshingly graceful and softly elegant.

Here is an example or pairing stripes with paisley (with many more combinations HERE):

Or repeat the print (in this case, paisley) with similar colors:

This might mean mixing a pattern with a print as opposed to two full prints. Or, being sure to separate the prints with softer solid color as in the examples above. See many examples of both of these HERE (entitled: ‘soft print combinations’)

No matter who you are, the important thing is to be true to your personality while still being open to new, fun ideas. If it intrigues you, I encourage you to explore this trend and make it your own.

Here is an example from the runway of mixed prints that combine several concepts we discussed above:

  • Repeating colors
  • Different scale
  • Incorporating stripes

You will find many, many more examples of everything we’ve talked about HERE including an entire collection of black and white print combinations including tops, jackets, pants, skirts, scarves and shoes AND a section on prints that DO NOT work and explanations of why they don’t.

This was a very involved process to bring you this information. There are so many examples you will have to scroll through all of them in the catalogue so give them a chance to load and then enjoy and get inspired!

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A Note About the Clothes: All of the garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals). Please note that I am passionate about ending animal suffering and choosing cruelty-free clothing is just one aspect of a vegan lifestyle. If you have any questions about being vegan please let me know. I am happy to help and will answer any questions with kindness and compassion.

Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Total Image Consultants which helps support the time spent creating these very specific recommendations.

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