There is a certain art form to piled-on prints. At first glance they may seem to be in discordance with one another, but—spoiler alert!—mixing prints is not the fashion faux pas you may think it is: when the proportions and palettes have just the right tension, power clashing is an exciting way to disrupt whatever fashion rut you may have found yourself in.
When it comes to pattern mixing, fortune favors the bold, but there’s still plenty of room for the rookies to play around too. And if the thought of combining incongruous patterns stresses you out, we’re here to prove that pulling off the look is totally doable. Read on for five simple rules with which to master pattern mixing, plus five looks to curate now.
Coordinate colors, not prints
Feeling a little tentative about donning clashing patterns or nervous you won’t be able to pull it off? Well, here's a nifty memo to keep in mind that’ll make the process all but seamless: keep your color scheme simple and allow one or two hues to lead the way. A safe starting-off point for pattern clashing novices, pairing together boldly different prints in corresponding hues will allow you to achieve a chic visual balance and give your look a polished edge. Take Lisa Folawiyo’s matching Cropped Jacket and Wide-Leg Pants and the Coast Coat by NKWO for example: a sensational pairing that unites baroque prints with intricate, Ankara-woven patterns, their similar shades of blue and white keep things harmonious, and while certainly busy, the consistent color palette ensures the ensemble won’t overwhelm.
Don’t Shy Away from Combining Two Categories of Print
When it comes to doubling up on the prints, we understand the inclination to play it safe. After all, as mesmerizing as the look can be when it’s done right, it’s easy to look like a bit of a clown if you don’t know what you’re doing. But don’t let that stop you from playing around with unlikely pattern pairings and having a little fun. Your instinct may be to stick to prints that are within the same family (ie. mixing gingham with gingham or combining different floral-printed garments) but we’re here to encourage you to think outside the box. Ever consider pairing tie-dye with a dramatic black-and-white harlequin design? A surprisingly sophisticated combo, the checkering of Studio 189’s Crossroads Mermaid Skirt and custom tie-dye prints of Kahindo’s red Bomber are both striking and distinct, and together, the elegance of the former and casual ease of the latter creates a look that is both bold and tempered.
Turn to Printed Accessories
Pattern clashing doesn’t have to mean buying a ton of clothes in different prints just to achieve the trend. Choice accessories including shoes, scarves, hats, socks, belts, and even jewelry can also help to embolden some of your more plain existing outfits, and wearing them is another great way of playing with print if you’re new to the game of mix-and-match. Look to ornately beaded earrings or necklaces, shoes crafted from patterned fabrics, and bags emblazoned with striking motifs to liven things up, and allow a jumpsuit or dress in a solid color like the 3-in-1 Shirtdress by IAMISIGO to serve as the base of your look. Next, you’ll want to pepper it with a selection of heavily patterned outfit add-ons, and in this case, the intricate embroidery of New Tangier’s Salma Clutch and the Aso Oke stripes of Shekudo’s Falana OTK Boot make for the perfect finishing touches.
Break Things Up with a Solid Separate
If you’re combining various prints in one look, you’ll want to do your best to avoid looking like you just tumbled out of the laundry basket. One sure-fire way to achieve this? By breaking up the busyness of your print-on-print-on-print ensemble with a single piece in a solid color, which will calm things down and ground your look in a spirit of practicality. We suggest throwing an artfully tailored jacket or coat over a subtle pairing of black and white stripes—which, when it comes to patterns and fashion, should really be considered the ultimate neutral—with a geometric print: with its lustrous burgundy hue and understated silhouette, Emmy Kasbit’s polished cotton jacquard Adejare Jacket is a striking and luxurious option.
Consider Ready Made Pattern Clashing Pieces
Okay, this might be cheating, but one of the easiest ways to confidently and stylishly layer prints is to invest in a piece that already unites them for you. Such garments will take the stress out of building your own power-clashing look as an expert designer has already taken care of that on your behalf. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can always layer these multi-patterned garments with other printed pieces. Otherwise, these pieces are sure to look über-stylish with just a few simple, neutral separates. The Mandarin Shirt Dress by Studio 189 offers an elegant blending of hand-batiked, mixed dotted prints in varying hues of green and white, while Lisa Folawiyo’s Batkara Layered Coat is the epitome of maximalism with its green and blue floral Ankara textiles, batik-printed waxed cotton, and digital blue baroque print.
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