Style

How to wear mismatching prints

You not only can, but you should! With the grey days, sunset at 6:30 p.m. and the realization that winter is coming, your wardrobe has probably already taken a turn to the dark side.

Anna Sui 2011, Frazer Harrison/Image.net

Rebecca Taylor Spring 2012, Frazer Harrison/Image.net

Nicole Miller Spring 2012, Neilson Barnard/Image.net

Palermo Michael Buckner/Image.net

Q: Can I wear mismatching prints?

A: You not only can, but you should! With the grey days, sunset at 6:30 p.m. and the realization that winter is, sigh, coming, your wardrobe has probably already taken a turn to the dark side. It could use a big pick-me-up, and mismatched prints will do the trick. Designers were all about them too so there’s lots of runway inspiration to reference.

The wonder boys of Proenza Schouler took a tech-savvy approach, pairing stripes with digital-looking graphics. Thakoon showed plaid and paisley together. Preen played with geometrics, and Missoni partnered python with an update of their iconic zigzag weave.

Keep a few pointers in mind, and you can be a mix master as well.

The most successful pairings let one print hog take slightly more of an outfit’s spotlight. One print must be the leading star, while the other fulfills a supporting role. Think substantial stripes with a delicate floral, or dainty dots with an animal print. A variation in the scale between the two prints creates symbiosis. Two large prints are too much visual competition, while two small prints lack impact and will appear too busy. Balance is the key.

Dissimilar prints work best if you stick to a similar palette. When there’s a lot going on print-wise, you don’t need to introduce another element by trying to make brights and pastels work together. The prints don’t need to match exactly, but staying in the same family of colours will yield the most stylish results – even having one hue that runs throughout both prints can be a uniting factor. Or go the monochromatic route and add a pop of colour. Try a black and white striped top with a grey floral skirt and a red scarf – total prints charming chic.

Prints trick the eye more so than solid pieces, so proper fit is essential and clean lines are your best bet. Baggy, saggy printed garments can appear less boho and more hobo or worse; make you look larger than you are.

Be wary of ruffles, tiers and other volume-enhancing details. If you’re petite or have an athletic frame, try a printed pair of slim pants with a blousy patterned top or knit. If you’ve got curves, try a graphically adorned fitted top or jacket and a printed A-line skirt – knee-length is a guaranteed hit, or sashay around in the hot-for-fall midi length.

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