Anyone who happens to glance up from their cellphone and take a look at fellow travelers on the subway or shoppers at the mall will notice that most people tend to steer well clear of busy patterns and prints when deciding what to wear. The majority will opt for a much simpler style. The inclination to avoid drawing attention to themselves is stopping people from experimenting with pattern and print, and, let’s face it, it is so easy to get it wrong; but having the confidence to include some well-placed patterned pieces in one’s closet can demonstrate a lively personality and create a unique and original look.
What makes pattern and print work for some and not for others? Well, following a few simple rules can make a world of difference.
Supplementing a wardrobe with a palette of bold colors, patterns and prints sounds straightforward, but if not well planned, the new look could easily become overpowering or even gaudy. There is a fine line between an outfit that causes an interested stir and one that crashes loudly into the party and will not be silenced at any cost. It is all too easy to make the mistake of combining two very bold patterns or prints with clashing color schemes. No one actually wants to look as though they threw something on during a power failure. Thus even the most relaxed look requires careful planning to make it work.
The key to making patterns complement each other is to stick to the same color schemes in both patterns or pick out one color that is common to both. The effect is very subtle but still shows off a sense of adventure in the wearer. That said, a pattern of basic black and white stripes will go with just about anything, even gray, navy blue and brown. Moreover, although there may or may not be any science behind it, certain patterns and prints just balance each other. Those who are looking to show off their more frivolous side might try combining floral patterns or leopard print with either stripes or polka dots – it just works.
Anyone creating a look, which incorporates patterns and prints, must be sure to achieve balance by varying the scale of the patterns that are combined. Marrying a medium to large scale with a small-scale pattern will work, as will a dense print combined with a much sparser pattern. Putting together two or more small prints can have the effect of making the ensemble look incredibly busy. However, two prints of a similar scale can work if cleverly broken up by way of a solid color such as a wide belt, plain waistband or jacket. It is always worth remembering to be clever with accessories; they can be used to separate prints. It is vital, though, to keep accessories in check so that they don’t draw the attention away from the ensemble.
Most people of a certain age have attended enough weddings and formal occasions to have learnt from experience that it can be a mistake to match too well. Anyone sporting matching prints on the head and the feet looks as though they are trying a little too hard to adhere to the fashion rules. It shows little adventure and is painfully predictable. Moreover, those who swathe themselves in the same pattern from head to foot are ill-advised unless they are aiming to resemble a cheap caricature. Nevertheless, repeating the same pattern in a different color can work extremely well and result in a fresh and exciting look.
Certain prints have a neutral effect, despite being patterned, so that they can be treated as solids when combining pieces. Classic and understated tweed pants fool the eye so that the fine pattern looks like a solid color – hence it blends well with pretty much any printed pieces. Equally, a fine hound’s tooth skirt sandwiched between brightly patterned tights or socks and a floral shirt can be a triumph. Indeed, the same goes for fine polka dots or thin stripes, so there is much more to choose from when breaking up patterned pieces.
Bigger prints may be worn on parts of the body that might require volume; so slim hips may be accentuated with bigger patterns. In fact, mixing patterns can serve the purpose of empowering the wearer, while at the same time adding or indeed reducing width. Wearing printed fabrics can actually do a great job at shaping the body – and who doesn’t have days when they need that?