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How to Mix Patterns Stylishly

Models wearing multiple prints in the same color scheme
FashionStock/Shutterstock

You’ve seen it on the street and in fashion magazines: an outfit that somehow seamlessly blends multiple patterns into one chic, intentional look. But how can you pull it off at home?

Many people shy away from mixing patterns for fear of looking gauche. However, if you want to wear patterns and still look stylish, some tricks can help you nail the look every time.

To inject yourself with confidence while wearing multiple patterns, try these easy ideas—you’ll be feeling like a street-style star in no time!

Start Slow with Colorblocking

Colorblocked items don’t feel quite as bold as a full-on pattern, so they can help you get used to the idea of mixing and matching. Pair color-blocked clothes with patterns that pick up one of the colors, or offer an interesting contrast (like a delicate floral).

Try the Same Print in Different Colors

If you still feel shy about mixing patterns, it might be easy to start with two pieces that use the same print, but in contrasting colors. You can mix anything from plaids to polka dots with this simple trick.

Pick up Printed Accessories

Another great way to get used to the idea of multiple prints is to start with your accessories. This keeps the look subtle since accessories are the smallest pieces of your outfit. Try patterned bags, shoes, scarves, and even jewelry.

Stick with Simple Silhouettes

Pattern-mixing feels easy when the overall shape of the clothes is simple. Start with clean, classic items like skinny jeans, button downs, and dresses—you might find them simpler to mix and match.

Maintain a Consistent Color Scheme

One of the easiest ways to mix patterns stylishly is to keep the colors to a monochrome palette.

Wearing two or more patterns at once looks intentional instead of random if you’ve synced the colors. The colors of the printed items don’t have to match perfectly but opt for the same shade range (such as all blue-based prints, or all grayscale).

Break up Patterns with Solids

Patterns look more approachable when they’re not right next to each other. Try breaking up the patterns with solid pieces. For example, you could wear patterned boots with a top in a different print, and solid-colored pants in between.

Treat Some Patterns as Neutrals

Some patterns, like a classic-colored leopard print or a tiny black-and-white polka dot, actually function well as neutrals thanks to their subtle color schemes. Try pairing these prints with any other patterns, as if they were neutrals.

Pair Florals with Care

It’s easy for an outfit to look confusingly busy when it has more than one floral print. However, you can easily pair florals by mixing prints that have at least one coordinating color. For example, you could pair a blue floral top with a floral coat that has some blue in the mix.

Contrast Proportions

A small, delicate print often looks lovely against a loud, bold one. The mix of proportions makes it easy to pair even two very different patterns, like checkers and florals. This also works well with two of the same patterns: try an item with broad stripes paired with something that has thin, delicate stripes, for example.

Wear Spots with Stripes

Woman standing near the ocean wearing mixed prints
Color Photo/Shutterstock

A classic mixed-print look is pairing polka dots with stripes. These bold, graphic patterns offer the ultimate contrast, yet still feel approachable because they’re both simple. Play with colors and proportions: try either matching or contrasting the shades, or the sizes, of the prints.

Keep It Earthy

Earth-toned patterns often play well together, even if the colors don’t really match. For example, try pairing leopard with camo: the browns and blacks of the leopard pair perfectly with camo’s olive green.

Create a Focal Point

If you want one item to stand out, make it the one with the biggest and boldest pattern. Mix it with smaller, subtler prints, so your favorite piece stays the center of attention.

Combine Similar Prints

Without worrying about matching the colors or sizes, try combining similar prints across your outfit. For example, you could wear multiple paisley items at once. Even though the colors might not match, the similarities between the prints will help pull the look together.

Be Fearless and Have Fun

These tips will help you approach the idea of mixing prints if it’s new to you. But these are just ideas for inspiration: there aren’t any actual rules to pattern-matching. If you feel good in an outfit and wear it with confidence, people will admire your look, no matter how daring it is.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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