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#PatternPlay: How to Mix Prints and Patterns

You all know how much I love to mix prints and patterns. But my ability to mix prints wasn’t born overnight. While I have never been a muted dresser, I got a lot bolder in my pattern plays when I started doing the 30 X 30 wardrobe challenges and dressing out of one suitcase during my summers abroad. Thanks to a more limited wardrobe, I began trying to combine my clothes in new and exciting ways (some of my favorite combos here, here, and here). When the pattern mixing trend really took off, I completely embraced it!

So I thought I would share some of my rules for mixing prints and patterns. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but I hope it inspires you to be a little more daring when you walk into your closet each morning. No lie, after I sat down and attempted to write up my “rules” for how I go about mixing prints, I immediately ran to my closet to test my theories.

I wanted to pull older, well-worn pieces that I wasn’t that excited about anymore and transform them with the guidelines I had written. I kid you not, I was so excited about the outfits I created that evening (and pictured here), I had trouble falling asleep later that night (yes, I am that ridiculous!). But I wanted to prove to you all (and myself) that thanks to some creative pattern play you can transform older, less exciting items in your closet!

Color Mixing:
Colors can be combined in many different ways. Stop thinking about matching colors and instead select colors that “go.” Colors “go” or coordinate in four main ways (all based on the color wheel):

  • Monochromatic Matching (or wearing colors of the same hue). Pairing varying shades of the same hue – purple, lavender, lilac, violet – looks great together without being overly matchy-matchy.
  • Complimentary Colors (colors on the opposite end of the color wheel). Complimentary colors like blue and orange add great contrast and interest to outfits. They complement each other by being opposites.
  • Color Triads (three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel). You can also select three colors that are equal distance from one another on the color wheel. Shades of green, orange, and purple look great together, especially as pops of colors.
  • Analogous Colors (three colors located next to each other on the color wheel). You can also select one main color and accent it with two adjacent colors on the color wheel.

My Print Mixing “Rules:”

Of course, rules are made to be broken!

  • Rule #1 – Treat monochromatic patterns as solid colors.
  • Rule #2 – When combining two multi-color patterns, make sure you have one unifying color. You should coordinate colors, not prints.
  • Rule #3 – Leopard is a neutral (so is white, navy, grey, black, and beige).
  • Rule #4 – Try to vary the sizes and scales of your prints.
  • Rule #5 – More is more, why stop at two patterns when you can combine three?
  • Rule #6 – Break the rules and try on lots of combinations, sometimes things just work together!

Finally, I created a pin-able chart as a pattern play reference guide:

I hope that this inspires you to go bold and mix the pieces of your wardrobe in new and exciting ways. And if you need more inspiration, my favorite Pinterest board is my pattern play board!
Happy Monday!