The Basics Behind Mixing Prints

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Mixing prints in your outfits may seem like a crazy idea, but you can pair patterns to create standout outfits with bold appeal. Avoid a mismatch by choosing prints with a common denominator to mix and match.

Patterns in similar hues or similar sizes generally pair well.
Patterns in similar hues or similar sizes generally pair well. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

Mix Black & White or Mix Similar Prints

Pair a black and white striped blazer with a skirt in a slightly different pattern.
Pair a black and white striped blazer with a skirt in a slightly different pattern. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

A good rule of thumb is that you can usually mix two different black and white prints. Try pairing a black and white top or jacket and bottom (such as a skirt or trouser pant), one with a thin stripe and one with a thicker stripe. By sticking to a black and white color scheme, you can play around with combining bolder prints such as large or abstract floral print, geometric pattern, polka dots, and plaid with a simpler print such as stripes or small polka dots. Break up two prints by wearing a black or white garment. You can also mix similar prints of the same size pattern with slightly different colors, such as a horizontal stripe with a vertical stripe, or a polka dot top and bottom.

Contrasting black and white stripes look playful but perfectly pulled together.
Contrasting black and white stripes look playful but perfectly pulled together. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)
A thicker stripe paired with a thinner stripe in the same palette creates a balanced look.
A thicker stripe paired with a thinner stripe in the same palette creates a balanced look. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

Mix Bold with Subtle Prints

A light blue pin-striped shirt mixes well with this floral skirt's many shades of blue.
A light blue pin-striped shirt mixes well with this floral skirt's many shades of blue. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

If you want to wear a variety of prints instead of just stripes or polka dots or just black and white, you can pair a bold print with a subtle print. A fail-proof way to style a bold print is to mix it with a simple and symmetrical pattern such as thin stripes or tiny polka dots. Stripes usually always pair well with other prints. For an exaggerated or busier print like a floral printed skirt, pick a color from the print and use it as a guide for the print you pair with it. You can also wear a bold printed top with a subtle printed pant. If you want to wear a less subtle print with the elaborate print, wear a neutral, washed-out or monochromatic print. For example, another blue, grey or black-detailed floral printed top could be mixed with this floral skirt. Also try a simple striped or polka dot dress with a bold and colorful printed scarf such as a floral, ikat, paisley or watercolor print.

Stripes and floral prints make a natural pair.
Stripes and floral prints make a natural pair. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

Mix Big and Small Prints

Mixing big and small prints works to keep the patterns in balance.
Mixing big and small prints works to keep the patterns in balance. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

Style big and small prints together to create contrast without having to wear a lavish print. For this look, the focus was more on the geometric, art deco-inspired printed skirt. An all-over speckled tank that mimics the circular pattern of the skirt in the same color palette works to complement the intricately patterned skirt. Mix a tiny polka dot print with an extremely large polka dot print, plaid with a grid print, a small flower print with a large floral print, or an intricate animal print with a bold stripe print.

The pattern of an art deco skirt sets the tone for this pairing.
The pattern of an art deco skirt sets the tone for this pairing. (Image: Amanda Nguyen)

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