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From simple stripes to fabulous florals to pretty polka dots, a good print and pattern can elevate an outfit. But if you’re looking to amp things up, it’s time to disrupt the status quo in your closet. We’re talking a little bit of power clashing to take you from basic to bold, with daring-yet-doable looks you can realistically pull off.
Whether you’re undergoing a fashion transformation or trying to break out of a style rut, mixing prints is a fun way to add some flair and individuality to your everyday ensembles. And though there are no hard and fast rules, it may take some trial and error in the beginning. “Mixing patterns is a skill and an art,” says Fausti, a fashion stylist based in New York City. “You can’t really teach it, but you can practice it.”
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Pro tip: Consider shopping for pieces before you need them. “Try to shop or at least browse regularly, and then spend one or two Saturdays a month just playing in your closet, because that’s what we do as stylists,” suggests Elsa Isaac, a fashion stylist in New York City, who’s worked with Katie Couric and Elizabeth Gilbert.
1. Start by playing it safe
“Polka dots, stripes and anything geometric is probably the safest way to start dipping your toe into pattern mixing,” Isaac says. An easy way to approach this is to pick out three different garments, two of which you would mix patterns together and one that’s a solid color to help tone it all down. For example, “I would probably do a black skirt or pant base with white, thin vertical stripes [to elongate your body]. And then, I would do a top with a white base and maybe black polka dots, and either a white blazer or a jean jacket over top,” she says. Make it even simpler by finding a blouse with a vibrant print and quieting it down with a classic, pinstriped suit in a darker hue like the one Tracee Ellis Ross, 49, is sporting.
2. Consider your body type
To make this style technique work for you, Isaac suggests looking for prints that are in scale with your body shape and size. For instance, if you’re thin and petite, larger prints can throw off the scale of your small frame; conversely, smaller prints can become a bit too busy on a taller, curvier body. It’s important to make sure the garments you’re putting together are tailored to your body — from top to bottom. “I’m what I call the ‘Jennifer Lopez shape.’ I have a booty, I have hips, but I have narrower shoulders, so I keep it really simple, tailored and dark on my bottom half, and then I play with a lot more volume and brighter colors up top,” Isaac explains.
Big Shot’s Yvette Nicole Brown, 51, has a look that illustrates the inverse color concept brilliantly. “She’s doing the dark color up top with the beautiful v-neckline … and having the smallest print be at her waist to draw the eye and cinch her waist in, with the maxi-length skirt [in a lighter color],” Isaac says.