The Dos and Don’ts of Pattern Mixing

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pattern mixing, how to mix prints, navy on navy

I feel like it’s been forever since I shared a good ol’ fashioned ‘style tips and tricks’ blog post, so I figured this bold outfit was the perfect opportunity to dish on what I’ve learned about pattern mixing over the years. I never used to mix prints before I started blogging, but through a lot of trial and error, it’s now one of my favorite ways to spice up any outfit! Why is pattern mixing worth the trouble? After you get over the initial “I have no idea if this looks good” hump, print mixing can do wonders for your closet by dramatically increasing the versatility (and cost per wear) of your garments. Suddenly, you can make so many more outfit combos from the pieces you already own! So here are some of the print mixing tricks I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve learned to avoid.

navy on navy, navy polka dot shorts, striped tee, flamingo tee

DO start small. If you’re new to pattern mixing, I recommend choosing your favorite patterned top and picking a printed accessory—like a purse, pair of shoes, or pair of sunglasses—to wear with it. Patterned accessories are subtle enough that you can test whether you think the print combo works, without feeling crazily dressed. (Check out the sunglasses-skirt combo in this outfit or my purse-dress combo in my Mindy Lahiri inspired outfit.)

DON’T mix more than two patterns. While it can be done stylishly, pairing several patterns together is an “advanced maneuver” and can quickly make your outfit look too busy. When just starting out, stick to combining two main patterns in order to keep your look stylish instead of over-the-top. (Note: My sunglasses in this outfit are also patterned, BUT they’re stripes, just like my tee. So I still followed the two-pattern rule, even though three pieces are printed.)

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DO choose patterns in the same color palette. This is always my number one tip for pattern mixing because choosing similarly colored prints removes the question of whether or not the colors go together. Of course, you can still successfully mix prints that aren’t in the same color scheme, but choosing ones that match is almost a guarantee the pieces will create a stylish look. (Navy stripes and navy polka dots! Voila, almost looks like a romper.)

DON’T over-accessorize. To have a printed piece of clothing and a printed accessory is one thing (as recommended in the first tip). But usually when I have several printed garments in an outfit, I try to keep my jewelry and other accessorizes to a minimum. Pattern mixing is all about balance, and too many accessories can tip the scales to the ‘over-the-top’ side. Today’s tee and shorts combo, for instance, is already very loud, so I didn’t wear any jewelry with this look.

stripes and polka dots, navy outfit, summer outfit, summer clothessummer outfit, flamingo tee, pattern mixing, stripes and polka dots

DO add neutral pieces to ‘dilute’ the patterns. Layering a denim jacket over a heavily printed outfit is one of my go-to tricks to distract, or otherwise tone down, the boldness of a pattern-heavy outfit. (Wouldn’t a white denim jacket be super cute with this look?!) Other neutralizing pieces could include a solid-colored cardigan, a military jacket, or other neutral-toned layers.

DON’T choose patterns of the same size or scale. An easy way for pattern mixing to go awry is by picking two really big patterns to pair together or two really small patterns. The most successful print mixing is done by juxtaposing a small-scale pattern with a big-scale pattern.

Now you may be thinking, “But Grace! The stripes and polka dots in your outfit are pretty much the same size.” This is true! And to be honest, I wasn’t sure this outfit would work because of that factor. But there’s one final thing to consider when print mixing… and that’s the color balance. Yes, we already touched on color schemes, but it’s also important to determine the balance of colors. If you squint at my outfit, the top half seems more white and the bottom half seems more navy. In other words, the tee is white with navy stripes whereas the shorts are navy with white polka dots. Because of this difference, the pieces pair well together. But if the top and bottom half were both navy-focused, in addition to having the same scale of pattern, then the outfit would not have worked. Make sense?

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While pattern mixing isn’t an exact science, I did my best to break down the variables that determine a print mixing success versus a print mixing disaster. Complicated and important stuff, I know. So whether you’re a newbie or a pattern mixing pro, I hope you found these Dos and Don’ts helpful, and be sure to check out the posts below for more print mixing inspiration.

Pastels, Petals, and Pattern Mixing

Baby Steps for Pattern Mixing

Easy Pattern Mixing

Have a wonderful Thursday and weekend! Thank you always for all of your support.

 

Miles of smiles,

Grace

 

Flamingo Striped Tee: JCrew, $25 // Navy Polka Dot Shorts: LC by Lauren Conrad via Kohl’s, $36 // Sparkly Espadrilles: White Mountain via DSW, $40 // Striped Sunglasses: Charming Charlie, $10 // Pink Purse: Gift

16 comments on “The Dos and Don’ts of Pattern Mixing”

  1. These are great tips (and that is a very cute tee!) I really like the touches of pink with the black and white! I need to try mix things up a little and try print mixing more often!

    Hope you are having a lovely week 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Mica! It’s hard to tell in these photos, but the tee and shorts are both navy! I love the pink too. 🙂

  2. I would probably never get the pattern mixing right 😂😂😂 Thanks for sharing such fantastic tips, Grace and I hope all is well with you and your family. The restrictions are beginning to loosen but non essential travel is still forbidden. Can’t wait for things to go back to normal. We have to wait another month until the clothing shops start to open in Ireland. 😊😊😊

    1. Thanks so much, Ava! I hope all is well with you and your family, too. I definitely can’t wait for things to be normal either!

      1. We are doing well. Same here, still waiting for the restrictions to be lifted. At least the sun is shining and that makes all the difference 😉 have a good weekend 😊 Aiva

    1. Thank you Mireille! Ooh yes, I love florals and stripes too. Seems very Parisian chic. 🙂

  3. I adore this Grace. I think another reason this works so well even though the prints are about the same size is it’s not an exact science. That and that wonderful flamingo on the top!!
    OXOX
    Jodie

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