It’s funny that I chose today to blog about how to mix prints and patterns in an outfit considering this is the coat and scarf I wore.

Mix Prints and Patterns in an Outfit

When done right, mixing prints in patterns can look chic and stylish, however, when done wrong it can look like you got dressed in the dark.  In order to avoid looking like you don’t have a mirror in your house, here are some quick tips on how to do it.

Tip #1- Mix rounder prints with geometric patterns

mixing prints and patterns in one outfit

This first, and very easy, way to mix prints and patterns is to combine rounder prints with geometric patterns.  Often, unless you have mad skills and an eye for putting prints together, wearing two prints that are too similar in movement fight each other and don’t harmonize.

As you can see here, the geometric striped dress from Modcloth works with the more organic scarf print from Nordstrom.  What is also helping the print and pattern work together is that the same teal blue shade shows up in both the scarf and the dress, and, to make the look complete, the yellow is pulled from the scarf and used in the sandals from Franco Sarto.  With all this color, print and pattern going on, I finished the outfit simply using a navy bag from MICHAEL Michael Kors and a pair of earrings from Max & Chloe that have both colors in the dress in them.

Tip #2- Scale variation

mix prints and patterns in one outfit

Another way to combine prints and patterns in an outfit is to play with scale variation.  When you choose several prints that are too close in size they often clash.  However, when one print or pattern is significantly larger than the other they can work.  A good rule of thumb is that one print be at least 3 times larger than the other.

In this look, the printed tank from Lord & Taylor works with the ditzy printed pants from Mango because of the scale variation.  To keep the rest of the outfit understated, I used a pair of black platform sandals from Tsubo, handbag from Nine West, stacked black bracelets from Bauble Bar and earrings from Nordstrom.

Tip #3- Treat pinstripes like solids

mix prints and patterns in one outfit

If you have classic pinstripe pieces in your closet and are only wearing them with solid tops then you are missing out on some elegant looks.  You can treat the subtle striped pieces like solid basics and combine any prints you want with them.  This outfit reminds me of a time when I wore a pair of grey pinstripe pants with a purple tattersall button down shirt.  It was really sharp.

In this outfit, I paired this printed top from Boden with a classic grey pinstripe skirt from J. Crew.  Over it, I added a white blazer from Lord & Taylor, a pair of beige pumps from Vince Camuto, a grey and white bag from Guess and clover drop earrings from Max & Chloe.

Outfit #4- Striped t-shirts and prints

mix prints and patterns in one outfit

I will be the first to admit that this outfit may be the toughest pill for most to swallow, but it can be done.  A basic breton t-shirt can also be treated like a solid and combined with prints.  If you don’t like stripes, you can often combine two color polka dot patterns with prints too, just not the print in the pants above.

To keep the striped top from Boden and printed relaxed pants from J. Crew from not looking too much like pajamas I added some accessories, including these navy wedge sandals, an orange scarf from Echo, navy stud earrings and a white handbag from Sanctuary.

Tip #5- Mix plaid with prints

mix prints and patterns in one outfit

Because of the geometric nature of plaid it too can be combine with prints.  Plaid looks particularly good when combined with rounder prints, but you can try wearing your plaid with more geometric patterns to see if it works.

In this outfit, the plaid shirt from Madewell is accented with a printed scarf from Nordstrom.  These pieces create a great casual look when paired with jeans from J. Crew, a pair of red flats from Modcloth, a grey handbag from Frye and a gunmetal chain bracelet from Max & Chloe.

Often, mixing prints and patterns in an outfit is all just trial and error.  Don’t be afraid to test something out.  If it looks horrible, take it off.  As a stylist, I have tried many things with clients that have failed miserably.  But you won’t know unless you try it.  However, with these easy pattern mixing tips, you should be off to a great start.