Let’s be honest, wearing black pants and a printed top isn’t exactly the pinnacle of style. It doesn’t look bad necessarily but it doesn’t require much creativity or inspiration to pull off a look like this. Yet this look is so easy, making it easy to understand why it’s the first thing most women reach for when getting dressed.

I don’t think the key is to entirely give up this look from your wardrobe if you are looking to up your style game. It does, after all, get the job done. And on days when you just can’t do more than put an outfit like this together, it can be a godsend. Instead, the goal should be to not make these types of outfits appear purposeful and not like you are just another acceptably dressed nobody in a vast sea of everyone else wearing the same thing.


The first and most important thing to consider the next time you wear an outfit like this is to consider the fit of both pieces individually and then the pieces together. A woman wearing a well-fitting printed top with a pair of well-tailored pants that fit well is not the same as the woman wearing an ill-fitting printed schmatta with frumpy black pants and, sadly, more often than not, I see more of the latter than the former. If there is anything that kills this type of outfit, it’s this. I get it, dressing is hard, particularly when you have a treasure trove of lumps and bumps to camouflage. It’s hard to find well-fitting clothing and budget may be a key factor, but if this is the case for you, perhaps it’s time to really consider if this black pants and printed top uniform you’ve been so ardently championing for is really working. Sure, it may be easy, but at what cost? In addition to looking at how the pieces fit you individually, consider if the top and pants work together proportionately as a whole. You can’t just throw on any old black pants with any old printed top and call it a day.

Next, you have to ask yourself what you are doing with your outfit once you’ve dressed in this look. The next biggest outfit killer is what women wear with this type of outfit. More often than not, I see boring shoes, typically black, and if there are accessories, they’re just sort of there, not really enhancing anything which makes the outfit look half-baked. None of it is bad, necessarily, but these outfits are predictable, boring, safe, and not exactly breaking any new barriers. I’m not implying that every outfit you wear has to be camera-ready but it takes such a small amount of effort to make these black pants and printed tops outfits look finished. With just a few small tweaks you can easily amp up these outfits.

I am going to show you that you can take your predictable black pants and printed top outfits and make them stand out with just a few styling tweaks. This is all providing that you took my first bit of advice and selected tops and pants that fit you well and proportionately work well together.

Outfit #1

Remember Road Map Styling? It’s the use of color combinations found in prints, patterns, and accessories to combine color combinations in your looks. Just like a road map can tell you how to get where you are going, these prints and patterns can act as guides on how to wear combinations you might not have considered on your own. Use your prints to work with color when accessorizing these outfits.

Imagine how blah this outfit would look if it was styled with black sandals and no jewelry. It’s the final touches by picking up colors in the print that makes the outfit look finished. I styled this printed top from Mango with black ankle-length pants from Vince. I finished the look with taupe heeled slides from Seychelles and agate drop earrings.

Outfit #2

Another styling formula you can use when putting printed tops and black pants outfits together is complementary styling which means to pair colors in an outfit from opposite sides of the color wheel. The print in this top from Vince Camuto is green and white and when white or ivory is one of the shades in a two-colored print it can be treated like a solid. Treating it like a solid, I added these pink slingbacks from M.M. Lafleur to the look. To make the outfit work proportionately, the top would be tucked into these pleated pants from COS and to pick up the green in this print I added these beaded fringe earrings from Open Edit.

Outfit #3

A blousier printed top like this one from Boden worn untucked will look better with narrower black pants. I styled the top with cropped cigarette pants from Club Monaco and finished the look using colors of the print using pink flat sandals from Linea Paolo and the same green beaded earrings from Open Edit.

Outfit #4

One thing I like to do when using Road Map Styling is to pull out the color least represented in a print and use that to accessorize. Using the soft blue in this printed top from A.L.C, I accessorized the top and black straight-leg pants from Theory with these soft blue slingbacks from Calvin Klein. Lastly, I added these rose gold tassel drop earrings.

Outfit #5

In this last look, I used mint to enhance this basic printed top from Banana Republic and cropped wide-leg black pants outfit using these sandals from Tory Burch and labradorite stud earrings.

Make Your Black Pants a Supportive Player, Not the Star

When styling your printed tops and black pants outfits, think about your black pants being more of a supportive player that acts as the foundation for all the other pieces to shine. There is nothing wrong with black pants and they can be incredibly useful to have, but an outfit shouldn’t always be about them unless that is your intention when styling them. Putting a cohesive outfit together should bring all the components together harmoniously.