how to mix patterns and prints in your outfits


You might remember this little number. Here's how that day went: I wore two patterns, didn't think anything of it, walked all around the city, and everyone had something to say.
“I thought you couldn't wear two patterns?!”
“I love your outfit—the way you mixed the two. Where's your shirt from?”
“How did you think of wearing those two together?”
“I could never wear two patterns?”

Quite frankly, I was shocked by the responses I got from friends and strangers. I mean, I thought everyone knew they could wear two patterns if they wanted.

So I crafted this post for you, who didn't know you could mix prints and patterns or you who just doesn't know where to start.

Because you deserve to to dress from a place of joy, to have some fun, and create something new in your wardrobe without spending a penny.

7 ways to mix prints and patterns in your outfits

My favourite way to mix patterns is perhaps the most bold of ways: with patterned trousers and tops. But you don't have to start that big.

As you read these strategies, think of your pattern and printed tops, bottoms, and dresses, but also think of layering and accessories pieces like your cardigans, scarves, belts, and printed shoes.

Let's dive in!


Big pattern + small pattern

Let's start simple: big pattern + small pattern. We’re talking about physical size of the pattern or print. Think thin stripe with thick stripe, or small dots with big flowers or checks.

So, search for your biggest pattern in size, and your most little and delicate one (maybe it’s a little polka dot scarf) and see how they look together.


Open pattern + even pattern

Sometimes you look at a top, and it’s clearly a white top with black stripes or a blue top with pink flowers—the pattern is open.

I call it an open pattern because there’s lots of openness and breathing room between the graphics of the print or pattern.

Other times, like in my top here, you can’t tell if it’s a yellow top with white checks or a white top with yellow checks, because the pattern is even. An even pattern is made up of two colours where both colours are the same size. Like in my checker shirt, or striped pieces where the stripes are the same size. In an even pattern both colours are competing equally for our eye’s attention.

Open and even patterns will pair together because the even pattern will become the focal point of an outfit.


Low contrast pattern + high contrast pattern

Black + white: high contrast; dark grey + light grey: low contrast.

A subtle (or low contrast) pattern is one where the colours that make up the pattern or print are very close to each other on the colour wheel. These subtle patterns work as solids 2.0.—you can style them like a solid, but with a little extra punch of excitement. (Here's an example.)

For that reason, subtle patterns are a perfect accompaniment to high contrast patterns (anything where the pattern/print stands out more dramatically against the background, like this.)

Floral pattern by  Freepik

Floral pattern by Freepik

Pair two patterns with a shared colour

This is one of my favourite little hacks! If two pieces share a colour, they can come together to create a cohesive yet exciting look.

Pineapple pattern by  Freepik

Pineapple pattern by Freepik

Keep in mind this rule: black + white stripe pairs with everything!

If you’re new to pattern-mixing or patterns all together, a black and white stripe will pair with any and everything! Think of this as another solid 2.0.—you can style them like a solid, but with a little extra punch of excitement.

Black and white are both neutral colours. When you put them together, still neutral in colour, and the stripe is a calm pattern for our eyes to rest on. For that reason they pair effortlessly with anything else in your wardrobe—all patterns and prints included! The more open the stripes, the even easier they pair with prints and patterns of any colour.

{PS: That whole horizontal stripes make you look wide thing has always been a myth! Fit and cut have much more to do with flattering our body than the direction of a stripe!}


Pick a hero piece

Pick one piece that to be the focal point, and your other patterned piece will recede.

Most of the other strategies focus on this principle in some way (a high contrast print will be the focal point when paired with a low contrast print, an even pattern will usually dominate over an open pattern) but this strategy encourages you to lean into that even more by making your pattern a big part of your outfit.

Execute this by going big and noticeable with one patterned piece (think dresses, jackets, pants and midi + maxi skirts), and smaller and more subtle with the other (think shoes, scarves, and tank tops tucked in to a high waist.)

A patterned dress would be the hero, and then could be paired with a leopard print shoe. Or a brightly coloured pair of printed pants could dominate when paired with a simple black and blue patterned scarf.


Or break all the rules!

You guys, there’s NO style rules I want you to follow. These 7 ways were to get you thinking of new ways to remix your closet and add a little excitement into your outfits.

So, the best way to execute this final rule-breakers strategy? Go to your closet and try on all your prints and patterns with each other and see how you feel in whatever combos you can cook up!

And remember, dress from a place of joy and others will see your shine.

Wishing you an extra pattern in your outfit and spring in your step,