Leave ordinary behind.
The only thing that stands between you and your ultimate self-expression goals is the decision to wear what speaks to you. For some of us, that means rocking prints: so let’s get into the ins and outs of how to mix patterns in fashion.
Pattern mixing and matching has, in the past, been seen by some as kind of a fashion faux pas. But the brave among us have been rocking a dazzling assortment of polka dots, stripes, gingham, herringbone, animal print, houndstooth, checkers, paisley, and so on and so forth. But the point is, bold individuals wear whatever patterns they please, and you can too.
We’ll give you some guidelines for how to wear patterns in your clothing, but keep in mind that these are guidelines and tips for those of you who want a little direction. If the boundless creativity of the fashion world could be explained in one 1,000 word blog post, we’d all be out of a job.
Eventually, you’ll be able to rock anything with confidence and integrate every iconic fashion inspiration into your own signature style. Clashing in vogue is a thing, we swear.
Without further ado, let’s get into pattern mixing 101.
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photo: Alpha Vomero for Teeth Magazine
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Wear stripes and abstracts with monochrome accent colors.
Wearing stripes with matching monochrome solid colors is a tried-and-true classic, perfect for dipping your toes into the world of mixing patterns into their clothes and outfits.
You might’ve heard people (fashion magazines) say to always wear vertical, not horizontal, stripes, because horizontal stripes aren’t “flattering.” We mean this from the heart: whatever.
Wear what you like -- horizontal stripes are just as classic, just as chic and Parisian, as vertical. Just to get that argument out of the way.
Abstracts are the other, less structured, side of the coin. Free-form and flowing, they’re also the perfect complement to solid colors. Wearing a monochrome outfit with a chunky abstract sweater (hello autumn!) makes sure that your pattern of choice stands out.
For both stripes and abstracts, follow this rule (if you want): choose a matching color. If your shirt is white with navy stripes, your monochrome outfit should be either all white, or all navy; if you’ve got a complicated abstract pattern, choose your favorite color out of the bunch and go with that. Neutrals also always work, but picking one of the more unexpected colors in your arrangement is sure to catch a compliment.
Here comes the pattern mixing: since the base of this type of outfit is one pattern paired with solid colors, use your jewelry as the extra accents to keep your fit interesting yet cohesive - without being overpowering.
photo: A Fashion Nerd/Amy Roiland
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Mix and match your animal prints -- no, we’re not messing with you.
Animal prints are in. You know this, we know this. But did you know that mixing your animal prints is also in?
You’ve probably seen people putting together these patterns without even realizing it -- because there’s a few secrets to doing so effortlessly. There’s a couple tricks to mixing animal print patterns like a pro.
First, pick your statement piece. Do you have a snow leopard-print fur coat? Perfect. Or a cheetah midi skirt works too. Whichever is your favorite, and has a little color.
Then, pick your less-than-a-statement piece. This is probably going to be something like snakeskin or crocodile print; something that’s more textural than visual, if that makes sense.
Since snakeskin and crocodile print are often monochrome, any colors work - just make sure they go together. Notice we didn’t say “complementary” - that actually means something in color theory, and you actually have more options than that! Editorialist has our favorite breakdown of your easy-peasy color options -- when in doubt, just follow the wheel.
If you’re not ready to break out the fire truck red crocodile boots, stick with neutrals. Browns, whites, taupes, blacks, are all going to create a stunning backdrop for your menagerie -- sorry, your pattern mixing animal prints.
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Pastels call for curves, florals, and flow.
More than a color, pastels are a vibe. They lend themselves to florals (of course), extra abstract shapes, and gentle squiggles and organic curves.
Pastels are a special case. No matter what the pattern, they will go together. Pastels on pastels on pastels will always look good - just make sure you break up the patterns with a little neutral space.
Your entire outfit can be pastel, but check that you’ve got a couple solid colors breaking up the noise. Otherwise, you risk looking a bit like a freshly whipped up cotton candy. But, then again, that’s the beauty of fashion - we’ve seen people look like freshly whipped up cotton candy and absolutely kill it. It all depends on your goals.
Since pastels are so distinctive, even if you don’t have any patterns at all, the look is still bold enough to stand out when you’ve got multiple pastel solids going on. And, don’t be fooled into thinking these colors mean excessive softness. Ever seen a blush pink leather biker jacket? Give it a try, and do what speaks to you!
Accessorizing with pastels is a blast. There’s so much inspiration to choose from, and like we said, it’s all going to match.
photo: Elle Vietnam
photo: Katrina Welker
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When it comes to how to mix patterns in fashion, trust your instincts.
Ultimately, you know what you like best. These tips for how to pattern mix like a pro are just here to help you get started. We hope they inspire you to step out boldly, knowing that you’re doing everything right, and then, eventually, start taking even more chances and feeling confident no matter what you wear.
Signature style is unique to every individual. For us at Woll, we can’t get enough of California style. We explained why in our very first blog post -- we’re that excited about it.
Your intuition has led you this far in life. Your gut tells you what looks good, and drives you to start exploring fashion more in-depth. This applies to more than just fashion -- it can take you to exploring sustainability, making ethical fashion choices, and supporting what you believe in.
Trust yourself to make the right decisions, whether you’re making an outfit work or making sure that the people who worked to produce it are granted fair wages and ethical conditions. These things might seem totally separate, but they couldn’t be more connected.
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photo: Sydney Lemmon for Rose & Ivy Journal