Print Mixing for Beginners

print mixing how to

I admired the look of print mixing for AGES before I finally felt comfortable enough to give it a whirl myself. I still tend to play it safe, and I still believe that this post from Unusual Form is just about the perfect primer for aspiring print mixers. But I thought I’d share a few simple tips for those of you who feel curious but unsure. Most of these are far less daring than the three-plus mixes that some folks concoct, which may make them feel tame … but hopefully will also make them feel do-able!

Separate prints with solids

This outfit includes a big geometric print in the scarf, a varied houndstooth in the skirt, and snakeskin on the pumps. All three prints are broken up by big swaths of solid black, so they just barely interact. It may be a bit warm for tights just now, but this outfit would also work with bare legs. Try incorporating several patterns, but separate them with solids.

Add a printed accessory

Already Pretty outfit featuring magenta cardigan, striped tank, mustard skirt, black belt, black pumps, polka dot Kate Spade bag

One printed garment and a printed bag, belt, or scarf is all it takes to get a fun mix going! This is an easy cheat for the truly shy since printed accessories tend to take up far less real estate than clothes.

Combine prints with shared colors

Already Pretty outfit featuring black cardigan, black and white stripe dress, Kate Spade glasses scarf, Rebecca Minkoff Logan crossbody bag

As you move into mixing printed garments, it helps to remember that they often work best if they’ve got at least one element in mind. Color is an easy one, and prints that share colors often mix well.  Here, two very different prints work together because both are black and white. Even one shared color can create a bridge between prints.

Or make sure colors are echoed


This scarf has an orange pattern, but a magenta background that mirrors the tights. So although the two prints don’t share any colors, the repetition of magenta ties the look together.

Try stripes with florals

Of course, the print mix I use most is one that combines prints that have very little in common! Stripes work well in many print mixes because they read as neutral to most observing eyes. Pairing them with organic, flowy florals works beautifully, more often than not.

Mix two versions of identical prints

This technique requires you to have to identical – or near-identical – printed garments that can also be worn together. (You may have two pairs of polka-dot pants in two different colorways, but you’d be hard pressed to wear them together.) But when it can be done, it looks amazing. Dots, stripes, and other regular geometrics are often easiest to track down in identical prints but different colors.

Let Desigual do the work for you


And if none of those appeal, just track down a Desigual dress or skirt that features a perfect mix of prints, and call it a day!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2012-04-11 06:29:21.

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23 Responses to “Print Mixing for Beginners”

  1. Starling

    I’m currently wearing a floral tank and leopard print flats, so I’m definitely pro-mixing. (Not pro-level, just in favor.) Of course, I tend to think of leopard print flats as a neutral – I’ll wear them with just about ANYTHING. The outfit is grounded by jeans & a mustard cardi, so the patterns aren’t super close together.

    I will say that it’s easier for me to appreciate more advanced pattern mixing on other folks than on me. I just coached a friend into wearing a polka-dot dress & argyle tights. It looked fantastic on her 🙂

  2. Suze

    Except for the first example, I’m really uncomfortable with the whole idea. My personal style is more conservative. But after looking at the Desigual link, I could be persuaded. Those are some very interesting and striking designs!

  3. Katharine

    I LOVE the look of mixed prints, but have concluded after experimentation that it, and prints in general, are not for me. If I could find a number of garments in black and white geometric traditional prints (ikat, perhaps, or traditional Japanese printing) I would totally mix those. But other than a pair of pants I had and loved in high school (and lost when I accidentally left them in a Toronto hostel) I’ve never seen, let alone owned, a suitable piece.

  4. Anne

    I really love the idea of pattern mixing however when I look at my closet it is mostly sea of solid clothes. Two of my goals this season are to try the whole color blocking thing and to pick up more prints. I think the “stripes with florals” is my favorite of your looks.

  5. D

    I do like pattern mixing up to a certain point. Sometimes it still strikes me as mixing items that clearly clash, but sometimes it looks delightful. I’m not very good at it, but I’m slowly working on it. I can work with my leopard flats, and I have a good striped dress that I’ve used (though not with florals! I’ll have to try that soon). I’m really drawn to pattern mixing with shoes involved, maybe I’ll have to take that and run with it some more.

  6. LinB

    “Mixing Like a Madwoman” could be the title of a new Food Channel baking show … I tend to mix patterns within one garment — I have a giant collection of fabric scraps from my friends’ deceased relatives’ sewing stashes. Many of my blouses have at least five different patterned fabrics (incorporated in yokes, sleeves, collars, etc). I mix by colors, but some of the combinations find themselves when I scatter the scraps out on a table prior to sorting them. I would not have suspected that they went so well together, otherwise. Do I mind looking like a walking patchwork quilt? Not at all.

  7. Louise

    Once my eye got used to seeing mixed patterns, it became much easier for me to wear them. It isn’t my first thought when I get dressed, but sometimes two patterned items will be next to each other in a drawer or the laundry and I’ll think, “Hey! Those could totally work together!” That’s how I ended up with a leopard skirt/chevron sweater combo that I absolutely adore.

    But like Anne, I don’t have many patterned items, mostly skirts and scarves. So most of my combinations have a solid color top in between, which makes it easy to mix.

  8. Linda

    It does scare me a little bit, but last week I wore a brown and cream checked skirt with a brown and cream plaid jacket. Baby steps!

  9. Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb

    Oooh I especially love the stripe dress and floral scarf, Sally!! As you probably know, I’m a big pattern mixer… but not because I purposely wear pattern on pattern, more because I see clothes in terms of colour. If I want to wear a blue gingham shirt with a purple zigzag sweater, I just go ahead and pair them because I think blue and purple look nice together (as in today’s post)! I don’t really notice that I’m mixing prints to be honest 😉

    Pile ’em on, I say!!

    Catherine x

    • Sal

      YOU, lady, are an expert! Friends, do check Catherine’s blog for more great examples of pattern mixing.

    • Anne

      What a smart philosophy Catherine. I really enjoy checking out your outfits. As someone comfortably ensconced in her 40’s, I am not wanting to dress as lamb, but I don’t want to be tough old mutton either. Thanks for providing an alternative ladies.

  10. Cynthia

    Haha. I love the “let Desigual do the work for you” option. I always find it easiest to mix a floral with a spot or stripe, or to mix two b/w geometric prints.

  11. Yardshark

    Great post, Sal! I have definitely branched out in recent years with freer mixes of patterns, colors (I used to live by a personal discomfort with more than 3 per outfit :P), and metals. It’s so much more fun!

    Just one teensy thing: as a fashion professional, you want to get your terminology just so. 🙂 So I just want to note that not all patterns are prints. Some patterns are created with construction techniques (knits and wovens), and they shouldn’t really be called “prints.” It’s kind of like when an online store presents something crocheted as “knitted” and vice versa. These distinctions are important when leading those who want to be in the know. 🙂

    PS, your outfits here are just awesome!

  12. Ana

    Ha! The last tip just slayed me, because as soon as I read the title, I thought, “this is why I buy so much Desigual.”

  13. Natalie

    For the longest time I wore mostly solid colors, but always with fun, usually floral patterned socks (in cooler weather anyway). I’ve been on a striped shirt kick for a while, so I decided the socks went with them too. The socks were a gateway item, and lately I’ve been bravely wearing patterned scarves with those stripy shirts. Haven’t mixed plaids, but I don’t have any plaid things except wool scarves. I think I need more polka dots, too.

  14. Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    I admittedly am not a huge fan of mixing prints — if one isn’t careful or restrained, the results can end up looking like they got dressed in the dark, imo. And I’m just not a fan of the Desigual style of mixed prints, too busy for me.

    However, I do like subtle mixes like most of these examples. I think taking different scales of the same print can be attractive & striking — a pinstripe with a wider stripe in the same outfit, for example. And mixing two prints of the same scale but different types, such as a narrow stripe & a tiny floral, which ends up looking very textural.

  15. daisymay

    Great post, really helpful tips. Im happy to mix certain prints but then not others. Stripes and spots, or floral and stripes or spots but thats as far as I usually go, may have to be a bit braver

    Daisy Dayz

  16. StyleMammal

    Great post! Other good advice I’ve I learned about pattern mixing is to start with one print that’s graphic, and then adding another print in a similar color scheme. Easy peasy, or I’d also suggest that beginners try mixing a favorite pattern against a fabric with a strong texture or weave like a heathered knit for example (again, locking them together with a complementary color scheme).

  17. Misfit Sarah

    I LOOOVE print mixing! I especially love your stripes/floral look, Sal. – and you have the best smile in blogland. Sarah xxx

  18. Rania

    Ohh.. I love this post! Very inspiring. Thank you, Sal 🙂 My favorites are the stripes dress with floral scarf and also the last mix-prints dress you wear..

  19. Moda

    Good advice, combining prints with shared colors is my mantra these days. Especially in blue tones, like in that photo.