by Heidi Arenberg
Playing with prints can be tricky. While graphics ranging from tame florals and stripes to more eye-popping tropical, ethnic, and even automobile (Prada, anyone?) prints are ubiquitous on both the runway and retail sites this season, there’s reason to fear them; one mess-up and you’ll look like a hot mess who got dressed in the dark. But this age-old—or season-old—problem is actually easier to avoid than it seems. Just follow a few essential rules when daring to wear prints, lest you appear to have had all of Ragstock’s contents explode onto your body.
A Pop of Print
For those of you more reserved dressers who can’t even fathom the image of yourself in head-to-toe prints, patterned denim is a great alternative. They’re sportive yet safe enough in that they’re still just jeans and able to be tempered with a solid, neutral top. And for a realm as simple as denim, there are countless prints to pick from; my favorites are bold floral ones, punky striped ones, and boho tie-dyed ones.
Mixing Different Prints
Undoubtedly the way you can experiment most with spring’s brazen trend: combining more than one unalike print. Since there are so many ways to go wrong here, I’ve compiled a short list of tips for pulling off this lively high-fashion look.
1) When mixing two completely different prints (say, leopard and stripes), keep them in the same color family. If your top is red, white, and gray, your bottoms shouldn’t be green and blue.
2) On the contrary, if you decide to put together two prints of the same variety (like two different floral patterns), you have a bit more room to play with color. For example, a white and blue floral blouse still works when style with a more multicolored floral skirt since they’re both still floral.
3) Prints accentuate. In other words, if you’d rather not draw attention to your hips, wear a more subtle print on your pants and a bolder one on your shirt, and vice versa.
4) Having trouble deciding which kinds of prints to mix? Take a hint from J.Crew’s stylist Gayle Spannaus: “Try mixing nautical and exotic—like [an] all-American anchor pattern plus chrysanthemum-patterned capris.”
One Print Head to Toe
The third print trend of the season? Taking a fashionista’s leap and donning one pattern head to toe. And I’m not talking about a fern-printed maxi dress. Since this look is so cheeky by itself, eliminate accessories except for a simple bag and shoes, and keep hair and makeup fairly natural and undone. Lastly, to call attention to the fact that you are indeed wearing separate pieces in the same print and not a jumpsuit, choose varying textures for the top and bottom. Take a cue from Zara and juxtapose a sheer chiffon blouse with sturdier cotton trousers.