Prints as Neutrals and Mixing Prints

It’s important to have an assortment of neutral pieces in your closet to pair with your favorite colors and printed pieces. It’s a rule, right? I’m sure we can all open our closet doors and find blacks, grays, whites, browns, and tans mixed in among our more colorful and patterned tops, pants, and skirts.

But must we be relegated to the classic, safe neutral shades of the color wheel to balance a look? Of course not!

We live in a time when acceptable fashion pairings are no longer restricted to the safety of only “prints with solids” pairings. We are able to express ourselves and experiment and push the envelope a bit. Fashion is supposed to be fun! So have a little party with your clothes!

I’ve been very gradually warming up to the mixed-prints look. Some of what I see on fashion forward women I would not be comfortable wearing. But there are other pairings that look aesthetically appealing to me. I’ve had a little fun experimenting with combining prints. I’m particularly drawn to animal prints (although I’m a bit discerning, if I do say so myself, and stick to leopard, Dalmatian, and cow prints – no zebra or giraffe for me!).

Stripes, polka dots, animal prints, and even florals are now considered neutrals – commonly mixed with not only solids but other prints too.

Are you a veteran already of mixing prints with other prints? Or have you yet to dive into this look (or at least put your toe in the water)? If you’re game to try mixing prints but haven’t yet experimented, start slow.

One way to ease into the mixed prints look is to start with accessories. It’s easy to combine a plaid or floral shirt with different print shoe, scarf, or belt – especially an animal print, like leopard.

Black and white pieces can be an easy place to start also since they go with everything. Black and white stripes can be your foundation for mixing in bolder prints like polka dots, animal prints, or florals.

Here are a few guidelines for mixing prints:

  • Think of prints as neutrals (animal prints, stripes, polka dots, and hounds tooth). Incorporate them the same way you would a solid neutral.Pinterest Mixing Prints + Animal Prints
  • Printed accessories are a way to mix prints more subtly.
  • Choose one print to dominate and one as an accent.
  • Pair mixed print outfits with neutral accessories (e.g., shoes, jacket, belt).
  • Match colors when mixing prints. You don’t need to stick with exactly the same color palette throughout, but look for a central color that repeats in both pieces. Keep fabrics in the same color family; choose two different prints that share a single color.
  • It’s okay to wear two prints together, just be sure that you are mixing one large print with a small print rather than two large prints. In other words, don’t pair two bold prints.
  • Use the same pattern and invert the colors.
  • Mix a similar pattern in different sizes.
  • Wear the same print in contrasting colors.
  • Pair neutral prints with colorful prints.
  • Break up the patterns to look less busy, for example, add a belt to break up patterns on top and bottom or choose a look that includes a solid color between the two prints (e.g., plaid top, solid pants or skirt, animal print shoes).

As I mentioned, I was a little slow to this party myself. That’s kind of my M.O. – I like to get used to a new look for a season before I incorporate it into my styling. It felt scary to pair a plaid shirt with leopard print flats! But after seeing the look on actual real people (as opposed to celebs and fashion magazines), I decided the look was fashion forward and started trying it. And I’m a convert!

Check out my Mixing Prints + Animal Prints Pinterest board – I’ve collected a variety of mixed-print and animal print looks for some inspiration.

Become a fashion mixologist, and have fun with pairing your prints!

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