Mix it up! We’re throwing a print party and you’re all invited
Words: Rosie Goddard | Collage: Sabrina Scott
Change can be a good thing, and when it comes to the fashion industry, it’s important to embrace it or face a slow descent into sartorial irrelevance (a little dramatic? Never!) I’ve come to accept that the fashion rulebook gets torn up every few years and everything I know to be good and true in this world is tossed out the window. Take socks and sandals for example: this fated combo was once relegated to uncool dads everywhere and if you’d worn it to fashion week you would have been shown the door faster than Beyoncé made up her mind about Kim Kardashian – but it has since become a marker of how fashion forward you truly are.
Same goes for wearing print on print. For years we were led to believe that combining more than one pattern would get you those ‘crazy cat lady’ stares on the street but as any young fashionista hoping to feature on Street Peeper will tell you, it’s the best and boldest way to make a statement. Furthermore, designers from Burberry to Marni and Etro echoed this sentiment on the A/W 15-16 runways.
Amidst our love for everything floral, 70s and boho-inspired, it makes sense that we’ve once again gone a little potty for print and it’s a nice change of pace from the sea of neutrals that tend to swamp our senses during winter. While this look has a certain nonchalance and spontaneous charm to it, it involves some careful planning to avoid the kind of leopard-on-leopard disaster that harkens back to a simpler time at the Jersey Shore. Here are a few tips to get you mixing and matching like a pro.
The perfect match
The oft-clueless Cher may have played her part in popularising co-ords during the 90s but actually this look first appeared in the 60s when the fashion world got a taste for print and eclectic textiles. Today the look is more popular than ever before and has become a fool-proof, hassle-free method to garner style points.
The real flair here lies not in the design but the cut. This look is all about silhouette and proportion – now’s your chance to be dramatic, so make things interesting with a crop top and full skirt or a cape blazer and high-waisted shorts. Just remember – not all prints were created equal and if you want to avoid the ‘Kim Kardashian matches her floral dress to her gloves to her shoes’ Met Gala disaster of 2013, opt for sets that are young, fresh and vibrant.
In an ideal world, mixing prints would be as easy as picking two items from your wardrobe, throwing them together and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, life can be cruel and unless you want to look like you’re heading to a dress-up party, finding a common theme such as colour is often essential. Doing so allows you to combine a wide variety of patterns and prints, to play with proportion and most importantly, project a ‘mama didn’t raise no fool’ attitude. Pairing pieces in the same palette allows you to be experimental while ensuring your outfit looks put together.
Take your cues from the prince of prints and local fashion guru, Chu Suwannapha. This man is the ideal example of how a carefully considered colour palette can bring together the funkiest of fabrics. So whether you want to combine polka dots and palm trees or paisley and pinstripes, always bear this in mind.
While colour is unifying, this rule only extends so far. Proportion is your friend when it comes to clashing; it brings calm to the chaos and provides a much needed focal point for the outfit when combining two of the same print. Big blooms require smaller counterparts in the same way that large stripes match thinner ones; this also works across genres, for example a small check will suit a big floral print down to the ground. When in doubt, go small scale for both.
Some prints tend to roll in packs; that’s not to say that they don’t fraternise with each other, it’s just certain styles are more compatible. While varying African tribal prints look wonderfully vibrant together, throw some spots or florals into the mix and you’re bound to run into some trouble. The same goes for Aztec prints.
Aside from letting the odd floral into the fold, simple graphic prints also like to stick to themselves and what’s more, they look good together regardless of scale or hue. This includes all manner of grid prints, checks and geometric shapes. These patterns usually lend themselves to a more tailored look so remember to keep the structure of the pieces in sync.
When it comes to combining patterns, stripes are your secret weapon, and to those in the know, they’re considered the neutral of the prints world. Leopard print shoes with a striped crop? Great. Breton tee and polka dot maxi? Inspired!
However, this season, stripes have found a new friend in florals and they’re a match made in style heaven. In isolation, they tend to have a demure, just-got-back-from-the-country-club feel but together, they’re far from safe. Instead they’re unexpected and the beauty lies in the fact that any floral print can work, from wildflowers to dark botanicals, painterly recreations and digitised blooms.
Finally, let’s have a moment of silence for the former High Priestess of Prints, Solange Knowles. We get it, being considered a one trick (print) pony can be limiting and while she may have moved on, there is still a valuable lesson to be learnt here. As cliché as it may sound, this look is all about confidence: there’s no room for wallflowers here so go all out, consequences be damned. And when in doubt, remember that a little leopard print goes a long way.