A fashion and style blog for the over 40s covering body shapes, colour palettes, how to wear neutrals, style personality and capsule wardrobes. Come on in!


Let's Do Pattern

Hmmmmm pattern. I don't do lots of it if I'm honest. But then again, I don't not do it. Small doses. Enough for me.

There's lots to consider when choosing a pattern. Well, if the experts are to be believed. Firstly there's the actual colours that make up the pattern and then there's the size of it. Different shapes for different figures. Oh and let's not forget the emotional side, our style personality. Phew is there any wonder any of us actually wear pattern at all?

Let's have a look at the different aspects in more detail.

1. Colour

For me, this is probably the most important thing to consider. I know I have a tendency to break all the rules where colour is concerned (within reason of course) but as a Soft palette (find out yours here) a solid bold pattern in bright colours is a no no. Honestly you'd be forgiven for not noticing that I'm actually in the patterned dress if I wear something so loud. The combination of my blended skin tone, hair and eye colour isn't strong enough to carry it off. So, in the main, I tend to wear softer colours in patterns. You won't for example find me in a bold black and white top. Unless it's a stripe - stripes don't count!! Mind you, I do have a bold black and white stripe top and I know it's not the best (navy and soft white would be so much better) but sod it, I like it. My little trick is to wear bright coloured footwear so people look down at my feet and don't notice how bad my face looks.. Ha Ha Ha. You don't really need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of your own colours to work it out. But here are some general rules

Deeps & Clears

You do strong, bold colours really well. In fact, the stronger the better as these will balance out your own strong look. Something like this. Ok so may be not so bold but certainly strong.

Cold Shoulder Top £26

Or this

Printed Tunic £39.99

Or this, the colours aren't as bold but the pattern is pretty busy

Hana Tunic Dress £55

Bold colours are perfect for you both. Choose shades that you know suit you (instinctively they're often your favourite colours). Deeps can also do deep moody patterns too such as brown and burgundy. It's difficult to find examples as we're in the summer season but I think you'll agree this is certainly bold!

Multicoloured Aztec Print Swing Top £36

Clears are best avoiding two deep colours . Far better are contrasting shades such as red and white. Bold and fresh I think is the best way to describe your pattern.

And voila, here is bold and fresh.

Printed Shirt £19.99


You can also do strong colours but like Clears, your best look is when you choose contrasting shades. Remember though, your colours should also be cool-based such as blue, raspberry red, purple, bright pink etc. This is a perfect example of what will look wonderful on you.

Blue Print T-Shirt £25

Ok, probably not one for the weekly shop at Sainsburys but the colours are perfect for Cools.


Still a strongish palette made up of golden colours; browns, greens, oranges and reds. So obviously your best pattern will be warm based. Very strong red heads can take strong busy patterns. If you're of a more delicate palette, you may need to choose softer patterns in more muted colours.

This busy little top would look stunning on a young Julianne Moore (let's ignore The Hunger Games!)

Biba Printed Loose Volume Blouse £69

Whereas this softer pattern would be far more suited to Nicole Kidman when she decides to be a red head. Why that darn woman insists on bleaching those gorgeous locks I'll never know.

Lime Floral Printed T-Shirt £20

And I couldn't leave the Warm palette without mentioning this gorgeous little number.

Tigress Print Shirt £79


Your look is much more delicate so strong patterns will overwhelm you. Soft, muted patterns will be far more suitable. Think Fat Face or Mint Velvet. One of the things I've noticed over the years is that cheaper brands seem to focus more on strong sometimes garish patterns. Maybe they're easier to produce or maybe they mask the inferior fabric? Softer patterns are not as abundant but often look much more expensive. That's why I call this palette, the Armani one!!!

Salma Print Tee £69

Printed Blouse £29.99


Similar to softs but fresher colours can also be worn providing they're not too overwhelming. Something like this.

Tunic DressWith Bow Back Now £15.60

And that ends the lecture on patterns and colour. Phew. You still with me? It does get easier, I promise.

So, let's now look at why the size of a pattern matters.

2. Size

A major bug bear of mine, when a retailer producers clothes for petites (good) and larger ladies (good) but use the same print across the board (very bad). You see, larger prints overwhelm very small frames. You can lose your shape and proportions because those great big blooms take over your body, a bit like Japanese Knotweed.

Tiny ditsy prints on the other hand will look lost on a larger frame. And bizarrely can make you look bigger than you really are. Imagine a tiny little daisy pattern, how many of those will be printed right across your frame? Lots! The brain automatically converts this information and believes you to be bigger than you are. Now think big blooms. I'm talking huge oversized roses. How many of these will be printed across your bosom and belly? Two, three, maybe four. Ooooh the brain thinks, there's a smaller lady in there.

So the rules are pretty easy here:

Small frames = small prints
Medium frames = medium prints
Large frames = large prints

Putting this into practice then (remember you might not like the patterns below, they're merely for illustration purposes).

Small prints for small frames:

Printed Flared Dress Currently £34.99

Print Dress £25

Medium prints for medium frames:

Iris Print Marina Linen Dress £110

Floral Jacquard Dress £190

Large prints for larger frames:

Lace Up Back Column Dress £35

Printed Dress With 3/4 Sleeves and Tie Belt Now £29.40

3. Shape Of Pattern

We've talked about shapes of patterns before. It's dead easy to remember actually.

Curvy figures look great in soft, curvy prints: spots and circles, florals, swirls and paisleys.

Straight figures look great in angular prints: geometrics, stripes and squiggles.

I won't insult you with images!!

4. Style Personality

My favourite bit. Tapping in to your emotional side. That is, what your heart says rather than your head. You can find out your style personality here.

Creatives probably won't even read this blog, they love to go their own way. Pattern will feature in their wardrobe but they'll be interesting, one off pieces may be in unusual fabrics such as velvet

Dramatics will also have patterns. They follow trends and if it's deemed that prints are in then my goodness, they'll be buying prints by the dozen.

Romantics will have the most patterns in their wardrobe. Pretty prints in pretty colours.

Naturals may have a few patterns but they'll be very understated, possibly from the likes of Fat Face or the likes.

Classics and City Chics have very few prints in their wardrobe preferring plain, basic pieces. They may own the odd piece or scarf that is patterned to mix things up occasionally.

And that's it. Easy 'in it'? I fear I may have put you off pattern for life.

And to prove that I wear pattern occasionally, here I am yesterday wearing a green maxi dress.

Let's have a look how I fared with the rules above

1. Colour
Yes these are my colours. Green, nude, soft white with a bit of black (that doesn't count). But together they don't look particularly soft and muted and the pattern is very busy. In fact I have to wear a plain green leather jacket every time to 'rescue' the print as it's too strong for me. It's a black mark I'm afraid.

 2. Size
I'm a medium frame but tall(ish) so I don't think it overwhelms me too much. A tick.

3. Shape of pattern
I have a straight body shape so angular patterns are good. I'm going to give my self a tick for this.

4. Style Personality
I'm a City Chic and prefer plain, basic colours in the main devoid of pattern. It seemed a good idea wearing the dress yesterday but by the end of the day I was ready for ripping it off. The pattern played with my mind too much. I was sick of the sight of it to be honest.

So 2 ticks, 2 crosses. I always knew it wasn't the best pattern for me but hey, sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do and I always planned to wear the jacket over the dress. God knows how I'll style it in the summer!

What's your take on pattern? Do you love or loath? Did you find this guide helpful or a hinderance?

And if you're still confused, just go for it with a big, fat bloom. Life's too short and all that.

4 comments on "Let's Do Pattern"
  1. Another fab post Donna, I'm learning so much from you!

    I'm 31 with a toddler and new baby and have been seriously lost with my appearance since having kids. So much advice for woman of my age and circumstance includes red lipstick and neon prints, I've been trying to go with it but it's just not me.

    This post (and the ones about colour and style types) have totally helped me to pull together a 'look' that I feel stylish and comfortable in. It's been a revelation and I can't thank you enough. Seriously.

    Bel X

    1. Hi Bel thanks for your lovely comments. They don't prepare you at the NCT classes for your loss of identity do they! It happened to me too. I groan when I look back at photos. It's only temporary madness and normal service will resume again. Promise!! x

  2. Such a detailed post - really interesting! But the best of all is the final picture :) That dress is just completely & utterly stunning on you. Hope you bought it, regardless of whether or not it passed the rules!!!

    1. I'm off pattern.....for life. The research for this post wiped me out lol. Yes I've bought and stashed it x