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!


How To Mix Patterns Successfully

It's a tough one, I'm not going to lie and you're unlikely to see much of it on this blog. I mean I struggle to wear one pattern never mind two. I had a fab green midi dress last year, it would have been perfect to layer up this season but honestly, after wearing it all day, I was ready for ripping it off. The busyness got on my nerves, quite literally! Off it went to Ebay heaven.


Let's suppose that I have readers that do do pattern and are interested in finding out how to mix more than one (shock horror). Maybe, I might even convince myself to give it a go (nah, that's never going to happen....I don't even do pattern mixing around the house so I'm not going to wear it am I?). Well I've started the blog post now so I'll finish it....

How Your Style Personality Affects Your Choices

A good place to start is our style personalities (find yours here). Of course Creatives will know all the rules and break them already. They are confident enough in their own skin to wear clashing colours and patterns and look fabulous. This is the key isn't it? Having confidence to pull it off. Strut around with determined poise and people will buy in to what you're wearing. Skulk around like a mouse and you'll look, well frankly ridiculous.

Romantics might do a bit of clashing themselves but in a much more subtle and soft way. And no doubt there will be an element of texture too. Soft velvets and lovely silks for example.

Dramatics will pattern mix if Versace or Gucci or Peter Pilotto or whoever tell them that it's on trend this season. And Dramatics are as confident as Creatives so pull it off with aplomb. Providing it's deemed fashion ;-)

City Chics, Naturals and Classics are less inclined to mix print preferring a more understated look. Totally out of their depth springs to mind. They'll be the ones that are hugging the edges of the room, hiding behind the giant pot plant in the corner watching the Creatives and Dramatics strutting their stuff on the dance floor.

Yep, this one is all about having the confidence to carry it off. And the inclination...

And Then There's Our Colour Palette To Think About

Find your colour palette here

When we're thinking about colour, an important aspect is the strength of your own look. For example Claudia Winkleman has a much stronger and more dramatic look than Claudia Schiffer (sharing the same name doesn't count, sorry).

Who do you think will be able to carry off a busy print clash the best?

Well, it's Winkleman. Her deep dramatic look can cope much better with strong patterns particularly the winter florals on black backgrounds that we're seeing this season. Schiffer would need to opt for much lighter, softer patterns to balance her more delicate look. Much more difficult to carry off over the winter months and she may struggle to find anything suitable.

A rough guide is to balance the strength of the patterns with your own look.

So where do we start

Well let's do an easy hack first of all. Two patterns that I think are the bees knees and probably the only two that I ever do. Stripes and leopard print.

Of course stripes and leopard print have wormed their way into our wardrobe staples over the last few years and most of us would feel very much at home wearing them together.

They're a pretty safe option, one to dip your big toe into.

Stay classy and wear leopard print that actually looks like leopard on your feet. I mean, black and turquoise leopard might float your boat but honestly it looks so much classier in the 'norma'l brown tones!

Nuff said.

A Few Tips For Mixing Prints

The general rule is that you need to have something to mesh the items together, a common theme - whether that be colours, textures or different pattern sizes. Here are a few tips to get you going.

1. Pick your colours from the same colour family. So for example teal and navy or purple and plum. Or choose one base colour. Here, the common denominator is of course black. Ok, you might say the skirt's a bit of a cop out, it's pretty light weight on the pattern front!!! But remember, we're beginners!

And here, the common theme is pink (and black). At first I thought this might be too in your face for me but add a pair of black heels, black blazer and a plain bag and I think it could work. But as cute as the skirt is, it's not for me. I don't do cute.

2. Choose one dominant print and add a smaller one as an accent. So the bold stripe (swoon) in the jacket is the main focus of this outfit and the little print on the blouse fades in to the background. It prevents your body from looking like a pattern battleground. Personally, I would always go for one dominant print, much more cohesive.

And here we have a much stronger printed top than the Jacquard cigarette pants. Incidentally a lot of Jacquards are quite small prints and can be treated very much as neutrals. 

Floral Chiffon Blouse - River Island
Jacquard Trousers - Next

3. Avoid double florals or double ditsy prints unless you're uber confident. This look can be so hard to pull off. You may unintentionally resemble a charity shopper on speed or quite the opposite, too contrived. I'd pair florals with a more geometric pattern, stripes or checks.

I love both of these two pieces although I can think of better things to wear with each one. But for the purpose of this exercise, I wanted to show you how fresh a ditsy print looks with a geometric. Both pieces speak individually but they mesh together really well.

The skirt though! I'm not going to sleep tonight for thinking about it.

4. Throw in a neutral to break it all up! Not always necessary but it gives breathing space to busy prints. So pop a black jacket over a printed top and bottoms. Wear a plain white t-shirt underneath a patterned jacket and trousers. You get the picture!

5. Space it out. You could wear pattern on your feet and top half. It's much easier to manage! Or maybe a patterned bag and top. For me, this is the biz. A fabulous printed bag which you can clash or tone to your outfit.

Check Blouse - Mango 
Pink Bag - Top Shop

6. Do casual. So far the looks above are all quite dressy. But you could use double print in a dress down way too. Fairisle jumpers are great as they're often plain around the midriff which breaks up the pattern.

Edith Jumper - Boden
Check Trousers - Zara

7. Watch the accessories. We're definitely on the theme of less is more here. Lose the necklace for certain! Sorry! Stick to a plain bag if you've done pattern top and bottom.

Complicated isn't it but I hope you can pick up a few tips from this. I need to go and lie down, all this pattern has brought on a migraine. Actually I'm already sat with my feet up because I seem to have done something to my leg. I mean, I was only putting my make-up on and pow, the pain hit me. Now THAT'S weird! How can a lipstick be so violent? Anyway, I called the out of hour doctor because it got worse and worse throughout the day and he sent me to A&E. Five hours (yes five hours) later I got home. Seems they were worried about DVT because of our semi-long haul flight last week. I could milk this and make the hubby do everything but I'm not that kind of girl.

Pour me a glass of wine darling.....

6 comments on "How To Mix Patterns Successfully"
  1. Hi Donna. I don't think I am a pattern mixing type either. Food for thought but I have a headache coming on.!.... I love that midi skirt from John Lewis,please buy it and do a post.:) hope the leg is better soon.x

    1. Oh don't Rebecca because I won't take it back and I don't need another dressy thing in my life. It's seriously gorgeous though isn't it. I might just pop in to JL for a little look though x

  2. This is an interesting and controversial topic and it's good to have some guidelines. I love a bit of print and colour on occasion but only one at a time, a print dress say, or plain bottom with print top or vice versa. I've tried a bit of subtle mixing but have had to run and change! I can't even manage a patterned bag with a print blouse. Somehow it feels like it's swamping me. It's interesting to what you say about spacing and where on the body to put prints. I'm still pondering on this one. Hope your leg is on the mend. Take care of yourself.Xx

    1. I know, you've really got to love print to do the mix thing haven't you. As you know, I'm not massive into print (unless it's a stripe) but of course we're all different aren't we. My leg is much better today (Monday) thanks although I won't be running any marathons (ever) x

  3. Oh I don't know! I look at others who manage to style the look of clashing prints with aplomb ... but when I try, it looks as though I got dressed in the dark. You've certainly given food for thought however - but now you've alerted me to the existence of that Mango coat *wails*
    ('must not buy, must not buy, must not buy')

    1. Hmmmm yes, you and I are very much alike Helen. And yes the Mango coat is a bit wowza isn't it x