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How to Make Mixed Prints Look Cool Every Time

Photos: Courtesy.

Is there a fashion “rule” that feels more outdated than “Don’t mix your prints”? (Okay, maybe “Don’t wear white after Labor Day” is up there, too.) And yet, despite the countless seasons of pattern-clashing street-style inspiration, we still might hesitate before styling two different, opposing graphics together. It doesn’t have to be this way, though: Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine has built an entire brand on bending these old-fashioned “rules”; Tanya Taylor‘s all about mixing and matching her brightest floral designs; designer Nicki Zimmermann, too, has partaken in her fair share of mixed prints. This trio wears, designs, and all-around crushes it in mismatched patterns on the daily—so, when it came time to unearth the secrets of a successful mixed print outfit, we knew we had to poll them.

Ever wonder how to mix frilly florals with blown-out geometric prints? What about the same print in different colors? Well, now’s your chance. To print-clash like a pro, we got Medine, Zimmermann, and Taylor to offer up the best tips and tricks to making it look easy and cool. Before you know it, you might just turn that all-black wardrobe of yours upside-down.

They’re Called Classics For a Reason—Keep ‘Em Handy

“Looking like an un-coordinated mess is one of the really happy byproducts of print-mixing—completely part of the course,” says Medine. “But I suppose that safe prints to wear together are: stripes and leopard print, polka dot and leopard print… Leopard print is really a neutral in the print mixing world.” Tap into some old-school glamour with a few key leopard pieces (like a mini skirt for what’s left of summer and a faux-fur coat for the fall), and begin swapping those for other hallmarks of your wardrobe. Swap the black ballet flats you’d wear with jeans and a striped button-down for a leopard pair, for instance; or, you can jump in head-first with a Breton tee and skirt. (Zimmermann personally likes pairing the wild print “a washed vintage floral,” she adds.) The most important non-rule, after all, according to Medine? “Yeah, don’t overthink it.”

Saint James for J.Crew Slouchy T-shirt, $90, J.Crew; No. 21 Leopard-print mini skirt, $228, Saks Fifth Avenue

Don’t Shy Away From Prints in the Same Family

When thinking “mixed prints,” your instinct might be to grab two totally different patterns—but, consider sticking to a single theme or family. “I really like taking ditzy florals and gigantic [ones] and tossing them together,” notes Medine. Zimmermann is on the same page: “I like mixing a similar based artworks—for example, I’ll mix a few different paisley colors and patterns and put them all together as a look…It always works!” The designer adds that she’s noticed this trick work in a range of categories, from gingham to florals. “Come to think of it, I guess you could say that’s my formula for a print clash,” she concludes.

Solid & Striped The Anne-Marie gingham swimsuit, $163, MatchesFashion.com; Zimmermann Paradiso gingham drill shorts, $310, Zimmermann

Take Color Into Account

Taylor stresses how achieving the visual balance you want from print-clashing really relies on the color palette. “A full-proof way to print mix is to match a lighter print with a darker [one],” she suggests. “For Pre-Spring 2018, we matched a lighter blue watercolor floral with a black micro-floral print with hints of blue, white and red; essentially, both prints need to be either inverses of each other or pick up on the same tones.” Medine stands by this, too. “[Mixing patterns] isn’t so much about the prints as it is about the colors of the prints,” she explains. “I’m of the belief that no two prints can’t be married until color comes into question. So, when scanning your closet for graphics that could pair well together, think about how the colors complement each other. The sartorial puzzle won’t seem so confusing after.

Isabel Marant Floral print blouse, $236, Farfetch; Tanya Taylor Jules skirt, $395,Tanya Taylor

Think About the Silhouettes You’re Bringing Together

When it comes to prints, it’s not just color that makes a difference—it’s also the garment they’re rendered on. So, when planning out your clashing patterns, “focus on the silhouette,” Taylor says, in order to make sure these don’t detract from the graphics you want to show off. “Keep it simple, keep it classic, and let the print mixing do the talking!” Some no-fail options include pixie pants, midi skirts, and clean off-the-shoulder tops; leave the more eye-catching shapes for a monochromatic outfit day.

H&M Off-the-shoulder top, $17.99, H&M{: rel=nofollow}; Miu Miu Cropped polka-dot silk crepe de chine straight-leg pants, $1,050, Net-a-Porter

Remind Yourself: It’s Supposed to Be Fun

Circling back on Medine’s early advice, don’t take the print-styling process too seriously. “If you feel ridiculous, that’s kind of the point,” she points out. “Bask in it.” Just because you’ve reached for the loudest prints in your arsenal—like pajama-inspired silk palm-print pants, for instance, the brightest floral dress you can find—doesn’t mean you have to pair it with neutrals or solids. If anything, it’s an opportunity to really have fun and express yourself creatively. “It’s about getting comfortable with what you’ve put together,” adds Zimmermann. “You can always surprise yourself when mixing prints, so I think if you think in terms of formula, it takes away the fun and the chance for something great to happen!” What are you waiting for? Go for it!

Comme des Garçons Play Striped long-sleeved T-shirt, $174, Farfetch; For Restless Sleepers palm print loose fit Trousers, $306, Farfetch

This story originally appeared on Glamour.

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