Do I Really Have To Learn How To Match Patterns and Prints?

A few years ago, I was helping my daughter organize her closet and create outfits. After an hour or so of putting like with like and seeing what she had, I stood back and looked at a sea of pattern, with virtually no solids in sight.

When she said, “I have a hard time making outfits”, I knew why. When we have a plethora of prints, it becomes more difficult to mix those prints together. The idea is to create ease and flow in your closet and allow your creativity to flow when you want it to. After talking with her about the solids and basics she needed, we got around to mixing the prints she already had.

Now was the time to talk about how to match patterns AND/OR how to mix prints. Either way the discussion would be beneficial, so here goes:

You can count on patterns to add visual interest and variety to your wardrobe, so what kinds of patterns are there and how do you mix them? There are over 250 patterns in the world of prints and patterns and motifs — with names like: quatrafoil, zalij, ikat and cartouche. For the sake of clarity, let’s focus on just 7 that we see the most in stores and online, and I’ll show you what they look like and how to mix them.

#1 The most common pattern is stripes. But not all stripes are created equal. And they have names such as pin, chalk, pencil, balanced, Bayadere, Bengal, hairline, regimental, roman, and awning.

Yep. That’s a whole lotta stripes.

Some of the best ways to mix a stripe look like this:

#2 The second most common pattern are checks. This pattern is very common in shirts, and have names such as gingham, tartan, glen, houndstooth, shepherd, tattersall, graph, chequer, district, houndstooth, herringbone, mini, pincheck, windowpane, and twill.

Some patterns are actually not printed on top of plain fabric, they are part of the fabric construction itself; they’re called “weaves”. Herringbone is a weave that creates a pattern. The same goes for a twill. From far away, the pattern cannot be seen and the garment looks like a solid color.

Up close you can see the pattern created by a weave in which each weft thread passes over two (or more) warps and then under the same number of warps to produce diagonal ridges. Up close the pattern is delightful and is ready and willing for your creativity to style it. It looks like this:

#3 Dots — Polka dot is not the only dot we have in pattern. There are also pin dot, coin dot, dotted swiss, and a dot pattern popular in suit fabric, called “birdseye”. From a distance the pattern looks like a solid, but up close, it’s a pleasant surprise. Generally, smaller dots give a more formal impression, while larger dots give a more casual impression to the pattern.

#4. Florals — Technically a floral is any design using flowers and other nature elements such as seed pods, leaves, and marine plants. Florals can be small, subtle, and spaced close together, or they can be bold with large patterns and bright colors.

#5. Paisley is a stylized teardrop-shaped design that originated in Persia, and later on, was mass-produced in Paisley, Scotland. Its unique, swirling design can be placed together tightly or be more free-form.

#6 Animal print is just that: prints made to resemble the pattern of the skin and fur of an animal such as a leopard, cheetah, zebra, tiger, spotted hyena, striped hyena, African wild dog, giraffe, or monkey.

#7 All other prints that are stylized, such as florals or nature scenes that are enlarged or otherwise made into an abstract pattern. Any of the above patterns that are taken apart and then put back together can constitute a stylized pattern.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on how to coordinate, match and style prints and patterns with ease.

If you are in Las Vegas this Wednesday, please join me for the Women In Lodging conference at the Oasis Hotel. Details are here.

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