Wearing colors and prints can make you feel confident, especially when you find a combination of colors and prints that look great in your wardrobe. Mixing and matching prints might seem out of reach, but there is only one rule to follow: If you like it, wear it.
It might seem like you need a fashion degree—or at least a firm understanding of color theory—to put together a cohesive color palette and coordinating prints, but that’s totally not true. If you want to invite more prints into your closet, here are some additional ideas to get you inspired.
How to Play with Prints
Borrow from the Classics
If you don't know where to start, just take some notes from classic print combinations.
- Florals and stripes
- Florals and dots
- Dots and stripes
- Animal prints and neutral tones
- Monochromatic outfits with a little pop of print—these can make a big statement!
Sketch Your Ideas
Get some swatches and cut out little mini outfits—or at least use colored pencils to duplicate the prints on paper. It's like playing with paper dolls! The paper-doll method always works, and it’s always so much fun.
Need some help? Our Design Your Wardrobe program has a video tutorial that walks you through sketching clothing on a croquis that looks just like your body. No previous drawing experience is needed!
Layer it Up
If you’ve always dressed in neutrals and don’t want to overhaul your signature style completely, start with some little steps. Add a single printed accessory to your look. Layer your jeans and a white T-shirt with a printed cardigan. Then, break up a printed top and skirt with a belt. Start adding more and more layers to your outfits, and you can try out different combinations to see what makes you feel great.
Play with Scale
One of the cleverest ways to make an impact with prints is to play with scale. For example, pair a big, bold graphic print with a bit of a subtle animal print. With online fabric printing resources like Spoonflower, you can also change the scale of an individual print and sew coordinating pieces!
Farrah: Graphic Designer
My prints: I am a sucker for the simplicity that comes with wearing solids, but when I do go for prints, I am usually drawn toward a simple stripe or something abstract and romantic.
Why I love prints: After being stuck at home for so long, nowadays, when I get dressed, I really have that desire to stand out, be noticed, and express myself. My deep jewel tone color palette combined with a really beautiful print helps me confidently feel like I’m putting my best self out there.
Tips for wearing prints: Pay attention to scale! If you are going to intentionally print clash, sometimes it can be nice to choose prints of different sizes/scales so that the overall look is less intense, unless that’s what you’re going for. You do you!
Throw in a Few Neutrals
Having some reliable neutrals in your closet means you can easily pick prints to match. Neutrals don’t clash with many other colors, so think about shades of black, grey, cream, and navy. Remember that texture counts. Add some slubby fabric, or go for a subtle tweed matched with stripes.
My prints: A lot of leopard and cheetah print, cute small graphics that repeat all over, and florals.
Why I love prints: Colors and prints are fun. They instantly add excitement to your day! It is hard to be mad when you are wearing something fun and vibrant.
Tips for wearing prints: Think about what will make you happy or excited to get dressed every day! I realized I have sewn several shirts with ice cream and popsicles on them, and I do love ice cream! Also, consider if a subtle or bold print suits your style more - a muted floral creates a very different aesthetic from a hot pink leopard.
I prefer to have a lot of solid separates to wear with printed clothing. The solid color of your choice doesn't necessarily need to be a neutral or in the same color palette as your print—I encourage mixing it up!
Stripes and Plaids are Versatile
If you like the idea of print clashing, but you don’t want to mix separate prints, play within one print. Intentionally mismatch your stripes or plaids. This can be as simple as cutting a placket, yoke, or pocket on the bias.
My prints: I have plenty of stripes, checks, and plaids, but I also really love a beautiful floral print. I especially love soft ditsy florals, or romantic large-scale florals. Any print that looks classic or old fashioned! Overall, I'd say I gravitate a little more to texture over print, but I incorporate both.
I find it helpful to look for trends and patterns in the things that I am naturally drawn toward. I collect inspiration on Pinterest, and when I look back at everything I've pinned, I can clearly see that there are certain colors, textures, and patterns that I'm into and that match my style. They can evolve over time, which is why I think it's helpful to revisit them each season.
Why I love prints: Color can have a big impact on mood! It helps me to match how I'm feeling.
Tips for wearing prints: Learning to match plaids and stripes can be really satisfying, and so can getting creative with it! I love to play around with cutting details like patch pockets, yokes, cuffs, and insets on the bias when I sew with stripes and plaids.
Borrow from Your Color Palette
The next time you go shopping for prints, bring a few of your favorite garments with you—or wear one of your favorite outfits to the fabric store. Audition different prints with the colors that are already in your closet. Working with the colors you already wear every day will make it easier to add a pop of print.
Nellie: Marketing Manager
My prints: I love prints. I love bold graphic prints like Marimekko. I also love more classic prints like Liberty of London. I have a mix of both in my wardrobe!
Why I love prints: Color and print are great ways for subversive creative expression. Also, as a maker, I have a great appreciation for print and color. Oftentimes, it’s like a secret handshake. Many fellow makers can appreciate a wild print. Most of the time, it’s other makers who compliment me most on any fun prints in my wardrobe!
Tips for wearing prints: As a quilter, I think that everything ends up going to gather at some point. It’s the fashion version of Ugly/Delicious. I find the most important thing when mixing prints is focusing on scale. I try to pair items with a contrast in scale: small ditsy print with large bold graphic print. The small print may end up blending and read as a solid so your outfit doesn’t seem super busy!
Pick a Motif
Do you find you are attracted to the same kinds of prints? Embrace it! Go nautical or pick a couple of florals. Stick to a theme with your outfit.
Taylor: Product Manager
My prints: I have a few abstract prints, but I mainly stick to classic stripes and gingham.
Why I love prints: I think color and prints can have such an effect on your attitude when you get dressed. Maybe the color yellow makes you feel like the sun, and you radiate that energy out to the world. I think it can have a lot to do with your mood. Clothes in general, I think, can just drastically affect how you feel about yourself in general. So when I get dressed in my bright summer outfits, I feel so much better than just putting leggings and a T-shirt on…even though I’m comfy AF.
Tips for wearing prints: Pay attention to how you feel when you’re wearing prints! I think that’s a huge tell. I’ve made a few floral-oriented pieces, and even though I find them extremely gorgeous, I just don’t feel good in them as much as other prints I have in my closet.
Tips for Sewing Prints
When you sew with prints, there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important is that with directional prints, you may need to buy more yardage. For small-scale prints, 1/2 a yard will usually be enough, but for plaids and large-scale prints, get an extra yard.
It’s also worth matching stripes and plaids (or intentionally mismatching them) when you sew. Here is a tutorial with a few ways to match prints and here’s a tutorial specifically for stripes.
Chelsea: Technical Illustrator
My prints: I love classic prints like gingham, stripes, polka dots, etc., but nothing makes my heart skip a beat like a fun, abstract print. I really love prints that look like watercolor swirls or colors layered on top of each other (Nani Iro is always a favorite). I am also a fool for prints of fruits and large florals.
Why I love prints: In the last year, it’s become really important to me to embrace new, brighter colors. I’m not one to shy away from bright yellows or oranges. I say bring it on. We can all agree that what we wear reflects how we feel or how we want to feel, so wearing such bright colors is something kind I can do for myself. A fun print will always make a day a little better. When I wear my banana print Adria top and matching Christina skirt, I really do feel like the coolest gal on the block.
Tips for wearing prints: Remember to always take into account print direction, I’ve made many mistakes in the past (but I still proudly wear) with prints going in opposite directions. Also, note where the print placement might be on your body (we’ve all had floral prints on the parts of our bodies that probably don’t need a flower right on top, am I right?)
Sometimes the most powerful way to print clash is simply to make a statement that makes you feel good. If you find a print that speaks to a part of your personality, rock it. Remember the only rule! If you like it, wear it.
Meg is here to help you get excited about sewing. As the managing editor for Seamwork and the smiling face behind emails and social media, she loves seeing what you're making with our patterns.
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