There are so many beautiful prints in the shops at the moment, whether you love the prettiness of florals and paisleys or prefer the graphic simplicity of checks – or perhaps I can tempt you towards polka dots for that spring wedding?
Finding a print you like is the easy bit – working out if it suits you means changing rooms, I’m afraid. A too-large print can swamp the petite; too-bright print can drown you out; too-busy – well, that will give you a headache. But the right print can be so flattering, so complexion-brightening, so impactful and perfect for any occasion, that it’s worth persevering.
Having run the changing room gauntlet, the biggest challenge is still in store: working out what to wear your new print with. Your go-to black trousers might deaden a delicate floral, and a pair of blue jeans won’t bring out the best in a bold geometric. Print clashing, as with all things that look effortless, actually takes a fair bit of figuring out – scale, shared colour schemes and style are all important. Some people have an eye for it – like these three women, two of whom actually design their own prints, and all of whom wear it near-daily. I asked each of them for a five-step guide to wearing print – so those us without the ‘eye’ can find a formula that works, and stick to it. That printed blouse that’s been hanging unworn in your wardrobe is about to get a new lease of life.
The colour fanatic: Deborah Brett
Complement with colour
An easy way to start with print is pairing it with a block colour, picking up a shade that’s in the print to begin with. I often wear print paired with a bold apple green sweater from Prada or canary lemon mohair one from Ganni.
Pair with basics for everyday wear
People tend initially to think of print as something more formal, maybe for a wedding, but it really can be inserted into any event. For a more casual look, denim shirts work really well with printed trousers or skirts and I always love wearing a Breton stripe, whether it’s a T-shirt from Stripe and Stare or a Chinti & Parker cashmere, as a basic foil to my print extravaganza.
Cut is key
I don’t think prints should be limited to any particular body shape or size. Prints can be a fabulous foil for a larger bust or bottom. It’s the cut that’s important. Huge oversized prints are probably best left to taller women and contrary to received opinion, horizontal stripes are way more flattering on everyone rather than vertical.
I’m a fan of wearing a whole print outfit, like pyjama printed trousers from Chinti and Parker with their matching ruffled blouse. The effect is dynamic and eye catching. I like playing with a similar print but in different scales or mixing spots with stripes.
Don’t be afraid to invest
Prints are a great investment as they don’t date as quickly as trends do. Florals are always going to be ‘in’ for example. I loved that Prada recently reworked their iconic prints such as their lips, lipstick and square prints. I didn’t invest in them first time round and always regretted it.
The clash curator: JJ Martin
Black tie needn’t mean black
If it’s an event, then I always wear print! I can’t imagine going to any sort of party, dinner, event or gathering and not wearing print. I would feel so sad and I would probably sit in the corner alone. A print makes me feel festive and makes me feel like I’m showing up.
Find your era
I’m not a fan of prints from the 1980s or early 1990s, especially those micro florals that were on so many rayon dresses from my youth. My favourite prints are geometrics from the ‘60s and florals from the ‘70s – think Oscar de la Renta, Donald Brooks and Valentino in those years.
Clash patterns, coordinate colours
I like to wear print with other prints- of course! I love geometrics mixed with florals. But there has to be method to the madness. It’s important that the colours work – you need the same colour scheme somehow involved between the two prints. And it’s best to mix scales – something big with something small. Micro looks good with macro.
Three is the magic number
Layering three prints is fun – a floral skirt, micro-geometric shirt and plaid coat, for example. Then I’d break that up with a solid-coloured cardigan or crew neck sweater.
Add a palette cleanser
Black, grey and camel are all good ways to balance out a print – the perfect toner-downers. Now that my wardrobe is 90% patterned, I have a hankering for really good basics: black wide leg trousers from Acne, A camel haired coat from Max Mara, a grey V-neck oversized cardigan from Celine. These pieces are great print minimisers and balancers. And since I’ve got so much print on my body, it’s better if the accessories are very clean and minimal.
The mono-printist: Tabitha Webb
Coordinate, don’t clash
I always wear print in some form or other, but I don’t often clash prints – I love to let one print do all the work. I like using the same print, but ranging it in size from ditsy to oversized. I find that works better and is less intimidating. A pretty floral is always a brilliant place to start, as florals never date if you buy well.
Stick to what works
For me, leopard print is a staple, and covers every eventuality. It can also be worn as a blouse with jeans, as a dress, trousers – there are no rules with leopard print.
Find an outfit formula
More often than not I wear print on my top half – I’ve always had a big bottom, and so I feel more confident wearing block colours on my bottom half. I’m a jeans and silk shirt girl every step of the way.
Bridge smart and casual
I have my godson’s wedding coming up next month in Spain, and I am wearing our retro zigzag silk maxi skirt with trainers and a crisp white cotton shirt. Print allows you to dress down a bit as it does so much of the work for you.
Add a bold accessory
I usually wear a bright colour in my accessories to offset the print – my gorgeous new bright green boots from Ivy Lee Copenhagen, for example, with some jeans and a statement printed shirt on top.