How to Mix and Match Patterns

j crew pattern mixing

One of my favorite TV shows is TLC’s makeover show, “What Not to Wear.” It’s amazing to see people transform from frumpy-dumpy wallflowers to fashion-forward butterflies. Job well done, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly! Their style advice goes beyond the screen like host Clinton Kelly’s book, “Freakin’ Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally Be Better Than Everyone Else.” A mouthful but worth the read, especially the section on pattern mixing (see my previous post, “How to Mix Patterns“).

Mixing prints and patterns may sound complicated, but Kelly breaks it down into four easy categories.


patterrn print mixing onesie

One pattern + solid, if

  • the solid is a color found in the pattern (like the purple found in the floral print pictured above), or
  • the solid is a neutral color (such as black, white, grey, brown, or blue), or
  • the pattern’s a neutral (such as a grey floral print or a black and white pin-dot)


patterrn print mixing twosie

Pattern + pattern, if

  • the two patterns have a similar color palette, or
  • one pattern is subtle and the other is bold, or
  • both patterns are subtle


patterrn print mixing threesie

Pattern + pattern + pattern, if

  • two patterns are subtle and one is bold, or
  • two patterns are bold and one is subtle (or bold if the pattern is a neutral)


patterrn print mixing foursie

Pattern + pattern + pattern + pattern, if

  • two patterns are subtle and two patterns are bold (one of which is in moderation and neutral)

Keep these tips on pattern mixing in mind next time you’re deciding on what to wear. Mixing and matching prints can be easy as wearing a single print and a solid, or stepping it up a notch by mixing subtle and bold styles. How do you wear multiple patterns?