How to Mix Patterns Without Looking Foolish

How to mix patterns

My favorite parts of my childhood education were the schools of cooking (I learned everything I know from Ina Garten and Giada de Laurentiis before I realized they are both insufferable) and fashion design (thank you, Project Runway)—both of which taught me invaluable skills I still utilize today. Where Ina showed me food basics like how to deglaze a pan and why the mirepoix is literally essential, Tim Gunn’s lessons on how to mix patterns and only wear clothes that fit well are forever seared into my mind. Practicing how to mix patterns and designs that might usually contrast is a way to get the most out of closet staples and transitional pieces. When I started purchasing a bit pricier pieces, I mostly veered toward the collections at J.Crew because I loved former Creative Director Jenna Lyons’ style (exhibit A). J.Crew during Lyons’ reign featured loads of unexpected sequined basics paired with colorful striped tops or tapered cargo pants; a bold taffeta maxi skirt over a statement tee and chandelier earrings; tailored denim overalls with a cashmere sweater and sneakers. I loved it all! Now, as I attempt to mix patterns and textures in my own daily life, I imagine the J.Crew I used to love so much and take inspiration from their styled looks. One of my favorite outfits is featured above—a navy floral top (from LOFT, but similar Reformation one here and Madewell one here) and my beloved Cole Haan leopard mules (last seen here). My dad might dislike the combination of the two prints, but I think they look beautiful with a pair of dark denim jeans and neutral accessories. The key to mixing patterns is picking ones with similar sized designs (notice how the flowers and leopard print are both tinier) or featuring shared colors. I don’t usually wear navy with black, so the chocolate brown in the leopard is more complimentary and doesn’t contrast the top as much. I also tend to treat leopard as a neutral, so I don’t think the combination of the two is outlandish. I would also style the floral top with small yellow polka dots or the shoes with stripes! So long as neither pattern overpowers the other, I think Tim Gunn would approve of all the mixing!

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