Pattern Phobia, Be Gone: How to Wear Flattering Prints
Nothing makes heads turn like the perfect print. Florals in jewel tones, striking stripes, or funky animal prints can up the style factor of any outfit.
But how many times have you heard that wearing certain prints can be less than flattering? Knowing which designs enhance your figure and learning how to style them flawlessly are key to revamping your closet.
READ: 10 Ways to Revamp Your Little Black Dress
We asked several stylists which prints you should invest in and how to make them super-flattering. Because let’s face it, showing off your figure with the right look never goes out of style.
“Large polka dot prints are a huge no-no,” says Sissy Harris, owner of Peter Kate boutique and personal stylist to Dr. Jill Biden. “They take over the clothing and seem childlike in a way.” When it comes to polka dots, opt for a smaller print as a larger one will expand your shape. Want an extra slimming effect? “Choosing prints on a darker background can help anyone look thinner,” she says.
Like the little black dress, this classic print never goes out of fashion. Houndstooth is an ideal option for those who aren’t fans of polka dots, but still want to stand out from a crowd. And since the design is so dense, it can be universally flattering. “Believe it or not, clothing that is completely patterned actually give you a slimming look,” says celebrity wardrobe stylist Ali Levine. “This is because the clothing is busy with pattern, but there is no single focal point to draw your eye to.” For a polished look, make sure your accessories and shoes are a solid matching color.
Floral prints pop up every year during the balmy spring and summer seasons, but be warned. While this pattern can add a feminine touch to your outfit, the wrong design could also overpower your frame, making you appear wider. “A print that is too large on a bigger shape can make a woman look like a couch or bedspread,” says television host and style expert Hilary Kennedy. “If your tummy is an issue, bring the eye upward with a low, wide necklace and maybe some embellishments. Also, avoid printed long sleeves. They’ll just add more inches to your width." When it comes to wearing florals, Kennedy says it’s important to show some skin so that the bright, bold hues can better enhance your skin tone. “Your skin will also help break up the chaos of the print, allowing the focus to be on the entire outfit," she says. Another trick is to add a belt to cinch your waist, resulting in that highly coveted hourglass figure.
Can’t decide whether to wear stripes or polka dots? Try both! “Mixing prints can be very stylish, but it could also be tricky,” says model and style expert Jaimie Hilfiger. “You need to choose prints that have at least one color in common to pull them together.”
“A print that is always a major do is the iconic leopard,” Harris says. “This always works on a handbag, shoes, pants, and of course, in a dress, too!” And don’t be afraid to be creative with accessories. Kennedy likes pairing leopard with a solid colored buttondown for fall. You can also welcome the cooler season with a chocolate brown leather skirt, golden stilettos, or basic black pants.
“Multi-color prints offer a lot of flexibility and allow you to mix and match more garments because they visually tie colors together,” says image consultant Thea Wood. Another simple way to wear plaid like a pro (or a royal?) Get a well-tailored plaid jacket or coat and pair it with knee-length leather boots.
Simply put, stylists agree that horizontal stripes can be hard to pull off, as they can give the illusion of adding weight. Levine says to play it safe and choose vertical or diagonal stripes instead. “Diagonal strips can do a lot for guiding the eye,” she says. “They create a wraparound effect to make your body look slimmer.” As for vertical stripes? “If you want to trick the mind into believing you are taller and slimmer, go with vertical stripes,” she says. “They draw the eye up and down, giving the illusion of height. Be sure that your clothes are tailored to fit you perfectly. If they are too tight or baggy, it can make your stripes lumpy and uneven, causing you to look disheveled.”
Yes, there is a difference. While standard stripes can come in a variety of shapes, they also tend to focus on two colors. Sailor-inspired stripes, on the other hand, usually focus on wider lines and brighter hues, like blue, red, and even mustard. “Big and bold stripes are the way to go,” says Hilfiger. “Dare to make a statement and wear jumbo stripes instead of your run-of-the-mill mini ones.”