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Shopping In My Own Closet Helped Me Master 2020’s Pattern Mixing Trend

Turns out, your patterned pieces can look bomb together.
STYLECASTER | How to mix patterns trend
Gisele Smith. Art: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to play dress-up. At eight years old, I was the girl in my friend group declaring myself the official costume designer for every makeshift play or performance we dreamed up—now, in my twenties, I’m certainly no less creative when it comes to getting dressed. In fact, I hate wearing the same outfit twice, so I always end up scouring my closet and racking my brain for ways to style my staples anew. This has made me an expert in how to mix patterns, a trend I love for its unpredictability.

When it comes to dreaming up the perfect outfits, I find that so often, we limit ourselves because of rules we’re accepted for no real reason. Polka dots don’t go with stripes. “Florals can’t possibly work with plaids.” Says who? In my rule book, these hot takes are 100% inaccurate. The more dramatic the clash, the more impactful the results! Pattern mixing is a great way to unlock the endless possibilities within your wardrobe. Once nothing is off-limits, your creativity can truly bloom.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that for the last three years, I’ve taken an OOTD picture in my mirror every single morning before work [Editor’s Note: I follow, she does, and they’re always fab AF!]. That said, now that we’re all social distancing and working from home, my frequent shopping habits have come to an abrupt halt, and I’ve had to do a deep dive into my wardrobe to come up with new looks to excite me on the daily.

From this challenge, I’ve learned a thing or two in terms of tips to share regarding pattern mixing, some of which will hopefully make it easier for you to raid your own closet and try out the trend for yourself. Read on for a few ways to master pattern mixing, plus four looks I give you permission to copy and rock at your next Zoom happy hour and beyond.

1. Go For Complementary Colors

STYLECASTER | How to mix patterns trend
Gisele Smith.

Blazer : Urban Outfitters via Nuuly | Dress: Anthropologie | Boots: Ganni

If you need a safe starting-off point, know that complementary colors are your friend. Yellow and purple, orange and blue, or red and green are all great combinations because they sit across from one other on the color wheel. Not to get all Bill Nye The Science Guy, but basically, pairing these colors together is the most pleasing to the eye due to the fact that each plays off of the other’s intensity. Color theory, but make it ~fashun~!

Take, for example, the look above, which might have seemed like a Christmas color combo catastrophe in theory, but works perfectly in practice—if I do say so myself. Since the green in the blazer and the red in the dress complement each other, the opposing patterns can play off of one another without clashing in a bad way. Since both patterns (plaid and polka dot) are fairly minimalistic, the clash seems even more intentional. To up the ante and give this look some added interest, I threw on some black and white boots (these Ganni ones are my pride and joy) for a final patterned pop. Do the same and you’ve got yourself a lewk, darling!


2. Pick A Color Story & Stick To It

STYLECASTER | How to mix patterns trend
Gisele Smith.

Dress: Innika Choo via Nuuly | Top: Urban Outfitters (Similar) | Boots: ASOS

Some people might tell you to keep textures to minimum when experimenting with patterns and prints, but I am not some people. I know what you’re thinking—Gisele, this look is a *teeny bit extra* for a casual day at home, no? My answer is that nothing is too extra if wearing it makes you happy, and I felt great in this combo!

For this outfit, I decided to mix two patterns that certainly didn’t appear to work together at first glance. However, while this animal-printed mesh shirt and tiered plaid dress are both very bold, they live in the same color family thanks to their shared neutral tan hues. Granted, the overall look is anything but neutral, but pairing together pieces that fit the same color story can help streamline your pattern-mixing and keep your look from feeling too busy. In this case, a success!


3. Consider Black & White Prints Your New Neutrals

STYLECASTER | How to mix patterns trend
Gisele Smith.

Pants: Free People (Similar) | Sweater: Topshop (Similar) | Shoes: Doc Martens (Similar)

Full disclaimer: These are my favorite pants in the world, and I’d argue that they go with anything and everything. They are the starting point of many of my pattern-mixing ensembles, mostly because they’re black and white—a print colorway that has quickly has become a netural in my palette. Black and white prints are great to mix with your more colorful patterned pieces, so I let these babies be my base whenever I feel like rocking a fun top. To round out the comfiest look of this quartet, I threw on a super chunky mustard sweater with an oversized floral print. Talk about the ultimate elevated-but-cozy work from home look!


4. Color-Blocking Counts, Too

STYLECASTER | How to mix patterns trend
Gisele Smith.

Dress: Macy’s | Pants: Forever 21 (Similar) | Shoes: Prada via The Real Real

If two full-on patterns still terrify you, start by pairing a fun print with a color-blocked accent to ease your way into statement-making territory. This last look is an ode to missed opportunities, as I planned on wearing both this pair of shoes and this dress during my birthday weekend. The current Stay At Home situation has certainly changed my plans, so  I decided to figure out a few new ways to style these pieces.

A yellow bodycon dress is not the most practical WFH essential, so I decided to unbutton this piece and wear it open for a chic, blazer-like look. I kept the rest of my look fairly minimal (for me) with a simple black top and these major gingham pants (back at it again with the black and white patterns!). To finish things off, I created a color-blocking moment with my Prada babies, which perfectly matched my DIY-blazer sitch. Safe to say this is a ‘fit I’ll continue wearing on repeat once my social distancing days are over.

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