What to Look for In Prints and Patterns

Printed Dress from StyleBop.comPrints and warm weather go together and can liven up your favorite go-to pieces. But there are a couple of questions you need to ask before grabbing any oh-so-fabulous print and spiriting it back to your closet like some new-found treasure.


Is it right for you?

Does it work with your existing wardrobe?

Because if you don’t stop to ask these questions, you may find yourself with pieces that don’t flatter or that will require additional purchases to wear. You don’t want that. So take the time before you buy or you may regret it later.

Here’s what you need to consider:

Your Size Dictates Your Best Print Size

If you’re small, opt for small prints. Large prints will make you look smaller and may overwhelm you.

Diane von Furstenberg DressStyleBop
Diane von Furstenberg

If you’re large, opt for large prints. Small prints will make you look bigger.

Print DressAvenue

If you’re average size, opt for average size prints. Otherwise, small prints will make you look bigger and large prints will make you look smaller and may overwhelm you.

YesKay Unger DressCouture Candy
Kay Unger

NoKay Unger DressCouture Candy
Kay Unger

Like Goldilocks, you’re looking for that just right size to make you look your best.

Buy Stuff That Works With Your Wardrobe

A high functioning wardrobe consists of solids and prints in a handful of your best colors and styles. You want to be able to mix and match everything you own so you can get the maximum wear out of everything you buy.

So if your wardrobe looks like this:

Collection of solids

Add prints and patterns from these color families. That way you know you already have stuff with which to wear them.

Solids and prints

If you get a wild hair and buy something that’s totally out of character or out of your regular color palette, know going it that it’s going to cost you. Either you’re going to have to spend money to buy matching pieces or accessories, or you’re not going to wear it because you have nothing to wear it with. Bad plan. Again, only buy stuff that works with your existing wardrobe.

Make Sure The Print is Sewn Properly

Clothing prints are just like wallpaper: you should never see the seam.

Stripes and patterns should match
So inspect seams carefully before you buy to make sure they align properly. If they don’t, put it back on the rack and look for a properly sewn garment instead.


One of the many reasons I’m a big fan of a limited color palette is because it reduces the number of accessories you need…which then allows you to spend more on them. Clean and simple goes with everything. Fussy and outfit-specific does not.

Buy accessories that go with everything

If you’re not sure which shoe color to wear with prints, remember that typically, your shoe color should be equal to or darker than your hem color. Which means, depending on the the print, you can use one of the colors from the print to add a pop of color.

Shoe color should be equal to or darker than hem colorStyleBop

Alternately – and especially for summer – you can also go with a flesh-colored shoe. Not only will this make your legs look longer, it will focus attention on the print.

Shoes can also be neutral colorStyleBop

So what’s the bottom line with prints and patterns?

While they’re a great way to reinvigorate your favorite solid colored pieces, be careful when adding prints to your wardrobe. They should flatter your figure, work with your existing pieces, and be properly sewn before you give them serious consideration. If they don’t meet all three criteria, pass. Only buy clothes that make you look and feel your best.


Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton Sikes is an image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic. Want to find the best clothes for your body, budget, and lifestyle? Wardrobe Magic can help.

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