How to co-ordinate prints

How to co-ordinate prints

how to co-ordinate printsI used to have a love/hate relationship with prints. I’d go through stages of only wearing block colours and avoiding prints but there would also be periods where I overindulged and wore lots of pattern on a daily basis. Sometimes even at the same time in one outfit! However, this post is not about love for pattern or lack of thereof. I want you to park your preferences for now and let’s discuss the practical aspect of prints.

When chosen the right way, prints can serve as the glue in any wardrobe, ‘marrying’ various colours and helping to create well-put-together looks. The biggest mistake most women do, however, is buying prints randomly. I will probably repeat myself for the hundredth time, but unless you carefully think through what you’re bringing into your wardrobe, you are accumulating a bunch of clothes with very limited potential. If you approach prints with a plan, you’d be amazed at the opportunities they can offer for your wardrobe.

So let’s have a look at what exactly you should be taking into consideration to make sure the next printed top, scarf or skirt you introduce to your wardrobe, gives you plenty of coordinating options.

Know Your Wardrobe’s Base Colour

Coordinating prints can be challenging if you disregard your wardrobe’s dominant color.

What does that mean?

If your wardrobe features a lot of black, your prints should preferably include it. Prints with navy, for example, will give you very limited options in that scenario. You can go for prints that don’t have neither black nor navy (or whatever other colour you consider to be the base one) as long as the colours of the prints work effortlessly with your dominating colour.

Quantity of Colours

Another key factor to take into consideration is the amount of colours in the print. I usually don’t even look at prints that have less than 3 colours. You want to be able to create as many combinations as possible so the quantity of colours is key from the versatility point of view.

The easiest way to tie the elements of a look together is to pick a colour/s featured in the print and introduce it somewhere else in the outfit.

Here is a very basic example to help you envision the concept. We are taking a printed blouse and duplicating the colours in a selection of bottoms. Notice how many colours are present in the print. This is what allows us to play with quite a big colour palette.

how to coordinate prints

One thing to keep in mind – if you are aiming to make the print versatile, you have to be comfortable with actually wearing the colours featured in the print. You might not want to wear orange bottoms but think of where else you could introduce that colour to take advantage of it. If you are looking at a print and the only colours you are emotionally comfortable with wearing are neutrals, it ultimately doesn’t matter how many colours the print has as you are going to waste that opportunity any way.

If you are not someone who feels comfortable with bright bottoms (in this particular example), you can be tapping into accessories to use the print to its full advantage.

how to co-ordinate prints


If you are looking at a print and immediately think ‘I don’t have any of these colours in your wardrobe’, 9 out of 10 times this is a good indicator that you need to walk away from the item. Unless you are consciously trying to build up a new colour capsule, buying prints that don’t have any supporting colours in your current wardrobe is a waste of time, money and space in the closet.

Aim to have at least 3 pieces in your existing wardrobe that would go with the new piece as well as 3 colours that will work well with it (again, present in your wardrobe ALREADY).

Black and white prints

The only exclusion to the colour quantity rule is the combination of black and white. There are a few variations that work equally well – navy instead of black and cream instead of white.

The beauty of these prints lies in their versatility as they work well with a huge amount of colours, brights in particular. This works well for stripes, polka dots and the majority of other prints.


how to coordinate prints


how to coordinate prints

The right print for your wardrobe

A lot of women dismiss prints without realizing that there are different types of patterns. I can guarantee that if you look into it, you will find prints that will attract you, even if you consider yourself a block colour fan. I’ve been showcasing the concepts above using tops and bottoms, but it extends to every type of garment and accessories, so there are plenty of opportunities to experiment with.

In general prints can be divided into 4 groups:

Geometric prints

Geometric prints have a lot of edge to them and can work perfectly for someone who doesn’t want to come across as too girlie. They usually are more suited for the office than the floral or animal prints. Interesting geometric prints can look very expensive and give a designer vibe.

geometric prints

Floral prints

Florals can often have a girlie effect on the overall feel of the item and can sometimes look quite matronly. If you want to avoid looking overly feminine, go for prints that feature dark colours. Also make sure the item doesn’t have details that will reinforce the girlie feel – ruffles, lace detail, bows, exaggerated volume, A-line cut, etc. If looking girlie doesn’t bother you, ignore the previous advice and just look for prints that give you plenty of colours to play around with.

floral prints

Abstract prints

Abstract patterns are usually quite versatile and just like geometric prints, work well for the office as well as dressy wear. They can be a mix of different types of prints or have a ‘washed out’ effect where it’s hard to make out what the print consists of.

abstract prints


Animal prints

This category is probably the most dangerous one as it can go very wrong very quickly. Go with the less-is-more approach and start with accessories rather than clothes. Also try animal prints in colour as they tent to look a bit softer.

I hope it is needless to say that you only feature one item in an animal print within one ensemble. Anything more and you risk looking tacky.

animal prints


  • In general I would recommend having at least two types of prints in your wardrobe to make sure you have plenty of choice and don’t turn in a one-trick pony.
  • If you are only new to prints but want to give them a go, start with tops and scarves. They are the easiest and cheapest way to bring pattern into your wardrobe.
  • If your core wardrobe is pretty clean and simple, injecting a few patterns through accessories can work well. Shoes, bags, jewellery and scarves can all work very well.

Hope you’ll find this helpful!

Your next best move is to go to your wardrobe and see whether you’ve been coordinating prints to their full potential. Look for new colour combinations you might not have thought of before, layering options and dominant types of prints. You might also discover why some of the prints you have haven’t been quite working.

If you have very little to no prints in your current wardrobe, pop them on your shopping list and watch out for them next time you are in the stores.

Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and let me know how you co-ordinate prints is in the comments.

Thank you and see you in the next post! 😉

Natalie xx




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