A recent, albeit unofficial, survey revealed that most (86%) respondents are uncomfortable when it comes to wearing more than one print. For some this may be a true reflection of their personal preferences and style, but for others I suspect it is simply a lack of know-how or a fear of "getting it wrong".
Identifying prints you love and whether or not you're into mixing them is most definitely Step 1. If you're Team Anti-Print, I would ask you to consider why. There are so many prints (and variations of each print) to experiment with, that I believe there's (at least) one for each of us. Prints actually; work really well for woman with simple style or style that is simple for the function of it. A pattern adds interest without any additional work by the wearer - no layering, accessorizing, or trickery necessary.
Here are my best tips for getting started if you don't own many prints or have some in your closet but don't know how to combine them.
1. Pick your pattern. In the same way that it is helpful to identify a consistent palette in your wardrobe, it is useful to pick a favorite pattern. Whatever it is - skulls, camo, stripes, ditsy floral, polka dots - will become the basis for pairing with any other solids or patterns. Adding items to your wardrobe is easier and creating looks is easier because you have a consistent formula to reference. (e.g. If I pick up a floral or geometric print item, I will always consider how it would pair with my go-to stripes.)
2. Pair it with a graphic tee. A graphic tee may not technically be a pattern, but it's definitely more fun and expressive than a plain option. Add a printed hat, neckerchief/bandana, scarf, belt, or shoes to a graphic to amp up the interest. You could match your accessory's colors/pattern to the graphic or go the complete opposite for a little extra pop. If you're easing into pattern, accessories like hats, scarves, and belts are great inexpensive pieces to experiment with as mixers.
3. Small doses still have impact. If you're ready to move to the next step and mix a couple prints, swap the graphic tee for a print. Keep your secondary pattern limited to the same small accessories described in #2. It may also offer a bit of comfort to keep the prints farther away from each other like a tee and sandals, for example. Probably my favorite combination and a recurring look in my momiform is a print top, solid bottoms (usually denim), and a printed shoe/sandal. The pattern mix makes a very basic and EASY look so much more "me" - which is always the #1 objective.
4. Mix in some texture. Patterns aren't always a kaleidoscope of color. Patterns and prints can also be mixed using textured pieces. Eyelet, lace, studs, nubby linen, and brocade all offer a pattern in a single color way if that is more your speed. It's the same ease as mixing a print with a solid color but with a more interesting result.
5. Base it on a base color. Once you're ready to go all in and mix 'em up, there's an easy rule to follow that will help you nail it every time. Pair prints that have the same base color. For me, the process begins with the "busier" print and identifying the background color or a prominent accent color. Then I pair the "busy" print with a stripe pattern in that color plus white. Most often this is black and white or navy and white, but I've got lots of stripe options.
If you're ready to give this print mixing thing a go, head to your closet and start with what you've got. Identify where prints exist in your wardrobe and which ones you really love. Then head over to handy-dandy Pinterest and search for "print mix looks" or "print mix outfits" to find some inspiration for the patterns you identified in your closet.
Finally, I hope you'll give print mixing a try but ultimately it's gotta feel like "you"! If it doesn't, then stick to a single pattern, color blocks, or a monochromatic look - whatever suits your personal style and feels great.