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Taylor’d with Style: Prints? Yes, Please.

young female model shows off a stylish print dress

By JeanAnn Taylor

As summertime winds down, your wardrobe may need perking up. Summer’s heat can zap any motivation to be fashionable. After all, why dress nicely when you know you’re going to end up sticky and sweaty?

Fortunately, dramatic, cheerful, and chic prints can energize your summer attire and express your individuality.

I love solid colors, but I’m obsessed with prints. It may be because I don’t have to choose between pink, yellow, or green; I can wear all three! I love the way colors play with each other and how the hues appear lighter or darker depending on which color they lie next to.

Color can play interesting tricks on our eyes. Fabric that looks orange on its own can look red when placed next to an orangey-er shade. Green can look blue or yellow depending on which color it is next to.

When wearing prints, choose them in your most flattering color palette—just as you would when choosing solid color garments. If you look best in solid jewel tones, you’ll look best in a paisley, striped, or chevron print of jewel tones.

Some out-dated fashion rules dictate that to play it safe, it’s always best to wear solid-color clothing. It was believed that prints were too distracting, confusing, and could make you look larger than you actually are. However, instead of avoiding these pretty patterns, you can use them to your advantage.

One note of caution, pay attention to where motifs lie on your body. Circular shapes, animal motifs, and words will draw attention. Take care that the attention is where you want it.

Prints can be used to intentionally distract from specific places—or they can be used to attract attention to a specific area. All-over prints have no obvious focal point which means the eye doesn’t settle on one spot. This quality can convey a slimming illusion to your overall look. The key is to choose a pattern-scale that is pleasing to your body type.

A large floral or graphic design can overpower a small frame while a small print may look out of place on a larger frame. As my mother always said, “Let the girl wear the dress, not the dress wear the girl." This is a fashion rule that remains relevant.

In 1959, Lilly Pulitzer created a stir when she designed colorful print dresses to sell at her orange juice stand in Florida. As she wore the dresses to work, she soon found that her customers wanted to buy her designs as well as her refreshing juice!

Her signature colors of pink, green, blue, yellow, and orange are found in florals, botanicals, fruit, and whimsical animals. Her pretty fashions remain popular today as they radiate an element of happiness and simple pleasures.

Don’t let prints intimidate you. If you don’t feel confident about wearing an all-over printed ensemble, there are fashionable ways to tone down or quieten the verve. You can wear a busy-printed floral or bold chevron top with a solid color skirt.

A neutral navy or white jacket can tone down a colorful polka-dot print. You can show just a hint of print by letting the cuffs and collar of a paisley shirt peek out from a solid color jacket.

You may not feel comfortable wearing a dress made from fabric adorned with mermaids and starfish, but a scarf with these motifs, wrapped loosely around your neck, can express your playful personality in a classy manner.

Mixing prints is trendy, but also tricky. To keep it cohesive, stay within one color palette or choose complementary colors. It’s best to wear only two differing prints at a time. Choose one print to dominate and the another as an accent.

If the colors complement each other, the design probably will as well. Imagine a navy and white paisley print skirt paired with a navy and white chevron top. The contrasting patterns are interesting while the colors pull the look together.

Select a large scale pattern to wear with a small scale pattern. If the individual pattern sizes are equal, the overall look may blend together and appear confusing. Mixed-print options are endless, however to avoid confusion, it’s best to choose one aesthetic: feminine, sporty, preppy, or modern.

The most important element to consider is to make your ensemble look intentional—not haphazard. Mixing prints can be a great way to express your personality, but this look can easily translate into a fashion blunder.

Accessories are a stylish and safe way to wear prints. A striped handbag, polka-dot headband, graphic print shoe, or that mermaid scarf may give your outfit just the right touch of pizzazz. Mixing fabric textures is another way to mix it up.

A gingham checked jersey sundress worn with a floral cotton button-down shirt tied at the waist is perfect for a late summer evening when the temperatures begin to chill. A plaid wool skirt worn with a polka-dot chiffon blouse is unexpected, yet chic.

One note of caution, pay attention to where motifs lie on your body. Circular shapes, animal motifs, and words will draw attention. Take care that the attention is where you want it.

Printed fabrics include florals, checks, polka-dots, paisleys, stripes, motifs, oriental, and graphic designs. They are found in all types of clothing and accessories from silk gowns to leggings and from sunglasses to shoes.

They can add energy and panache to your look. Prints make a statement and say, “Look at me!” Playing with prints is a unique way to express your sense of humor, individuality, and savvy sense of style.

“Style isn’t just about what you wear, it’s about how you live.”

~Lilly Pulitzer


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