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What is the best way to mix and match patterns?

Answer: You already know there are many odd pairings out there—sweet and sour sauce, salty and sweet popcorn…the list goes on. Well, think of textures and patterns as one of those unlikely combinations; it’s strange that they would ever go together, but when mixed properly, it can totally work. Mixing textures and patterns not only add more interest and variety to your style, but they can also be the perfect way to change up your wardrobe. So, go ahead and combine large prints with small ones, leather with lace or plaid with polka dots. Ditch those fashion rules in favor of creativity. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few guidelines to help you avoid looking like you got dressed in the dark. Follow these sure-fire tips, and it won’t be long before you’re a certified mix-master.

Keep it in the color family.

The first and most basic principle when it comes to mixing and matching: stick to the same color scheme. Patterns in the same color family will add cohesion and fluidity to your outfit. Use only one or two colors in your outfit from head-to-toe. Once you choose different patterns in the same color, you’ll discover the endless combos you can create.

Mix it up when it comes to size and weight.

Since patterns of the same size compete for attention, try pairing smaller patterns with larger, more bold ones. For example, if you wear thin stripes on top, vouch for thick stripes on the bottom. If you’re wearing a striped top, find a striped skirt or pants that are heavier or lighter in weight. Have fun with small polka dots and a large floral pattern. Whatever you choose, just make sure one pattern is the center of attention.

Experiment with different textures.

Another great (and easy) way to mix patterns is with texture. You can experiment with lace and eyelet styles, or pinstripes with a solid or corresponding pattern. When you wear a really tiny pattern such as small polka dots, thin stripes or checks—it can also serve as a solid. Due to the fact that they’re so understated, the eye automatically registers them as a solid.

Some prints and patterns can even be considered neutrals. Although blacks, whites and browns are often considered the only neutrals, classic prints such as black and white, white and navy, gingham and houndstooth can also be neutrals. A black and white striped piece can go with almost anything and serves as an anchor for the rest of the outfit, allowing you to throw on something colorful like florals. Include neutrals with other pieces for balance and to create a focal point. When you pair a neutral or solid with two or more patterns, it can break up a busy outfit, making it much more appealing to the eye.

Look for complementary patterns.

Certain patterns always mesh well together. The common mixes are stripes with florals, florals with polka dots, stripes with polka dots, and leopard with stripes. As long as they’re united by color and silhouette, you’ll be sure to turn heads in one of these fail-safe mash ups.

Manage accessories wisely.

Accessories can either help or hinder your cause when it comes to mixing patterns. Don’t overwhelm your look with too many (or the wrong) accessories. For just the right balance, choose neutral shoes, jewelry and a handbag. If you want to inject some color, you’ll want to pick a shade that’s complementary to the print—one that still doesn’t conflict with the pattern you’ve chosen. An easy way to do this is by incorporating a printed scarf, which is a great piece for a pop of color and pattern. A colored or neutral belt can also be used to break up two different patterned pieces. The focus should always be on the pattern—not the accessories.

Forget matching. Instead of breaking the bank on an entirely new wardrobe this season, update your closet and give your clothes a new lease on life by mixing and matching items you already own. Whether you’re a fearless trendsetter or a bit more conservative when it comes to fashion, this trend will have everyone praising your style and swagger. So, what are you waiting for? Happy mixing!

What are some ways you mix and match patterns, prints and textures?