Weekend Workshop: Pattern Mixing

March 26th, 2011 § 11 comments

For whatever reason the phrase “pattern mixing” still prompts me (E.) to break into a little bit of a nervous sweat. I think that somewhere along the way I built up pattern mixing into this highly calculated and unattainable level of style to which I, as a humble machine washable peon, did not have access to. Catalogue images from Anthropologie were overwhelming rather than inspiring and even with Stacy and Clinton’s “What Not to Wear” rules of remaining within a color family or doing bold+subtle patterns, I just…balked.

Pattern Mixing

I think pattern mixing is, finally, one of those things that I’ve grown into as I’ve become more confident in my own style and sense of self. Even though playing with pattern is not my initial style impulse, I’ve increasingly found pattern to be a good way of kicking me out of a wardrobe rut or injecting my somewhat staid daily outfits with a little bit more fun.

All four of us chics have mixed patterns in our daily outfits, but what I found interesting as I looked through our archive of “Mixing Patterns” is that we each have our own preferred approach to doing so. Each approach has a different end effect, but perhaps you’ll find inspiration for whatever degree of pattern craziness you prefer.


23 November 2010

When A. mixes patterns (and she really does so quite a bit), she tends to play with classic prints in a subtle color palette. Argyle and a tiny floral in neutral tones. Pinstripes and florals that both share a black background.

Pattern MixingBlazers, Florals, Belts

On the other hand, A. has also done some monochromatic color mixing in punchier colors, too!

pink pattern on pink pattern! Pattern on Pattern on Pattern



Much of L.’s pattern mixing comes from using a bolder patterned accessory in addition to a more subtly patterned garment. The result is a lovely initial “ooh” when you see her bold pattern, followed by an extended “ahhh” when you realize that there are other visually interesting elements at play as well. She paired pinstriped trousers with a patterned flat, for example, or a patterned sweater with a multicolor scarf, or graphic black and white dress with a patchwork bag.

2011 Academichic - Grellow

2010 Academichic - White Shoes Pattern and Lola Jeans


Nomi Tote

I think that A., L., and I are all somewhat still in awe of how S. embraces a range of bold patterns and then mixes them with other prints! While she frequently and effortlessly mixes more subtle stripes and polkadots with an array of other prints, she has also mixed stripes with stripes, florals with stripes, landscape prints with stripes, florals with abstractions, and geometric upon geometric.

19 March 2009 Pattern mixing
17 December 2009 Silk scarf
Pattern mix Subtle pattern mix
Pattern Mix 20 January 2010

Pattern Mix

(S.’s teaching moment on pattern mixing with a cardigan is definitely worth a read if you’d like to see various iterations of a pattern mixed outfit.)


24 March 2011 - Spot the Flower

I don’t think that I have a definitive style of pattern mixing per se, but I have noticed that my general approach is to imagine that the patterned pieces are solid colors. I create color pairings first, before thinking too hard about pattern. This helps me get over my initial uneasiness and has frequently paid off. Using this mentality, I’ve turned classic pairings like navy and red or black, white, and red into geometric on geometric or stripes and lace pattern mixes. Or, of course a white tank top would go with a mustard, brown, and white patterned skirt…even if said white tank top also has navy stripes.

25 February 2010 Let's Give Them Something to Talk About

Matriarch Skirt

This has also been the means of adding interest to otherwise monochrome black and white outfits. Stripes and tweed have a graphic punch together, while stripes and tone-on-tone damask is more subtle.

3 November 2010 - A Little Craycray 29 September 2010 - Black and White Week, Day 3


We’re not the craziest pattern mixers out there, but we have each found ways to use pattern play in ways that simultaneously suits and pushes our individual tastes. While rules about how to mix patterns can be useful, I’ve found it even more helpful to think broadly about what drives my personal style and then work patterns of various stripes (and florals and graphics) into that. Now, pattern mixing need not be an daunting style goal that I strive for just for the sake of achieving. Instead, I’m understanding it as a tool that I can use to add another level of interest to my own existing style.

§ 11 Responses to Weekend Workshop: Pattern Mixing"

  1. Ruth says:

    This is amazing!! I’m in awe of pattern-mixers, but can’t seem to do it from my own closet. Perhaps your workshop will finally inspire me to expand my use of patterns…

  2. Kate K says:

    How perfectly timely! I was getting ready for work this morning (boo Saturday shifts!) and I was wearing a black and gray striped dress (very small stripes) with a black blazer and black tights and gray boots. For about two seconds, I debated between a colored scarf and my new black scarf with white polka dots. In the spirit of pattern mixing and fashion bravery, I decided to wear the polka dot scarf. And I thought of you all here at acadmichic! (And of course Sal from Already Pretty.) Great tutorial–definitely nice to see how pattern mixing can work for everyone!

  3. I’m wary of pattern-mixing, too… But I think you’ve shown that the easiest pattern to mix are stripes! :) I love how S mixed her striped cardi with a paisley top. Wonderful combo. I’m taking notes…

  4. Amelie says:

    Yesterday I ended up pattern mixing by accident. In the morning I grabbed anything comfortable out of the closet thinking that I’d change later, but ended up wearing floral leggings with a dress with plaid accents all day. While it’s not the most bold instance of pattern mixing ever I was still impressed with myself.

  5. Aimee says:

    Now you have me wishing I were brave enough to try mixing the blazer from a plaid skirted suit I thrifted with a floral skirt I already own and love. It’s a subtle plaid, so it will probably be just fine, but other than that skirt, I so seldom wear patterns that anything new is scary.

  6. dotty says:

    this is such a neat post! i really like how each of you are a different pattern mixing character!

  7. Maureen says:

    I think I now take mix patterns as a result of reading this blog! Thank You!

  8. Megs says:

    Mixing patterns totally makes me break out in a cold sweat. The other day I wore a dress that had a stripe pattern on the upper half and then my shoes had a houndstooth pattern. I had to stare at myself in the mirror for a good long time before I was sure that I was brave enough to wear it. It wasn’t even that bold of a mix! I need a dose of pattern-mixing courage, for sure.

  9. [...] Chic teaches us how to mix patterns. I absolutely love this teacher fashion blog – what are your favorite teacher blogs? Fashion [...]

  10. Jackie says:

    I’m not a big fan of pattern mixing, but I think stripes are usually okay to mix. I like the stripe examples best of all.

  11. [...] it with the striped shirt. Or perhaps I was inspired by the Academichic’s Weekend Workshop on Pattern Mixing (as far as pattern mixing goes, I think stripes with floral prints is pretty safe, so it’s [...]

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