How to Wear Pattern and Print

Free-flowing florals, stripes and geometric motifs: prints hold perennial power in our all-season wardrobes. Bold and instantly impactful, patterned pieces also have a flattering effect, be in a dress or a stylish separate that enhances your best features. For more ways to wear pattern and print, read our exclusive extract from How Not to Wear Black by Anna Murphy, Fashion Director at The Times, and add statement-making style to your everyday repertoire.



The Print Principle

Consider the nature of the pattern. If your frame shape is curvy, go with curvy patterns such as rounded florals, swirls, laciness, watery forms and scrolls. If you are angular, you should favour stripes and checks, including houndstooth, plus geometric designs and angular abstracts. If you are interjacent – neither curvy or angular – then you can go in both directions, but avoid extremes of either. Soft abstracts and softened checks will work well. Animal print is also your friend, as is paisley, and florals that have a linear feel to them. 



The Potential of Pattern

Bear in mind the airbrushing potential of pattern. It always attracts the eye, so if you wear it on the half of your body that you like best, and a plain on the other half, you will emphasise the former and eliminate the latter. Patterned trousers and a plain jacket will look great on an inverted triangle, whereas a triangle would be better flattered by the opposite arrangement. Bright colour has the same effect. Inverted triangles should keep the colour for skirts and trousers, triangles for tops.



The Science of Stripes

Horizontal stripes will lead the eye horizontally, vertical stripes will… yep, you guessed it. Indeed any kind of horizontal – belt or frill – will have the same result. Avoid wearing horizontals on any section of your body, be it bust or hips, that you feel is large. On the other hand, if a section is too small, horizontals can work wonders. A swimsuit or bikini with horizontal stripes across the bust are a godsend for the less well-endowed, vertical stripes will disguise a tummy well, and diagonal stripes, indeed diagonal detailing generally, can be a great diversionary tactic if you don’t have a defined waist.


This is an extract from How Not to Wear Black by Anna Murphy, DK, £16.99.


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