Thursday, 10 March 2011

This is not your Grandmother’s Closet!

Tired of wearing solid colour blocks? Tired of matching black with black? Need to add some personality to your wardrobe? It might just be time to start experimenting with prints. As with every area of fashion, there are things one should do, and even more things that one shouldn’t do. Each type of print has certain rules, and I’m here to explain them for you J

We’ll start with the basics. The most common prints are those that are simple, like stripes and polka dots. They’re seen the most, because they are probably the easiest to wear, and the least likely to go wrong. The key to successfully wearing stripes and polka dots is the size of the print. Smaller stripes and dots on someone who is curvy can often make their clothes, and therefore themselves, seem bulkier, while as larger strips and dots on a smaller person can overwhelm their outfit. My advice is to start with a medium-sized print, since they are the default for all body types, and work either smaller or larger depending on your size. The exception to this rule, is when the material has dots of varying sizes. In this case, I feel that almost anyone can get away with it, since the less regularized size of print does not create a monochromatic material (such as evenly-sized dots do). Stripes do not follow this rule though, and I would suggest staying away from any clothing where the stripes are not the same size or the size does not increase at regular intervals.

this size of polka dot is not quite right for the full-length dress that I found it on

this plaid had glitter in it. ICK!
The second pattern we’re going to talk about is one which is in the same family as stripes, but has a bit more personality. I’m referring to the traditional Scotch pattern that was brought back into fashion by designers such as Alexander McQueen, and one of my personal favourites: plaid! Plaid can easily go wrong in an outfit. It’s a very busy pattern, that generally contains more than one colour, and if worn wrong can come off as either being very retro (not in the good way) or too punk or country. My advice with plaid, is that if you’re going to make the venture, do so carefully, yet commit. If you want to use it to create a punky or country look then do it, but don’t mix genres of style. If you want to keep it relatively neutral, then do as I do: stick to Burberry’s classic tan plaid for handbags and outerwear, or invest in a single piece for your wardrobe. The only piece of plaid clothing that I own is a classic red plaid mini-dress from Le Chateau, and even though I don’t wear it very often, anytime I feel like dressing up like a vampire it comes in handy.

Like plaid, houndstooth is a very classic, but busy pattern. I’m not a huge fan of it, since it often looks matronly and reminds me of an old lady’s style suit (see the pink example), but I do own a tank top in red houndstooth that I am rather fond of. I’ve had to wear houndstooth in a very dressed-down way because obviously I’m not old enough to rock the “professional woman” look, and the only other piece of clothing that I would consider purchasing at this point in my life is a black and white houndstooth jacket.

Now we’ll move to graphic prints, which are some of my favourites. These can be either geometric or organic, and either way they are simply fabulous! Graphic prints are the best way to spice up a plain t-shirt and jeans outfit or a simply cut dress. They also make the transition to accessories quite well, since there is no real restriction concerning size. They may constantly repetitive, but they do so in a more interesting way than stripes or dots, and they don’t tend to have the same problems with adding bulkiness to an outfit. What I like best about graphic prints is the sheer variety. I have so many outfits and shirts with graphic prints that it was hard to choose which ones to showcase, but I think that the white urban-geometric and green organic kaleidoscope are two prime examples of how well graphic prints can work. The white is from a shirt, and the green is from a shift dress, both of which sport clean lines, yet are in no way boring outfits. 

One of the best graphic prints, but one which I see gone wrong more than right are florals. 70s-inspired flower power is never really going to go out of style, especially with the increase in the popularity of the green movement, but there is such a thing as over-doing the greenery. There are three key problems that I see constantly with people wearing florals: the size of the print, the colours of the pattern, and how the pieces are worn. When you’re choosing floral pieces for your wardrobe you have to pick carefully. They are by definition, a feminine style-key, so not every piece of floral clothing is going to work. Dresses in floral are lovely, as are skirts, and shirts, but don’t even attempt to do floral pants. It may sound traditional, but women didn’t used to be allowed to wear pants, and there was a reason why. Pants are not feminine pieces of clothing; they’re masculine, so trying to put floral patterns on them is most likely not going to go over well. Jackets can be done in florals, but I would tread carefully in this rose garden, since it’s hard enough to find a properly fitted jacket, much less one with an interesting motif. Remember the rule I spoke about in regards to the size of stripe and dot? The same applies to floral prints for exactly the same reasons. Flowers can make an outfit look bulky if they’re not the right size. The biggest problem that I see with florals is very simple: colour choice. This may seem like a matter of taste to some people, but contrary to popular belief some colours just don’t go together. You can get away with almost any colour of flower pattern, depending on your skin tone and the rest of the outfit of course, but steer clear of flower patterns that have too many colours (in this case rainbows are not appropriate), and patterns that have too many neutrals. I often see brown as an accent colour, and am disgusted because brown is not a very flowery colour. To me it’s reminiscent of dead greenery, so why would we want to have it mixed in with lively flowers?
all I can say about this is...

An easy way to use florals is to wear lace, since flowers are often key in lacey patterns. The great thing about lace is that it doesn’t come in a rainbow of colours (unless it’s dyed, and that’s a whole other fashion error…), so it’s hard to screw it up. Adding a single lace accessory or piece of clothing adds instant texture to an outfit, as well as class. My favourite are lace-overlay headbands, layered lace flower hair pins, and simple lace wraps.

zebras come in purple,
don't they?
My favourite pattern of all is animal print. I believe that every woman should have at least one piece of animal print clothing, and at least one pair of shoes. Whether it’s leopard, zebra, or snakeskin, all are equally fabulous and adding just one piece to any outfit adds instant glamour. Even if the material is synthetic (like my metallic bronze snakeskin boots) or coloured (like my purple zebra print trench), they’re still beautiful pieces, and are guaranteed to get you noticed. You can wear pretty much any animal print on any piece of clothing, the trick is to not over-do it. If you’re wearing a leopard print top, choose neutral pieces for the rest of the outfit so that people aren’t overwhelmed. Also, don’t try to mix and match multiple animal prints, unless you want to look like you’re a member of an ‘80’s hair band, which I admit would get you noticed on the street (just maybe not in the way you would have hoped).
the classiest of animal prints :)
That should be all for now dear readers, but if I’ve missed a print that you’re curious about, or have any specific questions just leave me a comment and I will totally get back you. I don’t want any of my readers making any fashion errors!

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