Print It!

By Sharon Mosley

March 4, 2011 4 min read

This spring, you can bloom where you're planted in gorgeous garden blossoms, exotic Eastern and tribal motifs, computerized animal prints, and bold graphic stripes. You really can't mess up when it comes to putting prints together this spring. The old rule of "less is more" is out; think "more is more" when it comes to prints and patterns.

From printed pajama pants to maxi halter dresses to natty nautical jackets and even colorful patterned shoes, you can mix and not match and even layer prints one on top of another.

Take advantage of this "anything goes" style when it comes to wearing prints this season. However, dressing in patterns from head to toe can be tricky. There are a few tried-and-true fashion "rules" that might be helpful to remember when navigating the fields and fields of fashion fauna this season. London fashion expert Paula Reed, author of "Style Clinic," reminds us of a few of them:

--The first rule of thumb to think about: Some prints can make you look larger! Oops! "Big prints, large polka dots, horizontal stripes (even as texture in knits) and patterned leggings are all fattening," Reed acknowledges. "A small, uniform allover design keeps the eye moving and therefore camouflages lumps and bumps." And be wary of ethnic prints that are big and bold. "Some look like you bought them at a tourist bazaar," Reed says. "Be wary of the pitfalls and you'll know what's right when you put it on."

--If you're short, beware. "Short figures are flattered by low-contrast (shades of one color) prints," Reed notes. "Petites need to avoid busy prints and all other fussy details like the plague. Taller bodies can take prints with more contrast." And this tip is a no-brainer: "The darker the print's background the slimmer the look."

--Ditto for beginners. "If you are new to wearing prints, go gently," Reed advises. "Beginners are best off choosing something with lower contrast. Soft floral pastels and dark-toned plaids can be worn by almost anyone if they're confined to one element of clothing worn with a complementary solid element."

--One at a time, please. Though the trend this spring is to pile prints on layer over layer, Reed urges caution. "Unless Christian Lacroix himself is dressing you, stick to one printed item per outfit, even if it's shoes," she says.

--Relax. Most of the time, prints look better in "relaxed" styles, according to Reed, rather than stretchy knits or sharply tailored styles. "Those who are very toned can go for a little stretch or structure," she says, "but don't ask a big print to give too much. Those tea roses don't look so good when spread over an ample hip." Ouch.

--Bottom out. "Large florals, bright geometrics and tropical prints generally look better on the bottom half with an understated and solid color for the top," Reed says. "It's a great look on almost anyone, but it's heaven-sent for those with an ample bust." Reed admits that those of us with more "boyish" figures can handle prints on the top halves of our bodies, "as long as they keep the shape simple and balance the effect with a solid-colored bottom half." If you have a pear-shaped figure, prints on top will draw the eye away from the hips.

--Go with the flow. "Full-figured women look best in a print on a fabric that has fluidity," Reed notes. "Avoid too much volume, which adds bulk. But as long as it moves, it can look great."

Sharon Mosley's column, "In Fashion," can be found at

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