Prints are charming has a fantastic iPhone app that enables you to scroll through designers’ collections and read highly entertaining reviews of the clothes (entertaining as in ‘what pretentious twaddle is this fashion journalist going to say today?’). Fashion journo babble aside, it’s fun to be able to browse the pretty, pretty clothes.

Yesterday I was idly checking out the Spring 2012 Ready to Wear collections (as you do), and noted something fab: there are a lot of prints out there. I love prints, but I do think that there’s a user-friendly, ‘real person’ way to wear them – and a fashion universe, ‘no real person would leave the house looking like that’ way. Here are my entirely plebian and subjective guidelines to wearing prints.

1. Consider separates

Wearing a print as a separate and pairing it with a plain element is a good way to make a cool outfit. I liked this combination of a print top with plain navy trousers, from Karen Walker (although I’d decide against the matching hat):

I think that the neutral shoes help to keep the outfit on the right side of stylish, as well.

I also like a print skirt, as shown in this Wes Gordon outfit:

The bright top makes the print skirt seem like the neutral part of the outfit. It looks great.

I’m not a fan of prints on all separates, though. Check out this outfit from Karen Walker:

I really don’t like trousers with a print – this looks like somebody who forgot to change out of their pyjama pants before leaving the house. The outfit would have been so much better if the print element had been a skirt.

2. Build an outfit

A nice print can form the foundation of an entire outfit, particularly if you choose elements that all ‘fit’ tonally. I LOVE this outfit from Carolina Herrera and would happily wear it myself:

I know that it might be too ‘matchy-matchy’ for some people, but I think it looks elegant and cool.

3. Tone things down

Prints look great with some kind of neutral colour, to calm down the outfit. This bright Vivienne Tam dress becomes much more wearable with a nude coat slung over it:

Again, the leather shoes help to keep it all user-friendly – and they stop things from being too girly. The thick leather belt and leather shoes help to toughen up this floaty Oscar de la Renta dress as well:

It’s not too ‘fashiony’ because the colours are right.

4. Look beyond florals

I love floral prints and have a lot of them in my wardrobe, but other prints are great as well – like that lovely Carolina Herrera skirt earlier on. This is a gorgeous Oscar de la Renta dress:

It’s good that there are print options for women who aren’t floral fans. Here’s another great look from Karen Walker:

That is such a cute dress and looks super-casual. I love it.

5. Don’t mix prints

Designers are convinced that it’s a good idea to mix prints in an outfit. Here’s an example from Karen Walker:

And another Karen Walker effort:

And here’s a shocker of an outfit from Tommy Hilfiger:

In my opinion all three outfits are bad: the Karen Walker examples are just too chaotic, and the Tommy Hilfiger look is migraine-inducing. I think that this is one of those times where designers misunderstand the fashion confidence of their consumers – you would have to be supremely self-assured to mix prints like this. And confidence aside, I don’t think that mixing prints looks good. It’s too much for the eye to take in, so you don’t actually get to appreciate any of the prints being worn.

6. Avoid print suits

Like the mixed prints thing, some designers are convinced that print suits are a good idea. I disagree – unless you’re the new chief executive of Clown Enterprises, I would advise against this Anna Sui suit:

And this outfit from Karen Walker:

I think she’ll be lucky to sell five of those suits, worldwide.

7. Embrace the dress

Print dresses are lovely, and look so much more ‘done’ than separates. They’re the ultimate in fast dressing – you just add a good pair of shoes, a bag, and a cardigan or a jacket if temperatures require it, and you’ve got a lovely outfit. I’m a huge fan of print dresses in the summer and used to wear them all the time at work. I think that some people worry about prints looking too frivolous in an office environment, but I got away with it for four years, and I worked for the UK’s most traditional and conservative law firm.

In addition to some of the dresses I’ve already shown in this post, check out these lovely Karen Walker numbers:

And this is gorgeous from Marc by Marc Jacobs:

I can’t wait for warmer weather and the opportunity to wear my own print dresses again!

2 responses to “Prints are charming

  1. Maybe the loons who come in to my work dressed in what I think are their PJs are actually in smart fashion forward print suits. I’m so 2010, they’re showing me up.

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