Sep. 27, 2012 at 9:21 AM ET
From the catwalk to the sidewalk, mixed prints are everywhere. TODAY style editor and Bobbie.com's Bobbie Thomas shares three quick tips for pairing up prints like a pro.
Use common colors
When it comes to mixing prints, rule number one is consider color. Pair up pieces that share hues — black and white is a classic combination, but prints in other colors can be worn together just as easily. Look for color families that feel similar (they don't have to match exactly), and don't be afraid of tones that clash but repeat a common color.
There are always exceptions, so don't be afraid to experiment, as different combinations can draw attention to one color or another. And you can use accessories to help "anchor" your ensemble. Brown shoes and a brown belt, or black jewelry and black glasses can be enough to pull an outfit together (Liz Claiborne graphic blouse $27, JCP.com; patterned pants $17.95, HM.com).
Play with scale
Lesson number two in the world of mixing and matching? Pay attention to the size of your prints. Often a small or faint motif meshes well with a larger or bolder one. The dominant print should lead, while the others should subtly compliment the pattern and create more visual interest in the design.
This concept applies to the size, but also to the density of a design. A tightly packed print can often work well with another that is more spaced out. Use caution when patterns are similar in scale, some can create a monochromatic-like effect, but they can also be too overpowering when combined (Animal print wrap dress and scarves, $14.94-$32.94, Oldnavy.com).
Allow for contrast
Last but not least, opposites attract. Try pairing hard-edged or geometric prints against more fluid, organic shapes. Chevron's zig-zags juxtaposed with the romantic feel of brocade, and stripes next to florals, are two on-trend examples.
You can even pair a structured color-blocked design with an abstract print for a fresh take on the trend. Rather than competing with striking, linear styles, a softer circular or swirled stroke will offer a surprising balance. (Petticoat alley printed peplum top $68, Macys.com; Colorblock pencil skirt $59.90, Calvinklein.com).
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