The Fashion-Girl Trend You CAN Pull Off

Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
There are some fashion-girl trends that even the most style adept have trouble mastering with total confidence — take socks with sandals or candy-colored faux fur, for example. But, there's one recent trope that can be especially daunting: the print-on-print-on-(sometimes)-print trend, which combines two or more patterns to exuberant effect. Thing is, you don't have to have a stylist's eye to pull off this seemingly tricky look. All you need are a few guidelines — and a lot of attitude — and you'll be mixing and matching spring's best florals, stripes, and ginghams in no time.

Ahead, we're breaking down the best ways to expertly combine your patterned pieces, whether you're just testing the waters or you're ready to dive into a head-to-toe commitment. And, because no look is complete without stellar accessories, we're including finishing touches that totally make the outfits, including retro-inspired round sunglasses from Sunglass Hut and quirky footwear (i.e., that aforementioned attitude). So, get ready to pile on the prints and hit the ground running. Soon, you'll be leaving the Fashion Week peacocks in the dust.

1 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
For The Trend-Curious

Try two prints at once.

The No. 1 rule for entry-level print mixing: Stick to two patterns and simple silhouettes. On Emma (left) and Karmay (right), we layered shift dresses over button-ups, so only the sleeves and collars peek out from underneath. A sleek dress provides an automatic hero piece and can take the spotlight with a larger print, while the short length and slim cut ensure the colorful mishmash won't be overwhelming.

On Emma (left): Zara cutout dress, Uniqlo linen striped shirt, Rene Caovilla low-tops. On Karmay (right): H&M crocheted dress, Uniqlo printed blouse, ASH booties (shop similar).
2 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
Pull from the same color palette.
Once you've got your hero dress, find a shirt or blouse that shares one of its colors (but not the main one). Karmay's blue polka-dotted blouse matches the detailing in her dress' floral print, while Emma's oxford has stripes in the pale-pink hue found in her '70s-inspired material. Keeping the secondary piece in a neutral print — like polka dots or stripes, with white — prevents the outfit from looking too busy.

On Emma:
3 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
Mix textures and shapes.
Easy peasy? Try playing with different textures and shapes. Karmay's jersey-style mesh dress provides an interesting contrast to her ladylike silky blouse, while the round shades juxtapose the straight cut of the dress. The specs' on-trend, '70s shape also helps amp up the outfit's retro-tropic vibe.
4 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
For The Fashion Risk-Taker

Add a third print.

You've mastered the dress-over-shirt thing; now your next challenge is to add a third print. (Trust us, it's not as scary as it sounds.) Start small, like with your shoes and socks. Here, Emma's blue-striped socks and periwinkle heels complement her graphic dress — all from the same cool palette.

On Karmay: Solid & Striped long-sleeve knit, Uniqlo printed hooded jacket, Aqua scuba pencil skirt, Vince d'Orsay pumps. On Emma: Zara jacquard dress, Topshop shirt (shop similar), Hue socks, Pierre Hardy sandals.
5 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
Keep pieces within the same aesthetic.
One way to help multiple prints look cool, not crazy, is to pick items that have the same aesthetic. For example, Emma has a modern, graphic look, pairing a geometric-print dress with an abstract, tie-dye-like shirt. Karmay's look is all sporty, with a grid-patterned hoodie, a blue-and-white-striped T-shirt, and a neoprene skirt.
6 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
Accessorize with whimsical pieces.
An outfit like this demands some equally eye-catching accessories. While it might seem natural to reach for sporty aviators, go for unexpected accents instead, like these curlicue rococo sunglasses, to make the look more unique and play up its quirkiness. Plus, the shades' round lenses and romantic flourishes provide a nice counterpoint to the sporty, graphic prints in the outfit.
7 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
For The Style Extrovert

Commit to head-to-toe print.

You may think picking one print to wear head to toe and calling it a day is the easiest way to do pattern. In reality, the all-over print takes guts, commitment, and more than a little knowledge of shape and proportion. But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it! The main thing to remember here is to opt for tailored pieces: A streamlined silhouette reins in the print, allowing you to shine, rather than drown in checkers or florals. If your print is bolder, like Emma's floral here, choose a truncated hemline and pair it with some elegant heels.

On Emma: Topshop tulip-print pinafore top and culottes, Topshop jacket, Chelsea Paris heels. On Karmay: Zara gingham narrow pants and top, H&M striped top (shop similar), Pierre Hardy sandals.
8 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
Add neutrals to ground a crazy print.
Emma's tropical-print ensemble is too bold to pair with anything but solid colors. The tough, bomber-inspired green jacket and black Ray-Bans function as neutrals, toning down the pattern and adding a tomboy element to the floral look.
9 of 9
Photograph by Katie McCurdy.
Break up an all-over print with other patterns.
Though Karmay's delicate gingham may look less intimidating than Emma's bold florals, the tiny pattern could be dizzying when worn head to toe. Here, the black-and-white peplum top and matching cigarette pants are broken up with a striped tee and tortoise-shell sunglasses in the same colors. Consider stripes a neutral — they go with anything — but they also make the overall look less sweet and more edgy.

More from Styling Tips