Make sure one color repeats in every piece of the outfit (for example, navy paisley with navy, red, and white plaid).
Combine loose prints with structured prints (like swirls with stripes).
Blend small designs with larger-scale ones (such as gingham with bold flowers).
2 of 4Ditte Isager
Wearing Prints to Work
Why It WorksA solid piece on top, like this yellow cardigan (shown, left), helps tone down patterns for the office. The tiny polka dots of the shirt offset the skirt’s larger, nature-inspired design.
The navy in this jacket is echoed in the leaf motif of the dress (shown, right). "Think of stripes as neutrals you can pair with anything," says Clinton Kelly, cohost of the Learning Channel’s What Not to Wear.
3 of 4Ditte Isager
Wearing Prints for Evening
Why It Works"The trick is to choose patterns that are complementary without being too matchy-matchy," says Sam Saboura, a stylist and the author of Real Style (Clarkson Potter, $18, amazon.com). Left, a dress of tiny blossoms picks up the color of the vivid polka-dot flats.
The earthy shades of the geometric-patterned dress coordinate with the brown embroidery of the floral jacket (shown, right).
4 of 4Ditte Isager
Wearing Prints on Weekends
Why It Works"A strong pattern should be mixed with a complementary fine print," says New York City–based stylist June Ambrose. The bold two-tone halter is a great match for subtle seersucker shorts (shown, left).
White and black repeat in the top and the pants (shown, right), while the large polka dots don’t battle with the more detailed paisley.