Pulling off prints is tricky business both in and out of the office. While they’re fun and can showcase your personality, they come with risks: An ensemble can look too loud or inappropriate if you don’t execute things just right. Here are five ways to make sure your prints look polished enough for work.
Make Careful Pairings
If you’re opting for cutesy details like flowers, cats, or hearts, be mindful of what you’re wearing them with. Whimsical patterns can be appropriately balanced with more conservative fare: cigarette pants, simple skirts, dark cardigans, and solid-colored tights, for example.
Cardigans, tights, and any other garments surrounding the print are all places that should stay simple and easy on the eyes. And don’t forget to watch the cut — if you’re wearing a floral blouse on top, don’t choose a full, A-line (read: playful) skirt, for example.
Catarina women’s popover shirt, available at Joules, $52.95
Easy on the Color
To further balance a loud pattern, choose neutral, solid colors everywhere else: black, dark blue, brown, and gray. Think of everything else as the frame for the garment you want to showcase. Choosing dark hues that contrast with your print makes most designs pop. In this case, less is more.
Boy shirt in pacey plaid, available at J.Crew, $89.50
Smaller prints (whether they’re polka dots, florals, or even stripes) tend to look more chic because they don’t overwhelm the eye. On a smaller scale, patterns read as thoughtful details rather than pronounced statements.
Prominent patterns — even in neutral colors — can come off as loud, abrasive, and cheap compared to their smaller counterparts. When in doubt, go smaller than you think you should.
Silk refined tee in foulard dot, available at Madewell, $79.99
Watch Your Feet
Footwear is usually where prints go from fun to costumey. If you have an exceptionally playful work environment, perhaps you can get away with bright yellow Mary Jane heels and a geometric print dress. But for everyone else, simple and elegant shoes anchor an otherwise loud look. Choose classic pairs, like pumps or unadorned flats, in solid colors. The same goes for boots.
Silk geometric striped dress, available at Madewell, $168
Nix Complicated Hairstyles and Accessories
If you’re wearing prints, they should already be counted as an accessory (and in some instances, they should be counted as five accessories). You don’t need anything extra in the way to complicate the image. Skip dangly earrings, loud headbands, and even bright glasses.
Use the same strategy for your hair style. Pick a different day to try out a new elaborate French braid or side ponytail. (Having said that, wearing your hair naturally curly absolutely doesn’t count as a “loud hairstyle.”)
Striped tweed pencil skirt, available at J.Crew, $128