How to Interpret Prints and Patterns

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How to interpret prints and patterns - your guide when choosing clothes - click here for more

The other day I was asked about why a floral print wasn’t appropriate for a job interview.

My answer is to do with how we interpret different prints and patterns, as they say different things to us.

Frequently people ask me “what patterns suit me?” and the answer lies in what are your personality traits?

Who are you as a person?

You’ll discover that you’re more attracted to patterns that are representative of who you are as a person.  These will feel the most comfortable.  There are plenty of people who aren’t really pattern people, and that’s fine (they tend to fit into the Classic and Relaxed categories below).

Here is my quick guide to interpreting prints and patterns.

How to interpret prints and patterns

1. Classic – fine stripes, small polka dots – conventional, conservative, mature, reliable, trustworthy, safe, secure

2. Relaxed – stripes and checks – down-to-earth, natural, unpretentious, easy-going, approachable

3. Dramatic – big bold patterns, large scale, animal print, high contrast – dynamic, forceful, confident, exciting

4. Elegant chic – geometric, stylised – urbane, cultured, poised, discerning, refined

5. Rebellious – graphics, sayings, leopard – anti-establishment, unconventional, sexy, shocking, defiant

6. Creative  – digital prints, wearable art, tie-dye, ethnic, abstract – innovative, individual, edgy, whimsical, bohemian, eclectic

7. Feminine – nature based, floral, butterflies, paisley – unambitious, caring, nurturing, gentle, romantic

Answer these questions:

  • Which patterns do you like best?
  • Which appeal to you?
  • Do you appreciate some patterns on other people but realise that you’d feel uncomfortable wearing them?
  • Do you have garments in your wardrobe that are patterned that you never wear?
  • Do you now realise that they’re not related to your personality?

If you really want to understand your personality style and why you do and don’t like so many elements of clothes, discover how to express your authentic self through your outfits each day, then sign up for my 7 Steps to Style program which delves deeply into this fascinating topic (it’s super revealing!).

10 Ways Personality Is More Important Than Body Shape When Choosing Flattering Clothes

Creating Harmony with Your Personality

3 Essential Elements to Choosing Flattering Prints and Patterns

How to Pick a Slimming Print

7 steps to Style - discover your style once and for all

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17 Comments

  • I like floral prints and I wish I could wear them, but I am not a girly girl and not sure how to incorporate them just yet. I am afraid to make something that is going to hang in my closet, forgotten

    • Hi Lena,

      I’m not a girly-girl either and I’m a huge fan of floral prints! I guess wearing florals depends on your personal style, but my style veers towards the rugged/edgy side. I wear a floral dress with a denim or leather jacket and boots or edgy sandals or shoes. Maybe give those a try, if rugged is your look?

      • Katie – thanks for your comment – there are so many ways to interpret prints and to be feminine without being ‘girly’ I’ve written another post on prints that will be published tomorrow.

  • Interesting as always! After a look at these, I would say that the classic, elegant chic and dramatic patterns would suit my style most. Yet I practically never ever wear any patterns, I’m really into solids.

  • Dear Imogen, what is your point of view about the relation of the patterns and the Color type of a person? I beleive that the color type is dominant, because if somebody is a soft type, then it needed to adjust the intensity of the patterns to its softer version. For example I am a Soft summer and I never wear large stripes or dramatic animal prints although I have a strong minded personality. I always wear “wall paper”type prints, which draw back in the background, and give a nice basic to my face. Do you agree with this idea? Thanks! Have a nice day!
    Kathy

    • Katalin – the contrast of a pattern that suits is best related to your personal contrast – which is not necessarily your colour group (soft summer) but your natural contrast levels ( see this post https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2011/09/how-to-figure-out-your-contrast.html ) The patterns you choose as someone with softer colouring would just be those in your colour group – softer more muted shades, rather than brighter or stronger colours. The contrast would be based on your personal contrast. There is no reason why you can’t wear a thicker stripe or an animal print – they come in many many variations of colours and contrasts – it’s just whether or not they resonate with your personality.

      • Thanks Imogen, it was very useful, and streched my perspective about the contrast and colors. I always learn from you a lots of things! Thanks!

  • I prefer solids, but among the patterns, I prefer the classic ones for sure, maybe also the chic ones. But when I come to the personality descriptions, I’m struggeling…I don’t feel that conservative and conventional are the words that describe me best,perhaps I’m just not able to see myself, or I should be bolder in expressing who i am. Fascinating stuff.

    • Sigrid, pattern is very personal, some people prefer solids to patterns – even creative types! Prints and patterns are just one element of expressing your personality through your clothing.

  • Hmmm… I think now is the time to realize what I’ve been doing wrong all these years b/c I’ve always ended up in those cool and reserved classic or elegant chic prints and then been disappointed with how boring it turned out on me. So I’ve avoided prints. But considering this setup I suddenly understand that what would work for me is a Dramatic style, there’s just no alternative (I’ve tried all the others at one time or other). LOL If I could find a dotted blouse like that in my colours… 😛 It’s good to age for at least some reasons; I’ve tried it all and know what I like and what doesn’t work on me (and I also know by now that weight really has nothing to do with it). Now to puzzle together the new knowledge of what works with my specific likes… Great post!

  • Imogen, thank you for the great post. I wonder what floral patterns are considered classic, what are the criteria to consider a pattern classic in order it won’t date quickly? Thank you again

  • Imogen, this is a great post. I tend towards solids because I haven’t had a lot of success with patterns. I would love you to explain this further, especially with regard to contrast (as one person mentioned already) and “colours”. Also love it when you post photos a examples 🙂

    • Marg – search up CONTRAST in the search bar at the top and it will bring up lots of posts that talk about figuring out your contrast levels and information about patterns and contrast and wearing contrast.

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