3 Essential Elements to Choosing Flattering Prints and Patterns

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How do you pick a print that is flattering for you?  There are just so many prints to choose from – florals, stripes, animal, abstract, geometric, checks, paisley, ikat … the list goes on and on.  So how do you make the right choices when prints and patterns come in a myriad of colours, scale, contrast and styles.  Let me share an experience with a client that may help you too.

 I was out shopping with one of my lovely clients. She wanted some blouses and dresses that were more ‘fun’ than her current range of tops in solid colours.  How did I help her choose a flattering print?  I made sure that the print followed these 3 guidelines.

1. Colour and Contrast of Prints

Knowing her colour palette meant picking up all the options in the store that had her colours in them was easy, but also one of the keys to picking the right prints is also working with your natural level of contrast.

 

Value Contrast
 

My lovely client is a fair skinned blonde with pale green eyes (similar to the woman on the bottom left of the image above), giving her a low contrast, thus the low contrast prints were the most flattering on her.

contrast in prints and pattern

 

A low-value contrast print has not a lot of difference between the lighter and darker elements of the print.  As she was fair – an overall light value print was the best choice for her as it related well to her ideal value (find out about that here).

You can see in the image above, that the low-value prints are more subdued in feel, whilst the high-value prints on the right are bolder and more dramatic too!

2. Personality of the Print

All clothes communicate and what image consultants have discovered, is that different prints express different personality traits (and communicate in different ways – this relates to the concepts of Yin and Yang – which you can find out about here).

My client’s personality was Classic Feminine, so a smaller more delicate print worked best on her.

 
How to interpret prints and patterns
 

What do each of the personality dressing styles choose for their prints?

  • Classic – Vertical stripes and small/fine geometric prints
  • Relaxed – horizontal stripes and checks
  • Dramatic – bold, high value contrast prints – animal prints are often favoured
  • Elegant Chic – repeating patterns, geometrics and stylised prints
  • Feminine – small, delicate curved prints such as florals and paisley
  • Creative – wearable art, abstract and ethnic inspired prints and patterns
  • Rebellious – skulls, slogans, pop art and animal prints

3. Scale of the Print

Do you have big or small bone structure?  How about your facial features?  Are they larger, medium or smaller?  Are you tall, average or short?  All these questions impact on the scale of your ideal print (find out more about identifying your scale here – it’s also part of my 7 Steps to Style program if you’d like my personal opinion on this – along with your colouring and body shape – plus so much more).

scale of prints
 

Her body scale was medium – so medium contrast small prints to lower contrast medium prints were the most flattering. (The contrast of a print will make it appear larger or smaller)

 

Contrast and Scale
 
So as we shopped, we selected prints for her that fit her needs and physicality – low contrast, light value, medium scale floral and curved prints which she now loves and add interest and figure flattery to her wardrobe.
 
Can you identify the prints that will work best for you now you have this information?

Here are some more useful posts on choosing prints

 

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I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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18 Comments

  • If I am high contrast but bright deep purple, turqouise, shocking pink and bright teal-y green (all not too light or too dark colours, ie medium) suit me, what other colour can I wear them with to make a print into high contrast, not medium?

  • Under what style would you put paisleys and similar leafy somewhat abstract patterns? Or depends on the details of it? What about Moroccan patterns? Or bright stripy espadrilles?

    • Paisley is a small curly print so closely related to feminine

      Moroccan or anything with an ethnic vibe relates to the creative.

      Bright stripes can be dramatic, but on espadrilles more relaxed

  • The last bit about the relationship between contrast and scale was eye-opening for me. Thanks for always such detailed and helpful information, Imogen. You break it all down in ways that make style much more approachable.

    • Thanks! I remember learning that when I saw a coat. One black with large red flowers. The other beige with large mushroom and pale blue flowers. The beige coat pattern looked medium scale vs the black and red was overwhelming

  • Imogen, thank you so much for your enlightening blog posts. I was thrilled to see the patterns separated by style type. I have never felt that only one described me and the blend of classic, relaxed and rebellious is spot on. How can I learn more about these style types?

  • Interesting posts. You rarely find anything about prints when it comes to personal styles usually!

    According to these guides, I think Im
    – medium contrast value (very pale, slate-blue eyes and medium-blonde hair),
    – small to medium scale, V/X shape (I think. Im 5’5 but very skinny and have broad shoulders, medium bust, defined waist, long legs and narrow hips. V’s broad shoulders and legs but x’s curves. :S)
    … and according to some analyses Im soft summer who leans more toward autumn (neutral-muted-medium colors), which seems very true because I love muted/dull colors that are neither cool or warm (my favorite neutrals are dark taupe and navy) and can wear either gold and silver depending on my hair color (you said I was more warm one time, but on my blog, my hair were dyied golden blonde and used bronzer. Ive very dark mousy blonde hair naturally, similare to Jennifer Anistons. ūüėõ But I agree cool pastel do not look good on me, nor does the very bright warm ones like cooper.)
    As for my personal style, I still havent figure it out. I love almost anything as long its “balanced” and comfortable but I often base my wardrobe around classics/feminine-classy/relaxed pieces (staples) and spice it up with dramatic/creative (fun pieces), not that into trend/rebelious but sometimes try thme out. But I guess Im closer to classic/feminine with a creative and edgy twis because I cant sqeeeze myself into 2-3 personal styles.

    But I wondering, Ive medium contrast but I love the high contrast of the dramatic, also most blogs only write how to look slimmer but I rather want to add volume – What type of prints on my skirts/leggings do you think would go best, according to these guides?

    • If you want to add volume go for a sparse print in a high contrast.

      Warm/Cool is often confused – particularly when you have soft colouring. Jennifer Aniston is warm and soft.

      There is no reason to limit yourself to only a couple of personality styles – I’m a combination of Creative, Relaxed, Dramatic and Feminine – it all depends how I feel. I sometimes add in a touch of Classic if I’m doing a corporate workshop.

  • Hi Imogen,

    I believe I am a medium to low contrast since my skin is a medium color, my eyes are almost black and my hair is a medium purple right now but is naturally black. My body shape is O and I love the creative, dramatic and even rebelious prints but if I use a top of any of those categories it will bring the attention to my belly :/
    how I incorporate these styles in my outfit?

  • Hi Imogen
    I’ve been following you for a long time now – since your brunette days – and have gained a lot over the years. The concept of contrast has been a mystery to me, though. I’ve followed the steps and read the posts, but didn’t really ‘get’ it till just recently. I suddenly realised why some things still didn’t feel ‘right’. I think it’s because I’ve tended to wear high value contrast, when I’m better with medium. Just that insight has helped me to make better choices lately. Thanks so much!

    • It’s amazing once you get it you suddenly see it and it’s becomes so obvious! Glad that you’ve figured out your medium value contrast and how to wear it that is right for you!

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