Photography by Leda & St. Jacques (above image) & (runway).

Fall has just begun and one way to step into the new season in style is with a bold, bright pattern. From plaids to jazzed-up animal prints, head-to-toe prints were big news on the runways. But with so many motifs, how do you know which one to try? Avoid a graphic jam and read on for our crib sheet on the 10 biggest styles of the season.

1. Polka dots

Stella McCartney fall/winter 2012

We’re seeing spots! Supersized or perfectly petite, playful polka dots are the pattern to be spotted in. Look to labels like Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs who sprinkled their runways with the playful print.

2. Plaid

Rag & Bone fall/winter 2012

Perhaps it had something to do with the Alexander McQueen exhibit, but we couldn’t help but notice that the fall runways were blanketed in tartan, a motif that held totemic appeal for McQueen dating back to his 1995 Highland Rape collection. While plaid is nothing new for autumn, you can forget what you think you know about said pattern for fall. This season is not a flannel nouveau grunge look but rather, a more modern, polished plaid. At Rag & Bone, David Neville and Marcus Wainright kicked the classic print up a notch by pairing a fringed kilt with a white leather bomber. Carven’s Guillaume Henry showed a long-sleeved shift with decorated lace bust for added intrigue. Even quintessentially Parisian designer Sonia Rykiel embraced traditional tartan with a sweet Prince of Wales check dress. It’s a look that would look divine on The Duchess of Cambridge, a royal who’s always dressed to kilt.

3. Animal

Miu Miu fall/winter 2012

If polka dots and plaids are too tame for you, why not try something wilder on for size. What started with a few of Miuccia’s monkeys on Prada’s Spring 2011 runway has become a full-blown beastie show for fall. At Balenciaga, Nicholas Ghesquière showed that a German shepherd is woman’s best friend with his intarsia dog-printed sweaters. Riccardo Tisci demonstrated his pack mentality with snarling Rottweilers and black panthers for Givenchy – looks that proved irresistible to bold facers like Kanye West, Liv Tyler and Carine Roitfeld. Not to be outdone, Erdem and Miu Miu flocked together with bird prints peppered throughout their collections. Whichever animal motif tames your heart, one thing is certain: this trend has legs (and tails and fangs).

From dalmations to stars, we narrow down more note-worthy prints on the next page…

4. Dalmatian

Burberry Prorsum fall/winter 2012

Alert, Alert! A new way to wear animal print! The 101 Dalmatians ruled the fall runways. From DKNY’s shift dresses to Burberry Prorsum’s flat caps, designers kitted out their collection in the duotone. But it was cheap and chic brand Topshop Unique that really shows their spots, spattering the print on a plethora of pieces including one standout white faux fur coat. It may not be a look that works for everyone but knowing you can pick it up for a song means that it’s a trend worth trying.

5. Python

Chloé fall/winter 2012

Ready to show some skin? Snake and python prints took a big bite out of fall and for Chloe’s Hannah MacGibbon, it was her obsession du jour. The creative head accented this season’s collection with the exotic print in practically every piece – python macs, snakeskin intarsia sweater dresses, and a slew of slithering blouses. If you’re interested in just a nibble, look to labels like Lanvin, Prada and Versace who all worked the skin in patchwork printed accessories.

6. Floral

Lanvin fall/winter 2012

Roses at Lanvin, pansies at Peter Som, daisies and dandelions at Jil Sander, fall’s clothes are a garden of earthly delights. Pick a single bloom or a full bouquet and show off your feminine style.

7. Stars

Dolce & Gabbana fall/winter 2012

Star prints showed up at Topshop and Anna Sui but it was at Dolce & Gabbana where the astral accent shot across the runway. From frocks to baubles, the Italian duo’s print of the season is a striking way to show off your star status.

3 more prints you should definitely try this fall on the next page…

8. Leopard

Marc by Marc Jacobs fall/winter 2012

Think leopard spots are over? Think again. Fall’s ubiquitous print is still going strong as ever with Marc by Marc Jacobs, Isabel Marant and Robero Cavalli still rocking the spots. At this point you should really consider the statement making print an all season neutral – an absolute essential for any modern woman’s wardrobe.

9. Houndstooth

Yves Saint Laurent fall/winter 2012

Heritage fabrics are huge news right now and tailored houndstooth is a kicky take on the trend. Seen everywhere from Yves Saint Laurent to Roland Mouret and Rag & Bone, our favourite version came from Salvatore Ferragamo who took it to a sophisticated extreme displaying it head to toe (right down to the houndstooth-soled stilettos).

10. Scarf

Gucci fall/winter 2012

Scarf prints are suddenly everywhere. Gucci channeled the 70s with a printed chain-link dress, Dolce & Gabbana did it with body-con flowers, and Dries van Noten clashed multiple motifs on their silk shirts. But no designer did it better than the original purveyor of the print: Versace.

Read more:
Snakeskin accessories
Leopard print accessories for fall
Polka dot pieces for the fall season