If you haven’t paired stripes with an animal print since you first started dressing yourself, spring is the perfect season to return to the mixed pattern look in a sophisticated and grown-up way. “Patterns have never been more popular,” says Lisa Tant, VP fashion editor at Holt Renfrew, citing splashy Spring 2014 collections by Erdem, Roberto Cavalli and Peter Pilotto. How to wear the fashion trend well? Tant shares her step-by-step guide to wearing mixed prints, from the office to an OTT street style look.

Level 1: Invest in a statement print piece

The move from an all-black ensemble toward graphic or animal print pieces can be a daunting one. As Tant warns, “A splashy pattern can wear you—not the other way around.”

But if you’re going to test the waters of the graphic trend this spring, you may as well dive in. “Buy a patterned dress and add it to your list of basics,” Tant advises. While this may seem like a bold move for someone whose idea of adding colour is opting for charcoal grey or cream, it’s a foolproof way to try out a geometric or animal print. Bump up the look with patterned accessories that match the detail or colour scheme of the print dress.

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To subtly add pattern into your outfit, Tant suggests trying a shell top in a fun print and adding a striped scarf that’s within the same colour scheme.

Level 2: Mix up two different patterns

The key to wearing two separate prints while still maintaining an understated elegance is to keep the patterns within the same colour family—stick with pastels or splashy neons. To avoid looking too busy at the office (sartorially speaking, of course), Tant recommends staying within a subtle colour palette or pattern. Try a python or animal print with a floral piece in a brighter shade.

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2 more ways to try mixed prints (think animal print and floral) on the next page…

mix-prints-page-two.jpgLevel 3: Try contrasting colours
Pair colours from the opposite side of the colour wheel, like blue and orange. “But make sure that one is more dominant,” says Tant. This will be the obvious key piece in your wardrobe. Think a strong orange stripe paired with a blue floral print.

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If you’re wearing this look to work, keep in mind that an adventurous ensemble is probably more suited to a creative atmosphere. “It’s about your environment and comfort level,” says Tant about discerning the level of mixed prints that you can pull off at the office. “If it’s more conservative, err on a level one,” she cautions.

Level 4: The street style look
A word of warning: to pull off mixed prints at this level requires the practiced eye and brazen confidence of a street style star. While mixing patterns in a variety of scales and from a different colour family is “catnip for photographers,” says Tant, it may not bode so well on a daily basis. “It becomes about what you’re wearing and not about you.”

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The key to this look is having the innate artistic know-how of what to pair, and the confidence to pull it off. “It’s hard for the average person to do, but if it reflects your personality and you can own it, then totally go for it.” Just be prepared for both positive and negative comments, she warns. “If you can see that someone is clearly uncomfortable, that to me is not personal style,” says Tant. “The clothing is wearing them.”

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