How to mix patterns in a casual outfit - une femme d'un certain âge

This pattern mix is one of my favorites…

Susan B. sitting on wooden steps wearing leopard scarf, red cardigan, striped tee, jeans and boots.

Mixing patterns was a big Fashion Don’t when I was growing up, and it took me a while to come around to trying it. I’m still a fairly conservative pattern mixer (unlike my friend K, who is ninja-level). But too much visual busyness tends to overwhelm my 5’1″ frame, so two patterns per outfit is usually plenty.

scarf (c/o) | hoodie (similar) | tee | bracelet | jeans (similar) | boots (similar)

(Sizes: tee – Small, jeans – 27)

The tee and jeans are from my navy and cream January wardrobe capsule. The hoodie is from Eric Bompard, purchased in London, but this color is not available on their website. I’ve had this scarf for a couple of years, originally gifted.

Susan B. wears a red hoodie cardigan, leopard scarf, striped tee, jeans, and brown suede boots.

A straight up red-white-blue combo can sometimes feel a little too nautical, or like I’m wearing a flag. 😆 The leopard print scarf and brown booties cut through that effect. After looking at these photos, I decided it was time to give these jeans a sabbatical, and have swapped them out in my capsule for a less faded pair.

How to mix patterns cohesively

Not everyone likes the mixed pattern look, but if you do or want to try it, here are a few tips that usually work.

  • First, work within your color palette.
  • Organic prints (animal or floral) and graphic prints (stripes, plaids, checks) are easier to mix than two of the same type. Think curved lines + straight lines.
  • Mixing prints with similar or analogous colors often works.
  • Try a larger, irregular scale print with a smaller, regular print. (Example, a larger floral with smaller leopard print or dots.)
  • Separating the two prints also makes it easier. (Example: a tartan scarf + leopard print footwear.)
  • Look at garments or scarves with “pre-mixed” patterns for inspiration.
Susan B. finding dog treats in pockets of jeans. Wearing red sweater, leopard print scarf and stripe tee.

When you haven’t worn the jeans for a while, and find dog treats in the pockets…🐶

Susan B. sitting on steps wearing a red sweater, leopard print scarf, blue jeans and brown booties.

And I always love how leopard print looks with a bright color like this red!

Here’s how I tied the scarf:

(Yes, I know there’s a typo 🤪)

Do you like to mix patterns? Do you have a go-to combo?

Stay in touch.

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22 Comments

  1. Jill
    January 10, 2022 / 4:18 am

    Love it! The scarf/boots help what might be more of a spring outfit be perfect for January! I think the faded jean would look cute with a tennis shoe as well(more me). I have really enjoyed your posts/looks of the New Year!

  2. Beverly
    January 10, 2022 / 4:24 am

    This is one of my very favorite looks….but I have to say I was startled when I saw the first photo. On my screen, for some reason, your jeans are all “spotted” or they look “bleached” and I thought….that is so not like Susan! But perhaps that is the mixed look she is demonstrating. However, in all the other photographs the jeans are perfect so I’m not sure what was going on with my screen, and that first photo, but I thought you’d appreciate a morning chuckle. I love this look from head to toe. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jill Ann
      January 10, 2022 / 6:55 am

      Don’t think it’s your screen; in one of the photos, Susan appears to be in some dappled shade & that’s what’s causing the splotchy look.

      • Beverly
        January 11, 2022 / 4:19 am

        I thought maybe that was the case!

    • Kris
      January 10, 2022 / 3:34 pm

      I saw it too and was surprised at first – then realized, it’s shadows from the leaves! Clearly, we’re paying close attention!

  3. Lise
    January 10, 2022 / 4:29 am

    I love this look, you look amazing!

  4. January 10, 2022 / 4:51 am

    I wore a pair of black and white checked pants to my church job a few weeks ago with a black top that had a somewhat rounded checkered pattern on the top. I thought it worked – the two patterns were far enough away from each other, but they still went together. I walked in and my choir director said, “You’re dressed conservatively today!” and I thought she was serious because I usually wear blues/purples/teals (to match my hair) and I said, “Oh, really? I wear black a lot,” and she said, “I mean the patterns. WOW,” and someone else said that he wasn’t awake enough for that. I was self-conscious the rest of the morning.

    I went home and said to my husband, “Does this look weird to you?” and he said, “No. It’s not like they’re next to each other.”

    I shudder to think if I’d had an animal print on top instead.

    Maybe they’re just really stodgy. I’m voting for stodgy.

    • Téa
      January 10, 2022 / 6:35 am

      I’m sad that those comments made you doubt yourself and your choices. Please “dare to be different” and continue to wear pattern, color and texture to YOUR heart’s content. The world needs more JOY – be the change you want to see in the world. PS – I might have reminded those people to use their “inside voices”…stodgy buggers, indeed!!

    • Kathleen McDermott
      January 11, 2022 / 8:30 am

      I assume these people working at their CHURCH value their religion, so their comments are mystifying. I bet you looked charming. I would say envious or resentful are more likely then stodgy. Bless their souls, of course.

    • Christine Thomas-O'Meally
      January 12, 2022 / 6:11 am

      The top was a Fair Isle top, to be clear. I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. But I looked ADORABLE. Thanks for the validation!

  5. Laura
    January 10, 2022 / 5:05 am

    “Dog treats in the pocket”…I love it! Cute outfit too!

  6. Jaye Coker
    January 10, 2022 / 5:28 am

    I frequently find treats and poop bags in my pockets. 🙂 Leopard is my favorite print to mix. I wear it with florals or B/W stripes.

  7. Kami
    January 10, 2022 / 6:41 am

    Leopard print is a neutral in my playbook. The only pattern I don’t pair it with is another leopard print!

  8. Julia
    January 10, 2022 / 7:05 am

    That’s a super look Susan! Love red with leopard.

  9. CK
    January 10, 2022 / 7:21 am

    Love this look on you! You look fabulous in that red!!

  10. Eve
    January 10, 2022 / 7:50 am

    Love red with leopard and the stripe is great with it. I fell in love with my brown and green camouflage pants with my bright teal sweater. I don’t know why it works but it does. I love trying things out. Last years large gingham with small flowers print was just so cute. I saw several versions of that. Is the secret to keeping one small and the other large? I’m thinking tee with small black stripe with pants a cheetah print of black and gray?

  11. January 10, 2022 / 8:43 am

    LOVE today’s look. Cute, perky and definitely brightens a Winter day (cold but sunny here in SC today). Red with leopard print is a favorite combo. As a few other women noted, leopard is a neutral. Love the “dog treats in the pocket;” you mean Gigi hasn’t been snooping around in your closet looking for them?

    For some reason, I stopped getting your emails and updated my profile. Hope that works. Miss not reading your wonderful posts.

    Happy New Year!

  12. January 10, 2022 / 11:10 am

    You look great! Love the animal pribt with a bright like red! Yes!!

  13. Kathy
    January 10, 2022 / 12:10 pm

    That’s and great look for you; I especially love the red hoodie with the leopard scarf. Going to Thredup immediately to see if I can find a thrifted red hoodie in my size.

  14. January 10, 2022 / 12:22 pm

    I love this and would wear it! You always inspire me Susan!

  15. Anon
    January 10, 2022 / 2:23 pm

    Never mind the plastic “business” bags in coat pockets. 😉

  16. January 13, 2022 / 2:13 am

    You inspire me. I always go for shoes in the colour of something I wear. And so often, as you prove with this outfit, it is so much more interesting to choose another colour. I think you did a brilliant job.
    Greetje

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