Take a look at these prints. At one time you might have glanced at this line-up and thought: ‘Ah yes, very nice — if you happen to be nipping over to the Clooneys’ for cocktails.
‘When would I wear this lot? I’d don one or two of the dresses, maybe, to someone’s wedding or to a particularly glamorous party. Otherwise, it’s all so colourful and, well . . . printy.’
For years, the rule has been that a bold print, let alone several together, was strictly for special occasions. But not any more. If there’s been one significant change in fashion, it’s that glorious colourful prints, mixed together, splashed all over, clashed and matched, have become part of our everyday.
British fashion expert Shane Watson, shared advice for embracing this season’s trend for clashing prints, pictured: Blouse, £295, tabithawebb.co.uk; Tunic, £39.99, trousers, £39.99, shoes, £29.99, all zara.com
It’s happened gradually. Gucci has been at the forefront of the ‘everything goes, day or night, and pile it on’ philosophy. While labels such as Rixo — whose dresses mix up leopard print, florals and spots — started out designing only party wear, now you’re just as likely to see its star-spangled shirts (with clashing neck ties) any day or night.
Call it maximalism. Call it living for the moment. Call it the Marie Kondo effect (everything must spark joy, so don’t keep anything for ‘best’). Whatever’s behind it, the pack-a-punch — or PAP — print is no longer only for special occasions and celebrities; it’s for all of us.
Most of us are starting from scratch on this one. We may have some colourful prints in our wardrobes but, if you’re anything like me, this is limited to a green wrap dress with a tiny white daisy print, not the swaggery, leaf-spattered trousers and matching coat pictured above (both £39.99, zara.com) worn with a clashing blue and pink shirt (£295, tabithawebb.co.uk).
But, dare we say it, in comparison with the line-up on these pages, those itsy bitsy prints are starting to look dowdy. We could probably do with a print boost, if it wasn’t quite so daunting.
And yet, the funny thing is that it’s not hard to pull off PAP prints at all. What no one tells you is that bold prints are 100 times easier to wear than one hit of print with complementary plain colours. More print looks confident, cleaner and less fussy.
Oddly, where you can run into trouble with bold prints is underdoing them: mixed in with this and that and paired with a black polo neck and red shoes, they can start to look messy. If you’re going to go for PAP prints, go large. Otherwise it couldn’t be simpler.
How to wear ‘PAP’ prints like a pro
- If you don’t feel comfortable with bigger prints, compromise with a mix of prints in one piece, such as Finery’s green dress (far right, £129, finerylondon.com) or its pink and green design above (£119, finerylondon.com).
- Mixing up prints is what makes them look modern. Clashing them, as in the pairing of Essentiel Antwerp’s zig-zag sweater (left, £155, essentiel-antwerp.com) and the Whistles floral skirt (£103.20, whistles.com) is even edgier. To clash, you need colours on the same spectrum — a sherbert pink won’t work with a baby blue.
- Sometimes just a small dash of clash, such as in a scarf, makes an outfit sing.
- Wearing all one print is the alternative — including co-ords such as Essentiel Antwerp’s matching trousers and top (centre, shirt £210, and trousers £175, essentiel-antwerp.com). This is where you see the more-is-better principle in action. The trousers on their own with a red shirt? The top paired with jeans? Neither of those options would be worth a second glance. But together, you’ve got a punchy outfit.
- As a general rule, the less flesh you have on show, the better. Go for shorter bracelet sleeves and bare calves so you don’t look smothered.
- Shoes should take a step back. Don’t kill the colour moment with black heels. Neutral sandals or boots work best.
- You may have to step up a bit on the make-up and grooming front. You don’t want to be eclipsed.