Photo by Acielle at Style du Monde

For a lesson in print-clashing to perfection, look to Chioma Nnadi, the fashion news director of (photographed in London earlier this year). I didn’t think I wore much pattern until as part of the research for Know Your Style a wardrobe expert helped me to declutter. As well as freeing me of the clothes of a former life (that of a magazine fashion editor), she organised my wardrobe and arranged a number of printed tops and jackets together on the rail. Fancy that.

To keep things chic not showy, I tend to balance print with plain but I am also a massive fan of a pattern mismatch. The key to pulling the clash off is to choose prints of a similar scale and champion one colour. Using this technique even dissimilar patterns can be coordinated. Here green is the hero and the carefully chosen colour of the sweatshirt underneath pulls the daffodil and camo prints together nicely. As Lucinda Chambers said when I interviewed her for my book, ‘I won’t do matchy-matchy but when colours tally up, it looks thoughtful.’

Teamed with trainers, Chioma Nnadi shows us feel-good, faff-free fashion at its finest.



Please note: affiliate links in this post may generate commission.

PS Have you seen Lucinda Chamber’s new fashion label Colville? The former Vogue fashion director has been busy working with two former Marni designers Molly Molloy and Kristin Forss on a new collection. I was hoping for the new Céline but it’s a bit more Bodymap meets Vivienne Westwood than I expected.

33 thoughts on “How to wear clashing prints

  1. I always like a mix of patterns flowers with stripes gingham with spots etc. For me the key thing is to keep the colour tonalities right. So a small patterned Liberty t-shirt with some blue looks good now layered under a multi striped blue cotton shirt. I’ve also worn blue horizontal stripes under blue vertical stripes and a coral and cream striped jumper with a scarf made with bands of kimono fabric silk in the same colour range.
    This all looks very modern now. Advance slowly with mixtures until one is on the edge of comfort zone. All monochrome outfits can be spiced up with added patterns of dots and checks all combined.
    I was pleased to read here and elsewhere of Lucinda Chambers reappearance with two former Marni designer colleagues to create a new line. Good for them.

  2. The Gudrun Sjoden website and catalogues are excellent for showing how to combine prints, stripes and plain colours although the effect can be a bit “busy” if you’re not used to it. She is always pictured in her own clothes and is a great inspiration for showing how a 76 year old woman can dress in her own style. If you’re used to wearing tonal plain colours it can be a bit daunting but start with a pattern you like and practise mixing clothes together on the bed or in your wardrobe as Alyson suggests.

    1. What a good tip! I love the idea of Gudrun’s clothes but don’t feel ready to go the full look. However, I enjoy mixing prints and agree that colour is the key element in bringing things together. And don’t ever rule out a pairing until you’ve actually seen what they look like together. You may be surprised by what works.

  3. I am a great fan of patterns and even pattern clashing, but this one looks a bit pattern ‘crash’ to me. Not chic in my opinion. But then again, I am probably not cool enough to see the beauty in this outfit. I think partially, it’s that I simply don’t like the individual items. If I were to clash patterns like this, I probably would have added a bit more tailoring to make it work. I can’t help but think that that a good pair of jeans ( blue or bright) would have looked better with that jacket, or that those trousers would have worked with a cool, tailored and printed blouse. Anyhow, I probably need to get out more to put my fingers back on the fashion pulse. But thanks heaps for all your fun posts. I am enjoying all of them, including this one.

  4. Love print clashing just not fond of the pattern too voluminious in my opinion but hey it looks beautiful on her though!

  5. The clashing patterns look lovely – v much like the DvF dress, but I’m not sure I could wear it in real life. Sadly. Also, cannot begin to describe how disappointed I was with Colville. I had somehow hoped it might be a way to olden days Marni/Lucinda Chambers’ style, but, no: I am obviously too old and too poor. Weep.

    1. I too had a look at Colville and was horrified at the prices. As a newly retired person, £300 for a t-shirt is definitely out of my league!

  6. Not my style. I could carry it off but I chose not to. Sticking with what makes me feel good when I see my reflection.
    However, I do admire those who make it work.

  7. To be honest looking at the outfit made me dizzy. I like some patterns but prefer to team them with plain colours. I’m too small at 5’3″ for too much pattern. I can appreciate it on others if in moderation.

  8. I love that look. I have a fantastic floral jumpsuit that I’ve not had the courage to wear but I will do so pronto.

    Can any of you well informed fashion fans tell me; is that bag that Chioma carrying a Gucci number or an audacious copy? Either way, where does one get one….? It’s stylish and low key in an excellent way.

      1. Thank you so much Sue and Steele for the heads up. Clearly my Gucci knowledge is a bit rusty! But these are a lot more affordable….

  9. I do like mixing patterns, but this particular outfit doesn’t work for me. The greens are too far apart on the color wheel, I suppose. I work with homeless people, and guess what… I see stuff like this all the time.

    I like Chioma’s style, usually.

  10. I love mixing patterns, especially my favorite stripes with prints. But the pieces need to be attractive on their own. This daffodil windbreaker jacket is not, even when worn by a fashionable young woman. For that reason, this outfit doesn’t work for me.

    1. Totally agree., I can’t see merit. Baggy, prints have no relation to each other and I don’t even like the daffodils!

    2. This might not be a look for everyone – and yes it is a bit ‘fashion’ but I think we should celebrate individual style and the confidence Chioma has to carry this off. I’d never wear this outfit but it might inspire me to play around with pattern and print, and surely that’s a good thing?

  11. Mixing patterns is an art. Leopard prints mix with everything. Stripes and dots can work well. But this outfit. A resounding “No!”. You can only get away with an outfit such as the one shown if you are in the fashion industry or a rapper.

  12. Well these clashing patterns certainly provoked debate. My time is divided between London and Exeter and the way people dress differs, though prevailing trends usually work their way through. However many of the cutting edge fashionistas I see around Covent Garden or the design factories of East London would be regarded as at best unfortunate and at worst plain daft in Exeter and probably most cities and big towns around the country.
    As I feel I must be a reincarnation of an English Puritan in my style I don’t do much pattern but full marks to Chioma for pushing boundaries. However it didn’t work for me because the cool lemon in the jacket and the warm sulphurous yellow in the combat trousers are having a row rather than a conversation.

  13. I am afraid the outfit worn by Chioma looked off key and rather ordinary but we must all wear whatever we enjoy and feel good in…
    As for Colville and Lucinda Chambers I was frankly incredulous at the prices. When LC, an extremely talented and stylish woman, was unceremoniously ‘let go’ from Vogue last year she said in an interview with Vestoj that it was years since she had actually read the magazine. She considered the clothes irrelevant for most people as they were ridiculously expensive so it was a surprise to see her new range. I do believe in buying fewer but better clothes which wear and last well but hate feeling like a fashion victim.

    1. Yes, that’s so true Katherine – I’d forgotten about LC’s comment on pricing (mind you, I forget most things these days!). And Colville is eye-wateringly expensive; maybe this is something they will reconsider…

  14. I always appreciate it when people say what they think, whether I agree or not. And that’s definitely true of the comments to Alyson’s blog post above. At the same time, I’m giggling at the tone of moderate outrage that wafts through some of the comments.

    I like Chioma and I like these clothes on her, although I probably would NOT wear this combo. HOWEVER, Chioma’s choices and Alyson’s advice to “choose prints of a similar scale and champion one colour” give me enough new insights to cock my head and look differently at my closet for combos there I haven’t seen yet and would indeed pair.

    The main reason I faithfully read Alyson’s blog is because she sees things I don’t see and views differently things I’ve been staring blindly at for decades. Like Chiamo’s ensemble. Thanks. 🙂

  15. Whilst I appreciate a clashing print I have, personally, weaned myself off of them as at 60 I tended to look too Mad Bag Lady and feel more ‘gentlewoman style’ and myself in non-prints. Having spent years resembling a bus seat (my son’s verdict of my clothing – Jenny Eclair meets Camila Batmanghelidjh!) I have finally found my own style. (hah better late than never). Looked at the Colville site and in my humble opinion, way to expensive and way to fashiony. However, I do think that LC always looks fabulous.

  16. For many years I’ve aspired to age into the crazy bag lady style rather than demure old bag. So I clashing colours and patterns have appealed to me for a long time. Once on a tube train a man put a hand written post-it note next to my seat when he left the carriage. I framed it. It says “Please, change colour of tights. They clash horribly with skirt! Sorry”. After recovering I decided that it meant I was going in the right direction. Women have routinely been silenced and shoved in corners, particularly as they age. That may well happen but I don’t have to aid and abet it. I think in many ways it’s a way of saying that I’m dressing for ME and I don’t care what anyone else thinks, and it’s partly political. And for Chioma, perhaps as a woman of colour, I imagine that might have a more charged context – that she is strong and proud and can walk down a street with her head held high, regardless of whether the prints are well matched on somebodies colour wheel. Bring it on!

  17. I’d advise against choosing prints of a similar scale and instead choose very different scales: truly, it works much better. The daffodil jacket/camo trousers combo would have been a success if the camo print was on a tiny scale, although the clash in the warmth value of the underlying neutrals still works against it. This is if we decide ‘success’ is an outfit that looks pulled together (whatever that might mean…). But I like the success here of stepping out boldly.

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