It's a rule of fashion that never loses relevance: make sure you're the one wearing the print, and not vice versa. That being said, the endless array of zigzag, chevron and distorted stripe prints in shop windows these days can seem daunting, especially for those of us who gravitate towards solid colours in uncomplicated patterns.
I usually belong to this category of shoppers – I feel that clothing boasting bold and graphic geometric sequences becomes distracting, and never quite achieves that effortless look that we all strive to embody. Neutrals, subtle florals and soft embellishments, on the other hand, are more my cup of tea.
So when I first had a peek at the new H&M Studio spring/summer collection that lands in stores this weekend, it took me a few minutes to digest it. Different collars, lapels and necklines are combined with rope belts, unconventional colour combinations and an eyeful of patterns – stripes included. It was almost as if the creative team had taken inspiration from Missoni’s signature zigzags and stripes, and gave them an earthy, Amazonian shake-up. All elements representing fluidity and elegance were replaced with vivid, optical imprints.
I managed to tear my eyes away from the screen for a few moments, and a few blinks later, came back to it. I usually really admire the H&M Studio collections, and enjoy seeing how the pieces translate into outfits that are wearable and stylish. While I’d personally do away with one of the tie-dye tops that appeared to be covered in orange tea stains, the belted jackets, graphic dresses, swimwear and accessories quickly grew on me.
The moral of my anecdote is what, at first sight, may seem like an eyesore may actually be a defining theme of your new season wardrobe. Right now, as I write this column, I have multiple tabs open on my browser with online shopping carts full of checkered, gingham and striped summer pieces.
If prints aren’t your forte, then start slowly. It’s all about taking baby steps when trying out new fashion trends, otherwise they can consume you. Go ahead and dress in all-black attire if you wish, but pop on a soft silk scarf in a geometric print. Drape it loosely, or tie it tight around your neck for an upscale city-chic touch – all you need is a pair of dark, oversized sunglasses, and you’ve nailed the timeless look.
The same rules can apply with printed shoes, or a snapback hat instead of a silk scarf, if you’re more of a tomboy. Then work your way up and out of the accessories realm. Find a crazy patterned blouse to add into your workwear wardrobe, and a few weeks later, try out some pinstriped culottes. Come summertime, you’ll have all the confidence in the world when sporting a mixed-print kimono by the poolside.
The thing to remember is not to force it. Naturally groove into these printed styles. Only purchase designs that speak to you – if not immediately, at least quickly – while shopping. Like that piece you see on the mannequin as you enter the store, and continuously glance back at while envisioning it on yourself. Don’t open your wallet for a bizarre print just for the sake of buying into the trend.
If you’re curious as to how I’ll be sporting thick striped blocks and other eye-catching graphic patterns this season, I have one particular cut on my mind: the shirt dress – and if it flaunts a mishmash of mixed patterns, even better. Paired with either pointed lace-up ballerina flats or simple white sneakers, the printed shirt dress will likely become my spring wardrobe staple.