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How to wear graphic prints without looking like a clown

Bold, get-noticed graphic prints are in for spring, and we show you how to wear them in a way that’s chic, not garish.

Don’t overdo it

Graphic prints can be a great way to add interest to your look, but they can also be distracting and take away from your outfit as a whole. The key to not looking like a clown or someone who got dressed in the dark is to be strategic about the prints you choose and to not overdo it. This means choosing prints that are more subtle rather than over the top. Choose bolder prints for smaller items, such as belts and flats, versus a blazer or pair of pants. For example, the vibrant print on these Nine West pumps is perfect for shoes but maybe not for a pair of trousers.

Nine west pumps |

Wear prints proportionate to your body

One of the best ways to ensure the prints you wear flatter versus take away from your look is to wear those that are proportionate to your body. If you’re petite, avoid large prints that can overwhelm you. Stay away from big floral prints, especially those that cover an entire dress or skirt. Smaller graphic prints will be more flattering for your small frame. If you’re taller, then you can get away with wearing larger prints.

Mix and match wisely

Mixing and matching prints can be done without creating a clown-like effect if you choose the right ones to pair up. A bold floral print on top with a turquoise chevron print on the bottom will be too much. Tone down each print for a more pulled-together look. Some options to try include a soft floral print with a soft stripe, or a larger animal print on the bottom with a smaller animal print on top. When choosing prints to pair, look at how they work together and whether they’ll create a cohesive outfit.

Create a balance

Since wearing graphic prints can be tricky, the easiest way to ensure your look is polished is to choose a print for either the top or the bottom (or simply on an accessory for a more subtle look). Create a chic balance by wearing a solid blouse with printed trousers or a printed T-shirt with solid pants.

Our picks

We’ve sourced a few printed pieces we’re currently coveting.

Printed top

Printed top |

(Zara, $60)

Slim-fit trousers

Trousers |

(H&M, $18)

Graffiti skirt

Graffiti skirt |
(Mango, $80)


T-shirt |
(Gap, $27)


Blouse |

More style tips

How to wear leggings and other trendy pieces
Signs it’s time for a style update
How to get jet-setter style

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