Wardrobe Architect 7: Prints vs solids

Now here’s an interesting one: Exploring solids and prints! I’m looking at the exercise today and feeling like this is going to be another rambly post because my 10-20 most worn items aren’t necessarily going to really reflect what I like – partly because of the problems I’ve had buying clothes in the first place, partly because most of the time I’m just at home and don’t see anyone so I tend to save the stuff I really really like for when I go out (although thinking I should revise this…) so it lasts longer. So I’m going to be a bit more abstract about this and try to pick out the things I feel pretty fabulous in. I’m guessing my preferred clothes are going to be about 50/50 solids and prints. Let’s see where I end up:

Tops: Orange tshirt, Red wraparound blouse (w red strappy top for modesty), Atelier Brunette Lou Box Top, Pink White Stuff cowl neck top, Grey marl Wikimania tshirt

Dresses: Navy blue ikat Noa Noa dress

Trousers: Dark blue jeans

Skirts: Orange floral Jigsaw skirt, Navy blue beetle skirt

Other: Light grey plaid Kew trouser-suit, Taupe cotton jacket

Actually, only 4 of these 11 things is a solid. The Wikimania tshirt actually raises an additional category that isn’t as simple as prints vs solids, which is the graphic tee – overall its solid, but with a printed design on the front. While I tend not to pair overall prints with other prints, I’d happily wear this tshirt with, say, the beetle skirt,

So that leaves 6 actual prints, which are a mixed bag of geometric, plaid, tribal, and floral prints. I’m going to class the beetles as a floral because while for me the beetles are the drawcard, they’re mixed in with botanical drawings and they don’t really fit the idea of ‘novelty prints’.

Sarai categorises five different aspects to consider:

  • Prints vs solids
  • Scale of a print
  • Contrasting colours or more tonal and subdued?
  • Naturalism or abstract?
  • Mood – do I associate particular types of prints with my style words?

So I think we’ve roughly covered prints vs solids – I guess it really is about half and half if we take the graphic tee out of the equation, with a slight tip towards prints.

Scale: I think most of the prints I go for are probably medium-sized, or at least have medium-sized elements in a larger repeating pattern. I hope that makes sense. As I’m short, huge prints tend to dwarf me, and I find tiny prints tend to be a bit girly – the exception being this amazing fabric from Mood in America which I may need to find the money to buy because it’s just awesome:

Helmets and battleaxes fabric from Mood
See? Tiny helmets and battleaxes!

So mid-size elements are good, or smaller elements in a larger repeating pattern like my Atelier Brunette top where the overall repeat size seems to be large enough that the repeat isn’t clearly seen when you have the top on and instead looks stylishly random.

I guess ‘repeat size’ should really be a separate element then…

Contrast: I seem to be at both ends of the scale for this one! The prints I like tend to be either very subtle, like these battleaxes, or quite contrasty. I have only one top in my wardrobe that sits in the middle – actually a small-scale naturalistic floral which is so not what I’d usually pick, but it’s a good holiday top and actually makes a nice change sometimes.

Naturalism: Mostly I tend towards the abstract end of the scale. For things that aren’t actual abstracts, and for florals in particular I favour line-drawing styles, usually rendered with a limited colour palette. I like the look of some naturalistic florals (OMG Liberty) but I really can’t see myself wearing them, or not with any regularity. The closest I’d be comfortable with is the sort of William Morris stylised florals, which I do adore but again not for all the time. Moving away from florals, if I think about novelty prints again I tend to be drawn to more graphic/line-drawing styles, but there are exceptions to that too, such as this watercoloury cotton lawn print of buildings which I’m also trying very hard not to buy and put aside for a shirt (although now that I think of it, because of the subject matter it does still come across as a little bit abstract):


Mood: As I’m mentioned before, I think my style words mostly are connected in my mind with either prints or solids:

  • Stylish – solids or simple prints (low-contrast and/or very limited colours)
  • Natural – solids but interesting textures (which is possibly also something that should be considered in this post)
  • Practical – tends to be solids
  • Quirky – prints (high contrast, more likely to be multiple contrasting colours), graphic tees
  • Feminine – more likely to be abstracted organic prints or solids in feminine shapes
  • Tomboy – more likely to be solids, colour-blocking or high contrasting abstract prints in simple shapes. Also graphic tees

Sarai also presents a number of categories of prints to consider:

Stripes, checks and plaids – I’m never sure about stripes. I feel I need to be careful with them because of being short and curvy so I tend to prefer pinstripes over wider ones. Not really drawn to them, mostly. Checks are generally a no but I do love a good plaid.

Dots – generally, no. They feel quite girly and I have a hard time getting over that. The exceptions might be woven dots rather than printed (low contrast), small violently contrasting dots (orange/blue?), and dots that are clearly hand-drawn and uneven. I feel that as I sew more I may revise my attitude towards dots – for some reason I do keep coming back to the idea that they might be nice in shirt? – but for now I generally avoid them. Likewise pseudo-dots such as hearts (blecchhhh!) and stars which feel childish to me. I find it interesting that I would happily wear a top with smiling frogs all over it, but a simple pattern of stars would make me feel like a kid. No. Sense. Whatsoever.

Geometrics – YES. No qualifications. Just yes. Love them in high-contrast, low contrast, simple, complex, big, small, you name it.

Floral – well, we’ve kind of covered this above – some is OK, tending towards the abstracted and limited, often non-naturalistic, colour palettes

Animal print – no. Pretty much always no.

Novelty print – yes. Obviously it depends on the print, but I do love novelty prints

And one final category which Sarai didn’t have which is: Tribal/Ethnic – I tend to go on a case by case basis for these. Some ikat or ikat-like designs I like very much, some African wax print, some Indian designs, Chinese embroidered silks (although I’m never sure how to wear those so it doesn’t feel like dressing up), but others leave me cold. Not generally a fan of Indonesian batik to wear, although as designs some are amazing.

An interesting point from the comments on the original post was from someone who likes to mix and match prints and mentions that she likes to keep her prints fairly monochromatic (either tonal or one statement colour although she’s open to more than one neutral in combination with it) to facilitate this. Which makes me think that possibly with a little bravery I could manage this too? Maybe today I’ll wear this and see how I feel about it:

Red + white floral print wrap blouse (with red tank top), navy blue beetle skirt, navy blue belt, + clompy walking boots
Red + white floral print wrap blouse (with red tank top), navy blue beetle skirt, navy blue belt, + clompy walking boots


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