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10 Ways to Add Bold Patterns to Your Wardrobe

Don't be afraid to add some pizzazz to your everyday looks.

A solid capsule wardrobe will have an assortment of staples in neutral colors that carry you through the seasons and the years. But is that really enough? According to stylists, a truly complete capsule should also include a few power pieces: colorful or vibrant options that help you stand out from the crowd. So, if you typically dress in more subdued hues, you might be wondering how to wear bold patterns. Thankfully, our style experts have you covered. Read on to discover their 10 tips for adding these louder looks to your wardrobe.

RELATED: 10 Tips for Getting Out of a Clothing Rut, Stylists Say.

What are the benefits of adding bold patterns to your wardrobe?

woman wearing striped shirt with pants
MixMedia / iStock

Before we delve into how to incorporate more patterns, you might be wondering why you should be doing so in the first place.

According to certified image stylist Elizabeth Kosich, founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling, stripes and animal print can be intimidating, which is why so many of us leave those "crazy" patterned items on the rack at the store. But when done correctly, a bold pattern can really level up a look.

"In truth, [bold patterns] are stealthy styling tools that can strategically highlight or hide body parts like a magic trick," Kosich shares. "Learning how to leverage their superpower is worth the investment, and it starts with understanding colors, scale, and contrast to wear patterns with more confidence."

Petite style coach Angela Foster also notes that a bold pattern can give new life to your favorite looks.

"They're one of the easiest ways to refresh our staple pieces," she tells Best Life. "Add a bold red striped sweater to your classic cream pencil skirt, and suddenly that skirt you've had in your closet for several years feels brand new."

Last but not least, bold patterns can help you look and feel your best.

"Since patterns aren't something everyone feels comfortable wearing, women who do come across as immensely confident, willing to stand out, and having a strong sense of their personal style," Foster concludes.

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How to Wear Bold Patterns: 10 Strategies From Stylists

Start small.

vintage animal-print purse
Baloncici / iStock

When you're introducing patterns, don't feel like you need to revamp your entire wardrobe. You can start with a few accent pieces to get a feel for what you like and dislike.

"It's best to start small with a [patterned] mini-skirt, scarf, or layering tee under a blazer to keep your outfit stylish versus costume-y," Foster says, suggesting reaching for something with wavy lines or flattened florals for a "playful retro twist."

Kosich also stresses starting small and introducing an accessory like a clutch, gloves, or a belt before you make larger investments.

Pick pieces that accentuate the right areas.

floral scarves
Tetiana Rozvodovska / iStock

You can use bold patterns to draw attention to the areas of your body that you want to highlight, Kosich says.

"Consider a wide leopard belt to cinch the waist, bold geometric tights to flaunt your legs, or a vibrant floral scarf at the neck to draw attention up and toward the face," she advises. "Be sure hues support your seasonal color palette so you wear the pattern, and not the other way around. "

Use them as camouflage.

woman wearing polka dot dress
Nicola Katie / iStock

While patterns can accentuate your assets, they're also useful to camouflage certain areas. If you want to call less attention to your midriff, for example, Kosich says that these patterns "can be your best friend."

"Opt for subtle motifs with verticality that skim the body without clinging, then watch how the pattern adds visual interest to distract away from the midsection while the gentle draping softens the head-to-toe silhouette. Magic!" she says.

RELATED: 5 Clothing Patterns That Make You Look Older, Stylists Say.

Add them to strike a balance.

woman wearing striped shirt and denim shorts

Patterns are also useful to introduce when you want to balance your body shape, Kosich explains.

"If you have broad shoulders, shop bold-patterned A-line skirts or wide-leg trousers to balance your bottom half to top," she recommends. "Or, if the widest part of your body is below the waist, try patterned blouses or blazers with strong shoulders to balance top to bottom."

At the same time, you don't want overdo it with patterns. Use them strategically by pairing with neutrals, effectively keeping your look "grounded," Kosich says.

Think about the placement of your polka dots.

woman wearing red polka dot dress
ilona titova / iStock

One of the most traditional prints available is polka dot, but there's a way to introduce this pattern to your look and make it feel fresh rather than dated.

"While small polka dots will be seen in lots of more conservative pieces, this season there is a plethora of large, organically placed dots, which turn the print modern and fashion-forward," Foster says.

They're also useful as a camouflaging tool.

"The sparser print (meaning you see more of the background) attracts the eye and is a super savvy way of attracting attention to the favorite area of your figure," Foster continues. "For example, if you love your top half—bust, arms, or decolletage—look for a blouse or sleeveless shell in this print to add to your closet."

Go for florals.

fashionable older woman wearing floral spring coat
AnnaZhuk / iStock

Florals are another pattern that can feel too loud or a bit dated—but when done right, they can really make an impression.

Foster recommends looking for two-toned graphic florals if you want to be on-trend this spring and summer. If you're "just dipping your toes into the world of patterns," you can go for something more subdued, like black flowers on a white background, she says.

RELATED: 6 Fabrics Stylists Say They'll Never Wear.

Keep scale in mind.

patterned clothing hanging on the rack
Agung Putu Surya Purna Kristyawan / iStock

With patterns, you also want to consider the scale and size of the pattern itself.

"The larger the print, the taller a woman needs to be for it to be flattering," Foster cautions. "To avoid being overwhelmed by the print, petites will want to choose smaller and more subtle patterns."

Don't be afraid to wear patterns in the workplace.

professional woman wearing plaid dress
LaraBelova / iStock

You may think that bold patterns should be reserved for the weekends or a night out, but style experts say that you can absolutely integrate them into your business casual looks.

As go-to workplace patterns, Foster suggests geometric prints, like diamonds or harlequin patterns. (Both are reminiscent of the traditional houndstooth!)

According to Foster, plaid is "another perfect pattern for work, especially in a sheath dress or skirt/blazer combination." Even better, while you may see plaid and think winter, many retailers now sell plaid pieces in pastels and lighter fabrics that are perfect for spring and summer.

Consider your contrast level.

group of female friends
Sabrina Bracher / iStock

With any print or color choice, you have to be mindful of your coloring in order to choose the most flattering options.

"Women with low contrast should opt for pastels and softer hues, while bolder, brighter patterns will flatter high-contrast women," Foster shares.

For reference, you have low contrast if you have light skin, hair, and eyes. You have high contrast when there are more significant differences in the lightness of your coloring, like if you have light skin with dark hair or vice versa, per Foster.

RELATED: 5 Best Colors to Wear If You Have Cool Skin Undertones, Stylists Say.

Treat yourself to something new with the changing seasons.

woman looking at patterned dress in clothing store
IPGGutenbergUKLtd / iStock

If you're typically not into patterns but feel inspired, treat yourself to something that you could actually see yourself wearing or using when changing your closet over.

"Keep your wardrobe fresh by adding a splash of pattern each season. Consider vintage Pucci to amp up personal style, an avant-garde geometric for a dramatic look, or sexy exotics—leopard, python, zebra—to make a bold statement," Kosich suggests.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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