I blame the dreadful uniforms of my youth – from the summer dresses worn to school to those horrible nylon things bank and supermarket staff were kitted out in – the patterns were enough to put you off prints for life. I didn’t suffer personally at the hands of a garish print and I’ve never been put off by a polka dot but show me a tribal or floral design and I’ll back off faster than you can say Per Una at Marks and Spencer.
However, over the past few seasons it has become increasingly aware that to not buy into patterned fabric is to restrict yourself to a miserably small amount of stuff. Boho can’t be properly acheived without embracing romantic flowery patterns and the seventies vibe isn’t complete without a bit of shouty geometric. Over the summer months if you didn’t have a gingham or a tropical piece you simply weren’t on the money, for this autumn it’s the big checks you need to bring you bang up to date. I don’t mind a gingham me, so I was disappointed to discover it was tricky to find it on the high street last season (I spotted a friend in a lovely gingham shirt on Facebook, apparently from H&M, so I obviously didn’t look hard enough). Victoria Beckham has showcased oversized gingham in her Spring Summer 2016 collection this week meaning this particular look isn’t going anywhere for at least a year.
The upshot being that I am biting on the sartorial bullet. I do this from time to time, having sworn blindly I won’t touch something with a barge-pole, I then take my barge-pole shopping. I’m still not advocating print clashing however as I think this is a look which might be pulled off by Kate Moss but invariably looks accidental and deranged on the majority of the rest of us.
There is a lot to be said for finding a print in the right colour and the right size. Busy patterns are distracting so while a delicate tiny design might deceive the eye into thinking there are no lumps and bumps lurking beneath, a large and brash one may only serve to draw attention to it. Also, you know that thing about dark colours shading and lighter ones highlighting? Yeah well if you put a giant flower on a giant buttock, well you know where I’m going on with this don’t you?
Earlier this year I tried a lovely dress on in Other Stories in Stockholm and my boyfriend was offering to buy it for me – it was all so romantic, what’s not to like right? – except that the Aztec style print was cut so that on each boob there was a sort of explosion. I just couldn’t do it, after all if I couldn’t stop looking at my own chest, what hope was there for anyone else ?
This season there is everything from geometric monochrome to girly florals, the animal prints now something of a staple in the colder months. Inspiration comes from the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties and it’s totally up to you which decade you channel, it’s all relevant and it comes down to the styling.
Most of these prints will work best paired with block colours so keep it simple with a pair of boots and opaque tights. You can’t go far wrong chucking a plain skinny rib knit under a patterned dress for a pulled together work look. Alternatively try a chunky sweater or cardigan over the top for a more casual weekend version. There are some more subtle prints for the fearful – that’s me. This lovely soft check coat from H&M features muted shades of navy and grey, ideal for fair colouring and not quite as scary as the Debenham’s coat by Ben de Lisi, although this is pretty fabulous as statement coats go. If like the queen, you need to stand out in a crowd, this is the perfect coat.
Finally, if you walk into a room wearing a coat like this monochrome piece, only to come face to face with someone wearing the same, you’re going to stand out for all the wrong reasons. It’s the stuff of nightmares and I have no solution other than to leg it or stuff the offending article down the back of a sofa. And I would probably never have the nerve to venture out in said piece again which would be a terrible waste of money. You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prints, but when you do it’ll be worth it. Be brave, be bold – I have a feeling this may be our year.