Prints are a big direction for Fall fashion.  Whether you’re buying garments or sewing your own, finding mountain-top choices in prints can be a huge challenge.   Here are some examples of prints that showcase the wearer, and some tips on how to find those perfect prints for yourself. 

Regardless of your political affiliation, it’s hard to dispute that  the former FLOTUS  looks knock-out in this Jason Wu design she chose for welcoming the new Canadian prime minister to the White House.

michelle O

But even with her obvious figure assets and resources, some of her print choices are  less successful.

michelle prints wrong

The definition of a flattering print is that it puts attention on the individual woman and not on the print itself.  In the top picture – although the dress is fabulous – your focus still goes right to Michelle’s face.  But in the next examples you tend to notice the prints instead, barely focusing on her face at all.

The secret to print selection is to repeat elements about yourself within the design. For Michelle in the Jason Wu, the background color is about as deep and rich as her personal coloring.  The print colors echo the level of light:dark contrast level between her skin and hair.  And the motif shapes relate to the sweeping lines of her hairstyle.

The pastel squares of the second print are far too pale for her coloring — see how her head appears to be disconnected from the dress on her body?  And the purple floral is overly bright, with a too-high contrast level that commands all the attention, overpowering her face.

Here are  more examples of prints with “points of connection” to their wearers – these from a class  on print selection that I taught for a women’s group.

best prints collage

See how the repetition of hair color, eye color, contrast level, hair shapes and other features puts each woman as the center of attention?  In each case, the person and the print just seem to match each another.

Of course you’re not limited to prints that repeat your specific body colors.  If you have a Color Fan you can use it as a road map to other successful print color schemes.  You can read more about that in this blog post.

One color consultation client came up with this clever trick to simplify the process when you’re buying fabric to sew for yourself … and she shared the pictures to show just how effective her trick can be.

cathys prints

Print yardage often includes a color chart along the selvage with a dot of each dye color that appears in the mix.  Celeste used those color dots to compare with the strips from her color fan.  That method is especially useful in analyzing monochromatic prints like these.

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.

12 Comments

  1. Sherry on September 3, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Excellent article ! This is a concept that I learned just in the past few years. Sometimes, it has been hard to find a print that is not too big — it seems the rag industry has been pushing those recently, so I just wait it out and use scarves in the chilly months to introduce pattern to an ensemble. The introduction of personal coloring into an outfit is also a skill I now employ consistently.

  2. Pati Palmer on September 3, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Nancy,
    You are such a good Image Consultant and I loved working with you publishing your book Looking Good Everyday. It is exciting you are also getting into the manufacturing of quality knit coordinates in colors tht work for lots of women. Congrats!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on September 3, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks Pati. You and I take it for granted that we can sew the right styles in the right colors for our wardrobe. But women who don’t sew deserve that flexibility too. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer that option in the very near future.

  3. Linda Miller on September 7, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for the great information. I sm looking forward to seeing you in Jacksonville, FL on April 1st.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on September 7, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Thanks Linda – I’m excited to be visiting a number of American Sewing Guild chapters in late March/April. See you there!

  4. TC Ferrito on October 6, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Nancy- I get this. I am shopping with my color fan. But what if I can’t find anything that works? You have been telling me for years to wear chocolate brown, the color of my hair. I can find solid brown. But every print I find in brown has orange and yellow in it- which look awful on me. How do you find prints with the right mix of colors? Especially when you are a mix of “seasons”? I want the brown but not the other warm colors fabric makers want to mix it with. Help!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on October 6, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Finding good prints these days is just difficult – no two ways about it. Temperature extremes, too-high contrast levels, overly-large motifs and simplistic color schemes are all over the place. The one hopeful trend on the horizon is the technology of dye sublimation printing which allows shorter runs of print designs by more designers. Right now that mode is cost-prohibitive, but I expect it to come down dramatically in the near future. I’m personally collecting print and color scheme inspiration pieces … and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And in the meanwhile I’m wearing more solids and linking them with multi-color accessories.

  5. TC Ferrito on October 7, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks for letting me know it’s not just me! Now when I see anything in the right colors, I will know to buy it or lose out.

  6. Melony on March 24, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Nancy,
    I have been learning so much from both your Craftsy class and website/blog. I see here that you visited Jacksonville, Florida in 2016. Is a NE Florida visit again on your calendar anytime in the near future? I would love to attend a class and an in person color consultation.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on April 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      I’m talking with Debbie Gray from Cool Stitches in Jacksonville about doing a program there in the fall. Keep an eye on my newsletter for updates on all class dates and locations. You can also reach out to Debbie directly thru coolstitchesjax.com. Hope we can connect there!

      • melonyxynidis on April 24, 2018 at 12:24 am

        Wonderful! How do I sign up for your newsletter? I will check into Cool Stitches. Sounds very interesting. Thanks Nancy, I learn so much everyday. I have recently learned with your help that I am a rectangle shape with high contrast coloring but I am in a pickle trying to figure out my best colors. I think you should know I never received any notification that you had answered my question here. I just decided today I would search your site to see where ( which blog post) I had asked it and if you had answered. One hour later and more informed than ever, I found your response.

        • Nancy Nix Rice on April 24, 2018 at 10:41 am

          I’ll add your name to the email list so you never again miss out. And be on the lookout for a Cool Stitches class in the fall.

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