Lynn Yaeger rallies us past the print of no return.
You are afraid. So scared that you are tempted to wear just a turtleneck (black) and a pair of jeans (blue) and forget the whole thing. Maybe some bad experience long ago (those BeDazzled leopard leggings at the high school prom?) has caused you to swear off prints for decades. This is a shame, since the mysterious wonder of patterns, and the crazy ways we mix and match them, has an odd ability to make you look devastatingly chic.
Gear up your courage! In times like these, the merest floral border, the errant polka dot can make life seem a whole lot better. Just because you are terrified of toile, certain that a cavalcade of millefleurs will turn you into a fat milkmaid is not sufficient reason to eschew Erdem, to shy away from Etro. Some of the most brilliant designers working today are fierce proponents of prints and patterns, and it would be lamentable for you to ignore their great work.
So, stare straight into the mirror and decide just how far you are willing to wade into a sea of camo and chinoiserie. Are you content to be the person who introduces spots and dots deliberately and with great dignity—an Hermès scarf, perhaps, tied discreetly to a purse handle? Or is it your secret dream to follow in the patchwork footprints of nonagenarian print goddess Iris Apfel, who once famously opined, “More is more and less is a bore”?
Whether you prefer to start slowly with, say, an all-black ensemble brought startlingly to life with a pair of Louboutin Victorian-blossom boots or dive drunk into the pool with a furry-cuffed Cinq à Sept turquoise-and-beige paisley coat, rest assured that when it comes to fashion, all rules are situational. Stuff that looked iffy just a few seasons ago may well look brilliant today. (Even those leopard leggings that left you spiraling for decades, now paired with a neo-grunge frock, can enjoy a shame-free future.) Case in point: Stripes, perhaps the most innocuous, least controversial way of introducing a little bend and snap into your wardrobe, were once (OK, in the Middle Ages—it was a long time ago, but so what?) reserved for criminals, clowns, prostitutes and hangmen.
You don’t want to look like a clown or a courtesan, I know, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t time to dip a toe into the stripe—or the camo, or the herringbone or the toile de Jouy—pond. And who knows, maybe the next time I see you, you will be wearing a wildly patterned scarlet Gucci hooded manteau and considering a tattoo of these famous words from Diana Vreeland: “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”
Lynn Yaeger is a contributing editor at Vogue and writes for many other publications.
Illustrations by Luke Edward Hall
Valiant Virgo, yours is truly a sign of a different stripe—loyal and practical, like the patterns you sport, these clothes are perfectly in line with your generous nature. Though you prefer to work behind the scenes, your verticals and horizontals are happy taking center stage.
Time to take the bull by the horns, dear Taurus. Sure, you’ve been called stubborn, but we say it’s fine to be forceful! Cover that devoted, responsible personality of yours in camouflage, and it need not be khaki; camo works just as well—better, even—in powder blue and baby pink.
Saucy Sagittarius, listen up! You’ve got a great sense of humor, so let your outfits raise a chuckle with graphic prints. What’s wrong with vintage pots and pans printed on your pants, owls hooting on your overcoat or funny faces lighting up your frock?
Moody Cancer, your sentimental reveries are as compelling as the paisley prints you’re twirling around in this fall. But we know you won’t stay out too late! Home and hearth is where paisley-clad Cancer is happiest.
Wake up, Warhol! Talking to you, Rauschenberg! Here comes Leo, the life of the party, dressed to the nines—the tens!— in a powerful pop art print. Celebrate
your lion king status with patterns as self-confident and bold as your bodacious personality. A soupçon of soup cans never looked so good.
Exuberant Aries, your determination, your cheeriness dots every i! So, express your passion and courage with a dramatic swath of circles: big polkas for big dreams (no one ever accused you of being timid!) or tiny pinpoints when your trademark confidence requires nothing more.
Hello jinxy Gemini! Your dual nature—slow and sweet one minute, fast and furious the next—is best expressed with a dazzling op art print. Looked at one way, these patterns can appear calm and soothing, but squint, and you will see another story entirely.
Scintillating Scorpio, your love of truth, your insistence on authenticity makes you want to dive into a bushelful of batik, a tidal wave of tie-dye! Block prints encapsulate your down-to-earth decisiveness. If honesty is the best policy, drape it in these gorgeously hand-printed patterns.
From the outside, Capricorn, you are the picture of perfect manners, which is why herringbone tweed, a pattern that whispers quiet good taste, attracts your sober eye. But wait! Who says these tweedy chevrons can’t rock a pair of stiletto-heeled over-the- knee boots?
Fun-loving Aquarius, you’re always ready to have a good time and fight the good fight! Leap to the defense of those you
care about in leopard spots or declare your independence to a tiger beat. Twist the laws of the jungle to your animal spirit!
Lovely Libra, let your floral flag fly! Your gentle ways are beautifully expressed with
a bower of blossoms, poignant as a field of wildflowers, but occasionally—because even you, shy bud, can have your crazy days—in prints whose tendrils transform you into a garden of earthly delights.
O, sensitive Pisces, cloak your sweet trusting nature, your haunting loveliness in vintage-inspired toile de Jouy. Your gentle mien will be delightfully brought to life in a charming faded fabric that looks like it escaped from the walls of a fairy-tale castle.