When it comes to spring fashion, colorful prints and patterns are blanketing stores like wildflowers blooming in an open field.
This bold approach is a breath of fresh April air after seasons when color-blocking, punctuated with pops of neon, dominated the scene. These looks are lingering, but designers are stretching their creativity with clothes and accessories that capture the whimsy and color spectrum of spring.
Want to partake in the pattern palooza? Here are some tips for the fashion-forward and the style-shy alike ...
At New York Fashion Week, designers' inspiration for spring collections included everything from the beauty of Mother Nature to faraway lands such as India and the French Riviera. Prints for the season are just as varied and range from faces, flowers, fruits, watercolors and intricate geometrics to fresh interpretations of old standbys such as polka dots, pinstripes and paisleys.
Patterned looks for the bold
Head-to-toe prints are nothing new. Suits in subtle stripes have long been a staple of a working woman's wardrobe. There was even a song penned about one piece of warm-weather print apparel: the itsy bitsy, teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikini. But designers are amping up their approaches to these wallpaper prints. Take the power suit. Trade in the pinstriped pants and jacket for pieces covered in flowers. Or try a maxi or button-down shirt dress in spirals, zig-zags, polka dots or graphic prints.
More subtle styles
For the understated dresser, look for prints in softer shades (watercolors and pastels are good options). Also, stick with more traditional shapes and florals, the simpler the better. Skip the dizzying doses of dots for larger designs that allow for more space between them.
Mixing and matching
Want to combine multiple patterns within a single look? Meet pattern-blocking. Some designers have done the work for consumers by creating fashions that feature more than one print on a single piece of apparel.
Another choice: increase visual intrigue by building an ensemble with differently patterned separates. The trick is to pair patterns that balance each other. For instance, rather than doing life-size florals on top and bottom, select a shirt with a lighter, smaller print to go with bolder patterned pants, or vice versa.
Easing into the trend
Hesitant to dress in all-over prints for fear of looking like a flower? Not to worry -- there are still ways even those leery about the trend can learn to love it.
The key is incorporating patterned fashions into an outfit in small amounts. Instead of the patterned suit, opt for a top with an eye-catching design paired with solid-colored bottoms. Or stick to solids on top and make a splash with slender patterned pants or shorts. Layer a wallpaper print dress with a mono-colored blazer or sweater to help break up and add contrast to the design.
Jewelry, shoes and handbags are popping up in prints, from floral pumps and purses to sunglass frames doused with a rainbow of colors. They are an affordable way to invest in the trend, as well as another option for easing prints into a wardrobe. Pump up a look from conservative to sizzling by adding patterned accessories to an otherwise solid-toned outfit.
Let fingernails join the fun with nail art. Polish strips from brands such as Essie and Sally Hansen come in bright patterns (flowers, butterflies, stars and checkered prints) that simply stick on and last up to 10 days. Speckled polishes by Illamasqua come in pastels that leave nails with a dotted robins' egg pattern with just a couple of quick coats.
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraB_PG. First Published April 2, 2013 4:00 AM