Stripes, and Dots, and Plaids - Oh My! | Mixing Patterns Like a Champ

When I moved to Omaha about four years ago, I moved into this cute little townhouse. The couple who had lived in it before me had similar taste, and it was the perfect place for a young professional starting her first job out of college. With the help of my very kind family, I painted several of the rooms, made some lighting updates, and added some shelves to the garage. I’ve replaced the HVAC unit, the washer and dryer, and several other appliances. There’s been some love put into this house.

One project I haven’t gotten to? Painting my bedroom. While it doesn’t look bad, the walls are a dark, dark gray that tend to suck all of the light out of the room. “Well, just paint it,” you say. Easier said than done. The room has reeealllly high ceilings that make the walls hard to paint. I don’t own a ladder. Most of the other people in the city I know don’t own a ladder. My brother owns one, but a six footer is still not tall enough to get the job done. Then there’s the issue of getting it up three stories of enclosed stairs. It’s all very complicated.

But in reality, though a part of me hates living in a light-sucking dungeon, it’s had its benefits. I usually get dressed at about 5:30 AM, way before the sun comes up. Because it’s extra dark then, the lack of light tends to make my clothes (and makeup) look a little more put together than they actually are (which I don’t realize until about 8:00 AM). The muted colors and patterns have led to some, ahem, unintentionally bold choices.

I get dressed in the dark a lot. 

I get dressed in the dark a lot. 

But it’s led to a greater sense of fearlessness when mixing and matching my closet. For instance - two years ago, I would NEVER have mixed two different patterns together. I grew up knowing very firmly that this was a fashion faux pas not to be trifled with. But when throwing some new combinations together in my dark room, some looked pretty okay - even once the sun made an appearance.

Today, I’m sharing a couple of rules I use when mixing patterns together so that you, too, can experience the “Kelly’s Dark Hole of A Room Effect”.

Probably a bold choice. May regret it someday. Sure like it a lot right now. 

Probably a bold choice. May regret it someday. Sure like it a lot right now. 

Thin little stripes don’t count as a pattern. Same goes for basically unnoticeable, thin plaids.

There’s nothing too out-there or bold about thin stripes. As far as I’m concerned, they’re fair game when mixing with other patterns.

Pick different sizes of patterns.

It’s not really illustrated here since I went with the “stripes are a solid” rule, but if you’re going to be wearing big florals on top, consider something like small polka dots on the bottom, or vice versa.


Tone your patterns down with accessories.

My tote, raincoat, jewelry, and belt all help visually break up the pattern. Frankly, I’m not a designer and can give you no real explanation on why this works, but it’s important, and it does. Just trust me.

Stick in the same color family.

I’m all for being out-there, but when you mix two different patterns with vastly different color palettes, things start looking unintentional really quickly.


I know it’s scary. I know it goes against everything you were told growing up. I know that it can go south pretty easily. But you can do this. What are your favorite pattern combinations? Let me know in the comments? Feel free to link to an Insta photo, so I can see!


  • Tote: Kelly & Katie (Similar find for $35 here)
  • Shoes: Kelly & Katie ($35 here)
  • Top: Loft (similar find that I actually like even better from Old Navy here)
  • Pants: JCrew (similar from Brooks Brothers on sale for just $35 here)
  • Raincoat: I bought mine like 7 years ago, but here’s a really cool one from Uniqlo for $80.