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Design & Style

Tan France’s 5 Tips for Wearing and Mixing Prints

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 4 min read

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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Adding a print or a pattern to your look is an easy way to elevate any outfit, and there’s a world of different prints and patterns to explore. Whether you want to wear plaid with gingham or zebra stripes with leopard print, world-class fashion expert Tan France has some helpful best practices to help you incorporate prints into your wardrobe.



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Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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A Brief Introduction to Tan France

While some were first introduced to fashion expert Tan France on the Primetime Emmy-nominated Netflix show Queer Eye in 2018, the prolific stylist has been in the fashion and styling business for over 20 years. Before the fashion guru appeared in the hit makeover show reboot along with the rest of “The Fab Five,” co-stars Bobby Berk, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, and Jonathan Van Ness (JVN), he had helped thousands of people find their personal style and find a look that makes them feel like the very best version of themselves. Since the breakout success of Queer Eye, Tan has become one of the most visible, sought-after personal stylists in the world—making history as the first openly gay South Asian man on television. In 2019, he published his memoir, Naturally Tan, which became an instant New York Times bestseller. In 2020, Tan co-hosted the fun and fast-paced 2020 Netflix fashion design competition series, Next in Fashion, with Alexa Chung.

9 Popular Prints and Patterns

Wearing a bold pattern or print can show that you've put real thought into your outfit. The terms “print” and “pattern“ are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. A pattern is any repeated design, whereas a print is a design that has been printed onto fabric, rather than woven or embroidered. Some of the most popular patterns and prints include:

  1. Gingham is a fabric made from dyed cotton yarn woven into a checkered pattern, usually white and one other color.
  2. Stripes come in different styles, from pinstripes (very narrow vertical stripes that often appear on dark-colored suits) to the classic French marinière T-shirt with its distinctive blue and white horizontal stripes.
  3. Animal prints mimic the stripes, spots, and scales of wild animals. Snake, zebra, and leopard prints make a bold statement, but there are ways to incorporate them subtly.
  4. Plaid, also known as tartan, is a woven fabric traditionally made from wool that is now a common pattern for flannel shirts. Multicolor plaid features repeating vertical and horizontal stripes of varying thicknesses.
  5. Floral patterns feature flowers of all kinds. Floral prints can be tiny, or large and detailed. They can be multicolor or monochrome. They are fun patterns to work with since they offer so much variety.
  6. Polka dots are a pattern of repeating circles of the same size. They can be big or small; smaller dots tend to look more neutral, while larger dots make more of a statement.
  7. Geometric prints feature shapes such as triangles, squares, and trapezoids. They can be intricate and repetitive or more abstract. Houndstooth is an example of a repeating geometric pattern in two colors.
  8. Paisley is a Persian pattern featuring a teardrop design with a curved point. The interior of the teardrop often contains intricate geometric or floral-inspired designs. You’re likely to find paisleys printed on silk items like ties and scarves.
  9. Herringbone is a fabric (usually twill) featuring a V-shape weave with a repeating pattern that has the appearance of a fish skeleton.
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Tan France’s 5 Tips for Wearing Prints

Mixing prints allows you to open up a whole new world of interesting outfit ideas, taking you beyond the standard monochrome button-down shirt and denim jeans. Consider the following tips for mixing prints from world-class fashion stylist Tan France:

  1. Start with foundation prints. Foundation prints are classic, simple prints that are easy to incorporate into your outfits. These prints include stripes, polka dots, floral, and animal prints. You can pair any of these prints with the neutral colors in your capsule wardrobe.
  2. Layer. The easiest way to mix prints into your current wardrobe is by finding a print that you can layer with other pieces in your outfit. Going from wearing solid colors to a paisley jumpsuit can be an intimidating leap, but layering allows you to incorporate the bolder print into your look comfortably.
  3. Tone down clashing prints. Sometimes, you may find yourself questioning whether you’ve gone too far with mixing prints. Take a look at the patterns in your outfit. Did you incorporate a classic print with the look, or are the patterns more contemporary? If you are worried that your bold mixed-print look has gone too far, there’s an easy fix: Tone it down with layering. If you’re on the fence about wearing a busy floral print, layer a sweater, jumper, or blazer over the print. To avoid future clashing, mix bold prints that follow a similar color palette or color scheme.
  4. Mix with plaids. Plaid is a contemporary print that you can layer over other prints to create an understated mixed-print look. Layering a plaid button-down with a striped tank top is a great way to play with clashing patterns, which can be a chic way of showing that you know exactly what you're doing with your style.
  5. Experiment. When mixing patterns and prints, experiment with different looks until you find the one that feels right. As you work with different looks, pay attention to tone, color family, and the sizes of the patterns. Ask yourself some questions: Are you comfortable wearing bold colors? Does the pattern mixing feel too extreme? Or does mixing different patterns and prints perfectly represent you? No matter what pairing you create, it’s important to wear what feels right for you.


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Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass Annual Membership and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.