It's a jungle out there this spring and summer. From wild leopards to zingy zebras to hyped up hibiscuses and strident stripes ... prints have put their stamp on fashion's trendiest looks this season. But before you step out into this manic menagerie of the style zoo, there are a few do's and don'ts. Yes, there are some fashion gurus who will tell you that you can wear whatever you want with whatever you want, but most of us still want to look our best, no matter what "they" say. So here are some flattering ways to wear the new prints popping up this spring:
--Do your best to keep the prints small. Let's face it; none of us want to be described as "that woman over there wearing the big print." That's a big don't! That huge blooming flower on the front of your dress or worse yet, on the back of your butt, is not a great target for chicdom. It's the same principle that applies to those tacky Christmas sweaters.
--Don't let your prints give you the runaround treatment. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing when it comes to pattern on your clothes. We've all seen the bold head-to-toe florals that seem to go on forever, around and around that maxi dress, encircling the fashion victim in swaths of ring-around-the-roses. Endless wide stripes can also have the same effect and nobody wants to look wide, either.
--Do keep the background on the dark side. If you are going for the most figure-flattering look, then you'll want to make sure the prints you wear are grounded against a darker color. Remember, as the background becomes less noticeable, you'll look slimmer -- an old fashion trick that still works when it comes to wearing this season's prints.
--Don't be afraid to mix clashing prints. Even though you may not want to roar in the total animal-print kingdom, you can still liven up some leopard prints by teaming them with colorful florals. Just remember to keep the prints in proportion and in the same scale. It also helps to keep your mix-matched prints in the same color family.
--Do add color to your neutral prints. A pop of a bright, solid color will definitely make any print come alive. That orange neon top will add sparks to a zebra print trench coat with black trousers. A black and white jacket popped with a printed tank top will also give you some extra interest and color near your face.
--Don't get striped. Stripes can be your best friend -- all nautical and natty -- and traditionally one of spring and summer's most popular prints. But beware -- all stripes are not created equal. Vertical lines do tend to be more slimming because our eyes scan them quickly as opposed to horizontal lines; however, watch out for "wide" vertical stripes that can be just as unflattering as bold horizontal patterns.
--Do experiment with printed accessories. Handbags, scarves and shoes this spring and summer are full of exciting possibilities worth printing. Vivid colors blossom in floral wedges and espadrilles; slouchy striped totes are beaching it, and animal prints are slipping into everything in-between, from swimsuit cover-ups to strappy sandals. Accessories are a great way to put some punchy patterns into your wardrobe, no matter what size you are!
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association.