Don’t Ever Let a Print Wear You

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is so lovely that one would think it almost impossible to make her look bad in a fashion spread.

Indeed, she looks radiant on the cover of the December 2012 issue of InStyle magazine in a dress and belt by Nina Ricci accented with beautifully chosen jewelry by Fred Leighton. Notice how the staggered chunky bracelets visually repeat the pattern of the serrated lacy edge of her dress.

Peer inside the magazine, however, and you will see Zeta-Jones photographed sitting in a Stella McCartney leopard-print coat worn over a Dolce  Gabbana dress and Valentino Garavani heels.  The print visually enlarges the coat, with the result that the wearer appears to be twice the size of Zeta-Jones. The print is so dominant and visually overpowering that one barely notices that the woman wearing it is Zeta-Jones.

The coat does no favors for the jewelry selected either. Zeta-Jones is wearing a pair of stunning diamond, platinum and 18kt gold vintage brooches from, one placed above the other under her face near the top of the print coat. The soft gold designs are completely lost against the busy animal print.

Animal prints are perennially popular, but always step back, look in a mirror, and consider the big picture. Never wear a print that wears you.

Applied Geometry

Geometric shapes are having a heyday. They appear not only in vibrant print fabrics made into all manner of apparel but also as motifs in bags and shoes and especially in jewelry, which lends itself beautifully to incorporating the lines and angles of geometry.

The February 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine calls “mod geometry” in graphic prints “the most wearable trend right now” and salutes the designs as “fresh and bright as spring itself.”

While bright prints often do have a happy vibe, wearing oversized geometric prints is difficult to carry off. The trick is finding prints that you can wear without them wearing you.

There are two components to choosing vibrant geometric prints.

One component is psychological. Does the thought of wearing a large-scale geometric print make you uncomfortable? Trust your instincts. The vividness of the print is almost certainly bolder than your personality. Move on.

The other component is physical. Does a particular print flatter you in where and how it draws the eye? When you wear the garment, do your features and coloring recede into the background?

If you look at the photo of the model, upper right, you can see that she appears to be a walking print. On first viewing, her own form and features play second fiddle to the vivid color and large-scale motif of what she is wearing. If you look closely, you’ll see that the small-scale print on her collar, the narrow line of a sheer skirt under the dress, and her handbag all serve as buffers between the oversized print on her dress and her features. These details make the oversized print more wearable.

Don’t take the runway image of a model wearing a garment as an example of how a garment should look on you. Remember, models are selected to show off the garments; the garments are not chosen to emphasize the looks of the model. When you are shopping for your wardrobe, you want your choices to make you look good. It’s not about showing the clothes to advantage; it’s about you looking your best.

There is yet another consideration in choosing a bright oversized geometric print: Such prints are extremely memorable. If you wear that yellow print in any setting once, everyone but everyone will remember that you wore it previously the next time you wear it. Not everyone may find the print charming. Quite aside from what others think, consider whether you yourself might tire of a particular print.

There is a time to break the rules. If you absolutely love the print and the garment incorporating the print, enjoy it and wear it with attitude. If you love the print but not the garment, find a way to wear the print on something that is less unflattering. Incorporating the print into an accessory such as a handbag might do the trick — think of this suggestion as “applied geometry.”

Geometric designs in jewelry can be much easier to wear, in part because most jewelry is inherently closer in size to the wearer’s features. For a review of current geometric designs in jewelry, visit my blog post “Advanced Geometry Lessons in Jewelry” in my Jewelry Fashion File blog on