Some day my prints will come

While packing for my holiday, I noticed how many printed fabrics I wear nowadays. Prints are funny things. Somehow, the prints we choose are even more personal than our choice of colour. While there are colours I'm not fond of wearing myself, there are people who can wear them or use them in a way that makes me look at those colours afresh. There's room for every colour in a wardrobe. I can't say the same for prints. There are plenty of prints that I just don't like. I often get frustrated as repro firms sell clothes in silhouettes I love, then pick a print I'd never wear in my life. (Though I may well like them on you, because we are different people and what looks dreadful on me might just be perfect on you!)

As a recovering goth, I've thought a lot about colour over the years, and I've had to wean myself onto it. In case you're wondering, teal was my starter colour, and I'm still coming to terms with yellow. When all you wear is black, you don't think about colour so much as texture, weight and drape. Prints never came into it – in fact, my first forays into mixed colours were textural, being woven fabrics like tartan and brocade. However, in recent years I've really revelled in my summer prints. They seem to have several things in common…

1 Clarity
Larger-scale print or ditsy, I like clear prints. The prints I favour all look like they could be block-printed. Every once in a while I'll come across a 'painted'-looking one I like, usually a rose pattern, but on the whole I favour distinct and separate colours.

2 Lots of colours
I generally like a print to have at least two colours, not counting black and white. There are exceptions – Goody blogged a fab Marimekko top recently that was in black, white and cobalt blue – but in general, if I'm going to wear colours, there might as well be plenty of them. Shades of the same colour are fine, as long as they don't run into each other.

3 Distinct shapes
If something's too big, or too abstract, to identify, I probably won't go for it. It's hard to put this one into words, but I like shapes I can make sense of, even if those shapes are simple geometrics. I guess I need to be able to work out the pattern repeat. If a print is really large-scale to the point where it looks random on a garment, that's not for me. I think one of the things that puts me off a lot of prints seen on the modern high street, especially ones aimed at older women, is that they're usually black, white and a colour, and formless.

4 Geometry over novelty
Novelty prints are huge in the vintage scene, but I don't enjoy wearing many of them. I love them on other people, it's just that prints often say something about the wearer. I'm not a tropical fruit or teacups sort of person, and I'll almost never consider wearing anything with a person depicted on it. (That said, I am an absolute sucker for all and any retro Halloween prints.) Geometric art deco or atomic patterns are exactly my cup of tea.

So, do you have a preferred sort of print? Are you polka-dot potty, or crazy for sausage dog prints? (Melanie, the minute I think of you, I think of flamingoes!) Are there any you avoid? I know the 'Cath Kidston' school of 40s-style florals has its knockers, but I quite like them, and I have both her trains and robots duvet covers for my bed, whereas I'd never wear pin-up print anything. It's fascinating how personal print choices can be!

Oh, and here's an exception to all my rules, because rules are made to be broken...


  1. Great prints, Im a huge novelty print fan myself. The kitschier the better

  2. A customer once called my stock "print-tastic" - should apply to your holiday wardrobe, too. It looks so exciting. That last snippet is gorgeous.
    Like you I spent years in black, black and more black. What a waste of clothes that was. I discovered a textile artist called Melody Miller the other day, I'd kill for some of her designs!
    Not long now, is it? xxx

  3. This is such a fantastic topic for a blog post. I really enjoyed getting to hear more about the prints that have long called to your soul the most. I very much get what you mean regarding wanting a strong sense of clarity/distinctiveness in your prints. Overly abstract ones don't often to call to me either. Seriously, loved this post, Mim.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

  4. I adore novelty prints! Hence my love of flamingos on anything I can get them on and then there's my teapot dress. I have a strawberry skirt and a martini skirt and I once made a blackbird dress. I will always be drawn first and foremost to novelty prints, I've been this way for what seems forever. I also adore polka dots and gingham, animal prints and both big florals and dainty. This makes for a very vivid wardrobe, but a distinct lack of plain tops to go with them, for fear of looking too busy.

    Each to their own with prints though, as you say. I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't wear a teapot dress and carry a flamingo handbag!

    I adore the print on the fabric of that last photo, it's stunning! xxx

  5. Wow I've never really thought about what prints I like to wear, but I do wear a lot. I am a fan of the novelty print and polka dots are always a winner. Being into Metal rather than Goth I did used to intersperse the black with a bit of animal print! That is something I still go to these days too, I will always have a soft spot for leopard print and I have always loved tartan.

  6. Oooh! That last print is beautiful - it's making my mouth water!

    I haven't analysed my choice of prints in the way you have in your post but, like art, I know what I like! I like colour, I like geometric and abstract prints and I love florals; preferably large, I think, rather than ditsy.

    I love the chintzy patterns of 1950s soft furnishings as well as the atomic type prints. I love that watery, blended print of 'Bluebell Grey' too!

    Have a great week, Mim.


  7. I like all the prints you showcased, and I can see why you do.

    I love animal prints, but really can't wear them. I have a few pieces, but I feel strange whenever I wear them, particularly anything in a zebra print. I really love Mexican novelty print skirts featuring cactus, pottery, animals, etc. I'm not a fan of cherries, or shoes, or other "retro" designs, but I have seen others wear them well.

    That last print reminds me of something I had as a child, but I can't remember what!

  8. I am a wearer of many different colours and prints, but it is hard for me to describe what I like and what I don't. I walk into a shop and some prints are calling out to me, while others don't. I like novelty prints, polka dots and psychedelic prints. Flowers are the most difficult. I seem to have lots of flowery things, in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Love the print of your Horrockses dress and that last print is simply gorgeous. Good luck with your holiday wardrobe. xxx

  9. I love all the gorgeous prints on your clothes. You will look lovely in them all but I really do think that the rich colours in the last photo would look amazing with your colouring. I am still a bit of an old Goth (faded to grey, literally) but find myself drawn to prints a lot now too, although I am quite happy to wear anything kitsch and tasteless. I am still kicking myself that I never bought myself extra fabric when I made my friend a dress covered in life size digital kittens. Holiday sounds like it will be a complete adventure. Xx


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