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How to Pattern-Clash With Polka Dots

A handy guide to pairing stripes, florals and animal prints with spots.
Olympia Slip Top, $298, available at Delfi Collective. 

Olympia Slip Top, $298, available at Delfi Collective

You're always going to have that one fun friend — you know, the one who helps shed your anxious, routine-stricken layers in favor of spontaneity and that extra glass of wine. Well, polka dots are fashion's print equivalent to that playful, carefree, makes-your-life-seem-far-less-mundane friend. When added to an outfit, the dizzying array of dots are cheery bursts of anything's-possible, or rather, coin-sized encouragements to take risks and standout. 

Some say dots are a simple seasonal tic reserved for infants and girls who love Mary Janes, but fashion's "fun," circular pattern is meant for anyone and can be worn at anytime with anything. Polka dots pair well with a parade of other patterns, which makes mingling with them that much more exciting. You can wear them with florals if you're feeling flirty, animal prints for those feistier days and stripes when you'd like to fantasize about a trip to the French Riviera. 

Read on for ways to pair stripes, floral and animal prints with your spots, and shop some printed pieces in the galleries below. 

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Polka Dots + Floral

There's nothing better than a mashup of two girlish patterns to get you in the mood for spring. Somehow, wearing a combo of two widely popular feminine prints makes them a bit more exciting and, when done well, will really show off your superior sartorial skills. But to avoid looking like Minnie Mouse raided a garden party, treat the polka dot piece as the neutral garment and the floral as the more elaborate one, since by nature they are more chaotic and often contain several colors. When pairing the two, look for common colors, which will allow them to compliment one another. Choose accessories based on the color palette; brighter prints need the balance of neutral-hued shoes and bags, whereas more subtle prints could always use a generous pop of color.

Polka Dots + Animal Prints 

For those wanting to give their spotted goods a spicy kick, team the dots with an animal print. It is a bit of risk – you could end up looking like you blindly picked an outfit from Kim Kardashian's Going Out closet circa 2007 — but well worth it when you look miraculously put together with little to no effort. Keep the fabrics loose, long and silky — think luxe pajama dressing — so as to not reference the aforementioned sloppy club outfit. Go light on the accessories — a chunky medium-size gold hoop is all you really need — and add a pointed-toe mule with a kitten heel in black for after dark. 

Polka Dots + Stripes 

Here's why you should advocate for the happy coexistence of stripes and polka dots in an outfit: The duo balance one another out and reinforce their respective identities by the juxtaposition of their contrasting shapes, which creates a special graphic effect. Plus, nautical — especially given Chanel's recent Cruise collection — is in, which means we'll see sailor tees and red and navy blue everywhere. For best results, maintain the same color scheme throughout and play with scale: thin stripes with large baby donut-sized dots or visa versa. Alternatively, you can keep both the stripes and the dots equally tiny.  

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