Feel the power of print
Prints and patterns of all kinds tend, metaphorically speaking, to bring me out in a bit of a rash. But since last year, when flower prints were having a moment -thanks largely to the genius of London-based Erdem - the florals have been joined by fruit, birds, animals, fish, butterflies and geometrics across every kind of garment at every price point.
Which means that even the most print averse fashionista is having to force herself to resist yet another plain top or dress and to opt, instead, for something with zig-zags, animal markings, flowers, fruit or exotic avians.
And once you come out from behind the sofa and take a deep breath, you realise that print can be good; it doesn't have to make you look like a sofa or a set of Designers Guild drapes as long as you choose a print that works for you.
Having been forced this season to re-evaluate print and pattern, it seems that part of the problem is that, unlike colour - which many of us are now quite savvy about, having had our colours analysed or simply intuited which colours lift us - there are several, not always complementary, aesthetics going on with print: first there are considerations of the type, colour and scale of a print which are all crucial to whether we look fabulous or, frankly, laughable in a print.
But then there is the visual appeal of a print. And this is where it can all go horribly awry if we don't keep firmly in mind that we are about to wear this print, not observe it framing a window or covering a wall. So here is your JC guide to power prints, how to choose them, how to wear them and where to find the best ones:
Going into print
Elementary rule 1: the size of the print should be in proportion to your size. If you are tall you can wear big, bold prints; in fact, you should only wear really big prints if you are tall.
Petite women should choose smaller patterns that won't overpower. Repeat patterns work well if you are petite.
If you have a big bust or frequently ask: "Does my bum look big in this?", avoid a bright yellow sunflower bursting over your bosom or your bottom.
If you are neither very tall nor very tiny, I would offer the Marxist doctrine (Groucho not Karl): "Work it out for yourself" - that is, try the print on and see.
Bold, dramatic prints work best on those who have a dramatic clothing personality and strong colouring.
If you generally take a low-key approach to dressing, keep the print subtle or you will feel uncomfortably theatrical. Blondes beware animal prints, on whom they can easily stray into slapper territory.
Choose your print
Placement prints can be very effective in drawing attention to a good feature or distracting attention from a not-such-good one; clever, vertical placement prints can take inches off.
Alternatively, you could choose a placement print at the hem of a dress, or keep print to skirt, trousers or shorts That will reveal your print cred without forcing you to wear print at your face.
I have to thank the Federation of Image Professionals (www.tfic.org.uk) for this strangely odd but effective way of determining which prints work for you: the space between facial features is the key (yes, really); if facial features are wide apart, print should have a wide space between motifs; if facial features are close together, small, closer prints such as ditsy florals, are better.
Where to find your prints
●Tall girls: Erdem red/blue/white abstract shift (Browns, £775); paintpot print maxi dress (Ted Baker, £109); Carven scarf print dress (£468, Matches); geometric/flower print shift (Fever, £70); navy-white bird print maxi (Yogoego, £28); blue/yellow butterfly print maxi (French Connection, £77); exotic floral print playsuit (£16, A|Wear)
● Petites: butterfly print, zip-back chiffon top (Internacionale, £12.99); horizontal-pleat floral top (Topshop, £34); Gerard Darel butterfly print V-neck shift (£199, Fenwick, W1); Vanessa Bruno swirl print wrap skirt (£280, Matches); nude, iris print sleeveless cotton tea dress (Topshop, £55)
● Dramatic types: DKNY black/white Dalmatian print, side gathered dress (£299) and DKNY dress with black/cream stripe top and apple-print skirt (£259, both Fenwick, W1); MaxMara nude-black half-sleeve shift, (£405) and Diane von Furstenberg black-and-white Greek key design batwing top (£246, both Matches); Philosophy silk tunic (£379, Fenwick, W1); black cotton prom dress with oranges (Primark, £9); 50s style bird/jungle print frock (Warehouse, £50).
● Low-key types: swirly monochrome print drape dress (Mint Velvet, £79); navy placement print shift (Topshop, £50); watercolour pastel wrap dress (Banana Republic, £85); white/grey/black tree print wrap dress (Mint Velvet, £89); Giambattista Valli red/pink peony print waisted shift (£1,495, Matches); blue/lemon/white floral maxi (Banana Republic, £99.50): D&G small floral scoop neck shift (£320, Matches); white prom dress with lemons (Primark, £9).