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After the tightly buttoned constraints of post-war Britain, the 1960s was an era of glorious excess, in both lifestyle and wardrobes. When it came to the latter, this meant an explosion of print, pattern, expressiveness and individualism. The era’s great conductress of style, Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, epitomised the mood best with her ‘Garden in Hell’ red chinoiserie den; she declared it, ‘a very happy room to be in’.
Of course, the great showmen of the era were no strangers to print peacockery; think Jimi Hendrix in an assault of paisley, bringing his own brand of Purple Haze playfulness to the King’s Road, or the Rolling Stones in flamboyant harlequin checks, florals and flaming lips patterns. The decade’s pioneering women held their own, too: Mary Quant in graphic chequerboard, Zandra Rhodes in other-worldly, bird-of-paradise patterns (with a signature shock of pink hair).
Summer brings a chance to embrace high-octane prints: with holidays afoot, it’s the time for more frivolity, less standard practice. It’s a visual signifier that you’re in relaxed mode.
While Finnish design house Marimekko – as seen in the 1960s photo shoot above – proposed an all-over cavalcade of print, breaking it up can make it more appealing for every day. A blast of tropical flora on a blouse, perhaps, tempered by a pair of crisp white trousers.
Of course, if maximalism is part of your sartorial lexicon, by all means embrace it. Just be mindful of the fact that big prints – exploded polka dots or eruptions of florals – tend to work better on taller, slender frames. If you’re an experimentalist, toy with clashing prints – a signature of Etro, Dries Van Noten and Miuccia Prada. Who said print is dead?
Shopping by Sophie Tobin
Try these prints...
Clockwise from top left: Cotton shirt, £165, Gant; cotton trousers, £45.99, Zara; cotton jacket, £240, Samsøe Samsøe; recycled ocean waste shorts, £129, The Resort Co; Terry shirt, £90, OAS at Liberty London
Read last week's column: The simple shortcut to timeless summer glamour