I'm Sorry, or You're Welcome—7 Print Trends That Will Define Spring Fashion
Photo:Imaxtree/Miaou; Courtesy of Prada; Courtesy of Carolina Herrera
Humor me momentarily and reflect on the pieces in your closet. How would you describe your wardrobe? Is it filled with trend-forward pieces? Or maybe timeless staples? No matter what conclusion you come to, there's a high chance that we can expect to find one particular piece in your closet and wardrobes worldwide—a printed item.
Whether someone is a devout minimalist or a maximalist to their core, prints are a pivotal part of any closet. Based on the shopper's sartorial preferences, a patterned piece can spice up a capsule wardrobe or be the defining It item of the season. Patterns can be neutral if styled right, and while that may seem like a far-fetched statement, one only needs to look to the runways for proof.
We saw patterns play a pivotal role in designers' recent collections that moved far beyond being a bold textile choice. They used design techniques and styling to give "dated" prints a fresh spin, resulting in a series of pieces that could lend themselves to becoming staples. But if you're still dubious about how a print could be a "basic," you'll want to keep reading. I've identified the seven print trends that were the most prevalent on the spring/summer 2023 runways and could be a signature part of any wardrobe for the long-term.
Photo:Courtesy of Molly Goddard; Courtesy of Markarian; Courtesy of Alaïa
Polka dots are a design that's been around for centuries, yet every few seasons, we manage to see it pop back up. The spring/summer 2023 collections were no exception to this phenomenon. But unlike previous iterations of this trend that often felt juvenile, we saw designers give this print a more grown-up feel through ultra-pretty details. For example, Molly Goddard made a black puff-sleeve tiered dress with white polka dots sultrier by opting for sheer chiffon.
At Alaïa, there was a strapless dress with a leather bodice and contrasting yellow polka dots. And at Markarian, the traditional hourglass shape was accentuated in a cap-sleeve dress that featured a '50s-inspired circle skirt embellished with two different types of white dots. The wide usage of this print was a reminder of just how pretty this print can be.
Style this with jeans for the perfect date-night outfit.
Sergio Hudson's tailored suits make for the perfect long-term investment.
Embrace this print in small pops by opting for footwear first.
Photo:Imaxtree/Tod's; Courtesy of 16Arlington; Courtesy of Khaite
Animal prints have continuously cycled in and out of fashion. We saw snakeskin slither back into the conversation with the debut of fall/winter 2022 collections, and it's stayed at the top of the trend chain since then. That continued relevance is partly due to how designers have made this print feel more modern. After all, snakeskin gained massive popularity in the '80s, but we didn't see that decade inform the reintroduction of this pattern.
Instead, we saw this motif molded into modern silhouettes—e.g., Khaite sent tailored blazers, leather trenches, oversize bombers, and even strapless knit dresses down the runway, all in snakeskin. At the same time, Tod's had a longline coat in snakeskin and a perforated leather skirt. And then there was 16Arlington's collection (a personal favorite), where snakeskin-print dresses, pants, cardigans, blouses, and coats were given that scale-like look through opaque sequins, satin, and patent finishes. It was, in many ways, evidence that this print has shed its formerly "tacky" status and has scaled up in the minds of the fashion set as sleeker than ever.
Is it just me, or did this dress make you want to say "yessss"?
This blazer nods to the dramatic '80s shoulder without feeling overly costumey.
You can wear this with a pencil skirt to work or jeans on the weekend.
Rotate's vegan-leather pieces are a must-have in my book.
She's perfect for that upcoming special occasion.
Photo:Imaxtree/Lela Rose; Courtesy of Sandy Liang; Imaxtree/Monse
I know what you're thinking: "Gingham, really?" Like you, dear reader, I was very much of the belief that gingham was, for lack of nicer descriptions, boring. Once I began researching, however, my mind changed. That transformation is due to the overwhelming evidence of this print's prevalence on spring/summer 2023 runways and how designers played with it. By all accounts, we saw a shift away from oversize picnic dresses and toward pieces that played with tailoring and centered romantic details.
For example, at Monse, we saw a red-and-blue gingham skirt suit set styled with a wraparound-tie blouse. At Sandy Liang, an oversize chino jacket was styled with a pink gingham skirt and sneakers. And then there were just simple (yet pretty) gingham dresses with corset bodices, slits, and ruching at Lela Rose. While this print was once perceived by passé (even by me), its revitalization on the runways has given the girlies what they didn't even know they needed.
Leave it to Free People to make the perfect springtime dress.
The styling possibilities for this shirt are endless.
The pleats on this skirt are sublime.
Photo:Imaxtree/Miaou; Courtesy of Dior; Imaxtree/Monse
Spring may conjure fantasies of far-off destinations where one can frolic in fields of flowers, but reality reminds us we have to work. Or at least, that's what one could deduce after scrolling through the spring/summer 2023 runways. While designers' collections across the board featured work-friendly staples, there was an even more visible indication of the impact of hustle culture—pinstripes. It should be noted that this motif first emerged on the runways in the fall/winter 2022 collections, but it nevertheless remained an integral part of various designers' work in spring.
The main difference over the seasons seems to be how this work-friendly print has elements that feel very off-duty. For instance, Monse took the classic pinstripe skirt suit and added corset laces to the front to spice it up. At Dior, we saw low-slung beige pinstripe trousers styled with a matching corset. But possibly the best example of how this motif was made more risqué was at Miaou—an asymmetrical off-the-shoulder pinstripe dress was outfitted with grommets and leather straps for a look that could hardly be HR approved. Pinstripes may not seem like the sexiest print out there, yet designers made the prospect of earning our stripes an arousing fantasy.
Proof that pinstripes can be worn beyond the boardroom.
You can wear this blazer for years to come.
When in doubt, pinstripes pants are always a safe purchase.
Photo:Courtesy of Giambattista Valli; Courtesy of Fe Noel; Courtesy of Carolina Herrera
Please do not come for me for the predictable statement I'm about to tell you. Florals are in for spring. As much as it pains me to admit it, I could not escape the all-encompassing presence of floral patterns on the spring/summer 2023 runways when conducting research for this story. They were, by no dramatic account, everywhere. And while there were so many variations of this pattern, the most prevalent seemed to be the version of florals that you'd imagine wearing to a tea party.
The florals felt classic, and they were often paired with other romantic design details. For example, at Giambattista Valli, a gown was adorned with florals and had appliqué ruffles and a bow on the bodice. At Fe Noel, a full-length black gown made from tulle was embroidered with roses and featured a bubble hem and deep V-neck. Carolina Herrera let the silhouette do the talking—a pink gown was covered with red roses and featured a full circle skirt. The result was a series of collections that proved florals are in full bloom whether we like them or not.
Tory Burch would make the floral dress of my dreams.
How pretty is this top, though?
Strapless dresses are always so pretty.
Dreaming of packing this for a trip.
Photo:Courtesy of Prada; Courtesy of Fe Noel; Courtesy of Christian Wijnants
We didn't just see designers reenvision cliché spring prints like pinstripes and polka dots (no shade). They also got more creative. That fresh approach is most visible through one specific print trend I'm dubbing painter's canvas. Essentially, this pattern can be defined by how it looks and feels. It's seen in pieces that seemingly draw inspiration from watercolor paintings. It's almost as if designers saw clothing as their canvas this season and chose to paint on patterns that belong in an art museum.
A prime example of that is how Prada sent multiple satin gowns down the runway that looked like they had been handpainted with the faintest watercolors. At the same time, at Fe Noel, a draped silk dress had elements of tie-dye in a more refined way that felt like an interpretation of an Impressionist painting. And then there was Christian Wijnants's collection, which featured a pale-blue gown with a full face that looked like it had been painted on the garment. Each iteration of this trend was a reminder that good designers know the human form is a work of art that only needs a tiny bit of decoration (in the form of prints, of course).
Is it cliché of me to want to wear this dress to an art museum?
Can't think of a better top to spice up your favorite jeans.
Love how this dress looks like random paint strokes.
Photo:Imaxtree/Balmain; Courtesy of Roberto Cavalli; Imaxtree/Erdem
If one thing was made clear with spring/summer 2023 collections, it's that designers aren't afraid to delve into the archives for textile inspiration. And one historical movement you could see clearly on the runways was the Renaissance era. For context, the movement began in the early 14th century in Europe, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the spread of the bubonic plague, and the implementation of mass serfdom.
The new era brought a "rebirth" of interest and investment in various cultural institutions, including the arts. And that led to the creation of some of the most prolific paintings, including Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam and Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. While most images during that time were biblical (because the church commissioned them), they were still considered "risqué" and forward-thinking. The paintings of this era focused on the human form and nature changed art forever and still inspire creatives today.
We saw baroque prints given a new life on the spring/summer 2023 runways in various ways. For example, at Erdem, a draped off-the-shoulder dress was given more depth with the addition of a graphic black-and-white print that depicted the human form. At Roberto Cavalli, a full-length sky-blue satin gown mimicked the sky and described a lifelike bird. But the complete revitalization is most apparent through Olivier Rousteing's nod to the movement in Balmain's S/S 23 collection.
Multiple looks—from draped gowns to corseted blazers styled with matching cargo pants—featured prints that rivaled the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But Balmain's looks weren't just meant to make you want to stare. Like the era itself, the intention was to make you think, and in the case of this collection, it was a probe to reflect on climate change. In essence, this print's return on the runway was all about sparking the next wave of change. What that will be is still yet to be determined, but it's safe to say these motifs can do something as simple as convincing even the most anti-print people that the right print can be art.
While most of Balmain's sky-print pieces are sold out, this bag is still available.
You can also tap into this trend by opting for pieces that feature Baroque details or even vintage tapestries.
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