In the Philippines, there is a word specially coined to describe certain types of prints on certain types of clothing. The word is "kukur," and although it almost sounds like "couture," the similarity ends there. "Kukur," is short for "kurtina," which is the Filipino translation for curtain. Sure, Julie Andrews made it look easy in The Sound of Music, and even Amy Adams did it in Enchanted. Perhaps it only works when you can sing like that, and in most cases draping oneself in drapery is just asking for trouble. When the dress you have on looks eerily similar to your shower curtain, you know something's wrong. Prints are fabulous. Just like in clothing, mixing prints with solids when decorating a space creates interest, can add color and just generally livens everything up. They are tricky however; the wrong prints can easily make something look dated, and what may seem fun in the beginning can easily become tiresome. There are prints and patterns you can only live with for so long.
The prints on both the dress and the shower curtain in these two photos are pretty. As to why it's fabulous in the shower and disastrous on the girl has something to do with a very important design element called scale. Scale is the relative size of something as related to another element. Small picture frames get lost hung on large walls, oversize furniture are often too large for most average-sized living rooms, women carry handbags that are larger then themselves. On the shower curtain, the large graphic print is fabulous because it's floral yet very modern. It makes a bold statement yet fits right in. Since the piece of fabric is meant to hang stretched, the large-scale patterns appear as graphic art. In the same token, this same fabric will also lose its impact if it is pleated for drapery, a case of too much of a good thing. Translated onto a dress, the large floral print is just too overwhelming. That some of the flowers are as big as her head should give you a clue.
Those knowledgeable in fashion will tell us that when it comes to print, balance and moderation is key. Generally, smaller prints are safer and better than large ones, and the wearing of print from them head to toe is always a fashion don't. "Scale and proportion!" as Tim Gunn would say. Larger woman, larger print. Smaller woman, smaller print. Get it?
With my knowledge being limited to interiors, I will offer these advice:
When selecting a print, placement is key. If you are using it on drapery, you must consider how it look both when open and drawn. Generally, smaller patterns with small repeats* work better. The pattern on the drapes shown here still "makes sense" when the curtains are drawn. Most finished curtains on the market are safe bets, you just have to be careful when purchasing a fabric for custom drapery.
Prints can be mixed as long as there is something unifying them such as color. The picture on the left shows how two kinds of florals and a stripe are brought together by using the same greens and blues.
Remember that when placed on a key item such as a sofa, the print and its colors will tend to dominate and therefore dictate the scheme in a room. A better solution will be placing the print on a smaller item such as a chair then pairing it with a sofa in a sold color.
*Repeat--The distance between the beginning of one complete pattern in the fabric weave, print, or design and the beginning of the next identical pattern.
Items shown top to bottom:
Jacinda maxi dress, $49.50, www.delias.com
Silhouette Flower shower curtain, $32, www.urbanoutfitters.com
Audrey drapes, $79-109, www.potterybarn.com
Living room drapes and upholstery, www.calicocorners.com
Angelica pillow, $59.95, www.crateandbarrel.comJardin chair, $799, www.crateandbarrel.com