InStyle’s Special Projects Editor Cindy Weber Cleary has been a fashion editor for the past 20+ years. Needless to say, she’s picked up some tricks along the way. Catch her column here each week for how-to tips and style secrets on her favorite, timeless styles.
It’s often said, “prints are personal” and I think that’s true. Who knows why one woman is drawn to delicate watercolor florals and another to splashy tropicals? But have you ever thought about what your preference says about you?
When I was in my 20s, I had a favorite Betsey Johnson party dress. It featured a sweet rosebud pattern on a black background, but the silhouette was sexy: a strapless, bra-like top with corset lacing at the waist. I didn’t consciously realize it then, but the message was half-Lolita, half-vixen, which made sense for a young woman finding her way around the New York City club scene of the early '80s.
Today, I would never wear rosebuds, daisies, or dainty Liberty prints—they are too girlish—but I love a graphic or abstract floral, such as those shown at Marni (above, left), Carolina Herrera (above, center), and Miu Miu (above, right).
Instead of telegraphing sweetness, these stylized prints suggest sophistication and elegance, which is what I want to convey now that I am in my 50s. The color and scale matter too. I stay away from pastels and anything too ditzy. A dark background and/or bolder designs work well especially on classic shapes such as a coat, pencil skirt, or sheath dress.
This spring there happens to be many florals with a Pop-Art or psychedelic mood, which hark back to the '60s and '70s “youth quake.” I say, leave the "youth quake" look to the young. At a certain age, it’s better to look forward than back in the way you dress.
Shop it (from top): Zara shirt, $50; zara.com. Tory Burch handbag, $525; toryburch.com. Tibi skirt, $475; tibi.com. Marni top, $632; farfetch.com. DAY Birger et Mikkelsen jacket, $270; net-a-porter.com. J.Crew pants, $220; jcrew.com. Erdem dress, $840; mytheresa.com. A.L.C. skirt, $445; intermixonline.com. Givenchy shoes, $1,195; net-a-porter.com.