Creative with neutrals: tackling this spring's polka dots, stripes, florals and animal prints

Spring is approaching - somewhere. I know it by the shops starting to bring out their new stocks of lighter, brighter, springier merchandise. And the first wave of visible trend for the new season seems to be ... drum roll ... : pattern! Polka dots, stripes, florals and animal prints in particular.

To some [like me] this may sound hugely scary - patterns are a bit like colours, they bring with them a certain loud, notice-me vibe. Well, the good news is that a lot of what I have seen comes in neutral colours and relatively subdued patterns - the perfect toe-tester for the pattern-shy.

Polka dots are apparently big news, they are becoming widely available now in both small and large versions. Very small often gives an overly girly vibe and very large is definitely not for the faint-hearted, so I recommend this pattern in medium size. It is still not easy to make it look edgy however.

Top recommendations are these & Other Stories wrap dress and silk blouse - both elegant and neutral, but jazzed up by the dots:

All edge from the Kooples - there is nothing innocent about this sheer polka dot top:

Boden Rhea polka dot denim dress - the unexpected fabric and classy cut makes this dress unusual:

Finally, I am in love with this & Other Stories blouse - even though it is completely black, the slight sheerness, polka dot print and self-tie belt detail make sure it is far from boring:

Stripes are coming out, as every spring and summer, and to be honest, most of the time I find them preppy and boring. But to give them some credit, they do add some life to monochrome outfits - and they can be styled creatively to avoid predictable looks.

Consider the below - vertical as opposed to horizontal stripes on this skirt from Mango [taken a step further: mixed with diagonal stripes], or a simple stripe top worn with a gingham skirt at Massimo Dutti:

A personal favourite from Max Mara Studio, this diagonal stripe blouse is anything but boring and manages to both ooze laidback chic and be elegant at the same time:

I will also throw in this Zara dress for those who can wear warm tones - an unexpected colour, not exactly neutral although not exactly colour either, subtle pin stripes, a roomy and interesting cut, and the vibe is amazingly fresh and cool:

Finally, this is a sale find, but stripes on bags look much more fresh and unexpected than on clothes, and this can certainly add more interest one-tone looks - Zara striped leather cross-body bag:

Flor​als are my least favourite pattern, as more often than not they look too feminine for my taste. Many of my friends are also wary of them for fear of looking 'like a curtain'.

Thankfully with some searching around, it is possible to find easy-to-wear versions. Monochrome colours of course help a great deal.

This & Other Stories blouse looks hardly like a classic floral and H&M's floral ruffle skirt is fun and easy to wear:

And thinking out of the box - this Uterque dress is airy and floaty and yet no colour in sight:

Last but not least, animal print is a classic. This year is kicking off with leopard print and snakeskin: the greyer they are, the easier they are to wear for the colour- and pattern-shy.

First, for the very colour-averse: Allsaints's Nichola leopard dress and zebra print blouse:

Still in monochrome, this pretty animal print dress from Warehouse hits the right notes but stays in relatively safe territory:

Bags may also be an easy way to sport this trend - Mint Velvet's version is more classic, Banana Republic's more fun:

And for a more advanced level: Karen Millen leopard print dress and Zara leopard print dress - both gorgeous but both warmer-toned:

Finally, an encore: a few other prints to finish with. Stars are still around, checks are going to be huge news this spring, and if you look hard, there will be non-traditional patterns around too, also in more neutral colours.

I am saying goodbye with the Allsaints star-print Picolina dress, a sumptuous kimono from Free People and a lovely silk dress from M&S: