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Levis oversize denim jacket, GNW tights, Ugg fall sandals, gemstone sude long belt, Coach top handle bag, amber necklace, Hermes collier de chien bangle (all own) and paisley print sunprotective tunic dress c/o Coolibar

Are you wondering how to look modern in paisley? This classic pattern even though it is a big trend right now is tricky to wear in midlife. The reason is that many people associate the beautiful print with being old-fashioned and very conservative.

This post educates about the origin of the print, and provides timeless styling ideas how to look modern in paisley. 

  1. Paisley Is a Classic Ethnic Print
  2. What’s a Mandelbrot Pattern?
  3. The British Introduced Paisley into European Fashion
  4. Paisley Became an Element of Other Traditional Clothing
  5. How to Look Modern in Paisley – Outfit Ideas
  6. How to Mix Paisley with Other Prints
  7. Wrapping Up How to Look Modern in Paisley


Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.


Paisley Is a Classic Ethnic Print

Paisley is an eternal classic that pops up as a trend every couple of years. When not a trend, it’s there as a business casual style classic print for ties and scarves as well as blouses. It’s also a favorite print in high quality resort style. Like any traditional National pattern, it may be tricky to incorporate into a work outfit when your dress code is corporate style or plain casual. See this guide on how to look ageless in global pattern.

Fun fact: Did you know that paisley is often also called “Persian Pickles”?

Paisley is one of the nicest pattern of Indian/Persian origin. Paisley is a droplet-shaped vegetable motif. Like Calico prints, traditionally, the pattern was applied onto the fabric with wooden blocks.  The fascinating thing about paisley is that the motif seems to repeat the pattern in itself over and over again like the Mandelbrot set. Read more on who put the vegetables and fruits on the garments.


post logo for how to look modern in paisley showing a with woman in paisley top


What’s a Mandelbrot Pattern?

The Mandelbrot set images rely on sampling complex numbers. The complex quadratic polynomial z(n+1)=z(n)*z(n)+c is iterated. Here c is a complex number of the Mandelbrot set if, when starting with z(0)=0 and repeating the iteration n+1 times, the absolute value of |z(n)| stays bounded even if n gets large, i.e. towards infinity. For instance, for c=2 you get 0, 2, 6, 38, 1446, 2090918, etc. which runs to infinity, i.e. is not bounded and does not deliver a Mandelbrot image. If you take c=-1 you get 0, -1,  0, -1, etc., i.e. a Mandelbrot image. These Mandelbrot images display elaborated boundaries that show progressively smaller and smaller repeating details as one zooms in. The “style” of the repeated detail depends on where you look – like with paisley to a certain degree.


Mandelbrot fractal that looks like paisley
Fractals. See the rectangle that is zoomed-in the next panels. Every pattern sort of repeats itself. Many features in natural have similar behavior, for instance, low pressure systems with the clouds therein and the entrainment of dry air into and wet air out of the clouds and the turbulence at various scales within the cloud. Even breast cancer spread can be well simulated in models using the Mandelbrot equations. However, these equations just can produce the look of these phenomena, but provide no insight into the underlaying atmospheric or biophysical processes. From:


The British Introduced Paisley into European Fashion

Men who worked for the Trading Companies in India and Persia adopted the paisley shawls. These shawls became a high fashion accessory between the end of the 18th century to the 1870s. They shawls were perfect to add some insulation over the thin muslins of the Empire silhouette dresses that were in fashion at the end for the 18th century. They remained in fashion after the empire style as it was difficult to wear a coat over the crinoline skirts and dresses that became fashionable thereafter during the Romantic Style era. The original paisley shawls were hand-made and extremely expensive. Thus, European manufacturers produced cheap copies for the masses. Scotland became the center for these reproduced shawls.


Nicole in trendy paisley dress with marigold bag
Example of a modern paisley print tunic dress


over 50 years old blogger in paisley print tunic dress
Details of the patterns


fashion blogger in pink, purple, blue dress, matching sneakers and pliage
Sideview of the outfit described below


stylist modeling an autumn trend
Ray Ban blue frame sunglasses, Longchamp marigold pliage de cuir, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Futuro bandage, gemstone thin belt, DIY snail earrings, pearls on leather band necklace c/o Wendy Mignot, color changing sneakers c/o SUNS and sun-protective tunic paisley print dress c/o Coolibar.


Still today, the British really show how to integrate the pattern into the western culture with their paisley ties or vests. The print works well with solid colors, but also with plaid, Prince of Wales check or stripes.



How to Look Modern in Paisley – Outfit Ideas

The photos below show a classic cut tunic dress with this eternal pattern.


over 50 years old Alaskan woman in paisley print dress, jeans jacket, faux fur sandals, blue tights holding a violet bag
Same dress as above, but styled for fall by picking up colors of the print. See the interesting zipper details on the fall sandals.


style influencer in paisley tunic dress, tights, fall sandals, denim jacket, belt, matching bag
Fall outfit details: Levis oversize denim jacket, GNW tights, Ugg fall sandals, gemstone suede long belt, Coach top handle bag, amber necklace, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and paisley print sun protective tunic dress c/o Coolibar.



fashion blogger in red, white and blue summer business casual work outfit with paisley pattern
Constance bag, August Silk top with Persian pickles print GNW cardigan, BP espadrilles, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, Oliveo denim skirt, Tissot watch, Dolce and Gabbana Madonna sunglasses, Hermes collier de chien leather cuff, coin bracelet, cat cameo necklace, cameo earrings.


The next paisley outfit idea feature the above cardigan worn as top with a red suede skirt.


style influencer showing how to look modern in paisley with a red suede skirt
GNW cardigan, G-III suede skirt, Clovington Mary-Janes, Hermes collier de chien leather band, Festina watch, Paloma Picasso sunglasses and Chanel belt.


Paisley Became an Element of Other Traditional Clothing

Alpine clothing has the pattern in their aprons of dirndls as shown below. Read why I regret that I bought this beautiful dirndl.


modern looking outfit with paisley print and stripes
Here, I integrate my paisley cardigan into a semi-casual work outfit by adding a dark blue denim straight skirt and a silk short sleeve knit silk top to create a summery look to stay warm. Geiger dress, GNW cardigan, ethnic statement belt, and Juicy Couture cork plateau sandals.


Well, dirndls are very expensive. Thus, wearing them only for parties would be a high cost per wear. Here I am wearing the dirndl as a skirt and paired it with a GNW cardigan as a top. The cardigan has a paisley print. To add some shape I belted the cardigan with a metal belt made by a Native American artist. To add a pop of color to the blue, beige, black and white outfit I added my Philip Lim 3.1 Pashli bag, a gift from my husband.


midlife woman looking posh chic in dirndl
Tyrolean (northern Italy) dirndl with coin bracelet, coin apron chain called charivari, lace knee socks,  Karl Jäger Mary-Jane shoes.


How to Mix Paisley with other Prints

You can easily mix paisley in a color scheme with other prints in the same color scheme like the following blue and white mixed print outfits show. The grounding then can be made with one of the colors or even both.


influencer in polka dot skirt with paisley top and hat
Using blue as the grounding color: Ralph Lauren polka dot pleated skirt with GNW cardigan worn as top, Ray Ban sunnies, Hermes collier de chien bangle, BP espadrille sandals, straw hat and sunflower yellow pliage cuir bag for a Provence-inspired summer look.


stylist mixing paisley print with blue and white pattern in a work outfit
Two Indian prints. Christian Louboutin pumps, Longchamp bag, Kieselstein Cord belt, Hermes collier de chien bangle, cameo earrings and cat pendant necklace, GNW cardigan, Samantha Brown wrap dress c/o HSN, wooden watch c/o Jord.


Wrapping Up How to Look Modern in Paisley

Paisley prints are an eternal classic. Paired with classic basics you can create  Euro Chic or business casual style outfits. These are always work appropriate when in sober colors. To look modern make sure to add some trendy items or colors. Alternatively, mix the pattern with other prints when mixed prints are in fashion as well. Armed with these tips – when you love the print – now it’s a good time to invest and stock up.


Tip: Paisley ties  and scarves are timeless (holiday) gifts.



Mandelbrot, B. (1982) The Fractal Geometry of Nature. W. H. Freeman and Co..
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (retrieved 2020)
Prakash, K. (2008). Paisley Designs. United States: Dover Publications.


Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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