Most of us think of stripes in one of two ways. The "yummy mummy" in the classic Breton striped T-shirt with dark blue, slim-leg denims, ballet flats (Repetto of course), perky ponytail and a ludicrously expensive pushchair that allows for interval training or the like. Or we have the fashion-forward Jean Paul Gaultier type of "bohemian" with platforms, battered leather jacket (probably Alexander Wang) and really cool friends. The rest of us, obviously suffering from some level of mediocrity, tend to stay clear of the stripe, having been told for years that they do the female form no favours.
Well, I can tell you hand on heart that this is utter nonsense; your fears are unfounded. All this is backed up, of course, by a recent study conducted by perception expert Peter Thompson of the University of York, based on the 19th-century scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, who drew two identically sized squares and put vertical stripes on one and horizontal stripes on the other and found that the one with the horizontal stripes appeared taller and thinner than the other square. Now, we are well aware that squares are not quite the same as the female form, but the same rules do in fact apply.
Stripes have never really left the runway. That tongue-in-cheek French Riviera style with the three-quarter-length sleeve and round neck found in either navy and white or red and white never falters - slightly boring, perhaps, but safe and elegant all the same. This season, however, it's all about the width of the stripe rather than the style - and it has to be wide. We just need to look at Jonathan Saunders, Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs or Dolce&Gabbana in the spring/summer 2013 shows, who sent the big bold optical print down the runway in some almost brash combinations of both horizontal and vertical stripes. Perhaps inspiration has been taken from the whole Edie Sedgwick revival and the 1960s resurgence, for most of the designers chose a somewhat vintage appeal for the collections. At Marc Jacobs there were striped suits, skirts, mod inspired A-line coats, ruffled collars (another nod to the 60s) and full-length graphic prints that took inspiration from Andy Warhol's factory girls.
Try to stick to one pattern per outfit. While the designers were mixing differing styles of stripes and pairing stripes with florals, it is better to avoid clashing prints when it comes to adapting the statement stripe into everyday wear. A long-sleeved striped shirt in silk or chiffon works beautifully with a plain pair of navy or off-white wide-legged trousers.
Of course, you can go bright if you are slightly bored of the normal combinations - try pairing a brightly coloured stripe next to a neutral stripe for something a little more directional. Beige paired with an orangey red or pastels paired with warm creams works well.
If you still can't get your head around the whole "flattering stripe" phenomenon, try breaking things up by adding a tailored jacket or by adding a wide belt to distract the eye. Another trick is to opt for a scoop neck, halter, or strapless dress or top as it will show off more skin and offset the tubular effect of the stripe. Lastly, make sure to keep your bag, shoes and jewellery one colour or you will end up looking a little "circus tent". Remember: the idea is strong, sharp and elegant.
There is no doubt that this time around it's a bit of a "hey look at me" stripe, but since, after the past few seasons, we all have a bit of print fatigue, perhaps it's a welcome change to finally clean up all the clutter.
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