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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Deconstructing Stripes

Despite their unpopular beginnings, stripes are now a firm feature in fashion 

Audrey Hepburn. Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Audrey Hepburn. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Stripes may be one of the fashion industry’s most ensuring trends, but this style classic had less than savoury beginnings.

In medieval times, stripes were referred to as the “devil’s cloth” and seen as the mark of deviants. Criminals, hangmen and madmen were forced, by law, to wear stripes, to make sure they stood out.

A leftover of this can be seen in the striped prison garb of the last century. Later linked with heraldry, striped flags and banners were used to denote different knights, an echo of which survives in the striped ribbons used for military medals.

By the late 1700s, the tricolour stripes of red, white and blue became the symbol of the French Revolution (and later the nation’s flag), and in 1858, blue horizontal stripes became the uniform of the French navy.

The stripe was later adopted by the fishermen of Breton, and from there it was appropriated by Gabrielle Chanel, who made the once humble stripe de rigeur in womenswear.

The Breton stripe was favoured by film stars, including the undeniably chic Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.

Spring/summer 2017 collections were brimming with striped shirts for men and women, all worn misbuttoned and hanging off shoulders, while autumn/winter will see us in head-to-toe lines from Valentino, stripes on stripes a la Dolce & Gabbana and stripes transformed into graphic diagonals at Gucci.