Women and men have worn horizontal stripes for centuries. In fact, a navy and white striped knitted shirt was first introduced as the uniform for all French navy seaman in Brittany. The original design featured 21 stripes, one for each of Napolean’s victories. In 1917, Coco Chanel included the Breton top in her nautical collection and paired the top with long flared trousers. The shirt was then made popular by Pablo Picasso, Bridgette Bardot, James Dean, and the Beatnik community in the 1960s.¹
This year is no different – stripes are everywhere in the stores. And yet, we all hesitate to wear horizontal stripes as we’ve been told that stripes make you look bigger! It’s true horizontal stripes can be widening, but some horizontal stripes can have the opposite effect and lengthen. The impact of the stripe on the eye changes based on
- the scale of the stripe,
- your body shape,
- the style and type of the item and
- how you wear horizontal stripes.
Remember that the wider the horizontal stripe, the more your eye will slow down and focus on it because you’re looking for the horizon to make yourself feel balanced. The narrower the stripe, the more difficult for your eye to focus so they almost work like verticals moving your eye up and down. For more detail, here’s my article explaining how your eyes see horizontal and vertical lines.
Wide stripes widen, narrow stripes lengthen
Let’s first see how the size of the stripe and the shape of the garment make a difference.
Wide horizontals are generally unflattering unless you need to create extra curves. For example, wear a wide-striped top to create a bigger bust. Narrow horizontals act as verticals and draw the eye up to the face and can be slimming and lengthening.
Wear horizontal stripes in a flattering silhouette with vertical lines
When you’re thinking about wearing stripes, you not only consider the size of the stripe but also the style of the garment. Make sure the shape of the outfit works for your body shape. Look at #3 in the picture above. The narrow stripes in a fitted silhouette has a narrower effect than the two previous wide-striped boxy looks.
Here is another example of using a fitted silhouette to enhance your shape.
Although the blazer has horizontal stripes, there is much more going on in this outfit to take your eyes away from looking at the stripes. The blazer shape is flattering as it has a fitted silhouette. There are several vertical lines in this outfit – the lapel on the blazer, the long skinny scarf, the bootcut jeans. The more vertical lines in your outfit, the more your eyes move up and down instead of side-to-side focusing on the horizontals. Also, the lace texture of the tank adds interest. You could switch out the lace tank for a colorful printed top to add even more interest and focus.
Break-up the impact of the horizontal stripe
If you want to wear a striped dress (many maxis come in stripes), you can add clothing or accessories to break up your look. In the outfit above, I’ve added a red belt which breaks up the stripes and draws your eye in. Then I added a bomber jacket to layer the look and help to break-up the impact of the stripe. Red converse sneakers (couldn’t resist) add interest and draw your eye away from the horizontal stripes.
Hopefully you’ll now try horizontal stripes as I’ve shown you some fun and flattering ways to wear them. I would love to see your outfits. Feel free to send me any questions or send a photo of your look. You don’t have to fear horizontal stripes any longer!
Feel free to share this post with your gal friends, daughters, or mothers!
¹ Wikifashion, http://wikifashion.com/wiki/Breton_stripes