Stripes conjure up a lot of different images; the stereotypical French man with garlic around his neck; Coco Chanel sitting on a beach; an American prisoner in the early 20th century; a fisherman bobbing in a wooden boat; a man rowing a gondola in Venice.

In modern times, stripes offer an easy pattern for fashion to use and manipulate in creating fresh, clean designs. In a contrast to the floral trend this season, stripes offer a more graphic punch, with contrasting colors, and an array of different fabrics and styles, there is an item to capture the quirky mood of everyone looking to get lined this summer.


Although the Spring Summer 2011 collection delivered by Raf Simons for Jil Sander gained most of its editorial ground for its use of pure blocks of color and length, the collection also embraced the stripe. A sheer top with thick vertical stripes was paired with a baby pink and white horizontal striped skirt, in the full-length that epitomizes the season, is the most memorable stripe of spring summer 2011.

Meanwhile, Marc by Marc Jacobs took a different silhouette in the form of his silk bumblebee trapeze dress in black and yellow, taking the shape of a balloon. Vivienne Westwood also used a more voluminous outline for her Gold Collection which featured a vertical rainbow ribbon and black lines, cinched at the waist with a black tied belt.

The Allure of the Ocean

Jil Sander also featured the classic royal blue with contrasting white, which is what immediately springs to mind when clothing with stripes is considered. It is so simple, while making a visual statement with its bold contrast that it leaves an imprint on the mind. As the colors are so associated with the beach and the sea, one can’t help but be reminded of carefree summer days, with the wind blowing in your hair and the smell of sea-salt, while the sunshine warms your back.

This is what makes the graphic a constant favorite of designers. Anything that reminds the consumer of the summer, vacations, and relaxation will sell. It’s a far cry from the background the stripe has, in being associated with prisons and concentration camps. In a way, the complete turn-around of what it represents is what makes it cool and desirable.

This is not lost of other designers either. MaxMara and Prada also embraced the nautical stripe, while the high street is barely ever without some version of this once the weather starts to heat up. A cheaper version of the Jil Saunders dress is available from Jaeger, for example.


Although we are approaching the summer, we still have a few weeks of chill left in the air where we can take advantage of the stripe trend to elongate our legs. A vertical two tone strips creates the illusion of a longer leg. This is an ideal way to use a touch of the trend to subtlety use the stripe to your long-legged advantage. The safest way to do this is to pair a two-tone tight with a dress or skirt that is a block of one of these colors. It adds a great oomph to any plain-Jane outfit. If you are feeling more daring, then a striped top to complement your tights with a plain skirt in between to break up the graphic is very chic and neat way to appear fashion forward.

It’s a Keeper

As mentioned, stripes are a trend that just keep on giving. They are on the catwalks and on the high street almost every season, and the pure simplicity of the design means that striped pieces rarely go out of fashion.

Having said that, the popularity of the stripe can make them appear common if they are not worn on trend. Be sure to use accessories and up-to-date styling to re-vamp old investments. If you have a cheap striped piece from a few seasons ago, it will probably look like a cheap old piece from a few seasons ago. It’s important to ensure that your stripes are as bold as they were when you bought them, because a faded black beside a graying white just won’t pack the same punch as an outright contrast.

The Rules

Stripes are one pattern that need to be carefully selected to avoid highlighting your flaws. Like an interior designer, using boarders and vertical striped wallpaper to make a room look larger and taller, you can manipulate the lines to enhance your own assets
1. Vertical stripes make you look taller and leaner so wearing a vertical line on your tights or pants will make your legs look endless, especially when paired with a solid on top. Diagonal stripes have the same effect.

2. Horizontal stripes make you look wider so are good for adding depth to more boyish figures.

3. Be aware of stretch material. Stripes are a terrible give away of where material is stretching and how much! Not good for bums, tums and big breasts!

4. As always, dark colors are more slimming so a careful color selection is key.

5. Wearing a horizontal stripe across your breast will give the illusion of a bigger bust.

6. Thicker lines are what’s on trend right now, although narrow stripes look better on petite frames.