For generations it’s been touted as a top rule for dressing slimmer: Beware the stripes.
It is true that done wrong, stripes can make your wide spots look wider. Or worse, conjure up images of a prison inmate or an umpire.
But done right, they can play up your best assets and play down your trouble spots.
This spring is the perfect time to learn to discern between stripes that work and those that don’t. Not only are they everywhere, from the horizontal, the vertical and the diagonal, but they are the perfect antidote to the seriousness of our winter wardrobes.
“I think a lot of women are afraid to wear horizontal stripes, but they shouldn’t be,” says Cindy Weber Cleary, fashion director for InStyle Magazine, whose March issue featured the season’s love affair with stripes. “I think a lot of women have heard along the way that horizontal stripes make you look fat. That’s old thinking. You just have to be a little strategic.”
For the curvy, paying attention to width and placement of stripes is the key to a flattering look. A flowy A-line skirt with horizontal stripes that are not too wide but not too narrow is a great look for most women.
For a woman wanting to accentuate a nice waist but downplay her bust and hips, a solid dress with stripes at the waist will create an hourglass figure.
Horizontal stripes can give boyish figures the illusion of curves where there are none.
And pants with vertical stripes can add height. (Although beware the season’s vertical striped skinny jeans fad, which is extremely difficult for most figures to pull off.)
“If you’re nervous about wearing them, an easy way to integrate the trend is through an accessory, like a striped bag, shoe or scarf,” Weber Cleary says. “They’re classic, but they have visual impact and they never go out of style. There’s something very sophisticated about them.”
Paying attention to how a garment is constructed – how the angles of the stripes come together, and what colors are featured – makes all the difference between a fashion do and a fashion don’t.
Hillsborough-based fashion blogger and part-time fashion consultant Molly Stillman says some of her favorite closet staples are striped skirts and dresses. And she believes she’s proof that you don’t need a wispy figure to enjoy the trend.
“I am 5’4” and a size 12. I am the average American woman,” she says.
She warns women to be careful of wide, bold stripes that can visually cut a body in unflattering places, such as across the chest or hips.
A striped dress can become more figure flattering when paired with a belt, which cinches in the waist and draws attention to a narrower area.