A banner day for star-spangled clothes

astewart@newsobserver.comJune 12, 2013 

  • Red, white and blue

    Maybe you’re not into flag fashion, but you love the red, white and blue.

    Reilly Donahue, 16, of Raleigh, says she likes the summery feel of the flag colors. During July, she said, the outfit seems especially appropriate.

    Donahue’s favorite way to wear the Stars and Stripes is “with high-waisted shorts and a bandanna in your hair,” she says.

    “It’s fun and it seems a little bit retro, like with the pin-up girls after the war,” she said. “I like the ’40s stuff. It just reminds me of another era.”

    You can wear Old Glory colors and keep it respectful. Don’t be so literal: Use red, white and blue in a subtle way.

    • Choose your red, white and blue: Don’t be a slave to navy, cherry red and bright white. Wear dark teal if navy washes you out, coral if you don’t like blood-red and beige if pure white is too stark.

    • Go monochromatic: Pick one color to dominate your outfit, and then throw in touches of the other two. For instance, white jeans, a white eyelet top, red espadrilles and blue drop earrings. Or guys, wear navy shorts and blue oxford shirt with a braided red bracelet and white sneakers.

    • Stars OR stripes: Pick one piece for a literal show. A nautical-stripe shirt with white jeans and red earrings is dandy. Or a star T-shirt with shorts and sandals. Trot out that striped tie or belt or starry jewelry.

    • Get shady: Wear different shades of red, white or blue together. Navy loves turquoise-blue and a touch of red; white loves pastels like baby blue and pale pink, and red gets along fine with orange or pink.

    Sheon Wilson (@SheonWilson) is a personal stylist in Durham and the N&O’s makeover specialist. Alex Stewart contributed.

On Friday, the nation celebrates Flag Day, yet at the mall it seems the celebration has begun early.

After 236 years, Old Glory is trendy; the Stars and Stripes adorn every surface imaginable, from stilettos to denim shorts to sunglasses.

At Express, sequins composed the flag on a tube top; at Old Navy, stars and stripes show up on swim trunks.

A black-and-white vintage version appears on a shirt from Jessica Simpson’s clothing line. Teenyboppers will find red, white and blue skirts and T-shirts featuring hearts instead of the classic stars at Justice.

Some might find the look disrespectful or distasteful, but it’s not breaking any rules. The “United States Flag Code,” laid out in the United States Code to outline proper flag etiquette, states that the design of the Star-Spangled Banner is allowed on clothing, but an actual American flag cannot be used as apparel, bedding or drapery.

Josh Saterman, vice president fashion director at Macy’s, says patriotism has always been en vogue.

“It’s fun, and it speaks to the larger trend of pride for our country,” he says of the iconography.

“The flag can be worn in so many different ways, and each demographic, region, climate zone and individual can play with which silhouettes and details speak to them the most.”

Designers tend to play around with the pattern as well. Betsey Johnson features the flag in many of her line’s accessories, replacing the stars with grommets and rhinestones. Her “Americana” collection includes iPhone and iPad cases, wallets and handbags.

Arlene Goldstein, vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction for Belk, says the flag design has been a tradition in fashion for a long time. This year, the flag’s popularity has slightly increased, as it “coexists” with this season’s stripe trend, she says.

Another reason for the spike in flag paraphernalia: In the summertime, “people become more overt with their patriotism,” Goldstein says. Holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day are prime time for patriotic dressage. The most popular articles of clothing sporting the Stars and Stripes are T-shirts, she says.

Designers who frequently display their American pride in their lines include Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Retailer Urban Outfitters has “American Summer” and “Salute the Flag” collections on its website, offering more than 80 flag-adorned items.

Stewart: 919-829-4568

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