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How to Wear Striped Clothing
It was my 17th summer when I went out with The Man in Stripes for the first time, to a comedy club. As my mother ushered him into our living room, I saw a surprised look on her face and wondered what had transpired. In a moment I knew… and when I saw what he was wearing, I said the first thing that that came to mind:
I have always said what I meant, but my date didn’t seem to hear the surprise and hesitation in my voice. He was proud of his outfit and announced that he had a jacket that matched; however, it was too warm to wear both tonight. I said a quick hallelujah to the fashion gods.
Granted, it was the 90’s, but… really? A 6’2” tall man has no business wearing gray and white clown striped pegged pants. It came as no surprise that the comedian had a field day with my date’s outfit.
Oh, Man in Stripes! Your pants will live forever in my memory… and the memory of my parents, my sister, and probably the cat, who meowed and ran away as soon as you walked in. With the right choices, you could have avoided looking like a member of a chain gang or blending in with the furniture. Here’s how.
The best thing about wearing stripes is that you can can change the look of your body shape, so go in the right direction. If you have a boyish figure, wear horizontal stripes to create curves; someone with natural curves or more padding (like me!) should stick to narrow vertical stripes or pinstripes to streamline the figure.
Avoid wide horizontal stripes completely unless you are part of a circus or absolutely require constant attention… wandering eyes will doubtlessly alight on you whether or not you're ready for your close-up.
Avoid Looking like a Convict, a Zebra, or Like You're In the Navy
If the right direction is a pro, don't look like a con. The last thing you need is get thrown into jail by the fashion police! Wide black and white stripes may be a classic combination, but they also bring to mind visions of “yard time” at a prison, especially if you are unfortunate enough to be standing near other horizontally striped bodies (human or animal).
Wear narrow stripes on the torso for a more flattering look, or throw some bold stripes around your neck and be That Person With The Cool Scarf instead.
Also, unless you plan to spend a lot of time on a ship, avoid looking like a sailor. Nautical navy and white has its charm, but not in the city.
The Right Color, the Right Fit
Choose the right color and the right garment, and you're home free.
I’m a sucker for a black and white pinstriped suit, but the most universally flattering “color” is tone-on-tone. This refers to a pattern worked into a solid color fabric -- the colors of the fabric and the pattern are from the same family, but their shades are different. For example, dove gray pants with a charcoal gray stripe would be considered tone-on-tone.
Anyone can wear tone-on-tone stripes if the clothing is cut the right way, the color works with their skin tone, and the stripe itself is not overpowering. Own your look! (To avoid looking like your stripes are wearing you, balance your stripes with a solid color so your frame is not overwhelmed.)
Also, unless you are wearing corduroys (which are naturally striped), be careful what type of stripe with which you clothe your nether regions.
Finally, don't wear your stripes too tightly. Stripes are lines, and are supposed to look like lines. Be mindful of your lovely lady lumps or beefy blokey bumps! If there is puckering, re-think the outfit.
Try Before You Buy
Stripes, like chartreuse, can be stunning on some and frightening on others. Don’t put yourself in the position of owning striped clothes that you feel obligated to wear.
Just because stripes appeal to you does not always mean you should wear them. I may have worn my fair share of bad striped looks, but that doesn't mean you have to! Just...
Quiz time, Student of Stripes!
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Ask Yourself Questions
When shopping for striped clothing, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this pattern make more sense on a chair or a wall than on a body?
- How would this look in a photograph? (Because paparazzi are everywhere!)
- Would a different color look better on me?
And if you have trouble answering these questions with your head instead of your heart, listen to a friend instead. If their face lights up when you try on that piece of clothing, snatch it up! If it remains impassive, the look does nothing positive for you, so don't consider buying it. If they frown or crack up, it is obviously not a look that suits you. Drop the clothing, but keep the friend! They are honest and only want you to look your best.
Bottom line: I love stripes, but I wear them carefully. Maybe somewhere out there, The Man in Stripes has learned this as well.