Fashion notes: get loud but stay subtle with summer stripes

This summer, fashion and the bold stripe will meet once again.

This summer, fashion and the bold stripe will meet once again. Think garden parties on the Riviera, sailors, deck chairs at the British seaside and the like, all executed with a fair amount of fun, I may add. These are not the kind of stripes that we see too often. Certainly the nautical trend has done its time, as has the preppy look, with its traditional bold horizontal stripes and popped collars. The Breton stripe has been in the headlines for so long now that we have all but forgotten the existence of any other stripe. But what we have here is a less “look at me” stripe. Think playful colour combinations and a slightly more refined silhouette.

Stripes terrify most of us. Which is a crying shame, because there’s nothing offensive about a stripe. The classic pattern can be rather flattering. It’s undeniable that a somewhat cruel but natural trick of the eye means that when it looks left to right rather than up and down, things only appear, well, wider – which, let’s face it, nobody really wants. But as with anything, if you’re as tenacious as you are clever, all of these rules that we think are set in stone can be challenged.

The high-octane coloured stripe will be seen on everything from blazers to jumpers and shoes this summer. Try a deep V or scoop neck, as this shows a little more skin and breaks up a heavy or solid line that the stripe tends to create. Add a strong tailored jacket, or distract the eye with a wide belt. A masculine edge is what we are aiming for, in that the lines are squared off. Long, skinny stripes can help elongate your figure, so think about experimenting with a button-down shirt with vertical stripes, which will look great when paired with a full skirt or jeans.

If you’re going for a wide-leg trouser, choose vertical stripes in a traditional navy-and-white or black-and-white colour palette, and use colour on the top half. Although a little predictable, it’s a safer option. Pink and red can offer something a little more fashion forward, but as I said, approach with care.

The stripes on the bottom help to elongate the lower half of the body and lengthen the overall appearance, although a billowing pyjama bottom with a wide stripe will more often than not need a high heel and clutch to ensure that you won’t drown in the excess fabric. Try dark jeans with a striped top or contrast a plain shift with a tailored boxy jacket. On blazers, tailored shorts and boxy blouses, this brave stripe can look remarkable, but try to stick to fabrics that are slightly heavier than a silk or chiffon, as the overall effect will be lost otherwise.

No matter how sharp we take things, there’s almost always going to be a certain element of playfulness about the trend, an element of whim if you like, somewhat ditsy in an English country fair kind of way, so try your best to make sure that the tailoring is as sharp as possible and that there’s nothing cutesy about your colour palette.

Just make sure to combat the loudness with nudes or bright whites, otherwise the whole thing will start to appear messy. What we really have to remember here is that there’s a huge difference between noisy and loud – and certainly when stripes are so bold, horizontal and heavy, you’re often left splashing around in the murky waters looking for direction. The answer is simple enough. Your aim? To do loud subtlety.

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Published: May 1, 2014 04:00 AM


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