5 Ways to Wear Stripes

By: Marie Willsey

Stripes are everywhere this spring, so learn how to wear them right.
Stripes are everywhere this spring, so learn how to wear them right.
Tony Anderson/Getty Images

Take a look at any fashion magazine, style blog, or TV show, and what do you see? Stripes in every color and a variety of widths. Horizontal, vertical, even diagonal and chevron stripes are making a splash, and with good reason: Stripes are fun and flattering on practically any item in your wardrobe, from dresses and tops to shoes and skirts.

If you've shunned horizontal stripes in the past for fear of looking wider, it turns out that science may actually weigh in favor of a linear look. A perception expert at the University of York in the U.K. found that when two women of the same size wore horizontally and vertically striped dresses, the woman wearing the horizontal stripes appeared thinner. These experiments were based on the Helmholtz square illusion, first created in the eighteenth century, and suggest that horizontal stripes may help slim the figure by creating a 3D effect and introducing depth [source: The Telegraph].


So, go ahead and add a little punch to your wardrobe this spring. Read on and discover five fun and flattering ways to wear stripes.

5: Accessorize With Stripes

Add a graphic punch to your outfit by choosing accessories with multi-colored stripes. A scarf, handbag or headband is a great way to sport the striped trend, especially if you're not quite ready to embrace a striped top or dress. A belt with stripes gives any outfit a preppy feel, esspecially when paired with white jeans or khakis. A large tote with blue and white or red and white stripes takes on a nautical vibe and says "summer" with style, even when you're not at the beach. Look for an unexpected color combination, like bright green and yellow or orange and pink, for an added punch.

You can even sport stripes on your feet! If you're looking for some new kicks, try on a pair of fabric espadrilles, loafers, or ballet flats with stripe designs that range from subtle to bold. Chunky bracelets, watchbands and even novelty pedicures are unexpected ways for the understated fashionista to show her stripes.


4: Go Long and Lean With Vertical Stripes

Definitely a bolder option: Actress Jennifer Lopez poses on the red carpet at the 84th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2012.
Definitely a bolder option: Actress Jennifer Lopez poses on the red carpet at the 84th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2012.
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Take a tip from the menswear classic, the button-down shirt with vertical stripes: Long, skinny stripes can help elongate your figure. A striped blouse looks great paired with a suit, skirt or jeans, from casual to dressy and all moods in between. Choose vertical stripes in a traditional blue-and-white or red-and-white color palette, or look for more seasonal options. Pink, yellow, bright green and lavender look fresh and sophisticated.

Pants or skirts with vertical stripes are a very flattering look, especially paired with a solid colored blouse or T-shirt. The stripes on the bottom help to elongate the lower half of the body and make you appear longer. Pinstripes are always right, but don't be afraid to experiment with bolder options.


3: Pick a Boldly Striped Dress

A striped dress adds a bit of fun to your wardrobe. You'll find designs that range from casual and relaxed, to sophisticated and formal. To maximize fashion mileage, look for a sleeveless striped dress that's perfect for a warm afternoon; then top it off with a cardigan or blazer in a complementary color for work or a committee meeting.

If you'd rather take a more cautious approach to the striped dress trend, look for a loose fitting shift in colorful stripes. Make sure to keep the length flattering (a few inches above the knee works for most) and show plenty of leg.


And, for the woman who's really comfortable in her skin, try on a form-fitting striped frock like the bandage dresses made popular by Hervé Léger. These body- conscious designs can be flattering and sexy.

2: Go Très Chic with a Striped T-shirt

Nothing says chic like a striped T-shirt.
Nothing says chic like a striped T-shirt.
Dougal Waters/Getty Images

What could possibly be more "ooh-la-la" than a navy and white striped, boat-neck T-shirt? First popularized by Coco Chanel, this classic top looks picture-perfect paired with an A-line skirt, or slim red cropped pants plus ballet flats, à la Audrey Hepburn. This versatile top also looks great with jeans or shorts. Three-quarter length sleeves are perfect indoors and out throughout the warmer months.

This season, you can find many variations on this timeless style, from cotton T-shirts to linen sweaters. Lengths vary from cropped and full to long and lean. Try on several styles to find the look that's right for you. Fresh color combinations keep the look up to the moment, while the classic color combinations still look fresh when paired with something bold or pastel below the waist.


1: Try Color-blocked Stripes

This spring, one of the hottest striped looks is a variation of not just two colors, but three or more. In the stores, you're likely to find tops with blue-and-white stripes on the arms and pink-and-blue stripes on the torso, helping to create shape and add interest to the body. Or try a neon color block on top of neutral stripes for a relaxed yet trendy look.

You'll also see combinations of stripes that cleverly use diagonals and verticals to create a flattering silhouette. Don't be afraid to try an interesting-looking top or dress on for size, just to see how these designs can create the illusion of a smaller waist or narrower hips.


No matter what your figure type or fashion style, add a few stripes to your wardrobe this season to show your style and saucy attitude.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Boston, Lloyd. "Before You Put That On." 2005. Atria Books.
  • France, Kim and Linette, Andrea. "The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style." Gotham Books.
  • "Horizontal Stripes Make You Look Thinner." The Telegraph. September 11, 2008. (March 9, 2012.) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3351615/Horizontal-stripes-make-you-look-thinner.html.
  • "How to Wear Stripes." MarieClaire.com. (March 9, 2012.) http://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/trends/fashion-stripes
  • "Wear Now: Coco Before Chanel Stripes." InStyle.com. July 10, 2009. (March 9, 2012.) http://news.instyle.com/2009/07/10/wear-now-coco-before-chanel-stripes/
  • "12 Ways to Wear Stripes." Self.com. (March 9, 2012.) http://www.self.com/beauty/2010/07/how-to-wear-stripes-slideshow#slide=1.