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ways to wear: stripes

There are days when the family wakes up late and we have exactly 17 minutes to get out the door.  There’s a lot of pain in that kind of morning, and it can be summed up by one image: that of my two year old, shrieking and banging on my shower door while I try to keep it closed with my foot long enough to wash the conditioner out of my hair.  I highly recommend this kind of morning to ensure a super zen day.  On such mornings, I have zero time to think out an outfit.  So I usually reach for some stripes.

Stripes almost always look right.  To me, they are shorthand for a bunch of things: ease, insouciance, pep.  Some opine that horizontal stripes can be unflattering, especially for those who aren’t stick-thin.  I tend to disagree.  I see lots of stripes on friends of different sizes and shapes, and whenever I see them, I’m charmed.  Actually, I can think of one exception: I’m not charmed by vertically striped dress shirts on my 6’4″ husband, because they make his torso look approximately five feet tall, and as if he should be walking on stilts at a circus.  But I digress.

Try playing with stripes of different thicknesses, from pinstripes to awning stripes to everything in between.  Stripes are a no-brainer with casual wear, but where they really prove their versatility is when you dress them up.  I particularly love them under suits.  Nothing says “believe me, I’m cooler than this lame job” like stripes under a suit with a bright belt and some killer shoes.

Below, a few ideas.

Starter stripes

Black/white and navy/white stripes are a basic everyone should have.  But try stripes in other colors.  Below, a button-back t-shirt I bought for $14.99 on sale at J. Crew has gotten heavy rotation in my wardrobe.  The mustard color has paired well under black or charcoal suits.  But where the mustard really comes to life is when paired with cobalt, a color that was big this summer, that I’m wearing into the fall.  By the way, as evidenced by the photos in this post, J. Crew is ground zero for stripes.  The downside to J. Crew (that their clothes look the same year after year) is an upside when you need a reliable source for the stuff you wear so regularly that it wears out.  Like stripes.

Striped button-back t-shirt, J. Crew ($14.99 on sale); twill skinny pants, J Brand ($176, bright royal); fleece blazer, Gibson (Nordstrom, $88, last season); suede desert boot, Clarks ($120)

Plays well with patterns

Stripes pair well with prints, like the batik-type skirt shown below.  When mixing with patterns, it helps to keep the stripe neutral, and to pair with a pattern that repeats in roughly the same proportion as the width of your stripe.  This barely makes sense to me, and I wrote it, but basically–if you have a medium-width stripe, stick with a medium-size print.  But there’s no science to it.  Just trust that you will know if it’s wrong.  It’s a good sign if your significant other takes issue with your outfit, because that, at least in my case, means you’re probably doing it right.  On the other hand, if you have small children who love your outfit, you may have inadvertently fallen prey to some bad mixing.  It’s never good when I come downstairs and my boys freeze, mid-play, to stare gape-mouthed at my outfit.  Also bad when I get the dreaded “Mom, are you going to a party today?” from my five-year old.  He wears his pants backwards on a regular basis.  It stresses me out when we’re seeing eye-to-eye on my clothes.

Cotton striped shirt, J. Crew ($48); cotton batik skirt, Gap ($44); leather mary janes, Chanel ($480, gift from hubby). Awesome letterpress print behind me by my friend Suzanne Hallerman at jigsaw graphics

Stripes on stripes

For those who have been wearing stripes for years and want to kick it up a notch, try pairing stripes with stripes.  A few considerations: 1) make sure your stripes are going in different directions; 2) it helps to have a visual break between the stripes, like a belt; and 3) stripe-on-stripe works best with stripes of different widths.   I wore the outfit below to my firm’s party a couple weeks ago, where it paired beautifully with my nametag and the jumbo shrimp.

Silk shirt, J. Crew ($110); wool pants, J. Crew ($108, five years ago); leather belt, J. Crew ($48); watch, Timex ($50)

How do you wear your stripes?

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Courtney #

    Loved your dad jeans column and I’m going to make Dave read it. There needs to be more understandable info for men’s fashion so, please, more!

    On this topic, I’d say that you (Yoona) can wear horizontal stripes because you’re skinny and don’t have a ridiculous chest. If I wear stripes, I look like I’m taking my boobs out for lunch or dinner. Do not think that stripes are an everyone-can-do sort of thing like decent men’s jeans or chicken soup! Please do a column for short-waisted, big busted, short-tempered gals like me!

    November 17, 2011
    • It is one of the sadnesses of my life that I will never have to experience how to dress for big boobs. And now that you mention it, I imagine horizontal stripes would be harder over a rack. And vertical stripes on bottom might make your legs look longer, thereby making your torso look shorter. Hmm. I do think you would look super sharp in a pinstriped suit, but you don’t seem like a suit person. I may have to do a blog post entitled “How to dress if you are Courtney.”

      November 17, 2011
  2. Stripes! Yet another great post… by the way, the Open House look was fab that night. I’m glad the outfit has been archived here!

    November 14, 2011
  3. Suzanne #

    When you get tired of being a lawyer, you should be a personal stylist… or maybe in your spare time?

    November 13, 2011
  4. Thanks Gulgun! You could walk to the one at Lloyd Center (wink).

    November 13, 2011
  5. gulgun #

    These are great posts, Yoona. Thanks for sharing them! I’ve never been in Forever 21 but plan to go next time I venture to the mall.

    November 13, 2011

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