Reader Request: Styling Stripes

Lisa popped a question about styling stripes in unusual ways into the Suggestion Box, and as a bona-fide stripe addict, I’m thrilled to tackle it!

With florals

Although I’m still a pattern-mixing newbie, the pairing I feel most comfortable wearing is definitely stripes and florals. Make sure that both patterns include a common, dominant color so the mix appears cohesive. (In this case, both contain white.) If possible add another, solid item that draws out a color from one pattern or another. (In this case, the moto jacket!)

As outer layers

The classic is a simple, boat necked, Breton top. But stripes are showing up in cardigans, coats, blazers, and other outer layers and can make fabulous toppers. If you fear the potential figure-widening properties of horizontal stripes – which are grossly exaggerated, in my opinion – picking a striped top layer can allow you to cinch or otherwise accentuate a slimmer-fitting inner layer.

With serious jewelry

If pattern mixes feel too overwhelming but you’d like to try something bolder than a striped top and solid cardigan, try a big, chunky necklace or two. You can pick up a color within the striped pattern or stick to clear stones and classic metals, or go even bolder with a contrasting color.

With tough accents

Stripes are typically considered a preppy staple, but they’re sliding quickly into neutral territory which means that they can play nicely off of other style genres. Try some tough boots, a motorcycle jacket, or big bold chain necklaces with your stripes.

In accessories

If striped garments feel too bold, consider accessories. OK, I know that striped tights are still pretty durned bold, but there are plenty of other options: Scarves, hats, socks, even handbags can bring some stripy goodness into your life!

What’s your favorite way to wear stripes? Do you employ any of these techniques yourself? Others to suggest?

  • threegoodrats

    I recently bought a knit striped Tulle blazer and I absolutely love it. I also love how you paired the striped dress with the floral scarf – I don’t generally like pattern mixing, but that combo calls to me!

  • Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    The striped maxi is one of my favorites – I adore that look, with the bright scarf at the neck. Must find striped maxi for summer!

  • Aziraphale

    I love stripes! And I especially love the second outfit you posted — the one with the greenish moto jacket and short stripy dress. Very chic.

    But despite the fact that I love stripes, I have relatively few striped items in my closet. I think this is because of the preppy vibe they can have. I used to have a classic boatneck Breton top that rarely got worn because I couldn’t make it “go” with anything. I know this sounds silly, because of course a navy and white stripe top goes with lots. I mean, failing all else, it’s going to go with jeans, right? But whenever I put it on, I’d feel too preppy/conservative and off it would come.

    I do have one striped item now that I wear all the time: a black-and-white striped short canvas skirt. For some reason this feels punk/pop/pirate instead of preppy, and I feel totally comfortable in it. I wear it with tall boots and a sleeveless top. Other than that one skirt, the only other striped item I own is a lightweight pinstripe button-front shirt, which is a wardrobe staple in the summer, but I don’t know that should really count as striped because from a few feet away it looks like a solid.

    • Katharine

      I’m with you; it’s only navy and white (and red and white) stripes that give off a really preppy vibe to my eye. (And I hate navy anyway, so if navy didn’t go with anything in my wardrobe, well, that would be because there is nothing navy in my wardrobe.) I go for black and white stripes, and my biggest problem with them is half the time I put them into an outfit, and I look as though I’m headed out after work to kick things on the sidewalk and smoke aggressively.

      And multi-coloured stripes can sometimes look a bit kiddy (particularly in the sock and tights division), as per your recent post, Sal!

  • bubu

    Perfect timing on this post – just picked up this dress at Ann Taylor over the weekend and love it (the asymmetry is surprisingly flattering on a curvy frame):

    Was thinking jewel-tone cardigan to add color, or just B or W cardi if I want to keep it more coherent. Might also throw in colorful shoes.

  • Anne

    All of these looks are great. I bought three striped tees during a J.Crew sale last fall. I wore them tons (still do). This spring while I was shopping I had to remind myself to put the striped shirts down. Now I’m thinking, “Hmmm, striped skirts look cute.”

  • Bella Q

    I’m a huge fan of the stripes with everything- and you remind me to own a striped blazer. Great little outfits and awesome tips as usual.

  • ParisGrrl

    Once I figured out that stripes are basically neutrals (at least the way they wear them here in Europe) I found wearing and pattern mixing easier. I still prefer to wear a stripe as the statement piece, but have no trouble tossing in a floral or dot or whatever into an outfit with stripes. They’re fun!

  • FutureLint

    I am a fan of stripes in all fashions, but lately I’ve been loving the look of a striped top with a different striped bottom!

  • Megan Mae

    I like stripes, but my love for them is on the waning side. I’ve made a pact with myself not to buy more stripes for myself. It can be quite hard to style them especially if you’re a habitual stripe buyer.

    Your striped tights though really make that pact want to disappear!

  • Aris Merquoni

    I have a bunch of horizontally striped turtleneck sweaters that I’ve been wearing through the winter under a vest or a cardigan. Since I’m a large-busted gal I find that visually cutting up the tracts of land (so to speak) with another layer works wonders.

  • Ruth

    Oh dear, all those comments saying stripes are ‘preppy’ – does that mean I should be getting over my stripes obsession? I find it hard NOT to buy stripes – they just sing out to me.
    By the way I was in a meeting with someone the other day who so made me think of your style – black and white striped breton top, black and white floral skirt, and a big patterned silky scarf. Looked great.

    • Sal

      No way, Ruth! Stripes are incredibly versatile. Don’t give ’em up.

      And I bet I would’ve gotten on famously with the gal in your meeting. 😉