Reader Request: Styling Stripes

How to wear 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

Already Pretty outfit featuring floral cardigan, striped skater dress, pyramid stud belt, Antelope sandals, chain bracelet

Although I don’t mix prints as often as I used to, 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 black.) If possible add another, solid item that draws out a color from one pattern or another. (In this case, the shoes and belt.)

As outer layers

Already Pretty outfit featuring striped blazer, orange dress, leopard pumps, Marc by Marc Jacobs turnlock bag, wide belt

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

Already Pretty outfit featuring Gudrun Sjödén striped dress, black leggings, black platform ankle boots, black necklaces, Rebecca Minkoff Logan Crossbody handbag

If print 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!

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  • 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!

  • 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): http://www.anntaylor.com/ann/catalog/productDetails.jsp?prodId=275786&colorExplode=false&skuId=11003267&catid=cata000012&productPageType=fullPriceProducts&defaultColor=1220&prodId=275786

    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.”

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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. 😉