How to wear stripes… whatever your figure

how to wear stripes

Having just told you that bold stripes are going to be one of this spring’s fashion trends (and are so much of a classic they’re unlikely to be going anywhere after that, either…), we thought we’d also just quickly address some of the “But I can’t possibly wear stripes! Only stick insects can wear stripes!” objections that always come up any time this subject is introduced. First of all:

Yes, you can wear stripes.

(IF you want to, that is. We’re definitely not ones to try to sell you a trend you don’t like, so if you’re currently wrinkling your nose and saying, “Yuck! I hate stripes! So boring! So not me! I HATE this article!” don’t worry, no one will actually force you: we’re not a REAL Fashion Police, as we like to repeat at regular intervals…)

People will tell you that curvy women can’t wear stripes – especially not horizontal ones. They will tell that women with hips can’t wear them either: that they will emphasise the widest part of your body, and also make you look like an escaped convict. They will say that only “stick insects” should attempt this look, and that larger woman should, we don’t know, wear mu-mus or something?

Our response to all of this? Rubbish. For one thing, “stick insects” aren’t people, so they don’t wear clothes at all. For another, while we’re not going to try to tell you that everyone in the world can wear every single item of clothing, and all look equally good in it, we ARE going to tell you that if you try to live your life according to what THEY say, or by some outdated fashion “rules”, you’ll have no fun at all, and might miss out on some stuff you actually might have liked.

With that said: yes, wide stripes CAN make you look wider too. Yes, they CAN emphasise the widest part of your body. And yes, you CAN still wear them if you want to. Here are some ways to do it.

How to wear stripes – whatever your shape

how to wear stripes


Choose the width of stripe that works for you

It’s often said that thin stripes are more slimming than thicker ones, and are thus easier to wear. Be wary of adopting blanket rules like this, because they’re not always true, and in real life, people’s figures are all so different that there really isn’t a “one rule to wear them all”.  While it’s true that thin stripes can be more flattering, and are certainly easier to wear, on SOME people, if you carry all your weight on your stomach, for instance, you might atcually find that thin stripes will actually emphasis the bump by distorting around it, while wide ones will help disguise it. Of course, we can’t tell you which type of stripes will work for you, but if you try a few on, it shouldn’t be hard to work it out.

Break up the patterns

Woman in stripy jacket showing now to wear stripes

Florence & Fred

There’s no doubt that head-to-toe stripes can be a bold look, and it’s made even more so when the stripes in question are big n’ chunky. If you want to wear the trend without feeling like you’re hitting people over the head with it, try breaking up the print a little, either by throwing a jacket or cardigan over a striped dress, say, or using a statement necklace or contrasting belt to give the eye something else to focus on.

Don’t wear it like wallpaper: you are not a wall

By which we mean, “easy tiger: no need to plaster yourself head-to-toe in the stuff.” A striped skirt with a striped top, worn with a pair of stripes shoes, and hey, why not throw in a striped clutch, just to finish it off? That won’t look good on anyone.  Choose one item (or maybe two, if you don’t mind the matchy-matchy look…), and choose it well. Leave all of the other stripes for another day.


Woman in stripy sequined top and white suit


Shoes, bags, bracelets, scarves… they’re all a really easy way to incorporate a particular print into your look without having to worry about whether it fits or flatters. You’ll never find yourself wondering if those shoes make you look fat

Emphasise the waist

Stripy heeled shoes on a yellow floor

(Dress: Hobbs)

See the dress at the very top of the page? Or the one above this paragraph?  They both incorporate bold stripes in a way that DOESN’T draw attention to the “widest part”. The Next skater dress, as well as using a fit and flare shape, which helps nip in the waist, also uses side panels with diagonal stripes, to slim the body and avoid that “convict” look. The dress above, meanwhile, uses a number of techniques to do the same thing, including thinner, diagonal stripes on the bodice, a belt to emphasis the waist and a flared skirt with a wide band at the hem. If you can’t find an item which does all of this for you, you can easily replicate the effect by adding a belt or cardigan.

Go vertical

Woman in stripy dress emphasising the waist

When all’s said and done, if you still think horizontal stripes don’t work for you, ditch ’em and go for vertical or diagonal ones instead. These draw the eye downwards, and CAN be more slimming that their horizontal counterparts, but don’t assume this will be the case on every body shape: instead, experiment and find out which style works for YOURS.

 What are your tips on how to wear stripes?

1 Comment

  • January 15, 2013

    Myra Boyle

    Hi, I just wondered what you thought of Louis Vuitton graphic squares for the Spring/Summer season. i hate them – they look like chess boards.

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