I prefer my stripes on deckchairs, if I’m honest. Stripy clothes and I have never really got along. Can’t explain it. They just don’t work on me. I love a stripy mannish shirt – on someone else. Like the woman I spent an inordinate amount of time gawping at while in Barcelona last weekend. Probably in her mid-fifties, she looked genuinely effortless as she strolled around the rooftop bar of the hotel, wearing the most amazing, longer-length gentlemen’s banker-style shirt that ended bang on her knee. Loose-fit, it was pale blue with skinny white stripes and she wore it with a pair of battered-looking tan sandals and Diane Keaton round sunglasses. With her hair styled in a short, messy blonde bob, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a woman carry off stripes so elegantly. "Ssstop staring," whispered my friend.
I always think this when I see a woman turn a classic item into something unaffectedly stylish. Like another woman I saw last weekend (same hotel bar – I spent a lot of time at the bar), whose plain black swimsuit I loved simply because she’d paired it with a khaki shirt and classic black Ray-Bans, making me want to rethink what I wear to the beach. I feel Breton tops fall into this category – understated, timeless and glorious on so many women, shame they make my chest look like a moving coffee table. “Need somewhere to pop your wine glass? Here, rest it on my tits.” As for stripy skirts, forget about it, non, merci – too complicated. The only stripy clothing I can just about handle is a scarf. Spots, dots and circles, bring it on, but wear stripes with a wide waist (my middle refuses to go in unless I wear a 1800s-style corset)? I think I’ll pass.
Once I’d wrestled the dress out of my mother’s hands, I realised why it worked – the stripes all go in different directions. Ta-dah!
Admittedly, all that changed after walking through the Newcastle branch of M&S (my fave M&S, thanks to an oversized café – because don’t you just hate feeling hemmed in, shopping bags piled at your feet, no elbow room to eat a jammy scone?). I spied the stripy dress I’m wearing in this pic and thought, “Well, well, well – that will look nice with just about any sandal, heel, trainer combination known to womankind.” And before you could say, “What do you reckon, Mum?” she’d already had the same idea. Once I’d wrestled the dress out of my mother’s hands, I realised why it worked – the stripes all go in different directions. Ta-dah! Vertical on the top half, sideways across the belt, slightly off at an angle on the skirt. With lines going in all different directions and a mid-section that creates shape, without the discomfort of a belt, it’s a masterful feat of optical illusion. Sold, to the redhead.
Could that be the key to wearing stripes? Finding stripes in the right width, which go in a direction that feels comfortable? Like I said, I don’t need a horizontal stripe across my middle section any more than I need Nigel Farage to be prime minister. But vertical stripes on top – now that has got me thinking. Look, I realise the Warehouse dress I’m wearing has horizontal stripes across the boobs, BUT I feel OK in it, because the principle is effectively the same – the stripes on the skirt zigzag. Still, I prefer the M&S dress, as I’m not wholly comfortable wearing something so tight-fitting that’s also striped. Moan, moan, moan…
I would wear this stripy dress from Warehouse, though. I’d mix it up by chucking an oversized blazer over the top and wear it white trainers. Turns out, if you mismatch your stripes or break them up a little, they’re easier to wear. In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for a pale blue, knee-length, banker-style shirt. Let me know if you find one.