Browse the ladies section of any department store or boutique this summer, and you’ll see the season’s biggest trend on about every third blouse, dress or skirt you pull from the racks.Stripes are part of the nautical-inspired styles that have swept ashore for summer.But do you have “stripe anxiety”? Are you reluctant to sport stripes because you fear they are not figure flattering?Think again. Once a fashion no-no, stripes — even horizontal ones — don’t have to be scary. There is, in fact, a stripe for everyone.Today’s designers have created savvy, figure-flattering, fashion-forward stripes that look great on every body type. You just need to know what stripe is best for you and be willing to venture into a dressing room to try them on.First, understand that stripes are a girl’s best friend — no matter your size. They’re also a timeless classic fashion. Coco Chanel’s success using stripes with her Breton sailor’s uniform stunned the fashion world decades ago. Yet her looks remain fresh and fashionable. For easy, breezy summer style, team your French striped top with shorts, a skirt or capri pants to capture the look and feel of the classic Chanel style. Think about stripes as a neutral design element and use them in your wardrobe just like any other fashion staple. Mix them with solids, dots, floral — even leopard patterns. Try mixing wide and thin stripes, chevron stripes, neon, pastel and even stripes with floral patterns. Yes, the classic black and white stripe will never go out of style, but if you choose a stripe with a pop of color, the look reads as trendy yet effortless style.Sill not convinced? Want more secrets to wearing figure-flattering stripes this summer? Here’s the No. 1 tip: Choose the stripe to fit your body type. Here are some rules:First and foremost, lines create height or width. A stripe, after all, is a line, which can be slimming. To create height and a trimmer look, choose a vertical line. To look wider, choose a horizontal line.Sounds easy enough, and it is, however, you have to try on the various striped patterns to see how a particular stripe looks on you. Play with the shape and thickness of the lines. Classic, thinner stripes can camouflage, while wider stripes can appear trendy but camouflage figure problems, too. Use this formula, but don’t be afraid to try a combination of stripes that you might normally avoid.Another tip: If the bottom half of your body is smaller than your top half, use a horizontal stripe on the bottom to diminish your larger top. If the bottom half of your body is larger than your top half, look for vertical stripes to add some height and to give you a longer, leaner look. Another option is to add a horizontal stripe on your top as the pattern and keep the bottom half a solid color. Has your waist grown up and out? No problem. Look for stripes with rouching, those tiny gathers that hide imperfections so well. The placement of the ruching along with the vertical stripes gives an illusion of more curves and whittle a waistline back into shape. Finally, add accessories to complement your stripes. Think statement necklaces, sunglasses and fashionable summer totes. Be sure to go a little larger than normal with your tote or handbag to complement a busy striped pattern. You do not want the stripe width or pattern to overpower your bag.In other words, when wearing the nautical trend, remember not to go overboard.
Susan Huston is an Arlington-based fashion writer and stylist and owner of Susan Huston Fashion Concepts, (www.susanhuston.com).