Are horizontal stripes flattering? It is an ongoing style debate. Some say yes, some say no, and some say the answer is very dependent on body type. I believe that everyone can wear the right kind of horizontal stripe. They come in all widths and colours and the tops themselves come in countless silhouettes. It’s a question of selecting the most flattering combination.

There are three main things to consider:

  1. Stripe width: I’ve found that a fairly narrow jailbird stripe, say a centimeter wide, is universally flattering. Super wide stripes tend to look like rugby jerseys and narrow stripes make you feel dizzy.
  2. Stripe contrast: Stripes in strong contrasting colours are a lot bolder than stripes in monochromatic shades. Contrast in general is a personal preference, but the bolder the stripe, the more careful you need to be.
  3. Stripe regularity: Some designs distort the effect of a horizontal stripe across the body and this is usually more flattering than a perfectly regular stripe.

Michael Kors Stripe Icon Circle TopFree People Commotion Stripe Cardigan

The Michael Kors top (above left) is a good example. The stripes are just over a centimeter apart and the icon circle distorts the flow of the stripe, creating some interest and giving the eye pause. But the pairing of black and white stripes is very bold. Too bold for some, and this top would have also looked great with a subtle grey and black stripe.

The stripes on the Free People cardigan on the right are much wider and I usually don’t find them as flattering. But the contrast between the stripes is less distinctive, AND the pattern has been broken up with the effect of front waterfall ruffle, AND you can wear the top open which accentuates your long lean line. These details make all the difference.

I guess at the end of the day, you either like stripes or you don’t. If you do, you’ll find ways to make them look flattering. If you don’t, you needn’t bother.