Along The Lines
Stripes are an attractive and elegant design and style element. Straight and simple, stripes can be used in a variety of ways. Brinda Gill profiles this timeless design.
Profiling the timeless design of stripes
From the flags of countries to badges of honour, garments, zebra crossings, barcodes, candy, toothpaste and more, stripes pervade all aspects of our lives. On garments, stripes are typically designed with a play of lines of different colours or colour tones, widths, spacing and angles, and cut a striking look. Their inherent style that ranges from classic and chic to casual and sporty makes them a design element that can be and has featured on garments of all age groups; garments of men, women and children; formal and informal wear; apparel for different times of the day and seasons depending on the fabric, colours and garment itself. Stripes are popularly seen on t-shirts; men’s shirts, suiting and ties; women’s dresses; socks and on many official sports jerseys.
SIMPLE AND STRAIGHT
Stripes are defined as a long, narrow band or strip differing in colour or texture and/or width from the surface on either side of it. These bands may be placed vertically, horizontally or at different angles to create different patterns and visual effects, and are created using different techniques such as weaving, painting, embroidery and printing. Among the spectrum of stripes is the classic nautical scheme of navy blue and white and the pinstripe, whose fabric has very thin stripes created by a single warp yarn that is used for men’s suits for work wear and formal occasions.
Stripes are believed to be the earliest woven pattern, perhaps created innocuously when the weaver’s yarn finished and he/she took up another lot which had a different colour tone or colour thus setting off the design! According to Michel Pastoureau, French social historian and author of The Devil's Cloth, a book about the history and evolution of stripes, in medieval times stripes were worn by domestic help, or those outside the social order like convicts. However, in course of time stripes shed this connotation and took on different meanings evocative of positivity, expression and style.
THE BRETON SHIRT
The striped shirt called Breton that we see today in stores and on the ramp traces its beginnings to Brittany, on the north-west coast of France, where it came to be manufactured in deference to the March 27th, 1858 Act of France which mentioned the striped blue and white shirt as the seaman’s uniform. The number and measurements of the stripes were also given: the shirt was to have 21 white stripes each twice as wide as the 20 or 21 navy blue stripes.
In this way, the men’s striped wool-knit jersey with a slightly indented round neck came to be manufactured, and seeing its comfort, it became popular with other workers in Brittany and sailors. And in an interesting development this traditional French seaman’s working shirt became a fashionable garment and a women’s fashion garment and thus a unisex garment! The credit for giving the Breton shirt a fashion tag is credited to Coco Chanel who, inspired by the navy blue and white stripes uniform of sailors she saw on a trip to the French Riviera, featured them in her 1917 nautical collection, designing women’s striped tops, worn with trousers, and the rest as they say is history! Striped t-shirts and tops came to be worn by the fashion-conscious while holidaying at seaside spots, by actors and icons, and soon there were variations in the rendition of the stripes–of the lines, of using colours other than navy blue in the combination, and leaving large white sections–that conveyed the possibilities of this seemingly simple formula.
Hundreds–if not thousands–of combinations can be created with stripes. From the striking black and white to a cool combination of white and pale yellow, a combination of navy blue and red that tends of have an optical quality and an eye-popping medley of fuchsia colours…the combinations possible using stripes is seemingly unending. A garment can have two colour tones or several colours; stripes of the same width or different widths juxtaposed and their look enhanced by using different colours, colour combinations and different colour blocks of the ground fabric; a set of stripes of different colours and widths that are repeated through the fabric; stripes that are quiet in their colour and width to stripes that are bold such as broad black stripes off-set by white or gold. Further, a designer can angle the play of lines of the stripe either by placing a pocket at a different angle or the sleeves or even one section of the garment or radiating from a particular sport or line.
Stripes are very popular in men’s shirting fabrics and with the colour palette of men’s shirting material having expanded to span colours from white to black, yellow and pink, the range of striped shirts has also increased along with the fabrics they are made with, from linen to cotton and silk. A touch of design is added at times by keeping the collar or cuffs of a plain fabric such as white or a colour from the shirt. A striped shirt is apt for work and formal occasions; typically thinner stripes and fewer colour combinations are more formal than broader and more colourful bands. Designers say that striped shirts are timeless and depending on the style can be worn for different occasions. If worn formally as part of an ensemble with stripes, they suggest that the stripes on a shirt be slightly different to those on the tie or suit being worn.
HOW TO WEAR STRIPES
The choice of striped garments–from their colours, width of stripes, colour combination, choice of garments (such as t-shirt, shirt, skirt, sari, jacket, suit, scarf) and its style–create the look such as casual, chic, smart casual, formal. One can wear a striped t-shirt with a denim jacket, jacket, shirt or reverse the look and wear the plain t-shirt with a striped shirt!
The look can be kept simple by keeping to a simple colour palette and styling of stripes such as going with a blue and white combination of a striped t-shirt, denim jacket and denim jeans; a white inner t-shirt with a white and black striped shirt and black jeans; a fitting long black and white horizontal stripes top with black leggings; a white top with slim black stripes with white trousers for a seaside holiday, or a classy black with fine white vertical stripes trousers and jacket with plain black fitting inner top. On the other hand, a splash of colour and contrast can up the style quotient; it could be as simple as opting for opposite colour combinations such as a white t-shirt with navy stripes or a large navy shirt with white stripes.
STRIPES IN INDIAN TEXTILES AND GARMENTS
Stripes have long featured in Indian textiles and garments such as saris, skirts, kurtas and turbans. Skilled weavers create a fantastic range of textiles with stripes by using different coloured yarns, or yarns of different thickness or metallic yarn. Sometimes they weave small motifs set very close to each other in long bands thus creating beautiful patterned stripes. While stripes are woven, printed, painted and embroidered as well as striped fabric is created by stitching long strips of cloth, the Indian textile technique that creates eye-catching stripes is leheriya. Contemporary designers also design saris with a play of stripes to allow the beauty of the weave and colours to be highlighted with a simple and effective design.
While fashionistas opt for the most stylish stripes, those who wish to look slimmer opt for vertical stripes that create a slimming effect and make the wearer appear taller; horizontal stripes appear to do the reverse. The more creative can experiment with putting together an outfit with stripes, mixing and matching stripes and if they wish, other patterns. Whatever may be one’s choice of stripes, brands and designers say one thing you needn’t worry about is looking passé, as stripes never go out of fashion!