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Patterns in Fashion: iii. Stripes

  • Bold stripes were, from Medieval times, used to draw negative attention to the wearer and were part of the dress of court jesters, prisoners, prostitutes and circus characters.

  • Stripes are also associated with the 'uniform' of the Proletariats of the French Revolution of the 1780s - 1790s and became associated with peasants, rebellion and France.

  • Traditionally, striped 'mariniere' tops were the uniform of Breton sailors and called 'matelots' became the uniform of the French Navy in 1858, so a sailor overboard could be easily spotted in the water.

  • Probably out of clothing necessity after World War II, the 'Beatnik' look of the 1950s developed. Artists' smocks, fishermen's clothing and utilitarian wear were worn by young people and became part of the look of the 'New Wave' of creativity in cinema and music.

  • Today, stripes are a classic pattern used by Breton-inspired brands, such as St. James and Petit Bateau. Thicker sailor stripes have also been used notably by French fashion designer John-Paul Gaultier.

Striped Dress - Stripes in Fashion

  • Stripes came into prominence in the 1920s in the sporting outfits worn by fashionable, well-off women with newly short hair, short hemlines and an active lifestyle, which included playing golf, tennis and driving motor cars. Coco Chanel incorporated them into her 'Garconne' look of the late 1920s that emphasised shorter, boxier shapes, comfort and ease of movement. The look was considered daring and chic.

  • The sporting look has evolved into present times with fabric technology. Brands such as Lacoste, Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger have incorporated stripes into their signature styles.

  • The thick, bold Mod stripes of the 1960s harked back to the rebellious characters of the past. Thickly striped dresses by Courreges were worn by chic 60s icons, such as Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot and Francoise Hardy.

  • The vertical striped suits and shirts of 1980s Wall Street were epitomised by the character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, in the film 'Wall Street' (1987). Initially the look of the financial 'anti-hero', the striped shirt's incorporation into the mainstream represented being part of a City-led economic boom, with its associations of success, power and prestige.


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