Is that Stripe Slimming or Widening? Discover the Rules of Stripes


Deja Pseu of Une femme d’un certain age recently asked if horizontal lines could ever be worn by a fuller figure. So what do you think? Horizontal lines – good or bad?

Most of us just steer clear of horizontal stripes as they’re fattening – which they are in general, but there are ways you can wear them.

It’s worth thinking about whether they’re acting as Fences or Ladders.

  • Fences draw our eye side to side (and make you appear wider).
  • Ladders draw our eye up and down (and make you appear taller and leaner).

Horiztonal line rules - fences and ladders - the width of stripesIs That Stripe a Fence or Ladder?

Horizontal lines can act as both fences and ladders.

Wide horizontals act as fences and are generally unflattering, unless you need to create extra curve or breadth.

Narrow horizontals act as ladders and draw the eye up to the face and can be slimming and lengthening. This is because the narrower lines are difficult to focus on so we don’t follow the line horizontally, but instead start looking for more in a vertical manner.

Narrow horizontals are particularly flattering when worn underneath and open jacket or cardigan where the horizontal lines appear even narrower and become very slimming as they become a narrow ladder drawing your eye vertically.

Is that line acting as a fence or ladder?

Horizontal lines can be used to enlarge a smaller bust, but will go wonky over a fuller bust and not be particularly flattering.

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  • Thank you!!! I’ve been eyeing a t-shirt at Talbots with narrow stripes, and now I’ll give it a try, especially worn with a solid cardigan.

  • Great post. I am still passing. I like stripes on others. I am barring them on me, even if they are a ladder to a better look.;-)

  • Deja – yes that Talbots one (or the jcrew one you had pictured) would probably work well – especially under a cardigan or jacket.

    Sal – thanks!

    La Belette – I have to admit I don’t do them – but then I’m busty and don’t need the wonkiness of lines across that area.

  • Loved your explanation. I like narrow stripes a lot better than, say, 3/4 inch wide vertical stripes that seem very rounding to me, as they all distort. I do well, though, with a sweater like the first one you pictured, but the two colors are the exact same deep shade of terra cotta and burgundy. So, wide stripes but no real contrast.

  • Vildy- you are right that a low colour contrast will be much more flattering on a wide stripe than a high colour contrast.

  • Here’s a definite No I’ve just found out, unless you’ve got a thin, lanky neck: watch the fit of thin striped turtle necks on the rollover portion.
    If they slouch they make random lines but if they fit too closely, you get widening rings across your neck!

  • Very informative to someone like me, who is a bit reluctant to wear stripes.;)
    Find your place through the recommendations of sallymandy.;))What a lovely blog.;)

  • Absolutely agree! Thank you for the article. I am size 16 and have a few items with stripes, very slimming. I got them accordingly the article in the blog, actually) They also offer some eazy tricks I never think before.

  • Imogen:

    I am a great fan of your website and have been following it for some time now. Thank you for all your insights.

    Reading the post on horizontal stripes reminded me of a challenging time in my life when I could have used a little sartorial advice. When I was only 40 I lost a breast to cancer. Not surprisingly, I was extremely self conscious about my irregularities, from the time I was stuffing a sock in my bra, to post reconstruction when I am still lumpy and lopsided (but glad to be here!). Those initial months I learned a few tricks to disguise my asymmetry without hiding in oversized sacks. I thought I would like to share:

    1. Obviously, avoid stripes like the plague. In fact, avoid all geometric patterns. All-over, asymmetric patterns are much better.

    2. If you prefer solid colours, cowl necklines and ruching are good disguisers. Looser, button up shirts are also easier to wear.

    2. Loose layers hide a multitude of sins, even over a close fitting top like a T-shirt or turtleneck.

    3. Scarves and shawls are great to drape over the chest, and to fill in a scarred neckline. But don’t overdo if you’re also wearing a scarf on your head.

    4. Keep attention high with interesting earrings and shorter necklaces. Don’t wear long necklaces that dangle over the bustline.

    5. Wear (the right) colour. It’ll make you look healthier and feel happier, to help you through the dark days ahead.

    Unfortunately, where I have been unable to find much of a solution is in eveningwear. I seems almost impossible to look “sexy” in our society without showing a lot of decolletage. Anything I could find to hide my scars and my prosthesis-supporting bra only made me look matronly. Highlighting your back (if you can) or legs might be an alternative if you can find the right outfit. Imogen, any suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated.


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