How to Wear Horizontal Stripes Without Looking Wide


Should you wear horizontal stripes?


Many people talk about horizontal stripes as the work of the devil.  It’s true they can be widening, but some can also be lengthening.  It’s all in the detail, the scale and your shape and scale and how you wear them.

horizontal stripes


The wider the horizontal, the more your eye will slow down and focus on it. Why? Because we’re looking for the horizon – it gives us balance. How often when you see a picture that is crooked do you feel compelled to straighten it up? That’s the effect of horizontal lines on our own perception of balance and what is straight.

The narrower the stripe, the harder it is for our eye to focus on one line, so narrow horizontals actually start working like verticals, moving the eye up and down, rather than side to side.

The longer the garment, the more easy it is to wear stripes, as the garment is a more vertical garment, than a short horizontal one, further made to look broader by the horizontal stripes.

What is your scale?  If you’re petite, medium or larger stripes will dwarf you.  Look for only narrow stripes.  If you’re medium scale, you can choose a more medium stripe as I have in my skirt.  Very tall, but naturally slim?  Then you can work with the larger scale stripes.  Larger scale but curvy?  Go for a medium stripe rather than a large one.


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  • Very helpful indeed. I have always been happy to wear stripes in tops but never braved picking up a skirt or dress. I’ll keep a look out next time I shop to try on now. Thanks Imogen.

  • Do you think the same principle applies for a solid colour pencil skirt but that is made of panels sewn together so it looks a little like stripes?

    Haircut looks good by the way!

  • Very informative and logical as always, thank you! I have one striped top and guess I intuitively have followed your guidelines since the stripes are medium wide and I’m a medium scaled person. Being an X, I also think the stripes on the top balance out my lower half. You look great at the picture, btw!

  • Great, informative post. This may sound like a silly question, but are all the colours in a striped outfit seen as stripes? I have a white shirt with very narrow horizontal orange stripes which are widely spaced. This post caused me to wonder whether the white area would be considered to be wide stripes.

    I bought it in a sale because the fabric feels so beautiful but I have never felt completely confident wearing it out, just because horizontal stripes seemed to be taboo for a person of small wide-ish stature. So I only wear it on casual days when few people are likely to see me.

    • Yes each colour is a stripe – but even if the orange stripe is narrow, the white stripe is wide – if both were narrow and closely spaced, then it would be a narrow striped shirt.

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