7 Ways To Wear Stripes Without Looking Like A Referee

I love wearing stripes in every direction. Here's how you can, too.

Early last year, Lesley wrote what I consider to be the Platonic ideal of a Do This Don't: Be A Fatty In Horizontal Stripes. Need it be said that I totally agree with her? I'm so not a fan of rules when it comes to fashion, even though I totally love the idea of personal style.

My own personal style is somewhat constrained by what is available and accessible in my size. When something is trendy and I love it, I tend to stockpile that thing against the long, dark days of nothing in plus sizes being remotely appealing. This is why I have enough fishnets to last me for at least a couple of years.

And that's also why I own enough striped items for me to dress in stripes every day for a couple of weeks without repeating an outfit. I know this because I recently did it. I love themed dressing.

If you've been fence-sitting about stripes because you just aren't sure how to incorporate them into your wardrobe, now is your time! It's spring! (Or, you know, already summer here in the MCO.) It's a great time to try something new. Don't think of any of what I'm about to say as rules though. They're more like pool floaties you kind of hang on to until you're comfortable on your own, maybe even in the deep end.

You can tell I'm seriously jonsing for a day at the pool, can't you? Now if only I had a striped bathing suit. (It's polka dotted instead.)

1. Go Classic.

This is pretty much the only time I will offer that kind of advice. Phoebe isn't alone in her love for Breton tops, and they're a classic for a reason -- they're easy to wear, simple, yet forever stylish. I just threw up a little in my mouth because I never envisioned a time in my life when I'd type that about something entirely without irony. This is why I'd make a terrible fashion blogger.

I'm not really a classic or preppy sort as a general rule, so the keyhole front on this simple striped shirt appealed. The red and tan color combo keep it bright for summer. And I layered it because adding a solid to a stripe can make your whole outfit look more deliberate.

The law that was laid down when I worked fatty retail was that three pieces make an outfit, and that remains a habit for me even though I've long rejected things like fat people not being allowed to wear yellow.

Once I put on the boots (Ariat Fat Babies, which are so super comfortable for walking), the color was the focus of the outfit, not the stripes.

2. Layer It.

There are definitely days where looking like some Technicolor extra from "Little House On The Prairie" is my goal. But I do understand that not everyone (or every work environment) is up for that kind of costumery. Even so, that doesn't mean you can't buy entire dresses covered in stripes and trimmed in ruffles. The skirt I'm wearing with that black top is actually a sundress (you're going to see a lot of Domino Dollhouse because Tracy Broxterman hella has a way with stripes) that I've layered. It was cold that day. For Florida.

This is an especially useful trick for anyone who feels like prints make them look like they're wearing a table cloth. I mean, that feeling happens.

I wore my blue boots (the Fluevog Hopeful Rosy) because there is nothing like a bright paired with black and white. (Again with the fashion writing, Marianne?)

Also, this is Ed's impression of me posing for outfit photos. What you can't hear: the Bubbles voice he uses when he's repeating something I've said.

3. Treat It Like A Neutral.

It works for leopard print and it also works for stripes. Build an outfit and then, instead of a neutral, grab something with stripes. Or coordinate stripes together the same way you would shades of cream or brown or whatever.

This skirt (again from Domino Dollhouse) gets paired with this top (from Avenue, ages ago -- which is another reason I'd be a terrible fashion blogger; I wear a lot of old clothes, sorry) not just because the graphic is a nice contrast but because the back of the shirt is covered in stripes that are only slightly larger than the ones on the skirt. While I wouldn't necessarily pair a giant stripe with a tiny stripe, these two work together because they're similar in tone.

I'm infinitely amused by my whole backview being striped but it might be too much if I were just in head-to-toe stripes. The shortness of the skirt helps with that, too. I like to dress with a sense of humor, which is also why teal shoes and yellow socks seemed like a good plan. (Those are the Fluevog Prepares Guide, by the way.)

4. Opt For Chevrons.

Since dyeing my hair blue several years ago, the color has crept into my clothing. Which is why I am revisiting navy as a color option previously cast off as being just not my thing. I'm also not a huge fan of maxi skirts (this one is from Lane Bryant), so this outfit is a major experimental departure for me.

What saves it are the chevrons. They keep the skirt from evoking that table-cloth feeling I mentioned earlier. Once again, the stripes are not the main focus. This time it's the shape. The peplum top (from eShakti) kind of inverts the V of the chevrons and creates a strong silhouette.

You could very easily take something like this nautical by adding red sandals and maybe a red neckerchief or something. I'm pretty invested in avoiding nautical looks unless I'm actually on a boat, so I finished it off with my pink and navy heels (the Fluevog Mini Bunny) to add a little height. (I tend to step on the hem of this skirt otherwise.)

5. Mix Your Patterns.

Now is when we jump into the deep end of the stripes pool. Because it's possible to go fairly conservative when working stripes into your wardrobe but, well. I don't want to do that all of the time!

Remember, leopard print is a neutral. So are polka dots. So are these teal Fluevogs (the Earl of Warwick Lancaster) actually. I could still wear this to the office (have done, actually), but it is, as Ed has taken to saying about some of my outfits, "a lot of look."

The only trick I know to pulling off pattern mixing, especially when one piece is a "statement" piece, is to make everything bold. You've got to commit to your pattern mixing. Don't get all matchy-matchy halfway through getting dressed. If you're keeping to a color scheme (black and white), keep with it to a ridic degree. If you're mixing colors, just go for it and don't wear anything the same color.

It's possible you'll end up looking like a kindergarten kid picked out your outfit. But kindergarten kids are awesome so I'm not seeing how that's a bad thing.

6. Embrace Your Inner Pirate.

We went to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival (yes, that acronym is BARF) this past weekend and I was reminded just how much pirates love them some stripey pants. Or at least how much fake pirates love them, which is even better than the real thing because scurvy was pretty awful.

You don't want scurvy.

But a little piratical flair is possible for everyone, via a bolder, wider black and white vertical stripe. Also, pirates don't care fuck all about rules, so leggings totally count as pants. Trousers. Whatever. These are (surprise, surprise) Domino Dollhouse and they are an hygienic barrier between my ass and whatever I sit on so that's good enough for me. Also, pirates like to be comfortable. (Comfort = my black glitter Dr. Martens, too.)

Pirate hats with feathers are optional for this look. But why not go for it just once?

7. Let Your Inner Adam Ant Fan Out.

This is also known as the Go Big Or Go Home option. It's easy to be afraid of people laughing at you, but as a very fat femme lady, I'm pretty used to that at this point in my life. Basically, once your desire to wear feather epaulets outweighs your fear of being laughed at, you can wear pretty much anything you want without concern.

Would I wear this to the office? Maybe on a Casual Friday. (I've worn all of this separately before.) But there are more places than work! We have the entire rest of our lives to live and I don't always want to be thinking about the strictures of business casual when I go to put on clothes (or my fanciest Dr. Martens, which these are). That's why I thoroughly endorse this model of wearing stripes even if you yourself would never actually dress like Adam Ant.

Consider it a mindset -- a willingness to pair two things from your closet you've never matched up before, a willingness to be visible to everyone around you. It's easy to do with bold stripes because stripes can be so eye catching, but if stripes just aren't your bag, you could branch out into colors you've been afraid of or florals. Or whatever.

Clothing can be such an awesome adventure. Let's have some damn fun with it.

Marianne posts ootd photos to Twitter whenever she remembers to: @TheRotund.