Do These Stripes Make Me Look Fat?

Science says "yes."
Publish date:
June 22, 2012
fat, clothing, science, i'm wearing them anyway, stripes

Taste the Rainbow.

Last year, my friend Meredith and I were leaving dinner, wearing our workout clothes as usual, when we decided we wanted to send a photograph to our friend in New York who is mortified we go places in public other than the gym wearing our Lulu Lemon. I asked our friend Mark to take the picture and when he handed me my phone back, I took one look at it and shuddered.

“I look fat,” I whimpered.

“Well,” Mark shrugged without an ounce of sympathy or denial. “I feel like you knew that would happen. You are wearing horizontal stripes after all.”

Oh! Silly me...

“Horizontal stripes make you look fat” was something I’d heard all of my life, but regularly ignored. Even at my chunkiest, I didn’t think twice about buying a red and blue nautical bikini from J.Crew with big horizontal stripes across the butt. And when stripes made their ferocious fashion comeback a few years ago, it never occurred to me that the shirts I was buying at a terrifying rate were anything but flattering. After all, everyone was wearing them; the entire world wouldn’t subscribe to a fashion trend that made us look fat. Would we?

Turns out: we would! At least according to BBC’s Amateur Scientist of the Year. Unconvinced by a study that came out in 2008 that said horizontal stripes make the wearer look taller and thinner due to a visual effect called the Helmholtz illusion, Val Watham, 53, took it upon herself to get down to the serious business of stripes. Whereas the 2008 study was based on 2D line drawings, Watham took to the streets with actual people dressed in actual stripes.

Her (not-so) shocking discovery? Vertical stripes make people appear taller and thinner and, you guessed it: horizontal stripes make people appear wider.


Obviously I read this and went immediately into my closet, yanked all of my striped shirts, sweaters and dresses from their hangers, and deposited them straight into a bag labeled Goodwill. Maybe I don’t need to lose 15 pounds, I realized. Maybe I just need to stop wearing stripes!

As if, people. I LOVE stripes!!!!!!! My usage of seven exclamation points proves it! As does this picture:

All of my striped t-shirts. OR: This is really embarrassing.

Sure, horizontal stripes might not be the most flattering thing a girl can wear, but neither are sequins and as you’ll see in my striped fashion show (below), I happily purchased a T-shirt that combined the two. Stripes AND Sequins? Swoon!

Plus, stripes are fun. And there are a thousand different kinds (nautical, preppy, graphic, Parisian, sporty, whimsical, to name a few), so you can totally justify buying lots and lots of them. (Note: Maybe not as many as appear in the above photograph, however.) Ultimately, wearing stripes makes me smile. Even if they do make me look fatter than I already am. And I'm pretty sure that's all that really matters.

So what about you? Do you wear horizontal stripes even though science says they make you look wider than you are? (Please say yes. I’ll be sad thinking of you in head-to-toe black, which incidentally, “science” says makes us look the thinnest of all. NO SHIT, SCIENCE. No shit...)

Nautical Stripes! Or: This is the tightest t-shirt I own. And if anyone ever tries to say those boobs belong to me, I'll flat out deny it.

Preppy Stripes! Complete with Top Siders, of course.

I can't decide if these are Prison Stripes or Parisian Stripes. I think the red ballet flats make them slightly French, non?

Sexy See-Through Stripes! Also, you know what's sexy, Daisy? SMILING.

Shiny Sequin Stripes! THE BEST STRIPES OF ALL!!!!!!!!!!!