The right stripes: Inject some fun into your wardrobe with this summer’s biggest trend

This is how to do stripes the 2021 way, says Prudence Wade.

How to do stripes this season (House Of Holland/PA)
How to do stripes this season (House Of Holland/PA)

Trends come and go, but one thing is constant: stripes will always be in fashion.

As far as patterns go, it really is a great uniter – you’ll find it in both teenage and septuagenarian wardrobes.

They haven’t always been beloved, though: in the 1800s and early-1900s, American prisoners were decked out in thick black and white stripes (as seen on George Clooney in the 2000 period film O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and the look’s traditionally been used to mark the ‘outcasts’ of society, such as sex workers in medieval times.

However, our perception of stripes slowly started to change. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel played a big part in this – for her 1917 collection, she was heavily influenced by the striped shirts of French sailors, and bretons became a central part of the Chanel brand.

Stripes fitted in with the fresh modernism of the 1920s, and soon they were everywhere in fashion – particularly in beach and leisurewear.

Gabrielle Chanel wearing a breton top (Alamy/PA)

While stripes haven’t always been the dominating style – in the Seventies, they took a backseat as louder patterns came to the fore – they have been a constant presence. Some major fashion brands have made stripes central to their aesthetic: think of Sonia Rykiel’s colourful knitwear, or Jean Paul Gaultier’s nautical designs.

There’s something about the clean lines of stripes – you can tailor them to your personality by amping up the colours, or keep things simple and chic.

This summer, stripes are back with a vengeance. These are the best ways to wear them in 2021…

Nautical motifs

A breton top is classic for a reason: it’s chic, sophisticated, and suits everyone. It’s really no surprise designers like Dior and Chanel keep coming back to the breton on the runway.

This year, keep things simple with a classic navy and white striped breton top, jazzed with brightly coloured trousers or statement accessories. Who said you had to be on a boat to capture some of that nautical vibe?

(M&S/PA)

M&S Pure Cotton Striped Crew Neck Sweatshirt, £9.75 (was £19.50); Drawstring Wide Leg Trousers, £29.50

(Regatta/PA)

Regatta Josie Gibson Polina Printed Long Sleeved T-Shirt Navy Stripe, £11.95 (was £30)

Statement dresses

Naomie Harris modelling stripes at Cannes (Alamy/PA)

You might think stripes are only for relaxed outfits, but they’re remarkably versatile. There have been plenty of major striped moments on the red carpet in recent years – from Cara Delevingne’s candy creation at the 2019 Met Gala, to Naomie Harris’ dreamy pastel number at Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

Of course, we’re not saying you have to wear a formal gown to get in on the trend, but we’re all in for amping things up with statement summer dresses. Think big skirts, puffed sleeves, bright shades and unusual colour combinations – anything to take the humble stripe to the next level.

(Oliver Bonas/PA)

Oliver Bonas Embroidered Stripe & Ladder Stitch Yellow Mini Dress, £65; Cream Angled Cat Eye Sunglasses, £24

(House Of Holland/PA)

House Of Holland Stripe Dress in Yellow, £60 (was £112), ASOS

Sporty stripes

If you’re finding the transition from your WFH uniform to ‘real clothes’ tough, you’re in luck: athleisure is still big business, and definitely still acceptable to wear when you’re not at the gym. With the Olympics fast approaching, Team GB are getting in on the striped action: Ben Sherman has designed the chic and sporty outfits for the opening and closing ceremonies, complete with – you guessed it – plenty of subtle stripes.

For off-duty sportswear, take a leaf out of Sherman’s book and opt for low-key stripes – just the odd accents here and there. To really make your outfit fashion-forward, mix up athleisure with more tailored clothes: think leggings with shirts, or sporty tops with jeans.

(Hush/PA)

Hush Glitter Striped Leggings, £59; Glitter Stripe Sports Bra, £22 (was £39); Bray Leather Trainers, £129

(Very/PA)

Nike NSW Heritage Sweatshirt in Black, £45, Very

Cheeky accessories

If you can’t quite stretch to the idea of all over stripes – there’s always the risk of looking like a candy cane – you can still get in on the trend with funky accessories.

This is a chance to have a bit of fun, rather than taking things too seriously. At the moment, we’re loving brightly coloured bucket hats, large striped bags ready for the beach, and statement jewellery.

(Radley/PA)

Radley Chrisp Street Stripe Large Zip-Top Tote Bag, £199

(ASOS/PA)

ASOS DESIGN Crochet Bucket in Rainbow Stripe, £14

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