Chapter 1: Striped Pants
Musing on the oracle of our strange times: striped pants.
Welcome to the new age of striped pants. A modern shift in time, if you will. No longer relegated to preppy doldrums (unless of course, you want them to be), today’s striped pants speak volumes and convey a new mode of power dressing. I’m talking, of course, about vertical striped pants. Want to wear pants as loud as a big puffy dress or pannier? Then you simply must wear striped pants, especially of the vertical variety, and in black and white. Although shades of off-kilter colors and wanton thrilling rainbows are also just as enticing.
Right now, the runways are enjoying a workwear renaissance, with brands from Saint Laurent to Valentino musing on the ennui of officewear, then swiftly reinventing it. Which means the striped pant feels particularly apt for a comeback. I really enjoyed the visually graphic, blown up voluminous take on prints at Marni fall 2023, and imagine striped pants styled to that effect. Either extremely coordinating or, totally mismatched. Either way, oversize. When you start to mix the scale of hyper-graphic, yet simple prints (like stripes)? Well, that’s when things get really interesting.
There’s no doubt we’re experiencing weird times, and the boldness of black and white pants speaks to the idea of clowns, Beetlejuice, the jester as well as some kind of unhinged version of a corporate worker circa 1980s. It’s the pinstripe on steroids; the lounge pant that lost all control. Recently, I became infatuated with the idea of owning the perfect pair of black and white striped pants. But they had to be just right. Not too tight, nor too high-waisted, or too wide-legged. Not too Hot Topic, though that is a look. Pants are a tricky thing. The fit absolutely has to be right, and often times, especially if you’re shopping secondhand, you’ll need to make alterations.
I think part of what makes striped clothing so appealing is the outsider history surrounding it. Jesters, madmen and criminals have all worn it, though much of the time, not by choice. According to The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes & Striped Fabric by Michel Pastoureau, “When the first Carmelites arrived in France from the Holy Land, the religious order required its members to wear striped habits, prompting turmoil and denunciations in the West that lasted fifty years until the order was forced to accept a quiet, solid color. The medieval eye found any surface in which a background could not be distinguished from a foreground disturbing. Thus striped clothing was relegated to those on the margins or outside the social order -- jugglers and prostitutes, for example -- and in medieval paintings the devil himself is often depicted wearing stripes.”
It was only in the 18th century that stripes became more aligned with Western fashion standards. The 1920s saw the rise of striped bathing suits for women and pinstripe suits for men. In the 1950s, Beatniks co-opted the stripe from the establishment and European sailor uniforms, while the 1960s played its own role in reprising the black and white stripe as an op-art fantasy—my personal favorite example being designer Rudi Gernreich.
Early punks of the ‘70s and onwards, and their designer counterparts, like Vivienne Westwood, loved black and white stripes.
So, I came across the Tao striped cropped wide-leg pinafore trousers and decided they might be the perfect match for me. Initially, I was worried about the suspender straps—something I avoided all my life for fear of awkward fit, but once I tried them on, I was in love. Here I am wearing them in the dressing room with a structured top that was so chunky it didn’t fit into the pants! But I’m kind of into the amorphous blob of me that it created. I plan to style them with a silky, translucent colorful button-down, and an oversized collar. But I also think they’d look amazing with a pop of scarlet red. My ultimate idea, though, is to wear these with something cartoonishly clownish. Like big fat polka dots.
If you want to venture into striped pants territory, here are some other options to try at every price point:
I love the idea of something extremely high-waisted—especially with stripes. You can really play around with silhouette and scale. Try pairing these with a top with thick, sculptural sleeves.
Equal in power to the black and white striped pant is the rainbow striped pant. It’s somehow oddly cerebral, scratching that itch for color cravings. This is dopamine dressing, and you need little else to complete a look with a capital L. Try, a tee or, an oversized button-down with a different print (florals! dots! paisley!). Trust me, it really works.
The thicker the stripe the closer to god? There’s nothing I love more than an extremely exaggerated vertical stripe. It’s more surrealist op-art than corporate. These pants also go up to a size 16.
If you’re lucky enough to come across the rare kind of striped pant that utilizes odd and awkward colors combinations, I suggest you really lean into it. I’m oddly obsessed with this Gimaguas pair.
If you don’t buy these pants, I absolutely might have to myself. They're somehow extremely villain-esque, which I think gets to the heart of what makes the best striped pants.
Now. I’m not saying you should wear historically inspired striped Victorian Bloomers, but I’m not saying you should not not wear historically inspired striped Victorian Bloomers either. Just think about it. With a floaty top, or a harness, or peeking out from under a skirt. It could be very good.
I love a contrasting element, and these palazzo pants put that moment right at the hem for the most impact. With an elastic waistband and sizing up to 3X, they delicately caress the line between lounge and formal. I love.
And that’s it on stripes.
Until next time dolls,
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