Can I Wear Stripes?

Can I wear stripes?

This blog was sparked by people’s reaction to hearing me say ‘horizontal emphasis’. Their usual response: ‘I can’t really imagine what that looks like, apart from horizontal stripes.’

The lowdown on stripes

In fact, horizontal emphasis can be done by volume, horizontal stitching, seams, necklines, buttons, epaulets, pockets, you name it. Pretty much anything that stretches from left to right makes a horizontal. And indeed stripes too.

And that got me thinking about stripes. Not all stripes were created equally, after all. Because let’s see what happens on the other end of the direction spectrum:

The people that I told they wear vertical lines better, immediately react with: ‘Oh, so no horizontal stripes then.’

Well… yes and no.

No to the wide, blunt stripes like these:

These are large and wide blocky stripes, so they are definitely horizontal. They’re also large scale.

But what happens when you make the stripes narrower?

The scale goes down, which we would expect from having smaller areas. Let’s keep going.

Smaller still, the scale is now definitely small compared to our first set of stripes. These stripes are sharper too, which is a natural effect of narrowness (Don’t let anybody tell you that sharpness is a yang trait. It’s not. Sharpness is merely a result of narrowness, which can happen in both yin and yang.)

But try this. Let your eye rest casually on the stripes. Feel how it’s pulled down, following the stripes vertically? If you were to try the same exercise with the first set of stripes, your eye would probably be drawn left to right (or right to left, but reading latin script probably has your eyes used to going from left to right out of sheer habit).

And besides, the small scale person that’s narrow wouldn’t wear a large block of anything, no matter the print, so let’s make it narrow too:

Now our eyes are drawn up and down seamlessly. To keep our comparisons valid (‘all else be equal’), let’s have the big stripes also in a narrower area:

On this block, my eye hops down a couple of stripes, but it’s not flowing down the way it did with the narrow strips. This pattern, even in a narrow area, still leaves a more horizontal expression.  

The cool part is that this trick only works for horizontal stripes. You can’t make vertical stripes narrower and expect them to become more horizontal. Vertical stripes are always vertical. That’s because human beings tend to be a lot taller than they are wide. Therefore, many articles of clothing are also bound to be longer than they are wide (there are some exceptions, I know), and so vertical stripes get a lot of length. No matter how many you’d fit next to each other, they would still be vertical. 

Yin or yang?

And there is another cool effect than you can do with stripes. Up to now, we’ve only considered stripes where the white and coloured bands had the same width

This is a striped pattern where the white and coloured bands are of unequal width. I spaced the coloured bands further apart (that makes the stripes larger scale, incidentally). I did a messy job too but never mind that. Now we have a rhythm that goes narrow-wide-narrow-wide etc. Does that remind you of something? Curves! Those also go narrow-wide-narrow, only in a different language.

And that makes this kind of stripe is a yin stripe. And the previous type, where the proportions were equal 50:50, that’s a yang stripe.

In a yin stripe, would it matter if you make the light or dark band the prominent one? Let’s just try it out. Yin is generally small-scale anyway, so let’s make the stripes a bit smaller while we’re at it.

What’s the difference between these? 

The left one is slightly denser, heavier, since the dark band is the dominant one and the total dark surface is bigger. The result is a subtle effect on scale, where the lighter pattern is more small scale and the darker pattern larger scale. 

The difference is small though, and your Season is a more powerful determinant for your light-to-dark range. In practice, this effect is so subtle it falls below the radar on everyone except the extreme largest and smallest scale people.

So to answer the question, can I wear stripes? Yes, absolutely you can! You only need to adjust them for your scale and yin/yang balance.

And now I have a headache 😛

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