The Fashion Statement: Stripes, Polka Dots and Plaids
These prints have very little in common with the classics. This year, designers painted stripes with a bold brush, used variously-sized polka dots head-to-toe, and paired plaids with floral blouses.
The key is to break every rule your mother taught you: Mix and match patterns. Select stripes in contrasting colors, pair the polka dots with stripes and spice up florals with any geometric design. Just make sure the contrasting patterns have a consistent theme, use the same color palette, or same motif.
Prada and Jil Sander presented some of the best collections of the season. Sander sent out a floor-length gown contrasting vertical black-and-sheer stripes on the bodice with the skirt's pink-and-white horizontal stripes. Prada took a white blouse with a navy monkey print and paired it with a black-and-fuchsia striped skirt. That same skirt served as the foundation for a blue-white-black-green striped top.
Moschino topped a black-and-white gingham corset/blouse with a black-and-white wide belt and then finished it off with a red-and-white broadly striped full skirt. Dolce & Gabbana paired a green and fuchsia swing-y tank top with a pair of oversized, wide-legged red-and-white plaid cropped pants.
Patterns evoke emotion because they make noise. Stripes in particular have a dark history. In a book called The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric, by Michel Pastoureau (Columbia), Carmelite monks wore striped cloaks in 12th Century France causing a scandal. Some scholars believed the Carmelite cloak was a sort of djellaba you see today in Islamic countries. Hailing from Mount Carmel in Palestine, the Carmelites were nevertheless Christian monks and wearing this clothing was tantamount to heresy. Stripes would go on to clothe jailbirds.
Plaids, or highland tartans, flourished in Scotland marking clans and their regions, a means of identifying friend from foe. Polka dots have a more playful history, originating in Britain in the 19th Century. However, scandal wasn't far behind. "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" told the story of a shy girl in a very revealing bikini who stays immersed in the ocean water to hide from view.
Since the dawn of time, prints have communicated a gaudy, risky message. This season, however, that message is spot on.