Filed under: The Fashion Statement
Several years ago, designer Andrae Gonzalo (of Project Runway fame) sent me a terrific little book on the history of stripes called The Devil's Cloth. I fished out the book recently and inside the jacket found Gonzalo's personal note: "From one zebra to another. Now you're really ready for spring 2002!" Back then, I was reporting for Women's Wear Daily and I had been talking to Gonzalo-at that time a buyer for the American Rag boutique in Los Angeles-about the chicest look of the season: stripes.
Cut to fall 2009. Little has changed. From Christian Dior Haute Couture in Paris to New York It boy Prabal Gurung, designers continue to send stripes down the runway. Whether zebra or nautical, it seems there's always demand for the clean and crisp, yin-yang pattern. A classic.
So it might shock you, as it did me, to learn that striped cloth was once a controversial religious garment not unlike the burqa today. According to the book, a few striped-clad monks called the Carmelites moved from Palestine to Paris where they were ridiculed and jeered. They were accused of greed, hypocrisy and treachery and even seen as the henchmen for the devil and the Antichrist. All because of their stripes.
The scandal got so out of hand, a Pope stepped in to ban all monks from wearing striped habits. Here's the kicker: Some 19th Century scholars believe Western Europeans had such a fit because the cloaks–probably resembling something like striped djellabas–had Asian or Middle Eastern origins.
Gallery: The Fashion Statement: Stripes