Archives for posts with tag: stripes


Mark Rothko

Back to the topic of colour combinations, this time its red and blue, an all-time fashion favorite. Why? The hot red is perfectly balanced out by the cold blue. Its bold, clean and sharp to look at. This combination really needs bright, natural sun light to set it off, therefore usually seen in spring and summer outfits.

And it seems they understood this very well in the Renaissance:

Palma Vecchio, La bella,

Palma il Vecchio, La bella, 1518-20c,Thyssen-Bornemisza Coll, Madrid, Spain

A slight variant of red and deep purple from later in the 1500s:


Trachten buch, Habitus praecipuorum, Neapolitan lady, 1577

Despite the invention of artificial dyes in 1853 (when just about any daring colour combination became possible) red and blue remained a constant of the 1800s and the 1900s:

Englishwoman's domestic magazine,sept 1869

Englishwoman’s domestic magazine, fashion plate, September 1869

Philippe Poittier, L'Officiel, 1963, C.Dior

L’Officiel, photo: P. Poittier, outfit: C.Dior, 1963

Men’s fashion is not immune to this colour combination either, although as we can see in the examples below, there is also an element of sports uniform (especially in the stripe motif)

hs162-redbl.jpgred and blue sock Cordings uk

Cordings, Uk, striped sock, 2014

Nike Air jordan retro

Nike, Air Jordan retro

And finally a non-western take on this colour combination: shades of red/fuchsia and blues as used by Tibetan monks still today

tibet,monaco in preghiera

Just shows that clothing and colour can be a spiritual experience, some combinations can have a deep emotional impact on wearer and onlooker.



Chardin, sealing a letter,1733,Schloss Charlot. Berlin

Chardin, sealing the letter, 1733, Schloss Charlottenburg,  Berlin Germany

In this post I want to concentrate on the attention seeking aspect of stripe fashion. As we have seen there have been “stripe moments” in the history of dress for centuries, but what seems to be the common denominator is the desire (during these particular fashion moments) to attract  attention, through clothing, to one’s person. The optical power of stripes – they relentlessly engage the eye – comes to represent the “power” of the wearer in society. Although it must be said that stripes were not just for the rich and famous, they were adopted as attention seekers at all levels of western society in the past just as they are today. The ability to get people to talk about you, even if it is just about your clothing, should never be underestimated.

robe retroussée dans les poches,1780c,KCI

Robe retroussé dans les poches ,France, 1780c, Kyoto Costume Institute, Japan

By the 1700s we really see the art of Look at Me stripes being worked into the boldest female wardrobes

gior nuove mode fr e ingh 1787

Il giornale delle nuove mode francesi ed Inglesi, 1787, Italy, Coll. Bertarelli, Castello Sforzesco, Milan IT

Moda all'inglese, Mag.des modes nouvelles 1789

Magasine des modes nouvelles, 1789, Paris

The craze for stripes can be seen in the last issues of french fashion magazines before the revolution of 1789. Both women and men wore striped clothing and/or accessories.

Rose Adelaide Ducreux, autoritratto, 1790c,met NY

Rose Adelaide Ducreux, self-portrait, 1790, Mertopolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

The fad returns bold and bright in the second half of the 1800s:

A.Renoir, Il palco, 1874, Court. gal lon

A. Renoir, At the theatre, 1874, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

Great beauties, ladies or courtesans alike, wore stripes. But also old ladies who still felt like making a fashion statement despite their advanced age and faded beauty

foto Primoli,Contessa Primoli Bonaparte,CRAA

Countess Primoli Bonaparte, C.R.A.A., Milan, Italy

Bartolomeo Veneto,Luc Borgia come Beata Beatrice d'Este,Snite mus Indiana

 Bartolomeo Veneto, possibly Lucrezia Borgia (wife of Alfonso I d’Este), 1500c, Snite museum, Indiana, USA

There are many reasons for wearing stripes. As I mentioned in my last post, during the middle ages in european culture striped clothing was associated with the devil  (via the Arab / infidel-culture link).

So when do stripes really become a fashion trend?

The Renaissance is the answer. It’s enough to look through a gallery of portraits to realize that by the middle of the 16th Century stripes were really “in”. By this time stripes had lost their negative connotations (Humanist culture of the 15th Century had brought about some fundamental changes to the way man related to God and religious culture in general). Conspicuous consumption was the fashion and investing in attention-seeking clothes was a necessity for anyone who had money and/or status (the two didn’t always go together but one could lead to the other).

What better way to grab attention than through bold, striking, striped clothing? Both men and women adopt what in other eras have been termed as “loud” stripes – thick, straight and chromatically strong. In the first decades of the 1500s we find this growing trend throughout Europe. Interestingly, at first, stripes tended to be created by stitching strips of contrasting colour onto a base textile. Eventually we find woven striped fabric being used instead.

Dosso Dossi, Alfonso I d'Este Duke of Ferrara

Dosso Dossi, Alfonso I d’Este Duke of Ferrara, 1530c, ?

Germans were doing it as we can see in the portrait and the surviving garment bellow:

L.Cranach elder,man,1532,met NY

Lucas Cranach the elder, gentleman, 1532, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

gown of Elector Moritz of Saxony 1521-1553,part of complete set,abegg-stiftung mus ch

Silk over gown (back view), part of set belonging to Elector Moritz of Saxony, 1530s, Abegg-Stiftung museum, Switzerland

The French:

j.clouet,Francois I 1525-30

Jean Clouet, King François I of France, 1525-30c, Louvre museum, Paris, France

The English:

Hans Holbein, Henry Brandon,1541,Royal col Windsor

Hans Holbein, Henry Brandon, 1541, Royal collection, Windsor Castle, UK

By the last quarter of the 16th Century, bold applied stripes had been replaced by equally attractive and equally expensive, striped silk

Opnamedatum 2004-23-09

F. Pourbous the elder, gentleman of the Order of Calatrava, 1581, Rijks museum Amsterdam, Holland

De materia medica, ill man, Jésireh, Iraq, 1229, bib topkapi sarayi Muzesi, istambul

Illuminated manuscript, Iraq, De materia medica, 1229, Topkapi Sarayi Muzesi Library, Istanbul, Turkey

The history of the striped fashion “trend” is a long and complex one. A cultural journey of cloth and ideologies from Middle East to West, from Muslim traditions to the realms of fashion bibles today. 

Much has been said and written about striped textiles. One of the most enjoyable books on the subject is The Devil’s Cloth   by Michel Pastoureau. First published in 1991 (republished since) and translated into several languages. The author explores various aspects of striped clothing from a sociological and semantic perspective.

Striped textiles became part of European fashion via the arabic conquest of Spain in the 8th Century.  In the Middle East (and throughout  muslim-conquered lands) striped clothing was fashionable for centuries and still is where traditional dress is still worn. Its origins going back to the dawn of the art of weaving. In the 13th Century image above we see a young arabic gentleman (medical student or young doctor) wearing a long-sleeved striped tunic. In the 10th Century image bellow we see a rider from arab-dominated Spain, also wearing striped textiles both for his clothing and accessories. This illuminated manuscript was actually painted by a woman but that’s another story…

mozarabic ill man,Beatus,cavaliere,975 spain,Gerona

Mozarabic art, Beatus, ill. manuscript, soldier on horseback, 975 AD, Gerona Cathedral, Spain

As always history gets exciting when we have some material artefact as testimonial evidence:

3 piece set grave colthes, child Infanta Maria daughter King Ferdinand III of Castilla y leon,d.1235,Panteon Real s.Isidoro,Leon

Grave of Infanta Maria of Castilla y Leon, sleeveless tunic, 1235, Pantheon Real, San Isidoro, Leon, Spain

The garment above is part of a three-piece set found on the remains of the Infanta Maria, daughter of Ferdinand III of Castilla y Leon. She died in 1235 and considering her status she would have been dressed in new clothes for her burial. This item of dress may seem like nothing, even macabre, until we contextualize it by saying that this kind of fabric/fashion simply was not around elsewhere in Europe at this point in time.

More evidence – this time in the form of decorated panels from another royal grave – from less than a century later

anon,tomba Don Sancho Saiz de Carillo,uomini,1300c,mus NAC Barcelona

anon,tomba Don Sancho Saiz de Carillo,donne,1300c,mus NAC Barcelona

Two panels, male and female lamenters, tomb of Sancho Saiz de Carillo, 1300c, N.A.C. museum, Barcelona, Spain

In the middle ages fashions traveled surprisingly fast across Europe. This one though came up against great resistance. Its  association with muslim culture/religion was dangerous, a threat to  Christian European tradition. So stripes became associated with the devil or the reppresentations of – but for that story you can go to Pastoureau’s book…