With Memorial Day weekend in our rear view and the official kickoff to summer style underway, bold stripes have made their annual return to our closets. Here, we talk the past and present of three of the season’s most iconic renditions.

What are you really wearing? Stripes.

What are you really wearing? Stripes.

Nautical Stripes
This alternating pattern of blue and white began in the 19th century as the standard issue uniform for the French Navy. Their goal? To help the crew spot sailors who fell overboard. Today, it’s hard to retreat to any summer locale without spotting this timeless navy-inspired design.

Rugby Stripes
Comprised of thick, horizontal stripes in bold, alternating colors, contemporary rugby stripes are inspired by (you guessed it) the sport’s traditional polo-style jerseys. The stripes went mainstream in the 1950s, as Americans borrowed this sporty look from friends across the pond.

Chevron Stripes
This eye-catching zigzag stripe ranks high among patterns with military roots. By definition, it’s an inverted V-shape used on military badges to indicate rank or denote length of service. Today, it’s ever-present in the world of fashion (thanks, Missoni). Find it splashed everywhere, from sundresses to pillows.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

Want the lowdown on fabrics and more? Follow our What Are You (Really) Wearing? column every Tuesday.

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May 28, 2013

Stripes and Polka Dots

Stripes and polka dots. Without a doubt, they’re two of the most well-known patterns around. But their backstories? Those might not be so familiar.

Today, stripes are considered a wardrobe staple, but the pattern has not always had such a great reputation. In his book, The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes, Michel Pastoureau shares that a small group of monks known as the Carmelites wore the pattern to Paris at a time when striped clothes were thought to be a sign of evil. Let’s just say – the pattern was not happily met.

With time, though, stripes came to be considered exotic (perhaps due to ever-fashionable zebra stripes) and made their way into the fashion lexicon.

Polka dots, though, are a different story. Using dots as a pattern really took off during the French Revolution, when newly invented machines made it easier to create repeating designs. These dots became all the rage alongside polka music in Europe in the mid-1800s, and the trend came stateside in the 1950s.

The pattern is still closely associated with the cheerful charm that era was known for. Today, they just scream happy.

Two different patterns with two distinct backstories. Now that you know them, explore our Polka Dots & Stripes: Play with Spring’s Patterns Boutique, which opens Wednesday, April 3, at 11AM ET.

By Anna Kuchinsky, Staff Writer

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April 3, 2013