Like the architects who created the Baptistery in Florence, designers have always understood the dramatic possibilities of black and white stripes – like Roberto Cappucci, who designed the dresses, above. This season, they have gone for graphic lines in a big way. Stripes can be flattering, as well as dramatic, which is why they are so often chosen by mothers-of-the-bride as a way to upstage the darling daughter on that special day. (Reader, don’t criticise – what is fashion, if not for these subterfuges that bring such quiet pleasure?).
Of course, there are dangers. If embraced too enthusiastically, this style can bring you perilously close to looking like a zebra crossing. Or if your figure is too curvaceous, those lines can distort like Highland road markings created by hands that have had too many wee drams. And this is the problem with a strongly delineated graphic fashion statement. All too often, it looks like felt-tip fantasising. And yet, every time I look at a portrait by Sargent of an Edwardian beauty in a crisp boating outfit, I feel this is a look that should work. And so it does, on the people for whom it was originally created: the matelots and mariners whose dress uniform still looks superbly right. And the same is true for women. If the figure is there, this is a hard look to beat for elegance, glamour and drama.
(First published November 2002)

Picture Source; Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Warner Bros.