Last time you saw a ton of stripes, you were 13 and watching Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, cowering in the corner wondering why your cruel parents ever let you go to sleep. Or you were jamming while Lady Gaga got arrested in the Telephone video, counting the precious seconds until Beyonce showed up to melt your face. • Brace yourself, because your eyes are going to cross with stripes all spring. Stripes were one of the biggest trend takeaways in spring runway collections from Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Paul & Joe, Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino and a ton of others. They were black, they were white, they were orange, pink and green. They were horizontal and vertical, short, long and chevron. They were on pant suits and frilly dresses alike, lending a distinct 1990s supermodel sneer and chic Rikers Island flair to otherwise staid looks. Stripes! They're a blast! • That said, stripes are tricky. Even space aliens know it's better to stay in the house than draw a horizontal line across your widest part. And stripes can quickly overwhelm a frame or confuse the eyes if there's not some visual focus at play. We have some handy tips to make sure you look more "lion tamer" and less "big top" when you venture into stripes this spring.
Get on scale
No, not that scale. Throw that one against the wall. Now that that's out of the way, take respectful note of the size and shape of your body. If you're nice and tall with great shoulders, you can probably carry off a thicker, more dominant stripe pattern in bold black and white. The most leggy among you might like some striped tuxedo trousers (left). If you're a petite flower, opt for a skinnier stripe (at right) in a softer color palette. Pants, $17 at JCPenney, shirt, $72, pixiemarket.com.
Sharp curves ahead
Be aware of your the lines of your body against the lines of the stripe. It's like... imagine draping a string of spaghetti on a nice cantaloupe. You get it. If the garment is made properly, it should have ample concessions for, as they say in middle school health class, "your changing body." Look for purposeful seaming and stripes that change direction where needed to avoid droopy pasta. Dress, $99.95, Coldwater Creek.
Cinch it good
It's hard to advise anyone to wear horizontal stripes, you know, ever, but we are not such curmudgeons that we won't participate in the trend. We can be smart about it. The magic lies in definition. Bring a belt into the party at the smallest part of your waist. And look for pieces that address the problem, with midsections that form a flattering X-shape. Dress, $32, AB Studio from Kohl's.
Blazers: Not just for the airport
Did anyone see the movie Ted? If you watch the DVD outtakes, there are a bunch of snipped jokes about how grown men wear blazers to the airport. HILARIOUS. And you know who else should wear blazers? People in stripes. The blazer will naturally create a vertical line against the horizontal lines, taking big chunks of side with it. We love a blazer, and we love Ted. The airport is okay, too. Blazer, $29.80 at Forever 21.
If by now you're just like, "GET AWAY FROM ME WITH THIS SORCERY," you know what we're going to suggest. The best way to dabble in a trend without falling in deep is to try it on your feet. Fun striped flats are guaranteed to flatter any tootsies. Just don't get arrested, and you will always control your own stripe. Shoes, $45, by Sugar at Amazon.com.