I used to live in the spotty camp, once in the dim and distant past. For a brief period, at around 20, I even earned the nickname ‘Polka Dot Ellie’. However, this was mainly due to only one garment – an old dress of my mum’s, strapless and full-skirted with a boned corset, in that 80s-by-way-of-the-50s style, black with white polka dots. I loved that dress so much I wore it near-constantly, with big dyed-red hair, green eye-shadow, a jaunty red neckerchief and these green ballet shoes that I carried on wearing long after they fell apart and still actively miss. That dress made me feel like Bettie Page, and I never wanted to take it off so I didn’t.
I still own that dress and wear it occasionally, but not often. It has gradually been overtaken, within my wardrobe, by the onward march of the stripe.
It’s only recently occurred to me that my allegiance has changed entirely, and I can now probably be found wearing a stripe of some kind, at least two or three days a week. A boat-necked Breton, a Betty Blue-type dress, an American Apparel body-suit underneath pretty much everything else. As I type, I am wearing a stripe in purple and white, a short-hemmed long-sleeved jersey dress with navy ballet shoes and big sunglasses (not as I type but still Integral to the Look).
In the same way that a bright lipstick (Revlon’s ‘Cherries in the Snow’, thanks for asking) always makes me feel ready for action/writing/work (and has now pretty much surpassed my afore-mentioned love of the Dramatic Eye), a stripe of any kind makes me feel a bit more confident and capable. Maybe a stripe is a little more, dare I say it, grown up?
A very crude generalisation is as follows:
Polka dots: Cath Kidston, The Pipettes (remember them?), girlish, adorable.
Stripes: Coco Chanel, Kurt Cobain, cool, excellent in one’s field.
Maybe, maybe not. But today I am wearing stripes, I am confident and professional and clever, so I say YES. But please feel free to argue in favour of the polka dot if you so desire. Or, even better, that the two are not, in fact, mutually exclusive.