02/17/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
It is an article of fashion faith known to chic women ever since the invention of the mirror: Horizontal stripes are unflattering. But now that celebs including Winona Ryder, Mariah Carey
and Melanie Griffith are sporting the look, wide east-west bands of color have gone from faux pas to high style. "I used to think you had to be a stringbean to wear them," says fan Nicholle Tom (The Nanny), "but they're not overpowering." Adds Shari Belafonte, who appeared in a yellow-and-brown-banded Escada gown at Beverly Hills' Carousel of Hope bash: "I thought I would either be the belle of the ball or look like a bumblebee. But my friends thought I looked fabulous."
With monochromatic attire in vogue for the past few seasons, Hollywood fashion stylist Danny Flynn says horizontal stripes have become the way to be bold. "They pop out," says Flynn, whose clients include Demi Moore
, Sheryl Crow
and Halle Berry
. "They're for confident women who want to stand out in a crowd." But Giorgio Armani, a leading proponent of the look, warns that stripes still aren't for everyone: "It is a great look for women who are beautiful, thin and classy." Even Tom urges wearers to proceed with caution. "A million stripes on your hips," she says, "make your butt look really big."