Recent interest in chiral smectic A liquid crystals is driven in part by their potential for development as fast, analog electro-optic devices. Chiral smectic A liquid crystals exhibit electroclinic behavior, characterized by continuously variable, electrically controllable molecular tilt. Consequently, these materials are suitable for applications where gray-scale capabilities are required. Moreover, new electroclinic liquid crystals have been synthesized which exhibit large tilt angles which may permit fabrication of devices with very good contrast ratios. However, when viewed between crossed polarizers, electroclinic liquid crystals have often been found to exhibit a stripe texture due to a field-dependent deformation of the bookshelf geometry. The degree of deformation appears to increase with the tilt angle and the stripes become more pronounced. X-ray measurements support the picture of a triangular wave deformation of the layers. These observations indicate that the observed stripe deformations may significantly limit the performance, particularly the achievable contrast ratio, that devices made from these materials might attain. In this paper, the optical and electro-optical properties of electroclinic liquid crystals are investigated to gain insight into the structure of stripe domains and to relate these findings to the potential performance of electroclinic liquid crystal devices.