Wardrobe essentials: the Breton stripe

17/04/2015

Story of breton top / How to style breton top / Camilla Rowe in Good vibrations / Vogue US June 2014 (photography: Angela Pennetta, styling: Tabitha Simmons) via fashioned by love brtish fashion blog
I wonder what would the fishermen say if a fortune teller told them about women of the future worshiping the humble undershirt as the ultimate style statement... They'd probably chuckle, no, they'd roll with laughter. Of course, we could then tease them back reminding of the reasons those stripes were stitched to a jumper in the first place - oh, yes, the ribbons were added by hand! - the strong and mighty wolves of the sea superstitiously believed that a striped top protected them from bad fortunes and creatures of all sorts - we are talking mermaids and monsters here. Oh, that would be one of a kind fun party (unless the men ended up throwing women over board - you know, the signs, the myths, a woman on a ship, the spirits)...

Breton top / How to style breton top / Story of breton stripes / Vogue US January 1980 (photography: Alex Chatelain) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Breton top / How to style breton top / Story of breton stripes / Vogue US March 1983 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
But lets leaves it for the "wolves" and instead talk about the history of the Breton stipe for such a conversation never occurred on the blog before. Besides, it is going to be part one of my Wardrobe Essentials series - something I've been thinking of and finally got around to putting together.

Breton top / How to style breton top / Story of breton stripes / Elle France February 1988 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
breton top / how to style breton top / Christy Turlington in Vogue US April 1988 (photography: Patrick Demarchelier) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Once upon a time a striped top was a Breton fisherman's must have. Worn as underwear it provided warmth and protection from the elements, was hardwearing and easy to slip on. Besides the practicality, the tops were considered a lucky charm - a typical mariniere had 12 stripes to mimic the ribcage and cheat death.

Breton top / How to style breton top / Story of breton stripes / Elle France November 1989 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Elle US April 1989 (photography: Marc Hispard, styling: Sophie David) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
As the time went by and people ventured out into the sea searching for new lands and undiscovered worlds, more and more fishermen joined the ship crews thus turning the top into a uniform. At first, the Bretons were the only one spotting the stripes, but in 1532 the jumper was adopted by the Dutch, who, unlike other European countries, didn't see it as "a sign of evil".

Breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Linda Evangelista in Elle US August 1989 (photography: Gilles Bensimon) / via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Glamour December 2014 via fashioned by love britsih fashion blog
By mid-XVII century the Breton was worn by all French sailors. The top now had 21 stripes. Some say it was to mark the 21 victories of Napoleon, others believe that the men simply adopted the number 21 from their favourite card game, Vingt-et-un or Black Jack.

Breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Elle France February 1991 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Breton top / story of breton top / how to style breton top / Nicky Taylor in Elle US March 1991 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
The production was now set in Saint-James, a town in Normandy where the cotton yarns for the fisherman sweater were produced by the Lagallais family at their plant, Les Filatures de Saint-James.

Breton top / story of breton top / how to style breton top / Christy Turlington & Naomi Campbell in Vogue US February 1992 (photography: Arthur Elgort) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Amber Valletta in Elle France November 1992 (photography: Tiziano Magni) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Curiously, the top was hardly ever referred to as "breton". Instead, everyone called it "chandail", an anglicised version of the French "marchand d'ail" or the garlic merchant because the tradesmen wore the striped sweaters on their travels to be easily recognisable from a distance.

Breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Elle France September 1993 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Helena Christensen in Elle France January 1994 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
The Russians also loved the striped top and used to buy it from the travelling merchants until 1874 when Alexander II signed a new law making the breton a part of the official navy uniform. The Russian version weighing 336g was made of 50% wool and 50% cotton, with black and white stripes spaced at 1.1cm. It has always been a mark of strength and pride and reserved for mens' wardrobe.

breton top / story of breton stripes / how to style breton top / Elle France March 1995 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
breton top / story of breton top / how to style breton top / Linda Evangelista in Vogue US May 1997 (photography: Mario Testino) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
In England it was Queen Victoria who got credit for introducing the breton top to the masses. In 1846 she dressed her son in what was described as "sailor's dress" to "delight" the officers and crew members. 
breton top / story of breton stripes / how to style breton top /  Caroline Trentini in Vogue US December 2009 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
breton top / how to style breton top / story of breton stripes / Vogue Korea June 2013 via fashioned by love british fashion blog
In 1912 the breton underwent its final transformation. Now it was made of cotton with the stripes placed at 1.5cm intervals from one another. The number of stripes varied. For example, in Russia the total depended on the size of the top - the bigger the marinier, the more stripes you'd get.

Toni Garrn in The Edit July 2014 (photography: David Bellemere) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
breton top / how to style breton stripe / story of the breton stripe / Edita Vilkeviciute in Vogue Paris May 2013 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Geraldine Saglio) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Chanel spotted the breton in 1913 and began selling the jersey-knitted sweater in 1917. So typically of her, Mademoiselle turned this undergarment into a fashion icon. She thought it would look good on women of Deauville and worn hers with a pair of sailor's style trousers and pearls. In a matter of months the breton moved to Paris and appeared on pages fashion catalogues.

Gisele Bundchen in Vogue US June 2006 (photography: Patrick Demarchelier) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Anja Rubik in Vogue Paris June/July 2009 (photography: Terry Richardson) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
As time went by the little breton took its proud place in the wardrobes of the most stylish women of the planet, loved by Jean Seberg, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin and Audrey Hepburn. The stripes were also an endless source of inspiration for the fashion designers, especially Jean Paul Gaultier and Sonia Rykiel who featured them in practically every collection.

Abby Brothers in Glamour Germany July 2014 (photography: Paul Maffi) via fashioned by love british fashion blog
Elle Sweden February 2015 (photography: Ania Poulsen, styling: Jenny Fredriksson)
Nowadays, it impossible to imagine our lives without a sweater or two (or a dozen, in my case for I am an addict). It's chic. It's simple. It's about youthfulness. It goes with everything. And yes, it does give an impression that you do know something about fashion and style... Plus, correct me if I am wrong, it somehow feels like summer... 

Shop: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

Photo source: Camilla Rowe in Good vibrations / Vogue US June 2014 (photography: Angela Pennetta, styling: Tabitha Simmons), Vogue US January 1980 (photography: Alex Chatelain), Vogue US March 1983, Elle France February 1988, Christy Turlington in Vogue US April 1988 (photography: Patrick Demarchelier), Elle France November 1989, Elle US April 1989 (photography: Marc Hispard, styling: Sophie David), Linda Evangelista in Elle US August 1989 (photography: Gilles Bensimon), Glamour December 2014, Elle France February 1991, Nicky Taylor in Elle US March 1991, Christy Turlington & Naomi Campbell in Vogue US February 1992 (photography: Arthur Elgort), Amber Valletta in Elle France November 1992 (photography: Tiziano Magni), Elle France September 1993, Helena Christensen in Elle France January 1994, Elle France March 1995, Linda Evangelista in Vogue US May 1997 (photography: Mario Testino), Caroline Trentini in Vogue US December 2009, Vogue Korea June 2013, Toni Garrn in The Edit July 2014 (photography: David Bellemere), Edita Vilkeviciute in Vogue Paris May 2013 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Geraldine Saglio), Gisele Bundchen in Vogue US June 2006 (photography: Patrick Demarchelier), Anja Rubik in Vogue Paris June/July 2009 (photography: Terry Richardson), Abby Brothers in Glamour Germany July 2014 (photography: Paul Maffi), Elle Sweden February 2015 (photography: Ania Poulsen, styling: Jenny Fredriksson)

29 comments:

  1. Interesting story of the stripes! I love this trend and this season they are very popular! Great selection!
    xx
    cvetybaby.com

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  2. I dindt know its history, I was just thinking I need one too as I only one but in turtleneck shape and Id like a sweater to match with a pair of blue joggers :) These all would be perfect!:) Kisses Natalia, happy weekend! xo

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    1. Hope you'll find the one soon, Lilli. And I have a feeling it will go with a lot more just a pair of joggers, so you'll enjoy it lots. x

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  3. Ой,Наташенька!
    До чего же я снова увлеклась чтением Вашего поста.....
    Согласна,без полоски в нашем гардеробе-никуда!:) Вечный мотив,возможен в неограниченном количестве комбинаций....
    Второе фото из Voque янв.1980-одно из самых любимых здесь:)))
    Спасибо за экскурс в историю моды в полоске!:)
    Желаю Вм очень приятных выходных:)))

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  4. Who knew it has such a long history! I'd be interested to read this series, thank you so much, Natasha! Pictures are great! xx

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    1. Natash, spasibo! I da, budet prodolzhenie, cherez paru nedel', tak chto zahodite v gosti. :)

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  5. It will never go out of style! Everyone should have this staple in their closet. Love the different ways it's styled.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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    Replies
    1. Oh, absolutely! That's why I decided to start with it. More to come, though. :)

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  6. this post is so so good! I got lost in these amazing images... I think because I love fashion photography best when it takes a timeless staple and portrays it in an effortless yet captivating way. That is exactly what these images are. The striped shirt is one of my absolute faves.
    Happy Weekend!
    XO,Gina
    www.classyeverafterblog.com

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    1. That was the idea. :) Glad I managed to create the right vibe - I really do adore those photos, too. And the Breton. :)

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  7. forever my favorite. i knew a brief history of it, so i appreciate a more detailed one, with great pics to boot!

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    1. I think the more we know, the more interesting this little jumper gets. And yes, the imagery just makes you smile, doesn't it?! x

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  8. This was interesting and fun to read! Kudos

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  9. You have no idea how much I love my nautical stripes! Seriously, this is my dream post!

    xo

    Michaela

    http://michaelajeanblog.com

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/MichaelaJeanArt

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  10. I am so loving some of those old ads. And I remember 2 of them lol. Just an amazing look back and an amazing post as well. Just followed you on social media as well :).

    Kay of Pure & Complex
    www.purecomplex.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for following and welcome on board! Really appreciate it. And yes, I adore the photos, too - took me a while to find the older ones, but it was so worth it. x

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  11. Great history on this "humble shirt"!
    Love it in all of interactions, and the photos here are just fabulous.
    What a staple it has become for fashionistas and everyone else!
    xx, Elle
    http://mydailycostume.com

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  12. Может быть женщина на корабле - плохая примета, зато на суше прекрасная половина человечества выглядит в тельняшках в разы симпатичнее:) И сколько замечательных образом можно создать с участием этой самой тельняшки.
    Наташа, снимки неимоверно вдохновляют, умеешь ты подобрать удачные кадры. Восхитительно!

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  13. i love this style but oddly i dont think i own anything black & white stripes! :X oh wait yes i have a maxi dress lol. it's such a classic style!

    TIFFANYXOXO.COM

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    1. It really is, though my pick is always the blue and white (or white and blue?) version. Hope the shopping list will help you to find your very first breton. :)

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  14. I love each and every photo featured in this post! I adore wearing stripes and I can't think of a time when they haven't suited someone!

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice

    x

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  15. So interesting! It's definitely a closet staple :)

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  16. I certainly need more breton stripes in my life! Coincidentally, I'm wearing my first breton top of the year in an outfit post tomorrow. :)

    Tara x

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  17. How fascinating! I have more than a few Breton striped tops in my wardrobe and I will now feel compelled to count the stripes on all of them to see if it's truly 21 ;)
    xox,
    Cee

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