Audrey Hepburn in a Breton tee shirt
Here's a crazy idea that came to me last night. So there I was sipping the wine we brought back from France and looking through my photographs of our Normandy trip. Why did I take so many photos of Breton shirts? I think it is because I have always loved them. Memories of our family holidays as a child in France maybe. Then I got thinking, why don't women wear striped wedding dresses? Why are they mostly solid in colour? Spots and flowers seems to be acceptable, but stripes? I then decided to have a hunt around and see what I could find.
CoCo Chanel in a Breton tee shirt
The Breton shirt was officially created by the 27th March 1858 Act which introduced this blue and white striped knitted shirt in the uniform list of the French seaman. It was said that this stripe allowed to locate more easily a man fallen into the sea. In 1923 Coco Chanel saw the crisp appeal of the Breton shirt and was then later to be an inspiration for her collection, plus she often wore the Breton shirt herself. Stripes came into her designs over the years that followed as did the simplicity of the black/blue with white as a design.
Coco Chanel in one of her striped design jackets
Over the years many women have been photographed in the breton shirt: Marilyn Monroe, Bridget Bardot, Jean Seberg and Audrey Hepburn, to name but a few. The love of this simple design is still very much in vogue, after all these years.
Selfridges & Co
Ye Old Fashion
Ministry of Fashion
Before you start thinking the Breton shirt is just for the ladies, think again..
It is astonishing that the Breton shirt that originated in 1858, and worn consistently during that time, is still so popular today as a fashion item for both men and women. Do you own a Breton shirt? Or, I should say, "Do you own a Breton shirt that you wear?"
John Paul Gaultier