Like many women, I am somewhat obsessed by the Breton top. It’s an absolute classic – a garment that’s synonymous with Audrey Hepburn and French style in general is always going to be stylish.
However, like many classic items, you see them styled the same way over and over… We all want a little inspiration when it comes to styling the staples in our wardrobes, don’t we?
As I’m working with Seasalt this year – a brand that excels in striped sailor tops – I thought I’d show you a few alternative ways to style your Breton stripes: Not a trench coat in sight, in other words (that would be too easy, and too easy just isn’t my style as you probably know)!
When I started writing this post I did wonder who exactly designed it and what the Brittany connection was. There are some pretty interesting facts I didn’t know about the history of the Breton top. For example, did you know…
- The top is called a Breton shirt because many sailors were from Brittany – a marinière (sailor) top was worn by quartermasters and seamen in the French Navy. It was originally made of tightly knit wool to protect them from the elements.
- In 1858, the combed cotton jersey and sweaters officially became part of the French naval uniform, with strict specifications about the number of stripes and their size (it’s said they represented the number of Napoleon’s victories).
- It was said that stripes made it easier to see sailors who had fallen into the sea.
- Coco Chanel used to holiday by the sea and was inspired by the uniforms of local sailors. The marinières that she became so well known for soon became luxury items after she introduced them exactly 100 years ago in 1917.
- The marinière has famously been worn by Pablo Picasso, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Brigitte Bardot and Jean Seberg – it is a wardrobe staple of many French women (and men!) and closely associated with French style.
- Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel are all fashion houses that have featured the Breton shirt heavily in their collections. Gaultier himself is known for wearing a marinière and his aftershave Le Male is shaped as a male torso in Breton stripes.
Why Seasalt is the go-to for sailor tops
Seasalt’s been making Breton striped tops for years – it was actually the first garment they ever made, so they know what they’re doing. Their sailor tops, shirts and t-shirts are made with 100% organic cotton, are incredibly soft and made to last (you can tell they’re amazing quality at a glance).
They also have a wide selection of colours and sleeve choices (short, three-quarter and long) – not only that but they have a 2 for £40 offer on their sailor stripes. There’s no end date on the offer yet, so you can indulge in two at a time to your heart’s content (especially good when there’s so much choice).
The offer also includes some plain tops and leggings so you don’t have to go overboard (see what I did there!) with the stripes if you feel you need to reign in your Breton habit a little… Though is there such a thing as too many Breton tops? I don’t think so…!
THREE OUTFITS FOR THREE OCCASIONS: OFFICE WORKWEAR, CASUAL WEEKEND WEAR AND A DATE NIGHT OUTFIT. IT GOES TO SHOW THAT A BRETON TOP REALLY IS THE MOST VERSATILE PIECE YOU CAN HAVE IN YOUR WARDROBE.
As part of my Seasalt ambassadorship I was set the challenge to style three sailor tops three creative ways. As much as I love the classic Breton top/skinny jeans/ballet flats/trench coat look, it wouldn’t be showing you anything you haven’t already seen a thousand times before – so I tried to style mine a little differently.
It also made sense to style three outfits for three occasions: Office workwear, casual weekend wear and a date night outfit. I love all three looks equally – it goes to show that a Breton top really IS the most versatile piece you can have in your wardrobe. My outfits may still be a little on the preppy side, but (in the same way I tend to describe my style) these are definitely what I’d call “preppy with a twist” looks.
Hopefully they’ll give you some stripey inspiration… Enjoy!
1. A creative office/workwear outfit
Ah, the most classic of classic tops: The long sleeve, navy Breton top. Navy is, of course, perfect for the office and this outfit is great if you work in a slightly more creative environment. I layered the top over another Seasalt piece: the Pepé print Larissa Shirt. This shirt is one of those shirts that you can wash and twist to keep the crinkle (though I chose to iron it for this outfit as it’s workwear)… the pattern mixing works so well here.
Adding smart culottes and a punch of colour with red heels, bag and lips (very matchy matchy I know, but I think it works because the shoes have bands of different colours) makes it the perfect office look that’s far from being just a boring navy and white outfit.
Top: Seasalt c/o
Shirt: Seasalt (on sale!) c/o
Trousers: Marks & Spencer
Shoes: Lotus c/o
Bag: Old, unknown
2. A casual weekend wear/walking the dog outfit
Apart from the fact that dungarees are the best thing since sliced bread for weekend dressing, can we just address how adorable Riley looks in his yellow dog neckerchief? Seasalt are big fans of dogs (they’re welcome in all Seasalt shops) and I love the fact that they sell gifts for pets and feature the co-founder’s cockapoo Pepé on their website a lot – he appears on the print of my shirt in the first outfit if you look closely!
As I mentioned earlier Seasalt sells Breton tops with different sleeve lengths, and this t-shirt with short sleeves and a green stripe is quite unusual… you don’t often see green Breton stripes but that’s what I love about their range: choice. Dungarees, a Breton t-shirt and Adidas for comfort is really all you need for easy weekend wear – I think this outfit makes a (much more comfortable) change from skinny jeans.
T-shirt: Seasalt c/o
Dungarees: La Redoute (similar)
Sneakers: Adidas Stan Smiths
Riley’s bandana: Seasalt c/o
3. A date night outfit
Breton tops don’t have to be for daytime or casual wear only. I thought I’d try dressing up my blue/orange/ecru sailor top (love the three-quarter sleeves) by creating a date night outfit round its bold colourway. It was a no-brainer to wear it with my full graphic print midi skirt that I actually got last year but haven’t yet worn – I now have the perfect “going out out” outfit!
The colours of the stripes couldn’t have been more perfect with the colours of the skirt, and as it was quite an almighty pattern mix I kept all the rest of my accessories black (even I know when to hold back a little).
My favourite part of the whole outfit is the addition of the Peter Pan collar-style necklace (which I’ve had for years) to the top – it takes it from being a casual daytime top to suitable for an evening out in one fell swoop. Second only to the red lipstick, of course. Adding a statement necklace to a Breton top is a great tip to make your stripes look far dressier than just a jersey t-shirt.
Top: Seasalt c/o
Skirt: LK Bennett SS16 (love this one)
Necklace: Marks & Spencer (this is almost identical)
Heels: Madeleine c/o (similar)
Bag: House of Fraser (love this one)
Sunglasses: Lulus (similar)
So that’s my three looks for styling your Breton stripes in ways that I hope have inspired you to switch things up a little as well as getting the most out of your wardrobe. Sometimes we have to experiment a little to find ways to wear classics in different ways – it would get boring to wear them exactly the same way every time, wouldn’t it? Don’t be afraid to try new ways to wear your stripes as well as new places to wear them.
First stop date night, next stop… wedding dress? I’m sure Gaultier has already been there and done that…!
Onto the #iwillwearwhatilike link up: Do add your outfits below – and if you’ve added a link to here or my button to your post you may be featured next week!
HOW MANY AH BRETON TOPS DO YOU OWN, AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WAY TO STYLE THEM? COMMENT BELOW…!
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Thank you for joining the #iwillwearwhatilike link up! This started as a campaign on Instagram in August 2015 where women over 30 wore everything on a journalist’s list of “inappropriate” items for 30+ women (including leopard print, short dresses and oversized sunglasses. Yes, really). It was so popular that I decided to carry it on weekly where women of all ages link up their fabulous style, never mind what anyone tells them not to wear!
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Disclosure: The post was sponsored by Seasalt (click here for my full disclosure). This post may contain some affiliate links which means if you click through and buy I may receive a small commission. All content is original, however, and opinions are my own and 100% honest.