Stripes Ahoy! Examining the History of a 150 Year Old Trend
The year was 1846 and Queen Victoria, on a whim, dressed her four-year-old son, Albert Edward in a sailor suit to board the Royal Yacht.
The whimsical look was also popularized by an 1847 painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Little did they know, this sea-to-land look would be the basis for a cyclical trend that would span more than 150 years and counting.
The public became entranced and adored any child dressed in the nautical look, and eventually swimmers adopted the style, donning smart, navy and white striped bathing suits, in the standard neck-to-knee fashion.
Striking details like brass buttons to bell-bottoms, and navy and white were soon to become a mainstay in popular fashion culture.
Parents gushed at the classic style and similar designs were emerging on children all over.
Mens fashion soon picked up on the trend and in the 1930′s stripes became the inspirations of plenty of designers.
The French stripes were combined with a modernized style to create a classic yet contemporary look for men. Women’s fashion, however, wasn’t introduced to the stripes until French designer and pioneer Coco Chanel created a signature look of the Breton stripe.
The Breton stripes, as we now call nautical stripes, were the navy and white striped knitted shirt that the Act of France introduced on March 27, 1858 as the uniform for all French seaman.
It was seen as mariner attire and worn by nautical men all over the Northern region of France. The shirts were striped with a distinctly noticeable pattern so that in the instance that a sailor fell to sea, he could be spotted easily.
The always influential Coco Chanel was motivated by the stripes “graphic sensibility” and appreciated their minimalism. So much so, that during a visit to the French Riviera, she immediately knew she wanted to take the bold stripes mainstream and started selling them at her Deauville, France shop in 1917.
It wasn’t until the famous photo of Chanel at a French resort wearing a striped top and palazzo pants, that the Nautical stripe fashion craze began.
Since then, stripes have spread like wildfire and soon numerous designers were paying tribute to Chanel with their own variations.
In Hollywood’s Golden Years, the subtly sexy sailor was a role that stars like Jean Harlow and Bette Davis played in their publicity photographs, and there are endless shots of silver-screen goddesses donning their maritime duds bit for publicity shoots.
During the 60s and 70s stripes were seen as a rebellious, hipster pattern and were worn only by those looking to question the fashion authority du jour with an artistic intrepretation.
And since then, the nautical trend has been one that hasn’t let up.
Our take on the nautical trend is the perfect blend of whimsical, and fashion forward.
We take a simple sheath dress and make one side a shimmering soft, stretchy gold material and it reverses to a nautical inspired look with bold navy stripes in between thin white ones and trimmed in gold.
Another inspired look to try? The simple navy tank that reverses to a blue and white striped tank in a soft cotton.
Whichever stripes you choose, wear them proudly – you’re taking part in a rich fashion tradition!
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