From sailor’s uniform to play clothes under the French sun, what is it about nautical style that is so timeless? Where did the style originate from — and who do we have to thank for it?
Perhaps the Queen of England — but not the current one. 1846 Queen Victoria had a child’s sailor uniform made for her son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. The commissioned child’s sailor-suit was primarily intended as a surprise for her husband, Prince Albert. Albert was so delighted that he asked German artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter to paint a portrait of his son wearing the uniform. Since then, nautical fashion has gained popularity as leisure-wear in British affluent circles.
What about the stripes? To be specific, Breton stripes — 2 cm white, 1 cm navy. Worn by everyone from Alexa Chung to Kate Moss, the simple navy and white garment is a symbol of effortless chic. But behind that is history of hard work. The style was introduced in 1858 as the uniform for the French navy, and apparently, they were designed so to make a man overboard more visible. But it wasn’t until 1917 when Coco Chanel introduced the pattern to a collection after visiting France that stripes entered our fashion dictionary. She rendered the nautical look in jersey – a material at the time reserved for men’s underwear and sailor shirts. Her revolutionary design soon become adopted by the well-dressed women in society, both on and off the beach, and within 3 years has made the pages of both British and American Vogue. Since then, stripes have been made popular by personalities as varied as Jean Paul Gaultier, Brigitte Bardot and Pablo Picasso.
Beyond stripes, the nautical look has been continuously reinterpreted in different eras by different designers, from Mary Quant’s thigh skimping sailor look in the 60s to Vivienne Westwood’s Pirate collection in the 80s. Nowadays, it is hard to come by a season without a nautical-inspired look on the runways of the world. Which one is your favorite? Check out our selection of the best nautical inspired fashion throughout time below.
Luma Grothe, Harper’s Bazaar Mexico
Kate Moss photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue UK June 2013
A look from Chanel Resort 2010 collection
Sacai spring/summer 2015
Zimmerman spring/summer 2018 collection