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The Stripes: An All-Time Classic

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m having what’s left from my cup of coffee. It’s time for the next Zoom meeting. As we all wait for everyone to tune it, I notice something peculiar. All of us women, including myself, wore a different version of a striped shirt. We did not arrange this beforehand. It’s not so weird at all! Here’s why:

Ines de la Fressange
Ines de la Fressange for Chanel

To this day the striped top is within the most popular pieces. There are SO many variations of it that they can make your head spin!

The first iteration of Breton („from Brittany“) sweaters was designed with tightly knit local wool to protect fishermen from biting winds and water. Then they evolved into a striped shirt and the style was introduced in 1858 as the uniform for the French navy (proof of the French people’s taste).

Chanel felt inspired by the sailors’ clothing because she owned a shop in Deauville. Some even say that she had an aha moment with their collars.

French sailor circa 1910
French sailor circa 1910. Photo: Sconosciuto / Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
The World Needed Something New

The period between the 2 world wars was a time when people needed fewer pieces of clothing to feel free. The modernism made stripes ‘fit it’ even easier because they are clean and graphic – which was new and appealing to everyone back then.

In her 1917 nautical collection, she celebrated the stripes. Gabrielle felt so inspired by the casual yet elegant style of the pieces. She thought this is the perfect way to break away from the heavily corseted fashion of the time, forever changing the face of casual womenswear.

Coco Chanel
Wikimedia Commons
Chanel’s style equals wise simplicity. She said it herself:

„Simplicity is the key to true elegance.“

On this famous photo of hers from 1928, she paired her Breton top with a flared pair of pants and a belt. I suppose she is the inventor of the expression ‘effortlessly chic’, don’t you think so too?

There are so many pieces which are now part of our wardrobes. A few of them are the tweed set, the little black dress, the pleated skirt in dark blue, the blazer with gold buttons, the beige and black shoe, the quilted bag, and its chain handle, even the tanned skin!

Although it’s not completely certain if Gabrielle was the one to popularize the striped top, she managed to make it her brand.

Then what followed?

Of course, movie stars were a GREAT fashion inspiration back then. Marlon Brando, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Bridgitte Bardot, and many others were seen with a striped top. The icon Andy Warhol, as well as Pablo Picasso, yes, the painter, also rocked a striped piece.

James Dean
James Dean
Today stripes are not a part of Chanel’s identity only. Fashion houses all over the world use this print in various, perhaps hundreds of new ways, to create their version of this classic.

Michael Kors RTW 2013
Jean-Paul Gaultier, Michael Kors RTW 2013, Chanel Cruise 2018
Designer Jean Paul Gaultier has become a Breton stripe ambassador, featuring the style heavily in both his men and women’s collections, and even outfitted his male perfume bottle, Le Male in s Breton stripe tee.

Thanks to these people I feel relieved that I’m not the only one obsessed with stripes. I probably have too many striped shirts, but I honestly never get tired of them. My most recent purchase was a cotton striped sweater with gold buttons at the top. One thing for sure, I will be wearing it over and over again with great pleasure!

stripe

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