fashion history

Sailors & Chanel

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

In the evenings, my beau can be found unwinding from a busy day at work firmly planted on the couch, craft beer in hand, in his Marine Corps camouflage trousers and green undershirt. 

While the plain green undershirt of the modern Marine Corps uniform is far from inspirational, sometimes, while looking at my beau in this state of undress, I am reminded of Mademoiselle Chanel. 

WWI French Navy Rifleman & Gabrielle Chanel

What vision it takes to look at the underpinnings of a very masculine uniform, an object of utility, and find inspiration for fashion!

 Looking back now at the classic stripes of the undershirt of a French sailor, it is so simple to say: yes! this is fabulous, the absolute epitome of nautical fashion. 
The modern eye marvels at the fact that the man above is wearing something so stylish under his uniform (and with such a jaunty hat!), when, in truth, sailors had been doing so for more than half a century before this photograph was taken.

As the legend goes, Mademoiselle Chanel was inspired by the undershirts during a trip to the coast of France and, in 1917, introduced the shirts to the fashion world in her nautical collection, single-handedly altering women's fashion (consider what women were wearing in 1917! certainly not unstructured striped blouses). 


Embracing the Breton: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Jean Seberg. 

Now, nearly one hundred years after the conversion from uniform undergarment to fashion staple, the Breton stripe, and it's variations, are still immensely popular, widely available, and essential for stylish seaside living. 
A must-have for modern and vintage gals (and gents!) alike, the Breton stripe is where decades of fashion meet, under that wonderful umbrella of classic style. 
There's just something about stripes that appeals to everyone.




While it's unlikely that anyone will ever look at my beau's olive drab undershirt, find inspiration, and revolutionize fashion, it's lovely to think how much our current fashion landscape has been shaped by the past and by visionaries like Chanel, who found inspiration in the most surprising places.



So tell me, dear readers, has the Breton stripe found its way into your closet? How do you wear it?


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