Haute History: The Breton Stripe

True story: everyone's favorite sartorial pattern got its start in the military.

saint james tees

stripes and prints - a lacey perspective

the history of the striped shirt

This weekend, I’m attending a little Bastille Day dinner party, in honor of France’s biggest national holiday this coming Monday. I got to thinking about ways I could celebrate it here on the blog. A recipe? Nah. France travel guides? You guys are probably sick of that. Something about the Breton stripe? Oh, perfect.

Looking around, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the classic Breton stripe shirt actually has a very rich history. Who knew that this on-trend staple would be so rich with symbolism? I loved learning all the fun facts above — and verifying that this shirt is classically French for a reason! Did you know any of these historical tidbits? Either way, next time you wear a striped tee, you can blow your friends away with your Breton fashion knowledge (aka, everyone’s goal in life). And of course, if you need your own Breton striped clothing for Bastille Day, below you can shop a bunch of options:

Pilgrim Style
History of Fashion Week
Mary Janes


Images: Interior image of Tash Sefton’s closet via Pop Sugar Outfit by A Lacey Perspective |
graphic by Victoria McGinley


  1. 7.10.14
    Rachelle said:

    Stripes forever, I am obsessed.

  2. 7.10.14
    Janel said:

    I love when you break down the history and influence of trends, like this and an earlier post on Veuve. It adds some extra value to an otherwise simple style post!

  3. 7.10.14

    How timely! I actually bought my first Saint James top last week and knew about the French sailor connection + that Coco Chanel was involved somehow, but not much else– so this little history lesson was perfect. Hoping to brave the DC heat and wear mine on Monday… we’ll see how that goes!

  4. 7.10.14
    caitlin said:

    I’m such a sucker for stripes – Basically my whole wardrobe so I loved reading the history! Also heading to Paris and Antibes in September so would love your recs or links to your travel posts! xo

  5. 7.10.14
    Liz said:

    Had to share this one. I just bought it for the 4th and it’s one of the softest things I’ve put on my body.


    • 7.10.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      So funny! I have a striped shirt from H&M that’s several years old and it’s also super soft. Sometimes you can find some gems there for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  6. 7.10.14
    Ella said:

    These haute history lessons are always so fascinating to me. take me with you to that dinner party- what a great idea! Thanks for teaching me something new today :)

  7. 7.10.14

    Thanks for using my pic! I will always love stripes. :)


  8. 7.10.14

    luff dis.

  9. 7.10.14
    Ashley said:

    I love this! Two of my favorites combined- stripes and history. Thanks!

  10. 7.10.14
    Lily said:

    I am such a stripe addict. The Breton is the perfect classic!

    x Lily

  11. 7.11.14

    What a great idea to pay homage to the 14 juillet (we don’t call it Bastille Day in France) with the iconic Saint James’ “marinière”!
    We are getting ready for a 3 days weekend with military parades and fireworks. Hopefully the rain will stop and the warmth will come back.
    Have a nice weekend Victoria!

    • 7.11.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      So interesting how it’s celebrated as “Bastille Day” here! Bonne fête!

  12. 7.11.14
    Jennifer said:

    Do you know who makes those cute shorts in your picture?

    ….and so jealous of your afternoon in Central Park with your puppy!

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