Posted in fabrics, sewing, sewing patterns, Style

A Breton Shirt: The Classic and Beyond

There is something so classic about those striped shirts that debuted in France on their sailors in 1858. And I love them so much that this isn’t the first time they’ve appeared on my blog. I wrote about my fondness for stripes while singing the praises of the boat neck and again (briefly) when I wrote about my fall wardrobe planning in 2021.

We all know that fashion trends come and go, but by now, we should realize that “style” is forever. So said Yves St. Laurent in 1975: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” He was not the first to express this sentiment. Years earlier, Coco Chanel said almost the same thing when she uttered these words: “Fashion changes―style remains.” I suspect Yves was simply paraphrasing Coco. In any case, there are some styles we wear that we could have worn decades ago, and they still look fresh today. Striped T-shirts are one of those timeless styles. My husband and I have recently been revisiting old family videos. Those from the late 1980s and early 1990s reminded me of a trend that has no staying power at all—padded shoulders. Dear god, we were the epitome of style at the time, but that did not stand the test of time!

The Breton-style shirts are such a fascinating part of fashion history. I have always loved this photo of Chanel herself wearing the classic style so many years ago.

Of course, Hollywood stars embraced it as well. What could be more classic (and alluring) than Jean Seberg in her own version?

And since I don’t wear much in the way of patterns, I have embraced strips as my pattern of choice. Last year, I was desperate to have a St. James Breton shirt and found this one in Montreal. St. James is a French-made brand, so it always seemed close to the originals to me! The fabrics, though, are what these shirts are all about. I’d love to be able to find some of their fabrics.

A few years ago, when I was deeply enmeshed in learning how to do flat pattern drafting, I created two patterns featuring boat necklines. Still, I tended to make them from stripes—or a combination of stripes and plain fabric if I had leftovers.

During that same interval of designing for myself, I created a dress for a cruise—again in strips, this time seersucker.

Recently, I blogged about this twist on a classic for the Fabricville blog (Vogue 1805) and used the leftovers to make a T-shirt (Butterick 6418).

As I look at my sewing projects over the past few years, I’m struck with how many times I chose stripes—and this isn’t even all of them!

I think it might be time for me to branch out!


...a Toronto woman of a ‘certain’ age who writes women’s fiction and business books...deeply interested in fashion, but mostly style, which as anyone knows is not the same thing...designs patterns, sews, reads style books...Gloria Glamont is my pseudonym.

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