July 18, 2011

Stay the Course

My Personal Photo

When you find something that works you stick with it. You take it and make it your own. I have a penchant for Breton shirts. Ikat, floral and shibori shirts don't make my heart skip a beat. Polka dots are charming, but how many polka dot shirts does one need? When it comes to little stripy shirts I instantly come to a halt. Clearly, I wear my heart on my sleeve. 

The above is a sampling of my Breton shirts and sweaters. Each of these shirts is understated and demure. They can pull an outfit together without trying to hard. I wear stripy shirts year-round, but the summer provides more opportunities to don my favorite shirts. After all summer is all about being carefree! Long evening walks and chilly ocean breezes are the perfect occasions  to divert to my staple. Breton shirts speak to my desire to look effortless.  These shirts  are the epitome of Bon Chic Bon Genre.

It's undeniable that Breton shirts are one of my wardrobe basics, but basic doesn't have to mean boring. I love a Breton shirt with a subtle detail. The shirt at the far left has little gold buttons at the shoulders. A small detail, but one that makes a big statement. Parfait!


  1. I love Breton shirts too - have about four - two boatneck, one slouchy linen tee, and a tank with sequin stripes. It's one essential I will always be happy to buy and wear - especially the boatneck variety. Where do you get yours? I have two from APC which fit beautifully but the fabric just isn't worth the price.

  2. Great photo. I own 5 as well and I have to constantly stop myself from buying more. What is it about stripes that never gets dull? I feel the same about other patterns, I own no polka dots and a few floral shirts but can't wear them all the time, all year-round like my breton shirts. Maybe it's the association with french chicness that makes them so popular and loved.

  3. I'm a huge fan of stripes in general but especially those of the Breton variety. They're a nice way to add some visual interest through print while still remaining classic. Strangely though when it comes to tops I only like the blue/white or blue/crème combination. Anything else and I know won't wear it. Oddly specific, but if you know what you like, go with it!

  4. I love them too, for the same reason. Who makes your favourites? I have ones by French Connection and APC (which are soft and comfy) but am musing on buying the originals by Saint-James or Armor Lux.

  5. I adore wearing Breton tops, they are so simple and easy to wear but have an instant chic feel about them :) I only have one at the moment, I always miss it when it is in the wash... I really should buy another :)

    Love, Vanilla


  6. J'adore them as well. I must have about a dozen, each with a little detail -- a little band of buttons here, a chiffon tie at the side there -- that keep them from sameness.

    I even took my Picasso-style St. James top to the tailor last month to have it shaped exactly for me. Maybe that's a no-no, going against the oversized ease of the shirt, but I'm going to wear it more with its nips and tucks.

  7. Ammu- Me too! The navy one pictured has a boatneck. I think it's probably the most flattering silhouette for me.

    Your linen tee and sequin stripes sound fun. I think it's important to play up the subtle details.

    I like the weight and quality of the originals, but the fit is hard. The Saint James shirts are well made, but too boxy for my frame. I also have long limbs so the sleeves are much shorter. I haven't invested in an APC shirt, but I love the fit. The fabric makes me nervous.

    I have traditional shirts/Sweaters from Le Minor, Saint James, Petit Bateau, JCrew, Cotelac, and Pilcro.

    Agnes Comme Fellini- Thank you! You're so right, they never look dull! They're just timeless and ageless. I also feel like they can be worn year-round in a way that floral and polka dots can't. They are so chic in a laidback way.

    Austere- I think you're right about the idea of creating visual interest.

    I don't think it's strange that you prefer blue/white or blue/crème to anything else. That's always my first choice. The gray was such a departure from my norm, but I loved the weight for cool evenings in the Hamptons and was sold.

    AJ- I think I’m still trying to figure out who makes my favorites. I have different silhouettes for different outfits. Nothing surpasses the quality of the originals. They’re so durable. The Saint James, (even the kid’s version) doesn’t fit me well, but it looks stunning when it fits right. Armor Lux makes a beautiful shirt as well.

    Interesting that you haven’t experiences issues or any dissatisfaction with the APC tees. That’s very good to know!

    Vanilla-notes from my closet- They are simple to wear, but they look more pulled together than just a plain tee.

    I love the idea of missing a garment when
    it’s in the wash. I think it’s important to love what you buy and not settle. Every time I pull these shirts out, I’m excited to wear them.

    LuxeBytes- A band of buttons is a fun detail. I agree- the details keep them from sameness. I’m all about details- even fun ones that other people don’t realize are there.

    I would love to see how you tailored the St. James shirt! I think this is a great idea. If you’re going to wear it more then it makes sense. A great tailor can work wonders.

  8. I love Breton shirts too! In french we say "marinière" like "sailor" :)
    I think I have six or seven Breton shirt! As you said they are "the epitome of Bon Chic Bon Genre", of the french style, La Parisienne :)

    I really like your blog :)

    Best regards from France :)


  9. Ahh love the look of breton shirts. I had this great boatnecked, 3/4 length sleeved one that I nicked from my mom's closet just before I went to college but when she realized, she demanded its return and I was heartbroken. I just bought a lovely cream/white striped version but I'm still pining for those white/blue stripes.

  10. For some reason I associate breton stripes so much with summer that I sometimes get stuck on how to wear them in fall and winter. What are some ways you wear them in the colder months? I'd love to hear your ideas!

  11. I have a photo just like this on my camera and have been meaning to do a post for aaaages! I just adore Breton stripes. It is a rare week that I don't wear one of my shirts at least 4 of the days :) And with a simple black blazer and jeans they are chic personified. Every self respecting Francophile needs at least a dozen ;)

  12. I'm a Breton newbie, but I do love them - I think I might have collected four in different variations so far, and I do wear them just as much as my other shirts, if not more :)

  13. Camille S.- I love the idea of a Breton shirt for each day! So practical! We have butchered the word marinière in English- it's dreadful.

    Thank you for your sweet words. It means so much to me! I adore your blog as well.

    ess elsie.- Such a great look. Boatnecks and 3/4 length sleeves are two of my favorite things.

    I love that you borrow from your mom's closet. Things I like always end up making their way into my closet until they are demanded to be returned:)

    White and blue stripes are so simple, but perfect.

    Anonymous- You raise an interesting point. I think a lot of people associate Breton shirts with Spring/Summer, but they can be worn just as well in the fall. When the seasons change, remind me to do a post.

    I love adding a scarf (this Fall it will be burgundy) with a Breton shirt. I like the idea of pairing them with a pair of jeans tucked into riding boots.

    I also love jackets and texture for fall. Pairing them underneath a blazer looks pulled together (La Fille mal Gardée makes a great suggestion), but more relaxed than a button down. I also love to wear them under my grandpa cashmere sweaters.

    Texture is important to me. So I like to pair them with something with texture in the Fall.

    La Fille mal Gardée- Please do a post on this! I would love to hear your thoughts. Keeping it simple is key. Your Breton shirts paired with a black blazer and jeans sounds like the epitome of chic!

    You are so right- every Francophile needs a collection!

    Maja Piraja- Welcome to the club! Aren't they wonderful?Such a great classic to round out any wardrobe.

  14. So, here's what the tailor did to my St. James: shortened the hem by 4" (to hit my hip bones), brought in the sides about 1.5" on each side to give it a slimmer silhouette, shortened the sleeve lengths to 3/4, and narrowed the sleeve width to stay in proportion with the rest of the newly narrowed silhouette of the shirt. He basically had to take apart the shirt, which ended up costing about 1/3 of the purchase price of the shirt itself, but worth it? Yeah, absolutely.

  15. LuxeBytes- Amazing! I can envision these changes making the shirt perfect. The narrower/slimmer silhouette sounds wonderful. It's exactly what the shirt needs. I love that you were able to work with a skilled tailor to accomplish this!

  16. I could agree more. Bretons are so beautiful and versatile - there really is a Breton for every occasion! Always on the look out for more. I haven't ever tried one on but I suspect the more traditional boxy cut is not going to look great on me. Sad times because they're so smart...

  17. Chuck- Thank you for commenting! There is a Breton for every occasion. They really can be worn in a multitude of ways. The traditional boxy cut doesn't work for so many people. Don't you wish they would make the silhouette just a bit more streamlined.

  18. Ugh, I want a Breton shirt so badly I might explode, but I'm really particular and I can't find one remotely in my price range. Extremely jealous of your collection.

    Does anyone know where I can get the kind Picasso & Co wore --where the stripes don't go all the way up to the neck, but rather stop at the breast bone?


  19. desoeufs- Feel free to email your price range- I have a few brands you may want to check out.

    The Saint James Naval II goes up just a bit higher than the breast bone- http://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/knitstees/longsleevetees/PRDOVR~31362/31362.jsp

    J.Crew also has a few stripy shirts that don't have stripes up to the neck-



  20. Ohh! I am obsessed with breton tees too! I can't get enough!

  21. Emmy- Once you start collecting them, it's hard to stop. They are so versatile and there's always a little detail that makes each one special.

  22. I only have one breton stripe shirt from the Gap and I am dying to add to my collection. I am partail as well to the white and blue variety but I am interested in adding a white and red version.

  23. lapetitelavande- Thank you for commenting. I haven't branched out to red and white yet because I know I probably wouldn't wear it. I do like when people wear red stripe, because it's the perfect amount of red. I'll always go back to cream, navy, white. Even grey feels daring for me.

  24. you have a nice collection of this staple style. the breton shirt is easy to make one's own. i have one in thin cotton by the label vince. it's based on the breton but a little bit edgy.

  25. style odyssey- Thank you. I agree, you can make this basic your own. I would love to see your shirt from Vince. I keep hearing that they do good tees, but I don't own any from them.

  26. I've been contemplating buying an APC breton sweater because they are said to be well made. However, you saying the fabric is questionable makes me a bit nervous. Why didn't you like it?

  27. Florina- I wouldn't rule out purchasing an APC breton sweater. In general I would say they make simple well made clothes.

    I have noticed recently that the fabric quality is not what it used to be. Growing up I have really durable items that were made with higher thread counts from there.