In late September of this year, I traveled to Paris to spend a couple of weeks of vacation in one of my most favorite cities in France. I dined at delicious restaurants (Le Baratin, Clown Bar, and Frenchie—to name a few), strolled in charming parks and gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Jardin des Tuileries), and in general soaked up the glorious ambiance that this so-called City of Light boasts that the rest of the world (IMHO) cannot. And, because I’m a fashion writer, there was a fair amount of style-watching going on as well.
Year after year, I’m always surprised by the fact that our notion of “French-girl style” isn’t quite on the mark. I think that’s because it’s not possible to encapsulate a woman with a prescribed wardrobe of separates. We think she wears only berets, ballet flats, Breton stripes, and blazers when, in fact, as I observed further on this trip, that a French woman’s wardrobe isn’t as predictable as we think. Rather, it’s the (yes, I’m going to say it) je ne sais quoi that makes the woman. An effortless air that transmutes into her beauty (bedhead and red lips still abound) and whatever she’s decided to wear for the day.
Thus, homing in on the topic of today’s post, while in France I brought along a few of these Parisian-inspired separates previously mentioned, one of which being a Breton-stripe three-quarter-sleeve tee. Anyone who knows me or who looks at my closet knows pretty instantly I’m a big supporter of stripes. So much so that I have put a temporary ban on all stripe purchases because I simply don’t need anymore. Anyway, I styled my Kule Modern Long Tee ($98) with a pair of black cropped trousers and high-top Chucks thinking it would be the perfect insouciant yet polished look for a day about the Seine.
As I made my way there, picking up a croissant et café and gliding down the dreamy cobblestone streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, I slowly realized there were no others wearing these stripes. No men, no women—just moi. Scroll down to see my outfit and for more Parisian style observations.
For the remainder of the day and the trip, I observed not only what others were wearing but now also what they were not wearing. This continued to include Breton-stripe tees as well as other stereotypical Parisian pieces like berets and ballet flats. Rather, when I would spot these items, it was apparent they were being worn by tourists, which, for the record, I’m 100% on board with.
All that being said, if you’ve never researched the history of why we associate these stripes with the French, here’s an extremely abbreviated rundown. St. James’s Breton-stripe jersey became the official uniform in the French navy in 1858. Skip forward to 1913 when Coco Chanel introduced the popular sailor tee to the fashion world and it was cemented as an iconic piece reflective of French heritage and craftsmanship. In other words, there is ample reason to embrace the Breton stripe. To illustrate my point, I scoured the web for images (older and newer) of French women in these tees. While they may be on a slight hiatus in the Parisian’s wardrobe, I doubt this closet classic will ever go out of style—scroll down for proof.
Want to see what more women are wearing in Paris right now? Right this way.