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There’s nothing quite like a classic Breton stripe top when it comes to timeless wardrobe essentials. The fashion must-have spans generations, personal styles, and has even found its way into the style lexicon of French, American, and British girls alike.
Technically, the bold stripe was introduced as part of the French Navy’s uniform in the mid-1800s. At its birth, a traditional Breton stripe top featured 21 white stripes and 21 navy blue stripes, with the white measuring exactly twice as wide as their navy counterparts.
More than 50 years later, women took on the traditionally masculine trend by way of Coco Chanel, who counted a borrowed-from-the-boys Breton stripe top as part of her off-duty uniform. By 1917, Chanel had debuted her first version of the casual French top as part of a Couture collection and the fashion world hasn’t looked back since. By the 1960s, the Breton stripe had found its way into pop culture, with the help of Brigitte Bardot, and all the way across the pond, known to be a favorite of Audrey Hepburn.
Today, the classic striped tee might no longer count exact measurements as their calling card, nor are they stuck in a navy-and-white palette. That said, they’re just as much of a wardrobe essential for all girls — if not more than ever before. Shopbop’s Fashion Director, Caroline Maguire, counts the top as an ultimate must-have. “There’s something super timeless and chic about the Breton stripe,” she shared. “It can be worn year-round and dressed up or down.”
One of the best parts about a Breton is not only its ability to be styled for morning, noon, and night, but also the way in which it acts as both a pop of pattern as well as a neutral.
For the more understated dressers, it’s just enough to give your look that little something extra. Former Fashion Director, Personal Stylist, and Consultant, Sarah Meikle loves how effortless they can be. “It makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier if everything works together," she explained. "I couldn’t live without my striped shirt — it’s an essential to my daily uniform.”
On the flip side, if you’re looking for a truly head-turning outfit, take a styling tip from Town & Country’s Fashion Market Editor, Mary Kate Boylan. “I typically like to wear them with a contrasting pattern such as a floral jacket or plaid blazer on top," she said. "You also can’t go wrong wearing them with a great pair of jeans and cute flats!”
Whether you’re matching your classic Breton top with vintage blue jeans or choosing instead to style it with contrasting patterns and colors from your more eclectic wardrobe, shop some of our favorites below.
The Best Women's Striped Shirts
1. The classic striped shirt
This affordable take on the classic pattern comes in nine different colors, so you can sport stripes in many different forms.
2. The essential T-shirt
Currently on sale for under $10, this T-shirt comes in a wide range of sizes (XXS-3X) and one TODAY editor swears the sleeves are the most flattering of any tee she owns.
3. The cold-shoulder
If you're looking for a trendier way to wear stripes, this cold-shoulder top seems like a winner. It has a 4.1-star rating from over 350 reviews, comes in 22 different colors (including solids) and reviewers have noted that the material is really soft.
4. The ballerina basic
This cotton and modal knit top features a slight dip in the back, reminiscent of a ballet dancer's leotard. The stretchy material is said to be very flattering and "accentuates all the right places," according to one reviewer.
5. The relaxed fit
The fit of this cropped T-shirt is on the looser side, so you can wear the classic print in a trendier silhouette without worrying about being too revealing.
6. The color-blocker
A far cry from the rigid navy and blue of the original Breton, this multicolored shirt features red, green and blue stripes on the sleeve, torso and back.
7. The stylist-approved crop
This trendy crop top was designed for Hanes with the help of stylist Karla Welch, whose clients include Tracee Ellis Ross and Olivia Wilde. It comes in both blue and red, and they're both on sale at Shopbop, so you might want to grab one of each!
8. The perfect match for high-waisted jeans
With an elliptical hem and a boxier fit, this top was designed specifically to be partially tucked into your favorite pair of high-waisted pants.
9. The citrus-hued stripe
Orange, red and yellow stripes are accented by a bright white stripe with this darker twist on the pattern. The classic silhouette is versatile enough to be paired with pants, skirts, shorts and plays well with any jacket you'd like to pair it with.
10. The super soft tee
Vince is known for their soft fabrics, and this cotton-jersey blend is no different. It comes in both blue and yellow, if you'd like to try a sunnier print for the summer.
11. The multicolored stripe
This boatneck top is like candy for any Breton-lover. The pink, green, gold and blue stripes are both playful and polished at the same time.
12. The nautical pullover
While almost any shirt on this list could be deemed "nautical," this top from Tuckernuck wins the distinction of most sea-worthy because of the brand's roots on the shore of Nantucket.
13. The splurge
The most expensive item on this list comes from a luxury brand dedicated to all things striped. All La Ligne (French for "line") pieces are designed around the "universal appeal of the stripe" and this classic long-sleeved shirt is no different. It even includes an option for a monogram.
For more summer style essentials, check out:
- The best sundresses for summer
- Lilly Pulitzer is rereleasing 5 iconic prints for summer
- 15 of the best maxi dresses for summer