Breton Stripes

Like running into an old friend on the street or rediscovering your favourite grade-school book (we recently stumbled upon our dog-eared copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and got swept up in its charms!), there is something particularly lovely about approaching the beloved-but-forgotten with fresh eyes. The same is true with style; though the fashion industry is notoriously cyclical and known to revisit its past for inspiration, we are always pleasantly surprised when an oldie-but-goodie suddenly becomes an au currant must-have. This season we had one such epiphany when we noticed some of our favourite dressers (and designers) were responding to the siren song of that sea-worthy staple, the Breton stripe shirt. Although some people tend to shy away from horizontal stripes, we actually think this piece looks great on any body. And there are multiple reasons why everyone should own one: it's casual, easy to wear, well priced, and very versatile! Bottom line: in the deft hands of fashion frontrunners such as Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo, the classic sailor-stripe is most definitely a Look We Love!

Before we get into the outfits, let us first provide you, dear readers, with a little context. The Breton stripe shirt originated in Brittany-a French province that occupies the peninsula between the English Channel and Bay of Biscay-which may explain its nautical affiliation. The long-sleeved cotton garment usually has a boat neck and, traditionally, the stripes begin around the breastbone. Directional designers like Christopher Decarnin, however, amped up the chic factor by creating a glittering mariner shirt with bold shoulders for Balmain's F/W 09 collection. Very on trend, n'est pas! And while the runway rendition is inspirational to be sure, we will always have an affinity for the more pared-down take on this casual classic. After all, nothing can beat the laid-back allure of an oversized striped top with pushed up sleeves for a chic afternoon look, no matter whether you're yachting or merely captaining a lawn chair!

Elle Macpherson, today's first style star, took a simple approach to the seafaring stripe while making a carpool run in London. Her navy blue top with thin white stripes looked très chic with a pair of rough-hewn jeans, a leather belt, and a smart shrunken blazer. She polished off the look with a pair of t-strap thong sandals and aviators, proving that this supermodel is ready for any sea or sky adventure! We love the dark-blue base of her selection and think Lilly Pulitzer's Christina Stripe Long Sleeve Shirt ($72) would be a great alternative! Claudia Schiffer also elevated her outfit of skinny Alexander McQueen jeans and Isabel Marant boots (both unfortunately, from past seasons) by rocking Chanel's striped tunic featuring a hand-monogrammed version of the French fashion house's signature interlocking logo. Though other tastemakers such as Sienna Miller have also been spotted in the Chanel shirt, we like how Schiffer mixed hers with stovepipe black bottoms, as it really allows her top to shine. If you like the length of her pick, try Topshop's Stripe Tunic ($40), which is great as is, or feel free to get crafty and take a D-I-Y approach by adding your favourite iron-ons and fabric paint à la Mr. Lagerfeld!

Although this shirt is the perfect low-key option, remember it can also be dressed up with a skirt and a seasonally appropriate heel for a sassy summer ensemble. Olivia Palermo did just that when she wore a Club Monaco striped shirt and an a-line mini with Roberta Freyman's Wine Drop Necklace ($220, 212.585.3767). To get a look-a-like assemblage, try Juicy Couture's Waffle Knit Tee ($52) with Wren's Polly Drop Waist Skirt ($215) for an outfit that is as polished as it is flirty and fun. Finally, we have everyone's favourite British import, Alexa Chung, who opted for a traditional marine-inspired top to film her second episode of It's On With Alexa Chung talk show. Though we love her navy blue A.P.C. jumper and espadrilles, we are especially smitten with Chung's vintage striped selection. If you are like us and enjoy the real McCoy, there is no better online resource than This well-stocked site has a wonderful variety of quality French boating attire-we like the Minquiers Breton Sailor Shirt ($42) the best-but feel free to spend some time fishing around the site to peruse all of their nautical-inspired gear!-KM

Photo of Alexa Chung, Olivia Palermo, from PCN; Photo of Elle Macpherson, from INF; Photo of Claudia Schiffer, from Wenn.