15 Breton tops to add to your wardrobe à la Duchess of Cambridge

Everyone should own this staple style!
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  • Welcome to woman&home’s online shopping where we reveal where to buy the most popular and top-rated products. This guide is about Breton stripe tops, but you may also be interested in our favourite dresses from The White Companythe most flattering swimwear styles for every shape and M&S’s anti-chaffing shorts.

    Striped tops never go out of style. Why? Simply because they are so easy to wear! The timeless appeal of a Breton top will make you reach into the wardrobe season after season. We show you 3 simple ways to wear one.

    Part of its charm is that it looks good with everything, and on everyone. If you think of some of the most stylish women in recent history, many of them notably wore Breton tops. Audrey Hepburn, Bridget Bardot, Alexa Chung and The Duchess of Cambridge are just a few that spring to mind.

    Part of the Bretons appeal is that you can throw it on with jeans and flats and instantly feel pulled together. But there are loads of other stylish ways you can work this iconic top into your wardrobe – giving your favourite pieces a new lease of life.

    How to wear Breton stripes

    • With a suit – A Breton looks fab worn with a great pair of tailored trousers and a smart blazer. For the warmer months, a pair of tailored shorts and a pencil skirt work just as well. Add a cotton or silk neck scarf for some extra pizzazz.
    • Under a jumpsuit – Adding a Breton underneath is an ideal way to change up the styling of your favourite all in one. They work especially well with denim or khaki utility styles.
    • With a full skirt – Dressy skirts can be tricky to pair the right top with, but the iconic Breton will always look perfect with this 1950’s style of skirt.  Don’t let dressy evening skirts sit in the cupboard untouched. By pairing with a Breton and trainers you can get loads more wear out of them.

    Breton tops Vs striped tops – what’s the difference?

    So now you know how to wear one, let’s get a bit geeky about this iconic stripes history.

    Breton has become shorthand for most striped tops these days, but there is technically a difference. According to fashion legend, a true Breton top has 21 stripes of even width. Traditionally the stripes on a Breton top would be navy blue on white.

    The history of the Breton

    Saint James was the original manufacturer of the iconic Breton stripe sweater in Normandy, France. Based in Saint-James, the city that gave the brand its name, the brand has specialised in premium cotton and wool-based collections since 1850.

    In 1858 their Breton top was made official Navy uniform in France. There were two reasons for this. Originally Bretons were woven so tightly that they were waterproof. And the striped design meant that any person washed overboard was easier to spot and rescue.

    Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Breton was considered strictly workwear. However, Coco Chanel helped the item become an off-duty fashion statement when her 1917 collection drew inspiration from the nautical stripes. She was the first designer to design striped pieces in jersey, not wool, and to market the French staple expressly as leisurewear. In 1936, French leisure time became official with the introduction of paid holidays, which is also reported to have helped the Breton top become a casual wardrobe staple.

    Which is your favourite? Do you prefer a modern stripe or a more classic style?

    15 Breton tops to buy now and wear forever