Welcome to woman&home’sonline shoppingwhere we revealwhere 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 Company,the most flattering swimwear styles for every shapeandM&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
Boden Rainbow cuff striped top
£32, sizes 6-22, Boden If you are looking for a classic Breton with a with a twist, then Boden have got you covered. The rainbow coloured cuffs will earn you extra style points.
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Chinti & Parker Heart pocket 100% organic cotton top
£36 (was £120), sizes xs-l, Chinti & Parker Recommended by our Fashion Editor, this label boasts incredible quality and lasts for years and years - wash after wash. Plus it has 70% off!
VIEW NOW: Chinti & Parker Heart pocket 100% organic cotton top (opens in new tab)
Whistles Oui Chérie stripe t-shirt
£23 (was £39), sizes xs-l, Whistles Just added to the Whistles sale, get this cute tee fast before it goes!
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Seasalt Organic cotton striped t-shirt
£29.95, sizes 6-28, Seasalt Boasting 5* customer reviews and made from 100% organic cotton, this 3/4 length sleeve top is available in 7 different colour ways and is included in Seasalts 2 for £40 deal.
Boden Rose gold dot striped top
£32, sizes 6-22, Boden Add a chic metallic edge to your Breton with these rose gold polka dots.
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Joules Harbour strawberry stripe
£29.95, sizes 6-20, Joules Joules' eye catching prints are perfect for when you want to stand out from the crowd.
Ted Baker Breton striped T-shirt
£49, sizes 6-18, Ted Baker This option puts a fun twist on the classic Breton T-shirt, with a hint of sparkle added to the stripes across the top. It means that this Ted Baker item is sensible enough for work video calls, whilst adding some fun to an outfit for dinner with the girls.
Saint James Slim fit button shoulder top
£139, sizes xs-xxl, Saint James The slim fit MAREE 11 R striped jumper with shoulder button fastening is the best seller at Saint James, and it's easy to see why. Available in 4 colour ways, the classic cream and navy will always be our favourite!
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Petit Bateau Red striped top
£69, sizes xxs-xl, Petit Bateau Switch up your stripes for a bright nautical red.
La Redoute Organic cotton long-sleeved t-shirt
£20, sizes s-l, La Redoute This La Redoute piece is emblazoned with the words ‘Douceur de vivre’, meaning ‘The sweetness of life’, and it’s just one of the reasons we love this breton t-shirt. With a bold neck, it’s a statement piece as well as a wardrobe staple.
John Lewis Boat-neck T-shirt
£25, sizes 8-20, John Lewis & Partners If you're on the hunt for simple, but super chic, and affordable Breton top, this one's for you. With a timeless half-sleeve and boat neck (a style loved by Meghan Markle), this is a classic version of the popular t-shirt. It also comes in three different colour-ways.
Marks & Spencer Striped tunic jumper
£25, sizes 6-24, M&S A wider stipe and longer tunic style length, this long sleeved tee is made from sustainably sourced cotton.
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Cotton Traders Striped turtle neck
£12 (was £18), sizes 8-26, Turtle necks are perfect for layering and this supersoft style is an absolute bargain. Get it now so you're ready for autumn.
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Joules Light swing Breton top
£29.95, sizes 8-20, Joules This swing silhouette fits a little looser through the body. Perfect for hiding a tummy and skimming hips.
White Stuff 3/4 Sleeve fairtrade cotton tee
£19.25 (was £27.50), White Stuff With a notched neck and relaxed fit, this striped top is great teamed with jeans.
VIEW NOW: White Stuff 3/4 Sleeve fairtrade cotton tee (opens in new tab)
Becky Joiner-O'Riordan is a Senior Fashion Stylist & Writer. With 10 years experience in the fashion industry, she currently works across woman&home, womanandhome.com, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly, Chat, goodto.com, and has previously worked on Harper's Bazaar, Notion and Now Magazine.
After graduating from both the University of the Creative Arts and The Fashion Retail Academy with first-class honours she dipped her toes into the world of television styling working on This Old Thing, hosted by Dawn O’Porter and Channel 4’s live tv show series Gok Live: Stripping for Summer.
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