I’ll confess, I’ve always had a soft spot for a Breton striped top. There’s the French-ness of it, bien sûr, but it’s also one of those pieces that seems to work with almost any style and adds a certain élan to a simple outfit.
But it can be a challenging piece to wear well when you’re busty or curvy. The marinière was originally designed for and worn by men (fishermen and sailors). In 1858 it officially became part of the French naval uniform. Coco Chanel adopted it as women’s wear in 1917, and it’s been a classic ever since. If you’re willing to deviate a little from the more traditional marinière styles, there are some versions and ways to wear a striped top that can work with curves.
First, let’s look at the stripes themselves.
Narrower stripes, especially with more “negative space” between the stripes, can often be more flattering than thicker or evenly spaced ones. (Lighter narrow stripes against a darker background will also work.) Shown above.
A lower contrast between stripe and background can also reduce the visual horizontal emphasis. Shown above (Plus).
In general, I find that light- to medium-weight knits with some movement and drape are better for curves than stiff, heavy ones. Blends that include viscose, modal, linen, silk, or rayon tend to drape well. Shown above.
If you prefer a more fitted style, I’d advise medium-weight blends that skim, not cling.
Fit And Design
A lot of marinière styles have dropped shoulders, which I find create volume and horizontal emphasis exactly where I DON’T want it. So I’ve learned to look for either set-in sleeves or a minimal drop from the shoulder. Shown above.
And finally, neckline. I’ve learned to avoid necklines that are higher than my the bottom of my clavicle. A more open neckline will break up the space between neck and chest, and de-emphasize the bust (provided the neckline isn’t low enough to get into serious cleavage territory). A v-neck, scoop neck, henley, split-neck, or even a very open boatneck can work. Shown above.
Wearing your striped top underneath an open jacket or cardigan can create a ladder-like effect that draws the eye up and down. Another way to mitigate the horizontal effect is to add vertical lines with a vest or a longer scarf like this:
Do you have a preferred style of striped top? How do you wear it?
Top image: Wikimedia Commons