What’s the Best Method to Style a Breton Shirt for a French Chic Work Outfit?

Breton shirts, an iconic representation of French fashion, have been a wardrobe classic for decades. This timeless piece brings a dash of Parisian flair to any outfit. Crafted from comfortable cotton and characterized by its horizontal navy stripes, the Breton top is versatile and effortlessly chic. This article will guide you through the best methods to style a Breton shirt for a French chic work outfit.

The Origins of the Breton Shirt

Before diving into how to style a Breton shirt, it’s essential to understand a bit about its history. The Breton shirt, also known as a ‘marinière,’ originated in Brittany, France (hence the name ‘Breton’). Initially, it was part of the French Navy’s uniform in the 19th century. Its distinctive wide, navy and white stripes made overboard sailors more noticeable. Gradually, the Breton shirt transitioned from a military garment to a fashion staple, thanks to prominent figures such as Coco Chanel and Brigitte Bardot who incorporated it into their wardrobes.

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Key Elements of the Breton Shirt

The Breton shirt is characterised by certain key features that have remained consistent over the years. Firstly, it is made from long-lasting, high-quality cotton, ensuring both comfort and longevity. Secondly, the shirt’s signature navy and white stripes make it instantly recognizable. Traditionally, the Breton top features 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories. However, contemporary versions can vary in stripe count and width. Lastly, the classic Breton shirt has a boat neck and three-quarter sleeves, although variations exist, such as the long-sleeved versions from Boden or crew neck tops.

How to Style a Breton Shirt with Jeans

Styling a Breton shirt with jeans is a tried-and-tested outfit formula that works for every woman. It’s an effortless way to achieve a French chic aesthetic. Start with a classic striped Breton top and pair it with well-fitting, dark denim jeans. Opt for a straight leg cut for a timeless look. This ensemble works well with both flat ballet pumps for a truly Parisian feel, or a smart pair of loafers for a more polished look. Top off the outfit with a tailored blazer to make it work-appropriate.

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Pairing a Breton Shirt with a Skirt

A Breton shirt paired with a skirt offers a more feminine take on the French chic work outfit. This combination allows you to play with different styles and textures. A-line skirts, pencil skirts, or midi skirts all pair well with the Breton top. For a classic, elegant look, opt for a high-waisted, navy pencil skirt. To keep the look fresh and modern, pair your Breton shirt with a leather skirt. Add a pair of low-heeled ankle boots or kitten heels for a comfortable yet chic work outfit.

Pairing a Breton Shirt with Trousers

Trousers and a Breton shirt make a powerful work outfit that is both stylish and comfortable. Opt for high-waisted trousers in a neutral colour like black or beige. For a modern twist, consider wide-leg trousers. This combination is ideal for those who want to maintain a professional appearance while incorporating a touch of French chic. To complete the look, add a pair of loafers or mules and a structured handbag.

In the realm of fashion, the Breton shirt is a timeless piece that exemplifies French chic. Its versatility allows you to style it in various ways for a work outfit, be it with jeans, a skirt, or trousers. Incorporate this classic top with your favourite wardrobe pieces to create a stylish outfit that oozes Parisian elegance.

Styling a Breton Shirt with a Trench Coat

Styling a Breton shirt with a trench coat is a quintessential French chic combination that translates well into a work outfit. This ensemble projects an air of effortless elegance that French women are known for.

Start with a classic Breton top. Its navy and white stripes are a versatile base to build upon. Layer a trench coat over it. The trench coat, like the Breton shirt, is a staple in a French woman’s capsule wardrobe. While the traditional choice is a beige trench coat, you can also opt for a navy blue one to echo the stripes on your Breton shirt.

Pair this combo with a pair of well-fitted trousers, such as those from Ralph Lauren or Marks & Spencer. Dark jeans also work well for a smart-casual office setting. Finish off the look with a pair of ballet flats or loafers — a nod to the classic French style.

For accessories, a structured handbag or a leather satchel can add a polished touch. A delicate scarf tied around the neck can also elevate the look.

The Breton shirt and trench coat combination is a tried-and-true pairing that teems with Parisian charm. This ensemble is perfect for those who want to incorporate a bit of French style into their work outfits.

Accessorizing a Breton Shirt

The accessories you pair with your Breton shirt can add a personal touch and elevate your work outfit.

Consider a long necklace with a pendant that will complement the horizontal stripes and break up the pattern slightly. Brands like Kate Spade offer a wide range of elegant accessories that could work well with a Breton shirt.

Earrings can also add a touch of glamour to your outfit. Hoop earrings or simple studs are versatile choices that harmonise well with the Breton stripe.

A small crossbody bag or a structured handbag, like those from Polo Ralph, can be the perfect final touch.

Remember, when it comes to accessorizing a French style outfit, less is more. French women often follow the rule of removing one accessory before leaving the house. This helps to maintain a clean, sophisticated look.


The Breton shirt is a timeless piece that has become synonymous with French style. Its versatility allows it to be styled in various ways, making it a great addition to any work wardrobe. Whether you pair your Breton top with jeans, a skirt, trousers, or layer it with a trench coat, you can exude Parisian chic effortlessly. With the right accessories, you can further elevate your outfit and add a personal touch. Remember, the key to French style is to keep things simple and sophisticated, letting your Breton shirt take centre stage. So, why not add a touch of French elegance to your work outfits with a Breton shirt?