My thoughts on Nautical fashion


This month issue of “Make It Today ” talks to a few bloggers about the influence of navy in fashion. The magazine article is very interesting and worth a read. In the meanwhile you can read my full interviews now over the blog.

Make It Today: What does the phrase ‘Nautical Chic’ inspire in you – what types of looks and designs spring to mind?

The formula for nautical chic is as simple as it is perfect: Navy and white. It usually balances elements that provides comfort and style. Something highly championed by Coco Chanel.

I love the key elements of nautical clothing—like stripes, flap-front pants, and pea coats but nautical is not always obvious. A double breasted coat dress from the 60’s may not be immediately associated as nautical as a Breton stripe.

For me nautical chic is all about structure and texture. Using classic stripes and incorporating them in different colours or changes in direction. To play with shades of white or introducing shapes with a nod to broderie anglaise.

Make It Today: Can you think of any particularly dynamic, beautiful and unusual interpretations?

Nautical transcends a place or decade. It’s a style that endures because it works. Like many classic trends it evolves. From It’s a fresh and clean cut to a Dishevelled, messy and swarthy.

Massimo Giorgetti latest collection is called ‘Urban mermaids’, with subtle inferences to the ocean like metallics colours, rich embroidery and different shades of blue. He mixed classic nautical shapes with sporty silhouettes. So many designers used detail-oriented nautical influences like toggles, eyelets, cord and tailor collars recently.

Make It Today: What do you think it is about the navy and white combo that is so flattering and appealing, and why do you think it has endured in so many different interpretations?

The style is timeless. It works well for all ages and looks as good in a woman’s wardrobe as it does in a man’s. Perfect excuse to sew your guy a sweater and borrow occasionally.

Make It Today: With which eras, modern and historical, would you say the look is most readily identifiable?

The iconic Breton stripes was initially introduced in the French navy uniform in 1858. Coco Chanel used in her 1917 collection. But for me, the most identified period was when military look from the late 1930’s get revived. The colour combination of navy and white were fashions favourites among women before the war outbreak. There is a great quote of Vogue magazine of the time “your wardrobe is not complete without a pair or two of superbly tailored slacks of 1939” .

I think the mix of patriotism and sea exploration history still plays it’s influences today and we see reflected again and again.

Make It Today: Can you mention any notable examples of your own designs that play on the navy and white combo?

I have made a combination of classic and modern looks. A few favourites are: a loose fitting and lined boyfriend style coat with peaked notch lapels. Really love the pattern clean Scandinavian style and the use of the classic nautical colours. I also made a loose fitting sweater shaped with french darts. The nautical inference was given on the pattern shape and colours but using a modern print.

I been in love with this top and trousers combo since It was launched. I always loved Cynthia Rowley designs and knew exactly how I wanted to change the pattern into a jumpsuit. Not a traditional dark navy but a deep sea tone.

To complement my coat I like wearing it with a mini shift wool dress.


Make It Today: Have you been inspired by any other designers who you feel are especially interesting in keeping this look so alluring down the ages?
So difficult to name just one. I don’t think there is one designer that haven’t used nautical as an inspiration. The most successful has a graphic sensibility to the society at the time.

Make It Today: Do you think the navy and white combo succeeds because it flatters a feminine shape, because it allows women to play around with ideas of masculinity, because it changes the way we think about conventional male and female ideas of fashion, or something else entirely?

As I mentioned, fashion trends tent to reflect the society mood.I think nautical always followed the sentiment of androgyny. The play on masculine-feminine isn’t new. If you visit the V&A you can see 1920’s woman’s underwear designed to flatten the body. During the war our Land Girls took to the field in nautical inspired trousers. YSL created the famous tuxedo in 1966. Today we see a feminisation of men’s clothes which I feel reflects the new interest in feminism in society.

Make It Today: Do you think there is a particular type of female attitude that is best represented by ‘nautical chic’, or would you say it is something that any woman could wear?
the word that comes to my mind is playful and fresh.

Make It Today: Outside of purely nautical interpretations, how can modern fashion benefit from new approaches to the navy and white combination?

Well-stabilised colour combinations play a strong influence on peoples perceptions. The navy is pretty much the colour that identify the military. By using light to mid tones of blue or creating textures it creates a sense of mindfulness.

Make It Today: Have you any thoughts on how new dressmakers could play around with the look?

The white and navy doesn’t need to be the only option. The richness of navy with magenta is especially luxurious when combined in wool tweed.
Change the classic navy to a brighter blue. Using a bold and fresh shade enhances casual jersey pieces with simple shapes, ideal for layering. Chambray is a lovely fabric for new makers to work with.
For patterns, simplicity has a beautiful 40’s inspired slacks 2654. Tilly and the Buttons coco dress or arielle skirt has a strong nautical influence Burda style has a whole collection of nautical inspired patterns with various degrees of difficulty. The classic tunic dress and metallic leather skirt are a few favourites.

Ps; This is the first time I’m writing my blog via tablet while abroad. Struggling to add links and pictures so upon my return I will update this post better. Hope you enjoy and share your thoughts on nautical fashion.

  • I’m reading a book right now called Nautical Chic – it’s so interesting, as it goes through the different nautical influences on fashion throughout history for both men and women category by category – the Officer, the Sailor, the Fisherman etc etc. I just adore nautical inspired fashion!

    • this books is super well recommended and so lovely to know you are enjoying it

  • Fiona (Stitch & Steele)

    Hi, who does your photography and what sort of camera do they use please Rachel?

    • Rachel

      Hi Fiona, all my pictures are taken by me aka self portrait. I got a cannon 1100 but I don’t think I would pick that today if I had known better. Not wireless so no remote, meaning self timer only.