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Reinventing France’s Sailor Shirt

Robert Doisneau / Courtesy of Silver Photo Agency Pablo Picasso at home

Photo: Pablo Picasso at home

Nothing says French like a striped sailor shirt. A symbol of the country’s seafaring heritage first worn by Breton fishermen in the late 19th century, the top has been reappropriated over the years: Pablo Picasso gave it artistic cachet, while Brigitte Bardot used it as a beach cover-up. Enter Petit Bateau, whose long-sleeve ribbed cotton Marinière has a fitted look with a playful twist—after all, it was made for kids. The company had been making children’s underclothes for a century when, in the 90’s, ever-fashionable French women started wearing girls’ “slim fit” tees. Now made in sizes large enough for grown-ups, and available in baby-soft silk- and bamboo-cotton blends, the tops make easy travel companions. The Marinière has added appeal: it recalls seaside vacations and the freedom of youth.

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