Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Ahoy there! Of the fashion trends that constantly recur, the nautical trend is one of the biggest that designers remain fixated on year after year. This season, Stella McCartney did it with roomy white sailor trousers and J. W. Anderson paired navy flares with brass buttons and quirky rope embellishments. From crisp, icy shades to teal, turquoise and sapphire hues, blue featured heavily on SS15 catwalks, while the traditional black and white Breton stripe was made over in vibrant oranges, purples and reds. The folks at Altuzzara put a further twist on the trend by sending models out in head to toe stripes of varying thickness and directions. Look back at past Fashion Week collections, and you’ll see various reincarnations of the nautical theme.

So where did it all begin? Nautical fashion goes back to the mid nineteenth century, where Queen Victoria dressed her four year old son in a mini version of a sailor uniform, which had been introduced at the beginning of the century. By 1871, nautical motifs had made their way into women’s swimsuits and leisure wear. Introduced as resort wear fashion, it was Coco Chanel’s 1917 nautical collection that transformed the Breton top from a naval uniform staple to a fashionable item, eventually being worn by trend-setters such as James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1956).

The beginning of World War II brought military influences to the forefront of fashion, as influential Parisian and London fashion houses were forced to close. Instead, people began to look to Hollywood actresses, who wore nautical inspired garments on screen, for their fashion fix. The colourful hues of the 1930s stripe had transformed to focus on the old red, white and blue in a show of patriotism. Forties sailor dresses gave traditional navy uniforms an elegant and playful twist: pleated dresses were finished off with square collars, sailor-tie bows and buttons shaped like anchors and stars. After the mid-forties, however, the nautical look virtually died out until the following decade, with the 1958 release of South Pacific helping to spark a nautical revival. Our favourite nautical looks of the 1950s include Ginger Rogers's sailor top cinched in at the waist with a white belt, Marilyn Monroe's roll neck dress, a boldly striped playsuit worn by Grace Kelly and model Lucinda Hollingsworth dressed in a sharply cut, dark blazer, paired with crisp white trousers.

Nautical themes continue to set sail next season (see what we did there?), with the House of Holland’s bright yellow and black stripes, Isabel Marant’s chunky knits and punkish stripes at Saint Laurent. We’re sure that nautical motifs will pop up amongst next summer’s trends too- can they ever go out of fashion?

Words by Anam Rahim