Paris Tips: Embracing Sailor Chic

A shell of a good time at La Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde Photos by Theadora Brack

A shell of a good time at La Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde Photos by Theadora Brack

Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde

Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde

Dress at the Seaside

In these days when amateur photographers swarm everywhere and when the click of the indiscreet apparatus takes one by surprise, on the plain, in the valley, on the mountain, it is necessary, more than ever, for women of fashion to watch over their reputation for style. The bathing hour at the fashionable seaside resorts is, above all others, the most critical.

At that moment the Kodak rages.

It is well to make use of large waterproofed silk knickerbockers over everything, drawn in at the knees; in this manner the dress is kept dry up to the waist. To wear these costumes with comfort, it indispensable to have a waistband corset of strong linen, and very slightly stiffened, which supports the back and gives a curve to the loins.

Lastly, need we sacrifice our pretty waved hair, which forms an auricle round our features and a pleasing nimbus to which all eyes are accustomed? A fringe of curled hair will adapt itself to the interior of our selected harmony of the face. Nowadays, accessories are so numerous that it is really laziness on the part of the woman without a maid who is not bien coiffé!

(All this, according to The Paris Herald in 1901, “The Inevitable Kodak: How to Set off Charms that Nature Has Bestowed and Create Those Which She Has Refused”)

La Vie Parisienne, July 1931

La Vie Parisienne, July 1931


Now, Voyager

Trekking to Paris? The Musée de la Marine, located at place du Trocadéro is worth the expedition. Dive deep into my favorite French naval history museum’s vast collection of artifacts ranging from Napoleon’s gilded ceremonial barge (with all 24 oars still intact!), the Carmagnolle brothers’ diving suit (at 800 pounds, those brothers were heavy indeed), to toy boats that once belonged to the young Louis XV!

Tip: Stop by the gift shop. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Long and narrow like a ship’s salon, here you’ll find ocean liner posters, postcards, books, model ships, and striped shirts by designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Then, with a book in hand, head to the Jardins des Trocadéro, tucked behind the museum. Its hideaways are the perfect place for a rendezvous.

Covet nautical wear? Heck, who hasn’t been touched by the bold stripes of the traditional nautical shirts of Brittany? That coastal region is where the French-striped top originated.

Thank Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel for taking the French naval uniform to the streets in 1916, deftly improvising with fabric and color like a jazz musician. Off the hook, overnight silky loungewear caught fire—at the seaside and in the city, and soon beach pajamas followed suit.  “It is always better to be underdressed,” according to Coco. I agree.

Audrey’s red and white striped shirt (by Mark Cross)

Stars and Stripes Forever

This look not only touched appealingly rugged-types like Picasso, Hemingway, and Jean Paul Gaultier, but also lured Rykiel, Schiaparelli, Jean Seberg, Brigitte Bardot, and Audrey Hepburn—just to name a few. And it continues to captivate. Why, the very shirt (by Mark Cross) that Audrey herself wore on the set of the 1956 film “War and Peace” was recently put up for auction in London. Oh, was I tempted . . .

Speaking of temptation, a confession: I myself fell for the marinière after reading Hemingway’s “Garden of Eden.” Throughout the slim novelette, it crackles.

Here’s a nibble:
“Catherine sat was sitting at breakfast on the terrace. There was a red-and-white checkered cloth on the table. She wore her old Grau du Roi stripped shirt fresh-washed and shrunk now and much faded, new gray flannel slacks, and espadrilles.”

“She had bought the shirts for them and then had washed them in the basin in the room at the hotel to take the stiffness out of them. They were stiff and built for hard wear but the washings softened and now they were worn and softened enough that when he looked at the girl now her breasts showed beautifully against the worn cloth.”

“You look lovely,” he said. “Thank you. I feel lovely,” she said.

Sigh! Inspired, let’s now hit the cobblestone rues, and earn some romantic stripes of our own, shall we?

Where did Godard score Patricia's striped dress? (Credit: Movieposterdb)

Where did Godard score Patricia’s striped dress? (Credit: Movieposterdb)


More Tips Ahoy

In the Marais, you’ll find beaucoup de Breton stripes. Kick-off your quest at the FREE’P’STAR at 61 rue de la Verrerie. Decked out in neon signs, funky lighting fixtures, and original photography and paintings, it’s easy to spot. Keep your eyes peeled for the shrine dedicated to photographer Brassaï. His “Conchita with Sailors, Place d’Italie” (1933) sits pretty in the vitrine.

Though a bit smaller, the Vintage Désir down the street at 32 rue des Rosiers also has bountiful goods aplenty. Then, pop tags by the kilo at the nearby Kilo Shop at 69-71 rue de la Verrerie Vintage. Tarb and scales abound, matey.

This week, I’ll close with a little Paris Pop Quiz.

Here are your clues: Jean-Luc Godard’s classic 1960 “À bout de soufflé” (“Breathless”) was shot on-location in Paris. Both Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg wear striped garb throughout the film. In a few key scenes, Seberg’s character, an up-and-coming journalist named Patricia, sports a marvelous striped dress.

Question: Name the French store where director Godard (Bargain Hunter Extraordinaire) purchased the dress. There was no official costume designer on the set.

Clipping Hemingway yet again, “My big fish must be somewhere!”

My Big Fish is out there at at La Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde

My Big Fish is out there at La Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde

BRACK Bathing Beauty 888

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pont Alexandre III

BRACK Bathing Beauty 1111

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79 thoughts on “Paris Tips: Embracing Sailor Chic

    • Merci! Yes, add the fountains at Place de Concorde to your list! Have you seen the “The Devil Wears Prada” film? Here is where Anne Hathaway’s “Andy” character quits her job. I often see TDWP pilgrims here, re-enacting the dramatic scene!

      And speaking of books, here’s a tip: The Place de la Concorde is a 5-minute walk from the Jardin des Tuileries. The perfect spot for books and people-watching! For reading material, stop by the W.H. Smith at 248 Rue de Rivoli. Also near Place de la Concorde, you’ll find the Jardin des Tuileries Bookshop, specializing in garden books. For the love of green inspiration, I dig this shop.

      Enjoy the weekend!

  1. “Do you think my shirt is too tight, Tin Man?” I asked as I took a dozen or so out of my valise.
    “It is my expert opinion as grand wizard of fashion that a Grau du Roi shirt can never be too tight or too old!” he answered.
    “Dos it go with ruby slippers?”
    “My Dear everything goes with your ruby slippers. Now let’s eat our brioche and strawberry jam. Theadora is waiting. She’s wearing her new, well old vintage you know, bathing costume.”
    “She’ll make a splash. She always does.” as I slipped out of my ruby slippers and into my espadrilles, and tucked a bottle of bubbly into my beach bag.

    • Chapter 2

      The sun was setting. I shivered as I watched the waves crash. I reached for my espadrilles and white Grau du Roi fisherman shirt. The shirt was old but warm. My teeth stopped chattering. I threw a blanket around my legs. I checked my watch again. “Have you seen Virginia and the Tin Man,” I asked Sara and Gerald Murphy. “No,” Gerald said. Sara volunteered to drive me to the train station. As we slowly made our way down the road, we looked for the sparkling ruby slippers. “We’ll find them,” Sara said.

      • The fading sun glinted off the empty bottle of Dom Perignon; lingered on well thumbed books tumbling out of the beach bag,( Hemingway, Sartre, Beauvoir) and caught the very high heel of a ruby slipper.
        “We’ve missed Theadora. It’s getting late. I’m concerned” Virginia said.
        “When she’s with the Murphy’s time flies.
        They are a mysterious couple, They don’t seem to work yet they always have plenty of money” replied The Tin Man.
        Tin Man and Virginia looked at each other, and then as one hurried up the steps and into the Paris night.

    • For the love………..why has Theadora run off to the train station……..I tell you Virginia, when she is Murphy, there is no telling where we shall find them. I have been at Prisunic for much too long……..I let my mind wander and now it looks as if I may have messed up the entire evening. Oh…….ladies all this fuss with the fashion, you have totally distracted me! Yes, you both look divine……as you always do! Now we are out of bubbly shall we meet at Le Procope. Virginia, here put this sweater over your shoulders, the mist is settling in ……..oh I so hope that Theadora will join us soon………how I miss her laughter. Now off to Le Procope………if they are shut we shall sit on the stoop and wait!

        CITY: PARIS
        DATE: 1 OCT 1923


        Meet us at Midnight at a cozy place in the alley near Odeon, La Jacobine STOP Located at 59 Rue Saint-André des Arts in passageway built in 1735 STOP We’ve ordered the bubbly STOP Sara and Picasso are buying STOP


    • Ring-a-ding-ding! Yes, Marta!

      Jean-Luc Godard bought the lovely striped dress worn by Jean Seberg at Prisunic (Monoprix).

      By the way, I’ve been digging your recent “Marinière” photo series! Excellent timing!

  2. Love, love, love me some sailor stripes :-) On this rainy day in the south of France, you’ve inspired me to pull “Garden of Eden” off of the bookshelf and treat myself !

    • I’m with you, Jennifer! I love scoring some sailor stripes. I’ve been enjoying reading about your new adventures in France! I loved the recent pics of the “Marché du Vendredi.” Lucky, you. Beautiful! T. (Researching the post, I spent time again with my old copy of Hem’s “Garden of Eden.” It’s the perfect read with a crisp white wine at sunset!)

      • Ooooh do you love Papa as much as I do?? You should don your stripes and give tours of his old haunts in Paris… the Midnight In Paris tour! :-))) – Jen

      • Oui. Oui. Papa DO preach. Gioia Diliberto’s “Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife” is another interesting read. :-) T.

      • Ooooh I’m going to love that. Thanks for the recommendation! I think I’ll order it today :-)

    • Ha! Just the dress! It was purchased at Prisunic (Monoprix). According to my flick research, there was no official costume designer on the set. Often, the actors wore their own garb. It’s a beauty! T. (And speaking of Woolworth’s, my grandmother used to shop at Highlandtown location. I think it closed during the early nineties. Hutzler’s department store was my favorite! What is happening the old downtown department store buildings? Artist studios? Gorgeous buildings.)

  3. Pingback: Shipping out | This, that and the other thing

    • Janet, thanks for more Sailor Talk! :-)

      Flying to the San Francisco International Airport? Don’t miss its “From Ship to Shore” exhibition.

      Organized by the Nautical Arts from the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, it features 19th and early 20th century artifacts created by sailors like 20th masthead ornaments, a sea chest scrimshaw, rope work, ships-in-bottles, and a whalebone chair.

      Don’t miss Janet’s photographs! Here’s a link:

  4. Hi, T! Love that pic of Audrey. Such a classic-both herself and the striped shirt. Considering my winter break holiday plans…maybe Paris? :)

    • Bonjour, Anita!

      Again, what funny timing! I thoroughly enjoyed your Sunday Post about the “Stories From The Harbor, Shipwrecks of Yenikapi” at the Istanbul Archeological Museum. I love the skeleton detail. Yikes! Everyone is writing about the sea. Have you taken your students to the museum yet? I’ve been enjoying your new teaching adventures. Any recent clothing scores at the market?

      Here’s a link to Anita’s story:

  5. Wonderful photographs, T! Thanks for mentioning À bout de soufflé – I shall dig it out this w/e and give it a spin. (They wear their stripes so well). And spend the next week practicing my Belmondoisms.

    • Thanks, Richard! While researching the post, I spent beaucoup time with Godard’s À bout de soufflé! The Belmondoisms are pretty darn terrific. Don’t forget the hat! The posing is contagious. Shall we steal a Cadillac? Snazzy soundtrack by Martial Solal, eh? The French jazz pianist and composer also worked with Django Reinhardt. It’s high time to watch the flick again! T. (Enjoy the weekend!)

  6. Dearest Theodora
    Though most partial to a nautical stripe, The Dandy’s never been in to Musee de la Marine.
    I dreadful oversight I know sense and one to be put right on the next visit.
    It was just that the Trocadero was such an odd sort of a place for so long… but now there are so many reasons to visit.. all those buildings within a building at the Cite for architecture, the theatres and the Palais de Tokyo being all contemporary around the corner.
    So I shall do my best Querelle de Brest impersonation I get me and my Dandy stripes down there (oh and to many places besides too).
    A joy to read, comme d’habitude.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Dear Perfumed Dandy!

      YES. Add the Musée de la Marine to your list. I love the garden, located behind the museum. Its lush hideaways still move the rendezvous-ers! Perfect for book reading and people-watching.

      Here’s a Scents and Sensibility Q for you: What fragrance do you recommend wearing with the nautical stripe? Any recommendations? Favorites?


      (By the way, I adored your Wednesday nod to Audrey Hepburn and Bottega Veneta! Pretty in Pink!)

  7. This is a sumptuous post for someone like me who adores Breton tops (Jean Paul Gaultier is my favorite couturier !) and who has collaborated on the Musée de la Marine’s 2009 “Les Marins font la mode” exhibition !

    • STOP the presses. So you collaborated on the Musée de la Marine’s “Les Marins font la mode” exhibition? I loved, loved this show. I own both catalogs. The felt “bachi” on the cover wooed me like a siren. What exactly did you do for the show?

      Very cool!

      (Yesterday I spotted post about “Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick Inspires Olympia Le-Tan’s Spring and Summer 2014 Collection.” I loved the pink satin top and white roped belt. I also loved the 1940s hairdo. Everyone is writing about seaside. Maritime had by all!)

      • I’m happy that you loved Olympia Le-Tan’s nautical homage ! A few months before the “Les Marins font la mode” exhibition, one of the Musée de la Marine’s assistants came to Marseille’s Fashion Museum (it’s closed now, but I’m still working on the computerization of the fashion collections of the museums of Marseille) and I showed her the computer data of our nautical pieces (so, the “Musées de Marseille / musée de la mode” was “thanked” on page 183 of the amazing MNM / Gallimard catalogue) ! Thanks for your interest !

      • Very cool story! So Marseille’s Fashion Museum is closed? Blah! Any chance it will reopen? I’m happy to hear that you’re still working with the collection! Were any of your nautical pieces featured in the exhibition? I’m off now to check out page 183. Bravo! T.

      • Merci !!! In fact, it has become a department inside Marseille’s new Museum of Decorative Arts and Fashion, so the exhibition spaces for fashion are now much smaller, and its location has changed (it was near Marseille’s port before, so it was perfect to highlight some of our nautical pieces, even if we also keep many incredible couture pieces !). I think that one of our “Corto Maltese” men’s outfit was selected, but I’m not 100 % sure !!! Voilà ! X

  8. In these days when amateur photographers swarm everywhere…loved this introduction as it seems so true for todays world of iPhones and discrete digital cameras…especially in Paris…but then to be taken back to the the Kodak of 1901…wonderful. As always enjoyed your musings and the photos and posters…

    • I know! I know! Like the old French adages says, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It was a very funny article. I thought the same thing. I’m off now to purchase some striped knickerbockers and cap for the seaside. Now I’m humming Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea. . .


      (Enjoy the week!!)

  9. I miss so much Paris (already 4 passed from the time I was in Paris). Thank you for this blog taht take me closser to Paris.

      • one of my favourites is Musee D’ Orsay. And of course, “avec la Bateau-mouche sur la Seine” :)

      • I also love the Musée d’Orsay! The view of Montmartre through the clock in the top level café is breathtaking, eh?! It’s high time to return! T. (Current exhibition: Masculin / Masculin. L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 à nos jours. Open through January 2, 2014.)

  10. As one of those amateur photographers swarming everywhere, I thank you for all your efforts to be stylish day in and day out! Wonderful post, T!

    • Ha! Thanks, Paul! Yes, you can’t go wrong with a corset of strong linen and large waterproofed silk knickerbockers-day in and day out! Stylish and comfortable, to boot. Poor gals! Goodness. Gracious. Here’s to the good old days! T.

  11. Beautiful pictures of my favourite city, favourite actress, and a poster of a French Film I love.
    And true Picasso to Hepburn, everyone loved those French trademark striped T-Shirts.

      • Oh, boy!! so many
        My all lime favourite French Flick happens to be ‘Jules et Jim’ (62′) which is among my ‘Top-10′ Favourite Films (see my list on IMDB – link on my Gravatar page), and a couple of months ago I blogged about another French classic I love, plus a French short flick as well.

      • I love, love the “Jules et Jim” flick! Excellent choice. Do you have a link to your top ten favorite films post? Do share!
        (I’m also a big time Éric Rohmer fan.)

      • Yes, press on my picture – you come to my Gravatar page, there you’ll find the link to ‘my Top 10 films’ on IMDB.
        And in my blog, for my post on ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ and ‘The End’, press on August 2013.
        Yes I love Rohmer flicks too, ‘Pauline a la plage’ and the ‘seasonal’ films as well, though I haven’t written about his work yet.

  12. Very very chic, Theodora.
    “In these days when amateur photographers swarm everywhere and when the click of the indiscreet apparatus takes one by surprise, on the plain, in the valley, on the mountain, it is necessary, more than ever, for women of fashion to watch over their reputation for style. The bathing hour at the fashionable seaside resorts is, above all others, the most critical.”
    Still so true: you have to be on the watchout for an Instagramming. It pays to be careful.

    • HA. I know! I know, Rob! Maintain your reputation for style with knickerbockers and swimming cap. The Kodak camera in the bottom shot 1901 ad looks pretty darn heavy!


      I’m still thinking about your recent post: “Memories Lost, Reechoed, Acquired.” Hemingway is in the air! I loved your opening lines. “This week I inadvertently went back to myself a ten years ago through film and book. To memories I have, to memories I learnt and to memories that left me.”

      • Living in Brazil, I might have to see how knickerbockers and swimming caps go down at the Copacabana – that’s if I can find any somewhere…

        It’s funny you mention Hem, especially in the first section of The Sun Also Rises, my mind kept flitting back to your very own Parisian strolls. Must get my hands on more of his stuff to (re)read.

        Thank you also for being so kind about that sentence!

      • Thanks for the giggle! Rob, here’s one more Hem tip for the road: The restored edition of “A Moveable Feast” is another interesting read. Edited by Sean Hemingway, in the last section you’ll find fragments of his drafts. Interesting to see the process. I’ve always loved his pacing. Rhythm. I’m certain he read his works-in-progress out loud. The book also includes photographs of his handwritten manuscripts. More process!
        Enjoy the weekend!

      • Ooh, sounds exciting–I’ve not read A Moveable Feast, but will check it out. Speaking of that time in Paris (and someone I know knew Hem), I’ve been getting into Gertrude Stein recently:
        “Who came first Napoleon at first. Who came first Napoleon the first. Who came first, Napoleon first.”
        And so it goes wonderfully shutters-shuttingly on.

      • “And so it goes wonderfully shutters-shuttingly on!” Perfection. Your words. I often clip from Lady Dada Stein’s Bon Marché Weather: “There are a very great many things everybody is buying. There are a very great many things you are buying. There are a very great many things they are buying. There are a very great many things I am buying.” There ARE a very great many things everybody is reading! T.

      • Haha. You told me and I liked it. I liked it as you told me.
        And yes, there are a very great many things everybody has on their reading list too. R

  13. Love this site. I have been able to travel the world during my working life – from Shenzhen to Rio, Lahore to Cairo. Although a good son of Italy and America, I tell anyone who asks that Paris is the most beautiful city in the world.


    • Merci! YES. Paris IS a beautiful city! Ah, but so is Italy. :-) I’m currently planning a trip to Rome. This will be my first visit. Counting down the months. . . T.

  14. Hélas! No Prisunic in Western Massachusetts. No striped shirts à la Papa or Pablo either, I don’t think.
    What is a woman to do? Signed, a Chanel manqué.
    (Oh boy, am I manqué!)

    • Thanks for the big giggle!! No Prisunic? No Monoprix? Oh, my dear!! What would Dalida do? Beach pajamas? I think so!

      Dalida’s 1960 “Itsi bitsi petit bikini” video is a seaside classic! I’ll dig up a link.


  15. It is such a lovely visit to see Paris through your photos and your post. I especially love the Place de la Concorde photos and the view from Pont Alexandre. You forgot to add Coco Chanel’s obsession with things nautical.Or perhaps it would merit a seprate post all its own, huh?

    • Fret not! Coco is in the house!! I could not write about nautical wear without a salute. By the way, Coco designed the bathing suit costumes for Serge Diaghlev’s 1924 ballet: Le Train Bleu. Created by Jean Cocteau, it was named for the Paris-Riviera express. This summer I got to see the costumes in Washington D.C. at the National Gallery of Art’s “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music Diaghilev.” Beautiful exhibition! I cried. I cried.

  16. I love the 1901 look at the bathing hour. You can’t go wrong with large waterproof silk knickerbockers! It must be fun to read Hemingway and then seek out the places he wandered through or the food/drinks he tasted.

    • I agree, Sheila! You can’t go wrong with knickerbockers at the bathing hour. Or beach pajamas! Keeping the beach ball bouncing: During the 1920s and 1930s, they were the rage—at the beach, cafés, and casinos. Ah, they look so comfortable. I could wear them day in, day out! My new look, perhaps. . .T. (I just signed up for Twitter workshop, thanks to you!)

  17. Who knew a fringe of curled hair could make all the difference! Not to mention some stripes! What a shock though to be reminded that Coco set the trend almost 100 years ago!

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