Spring is in full bloom and here at the WeaveUp office we’ve got sun, sand, and sea on our mind.When creating our latest seasonal collection (inspired by said sun, sand, and sea), we began to ponder – how did the stripe pattern first came to be associated with nautical endeavors? Today, our Textile Design Guide picks back up with an investigation into the surprising backstory behind the simple stripe!

During the Middle Ages, Sumptuary Laws obliged those associated with criminality and deviant behavior to wear stripes. The high visibility pattern was largely seen on convicts’ uniforms, but was also worn by other social outcasts such as clowns and prostitutes. The negative connotations surrounding the striped pattern were thoroughly entrenched within society.

French soilder, 1910 | Source

The reputation of the stripe shifted dramatically in the 19th century during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the coastal French region of Brittany, the conspicuous print was ideally suited to nautical ventures, serving to identify sailors fallen overboard. The 1858 Act of France stipulated that the official navy uniform would showcase dark blue and white horizontal stripes. Supposedly, the prescribed twenty-one bands of color represented Napoleon’s military victories. This specific stripe design is known to this day as the Breton or marinière stripe.

Coco Chanel, 1928 | Source

The Breton stripe made its unlikely debut in the fashion scene with the help of iconic French designer, Coco Chanel. Chanel’s 1917 collection was drawn from her trips to the coast where she was inspired by the seamen’s attire. Chanel’s influence forever cemented the Breton top as the epitome of Parisian chic. Since Chanel, striped clothing has been championed by a variety of famous individuals, from actors James Dean and Audrey Hepburn to artists Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol to designers John Paul Gaultier and Missoni.

James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, 1955 | Source

Within the world of textile design, stripes are classically delineated based on the breadth of the bands. From widest to narrowest, you have the awning stripe, the Bengal stripe, the dress stripe, the pin stripe, and the hairline stripe, among other varieties. However, in the contemporary industry we see all manner of alternative striped designs: diagonal, wavy, unbalanced, broken, and even motifs arranged in a directional “striped” banding. Check out the vast array of striped designs in the WeaveUp library here.

We hope this post has inspired you to bring a little nautical spirit into your life this springtime! Explore our latest collection, Breezy & Bright, to see how to perfectly pair striped prints with seasonal colors and other coastal patterns.