The Marinière was originally a French uniform for the Navy in the XIX century. The most common version “is a cotton long-armed shirt with horizontal blue and white stripes.” It started to appear around 1810 on official Navy pictures, wore at first as an underwear, it became official with the Regulations of 27 March 1858. The official and precise description was :
A couple of rumors explain the design of this wearable. One of them was that the initial goal of this new uniform was to help to see men who had fallen into the sea. An other one explained that the 21 stripes represent the Napoleon’s war victories.
The Marinière evolved a lot during the past century to become a high fashion accessory. Coco Chanel was actually one of the first ones to officially transform it between 1910 and 1917 as a silk blouse, with no stripes but the same top opening and cut. Her goal was to transform this men uniform to a bourgeois fashion accessory for women. She was wearing it a lot in Deauville with pants, but never included it in her collections.
The Marinière thus became a high fashion wearable and part of the French culture. In Jean-Luc Godard’s movie Le Mépris in 1963, we can see the famous French actress Brigitte Bardot wearing a marinière.
Furthermore, others famous designers re-used this piece. The first one to really integrate this clothe in his collection “matelot” (sailor) was Yves Saint-Laurent in 1966 and called it tricot rayé. Followed by Jean-Paul Gauthier in 1978 in his collection Boy Toy and Karl Lagarfeld in 1990. And then Sonia Rykiel, Dolce&Gabbana, Michael Kors, Kitsuné, Prada, Elite modeling agency … In 2011, the marinière was redesigned to be the official uniform of the French National soccer team (and designed by Karl Lagarfeld).
Finally, the Marinière is representative, not only of the French history but also of the French high fashion culture. Recently a famous French politician did the cover of a well-known journal wearing a marinière to promote the “made in France” movement. Today, the Marinière promotes a savoir-faire and the French culture worldwide. From underwear it became a luxury wearable.