The Marinière


With its white and blues stripes and round collar, the eternally fashionable Marinière has been a wardrobe essential for both men and women for over a century. From Coco Chanel to Jean-Paul Gaultier, it has transcended generations never aging a day! For the arrival of Fileuse d’Arvor products, straight from the workshop in Brittany, we at Port Franc wanted to take a look at the story behind this iconic garment.

When it first appeared in the 17th century it was part of a deckhand’s uniform. On top there was a plain white smock with a big blue collar attached and underneath the English and Dutch navies would wear a striped knitted jumper. This was the Marinière as we know it today, just a simple bit of underwear.



In 1858, the French imperial navy made it part of their own uniform. A statement in the army bulletin defined the official Marinière - It had to have “21 white stripes 20mm wide and 20 or 21 blue stripes 10mm wide.” The sleeves had to be made up of “15 white stripes and 14 or 15 blue stripes.”

Why stripes? And why exactly 21 stripes? We will never know for sure but two theories have been batted around. Some believe the stripes were used to more easily identify someone who had fallen in the water. Others have a bigger imagination, and like to think that 21 was a reference to the number of Napoleon III’s military victories.

Things changed in 1917 however, when Coco Chanel hit the promenade of Deauville in a stylish striped jumper; it was none other than the Marinière. Although the designer never included it in her collections, she transformed it with her style and her beauty from a workman’s outfit to a fashion essential for well-to-do ladies. She started a craze and established an icon.

Just ten years later, Pierre and Marie Brest opened their Fileuse d’Arvor factory for navy jumpers in Brittany. This region in the West of France had long been synonymous with quality fashion ever since the Belle Époque and the arrival of elegant, rich but demanding Parisians who wanted only the best bodices and latest embroidery patterns from the Bigouden couturiers. 



In the sixties and full Yéyé period, Yves Saint-Laurent also turned to the Marinière. Haute couture finally got its teeth officially and publicly into the old Navy’s uniform. In 1966, YSL presented his version with Marinière dresses and the ‘matelot’ (deckhand) collection. In 1978, Jean Paul Gaultier revisited the Marinière in his ‘Boy Toy’ collection and firmly instituted the t-shirts’ symbolic status.

Fashions come and go, but the expert hands of the Fileuse d’Arvor tailors have remained constant in their production of the perfect Marinière. Around twenty couturiers still work together to make each jumper by hand, using incredibly soft, durable, 100% organic fibre. Even the logo has remained the same since the foundation of the small family company. After all, quality lasts. 

For Fileuse d’Arvor, the Marinière perfectly reflects this ideal of excellence as well as authenticity and creativity. This unique company will soon be celebrating its centenary and as part of this illustrious history, Port Franc is proud to bring the Marinière on the Canadian market for the very first time.

Clément Sabourin