Sexy sailors, natty tailors mingle at Paris show

Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:33am EST
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Fashion fans and French admirals in uniform rubbed shoulders this week at an unlikely joint exhibition in Paris celebrating the influence of sailors on the world of style.

"Les Marins Font la Mode" ("Sailors make fashion") traces the link between seafaring and fashion history, from Coco Chanel's jersey dresses to Jean Paul Gaultier's trademark navy-and-white striped tops and evening gowns.

Sailors' uniforms themselves are a reflection of the sea and an adventurous lifestyle: designers feast on the colors and textures of their jaunty white caps and striped tops, their flared trousers and gold-buttoned Caban jackets.

"Sailors have had a great influence on the creative milieu," designer Clea Tirelli, who was visiting the exhibition at the Musee de la Marine in Paris, told Reuters. "Uniforms and workwear in general are a great inspiration, and of course sailors have this popular image as travelers and heroes."

Queen Victoria started the 19th-century trend of dressing up children in miniature sailors' suits, and there is hardly a European family portrait from that period without the obligatory square, knotted collar tied around some chubby toddler's neck.

In the early 20th century, bathing beauties in French seaside resorts such as Deauville began to dress more casually, taking inspiration from the natty sailors in blue and white who would stroll up and down the promenade.

One Deauville regular, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, decided to make chic and comfortable dresses from a material that had previously been used only for men's underwear and sailor's shirts: jersey.

Her loose, floating women's trousers were also modeled along the flared trousers worn on board.   Continued...

<p>Creations by French designers are displayed for the exhibition "When the Navy inspires French fashion" at the Musee National de la Marine in Paris February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>