Achieve Nautical Style Mastery With This Ultimate Dressing Guide

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What is Nautical Style?

The Nautical style is a way of dressing with aesthetic roots in maritime culture and activities, comprised of primarily Preppy-style garments, footwear, and accessories in navy and white color schemes, Breton striped patterns, and marine symbols, creating a timeless look.

Favored clothes, footwear, and accessories in the Navy style outfits include naval uniforms, yellow slickers, sailor t-shirts, preppy chinos and Bermuda shorts, fisherman’s sweaters, and yachting footwear.

Nautical Style

Nautical Style Origin

The origin of Nautical dressing goes back to 16th-century European sailors (known as “Jack-tars”), who wore leather jackets, canvas tunics, and breeches called “slops” to keep safe from harsh ocean weather.

This occupational attire was adopted in the 18th century by the British Navy as part of their naval uniforms to make a clear distinction between sailors and fishermen.

The uniform’s color scheme – blue and white with gold or silver trim for officers – coined the term “navy blue.”

The Navy style gained prominence during Queen Victoria’s reign in the mid-19th century when Naval jobs symbolized power and prestige, turning Navy uniforms into fashionable choices among the British monarchy and high society circles.

How to Dress Nautical?

Achieving the perfect Nautical style requires an excellent curation of garments, footwear, and accessories rooted in the rich history of maritime activities and traditional naval attire from clothing brands renowned for fostering this unique fashion style.

Nautical Style Clothing

1. Breton Shirt

Named after Brittany, France, the Breton shirt recalls the 1858 French navy uniforms with 21 horizontal stripes representing Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories.

Recommended Brands: J Crew, Boden, Armor-Lux, A.P.C.

Boden Breton Shirt J Crew Breton Shirt

2. Navy Blazer

With roots in British naval uniforms, Navy blazers with brass buttons are a staple in Nautical style, especially when paired with chinos and striped shirts emphasizing the maritime heritage.

Recommended Brands: Ralph Lauren, Veronica Beard, Brooks Brothers

Ralph Lauren Navy Blazer Veronica Beard Navy Blazer

3. White Chino Pants or Shorts

Inspired by the British colonial military uniforms, white chinos or Bermudas are crucial in Nautical style, contrasting the dark blue shades and stripes found in tops and Navy blazers.

Recommended Brands: Ralph Lauren, Land’s End, J Crew

Land's End White Chino Pants Ralph Lauren White Chino Trousers

4. Striped Swing Dress

Suitable for formal seaside events like dinners at yacht clubs or coastal weddings, the swing dress silhouette adds a feminine twist to the Nautical style.

Recommended Brands: Kate Spade, Tommy Hilfiger

Kate Spade Striped Swing Dress Tommy Hilfiger Striped Swing Dress

5. Cotton Full-Skirt Shirtdress

The cotton full-skirt shirtdress has aesthetic roots in 1950s American casualwear and was adopted into the Nautical style as a breezy and elegant option for summertime yacht parties and coastal getaways.

Recommended Brands: Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Tory Burch

Ralph Lauren Cotton Full-Skirt Shirtdress Tory Burch Cotton Full-Skirt Shirtdress

Nautical Style Footwear

1. Boat Shoes

A staple of Preppy fashion – originating from American yachting culture – boat shoes are essential in Nautical style and the go-to choice for sailing trips and dockside lounging.

Recommended Brands: Sperry, Sebago

Achieve Nautical Style Mastery With This Ultimate Dressing Guide Sebago Boat Shoes

2. Canvas Espadrilles

With aesthetic roots in traditional Spanish footwear, canvas espadrilles are essential footwear in Nautical style as the ideal shoes for beachside strolls and informal maritime events.

Recommended Brands: Castañer, Soludos, Manebí

Castaner Canvas Espadrilles Soludos Canvas Espadrilles

3. Straw Wedge Sandals

With aesthetic roots in ancient Egypt and Mediterranean seaside fashion, straw wedge sandals are essential footwear in Nautical style, ideal for yacht soirees.

Recommended Brands: Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Stuart Weitzman

Jimmy Choo Straw Wedge Sandals Christian Louboutin Straw Wedge Sandals

Nautical Style Accessories

1. Canvas Tote Bags

With origins in the bags used by 19th-century American sailors to transport goods, canvas tote bags are excellent for carrying essentials during sea voyages and beach outings.

Recommended Brands: L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren

L.L.Bean Canvas Tote Bags Ralph Lauren Canvas Tote Bag

2. Boater Hat

Inspired by 19th-century Venetian gondoliers, the boater hat is the formal headwear choice in Nautical style for boating events and waterfront dining.

Recommended Brands: Stetson, LK Bennett, Boutique Bonita

LK Bennett Boater Hat Boutique Bonita Boater Hat

3. Breton Cap

Originating from French maritime uniforms, the Breton cap is an iconic accessory in the Nautical style, offering a touch of authenticity for sailing expeditions and waterfront leisure.

Recommended Brands: Sterkowski, Brixton

Brixton Breton Cap Isabel Marant Breton Cap

4. Silk Scarves

Recalling the 1950s French and Italian high fashion, silk scarves are ideal for upscale maritime events like yacht parties and exclusive beachside events.

Recommended Brands: Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Boden

Boden Silk Scarves Dolce & Gabbana Silk Scarves

3 Key Takeaways

  • Authenticity Matters: A genuine Nautical outfit comprises garments, footwear, and accessories rooted in maritime history and naval uniforms showcasing the style’s rich heritage.
  • Color Coordination: Navy blue, white, and occasionally red are the backbone of the Nautical color palette. Straying from these foundational colors dilutes the style’s distinct maritime aesthetic.
  • Brand Selection is Key: Given the historical and cultural weight of the Nautical style, authentic clothing brands in this specific fashion style are critical. Brands like Saint James, Armor-Lux, A.P.C., and Sperry are not just labels but guardians of Nautical tradition.

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Similar Styles to Nautical Style

Professional Styling Advice

Are you looking to improve your fashion style and unsure where to start? Are you into relaxed-casual, E-girlY2K, or VSCO looks, but dressing Nautical resonates with you, and you wonder why?

Contact The VOU’s Style Experts to receive your free and personalized styling advice based on your current way of dressing, preferred outfits, colors, aesthetics, age, gender, body shape, location, and event you seek to attend.

Your dedicated stylist will meticulously select essential garments, footwear, and accessories to craft a wardrobe that complements and enhances your style.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to experience a transformative fashion adventure, all at no cost to you.

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After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

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