Nautical fashion: from the catwalk to the high street

Designers from Vivienne Westwood to Galliano and Chanel have all created collections inspired by naval wear and maritime culture. 

Fashion trends inspired by the sea have been part of our culture since Victorian times and continue to pop up on the catwalk today. Designers from Vivienne Westwood to Galliano and Chanel, have all created collections inspired by naval wear and maritime culture. The styles and trends they create often found their way onto the high street, providing the fashion conscious public with affordable nautical looks.

The legacy of Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel

The striped sweater and flared 'bell-bottom' trousers are two of the most enduring nautical garments in catwalk and high street fashion.

This look was popularised in the 1920s by the French designer Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel. Chanel was often seen dressed in her boyish striped sweaters and 'yachting pants' on the bohemian French Riviera.

John Galliano

John Galliano's menswear collection in 2005 revisited the glamour of the golden age of piracy. The collection included many highly individual pieces and used the traditional cut of a sailor's jacket, combined with military styling and beachwear.

KENZO fashion house

Japanese designer Kenzo Takada launched the KENZO brand in Paris, in 1970. KENZO quickly became known for its bold and abstract use of colour, and its fusion of traditional Japanese styles with relaxed tailoring.

In 2006 KENZO designer, Antonio Marras, launched a nautical-inspired, ready-to-wear spring/summer collection. Marras, who lived and worked overlooking the sea in Sardinia, used his surroundings as inspiration.

The collection Marras designed included striped jerseys and blazers, alongside elegant patterned dresses, evoking the ambience of a summer cruise.

Other designs in the collection drew inspiration from French naval uniforms, and combined these with some of fashion's most enduring nautical motifs. The inclusion of distinctive pom-pom caps re-appropriated accessories worn by French sailors. Naval-inspired wide-legged trousers had stylized anchor buttons.

Using our collections for research

The Museum's uniform, prints, drawings and historic photograph collections offer a wide range of materials of use to fashion designers, costume researchers and other design professionals and students.

Transcripts of early uniform regulations, plus photographs of items held elsewhere, can be accessed in the Caird Library and Archive at the National Maritime Museum in London.

Find out how to use our collections for research