Since being introduced by Coco Chanel in her 1917 Nautical Collection, the Breton striped shirt – originally designed as a French naval uniform – has held a firm place in fashion's favor. The jaunty stripe is casual yet chic and gives its wearer a splash of insta-cool. You can find the Breton in shirts, dresses, scarfs and sweaters. This ubiquitous stripe has found itself made into every garment under the sun, though it is most popular in a classic t-shirt.
As the days are getting warmer, I've been thinking about easy summer clothes that take no time to make, but are stylish enough to wear for work or play. Inspired by some dresses I saw online, I decided to make myself a Breton stripe t-shirt dress. Luckily, I had our classic eTee pattern at hand...
I went with a classic Ecru on Grey stripe knit because I like the proportion of the light stripe to the dark. It is most similar to the classic stripes worn by the navy and by Ms. Chanel herself. However, we have some other great stripe knits to choose from, and I may have to go back and try another dress in the other colors.
Our eTee pattern is pretty self-explanatory. It is a classic t-shirt pattern that has just enough curve in the waist to give you a nice shape without being too fitted. On the original shirt pattern the hemline curves in the middle and lifts, like a smile, at the sides.
Remember, the eTee is a digital pattern, so the first thing I did was print, piece, cut and tape the pattern together. Note! If you don't want to go through that effort, you can take the file to a copy store and have them print it full size on a large format printer. The eTee is a pretty small pattern though, so it is easy to assemble yourself. I chose to make size 1.5, despite my measurements being more suited to size 1. I made the larger size because I wanted the dress to have more ease and drape loosely.
Taking some extra printer paper, I lengthened the dress by 6.5 inches. This was my preferred length with a hem allowance built in. You will see that there is a lengthen/shorten line on the pattern, which is just below the waist area. It may seem like this would be the place to lengthen the pattern, but it doesn't work for a dress length. You will notice that right under the line the original pattern starts to flare out. This flare grades the shirt over the hips. If I had lengthened 6.5 inches in this middle area, my flare would have been at my knees!
Instead, I followed that flare angle and added length to the bottom of the pattern. I wanted my final dress shape to be A-line, so I squared off the bottom, removing the curved hem from the original pattern. When I was finished with the front pattern piece, I did the same to the back, making sure they matched.
Putting the eTee together is a breeze and I had the sides and shoulder stitched up in a snap. At this point I tried the dress on and noticed that there was some extra fabric near the underarm seam – likely caused by the fact that I made a size larger than I normally would have. (However, I really liked the amount of ease in the rest of the dress). To remedy the extra armpit fabric, I pinned and added bust darts. Sorry, there are no photographs of this process - I had my hands full fitting the dress on myself. If you often have to self-fit your garments, I would recommend watching Linda's Craftsy course Fitting Solo: From Measurements to Muslin, which is all about solo measuring and fitting.
After the bust was taken care of, I simply popped the sleeves in, sewed on the neckband and hemmed the dress. I was so pleased with the result I wore it the next day! It is such a comfortable dress I can't wait to make a few more. I might try making the smaller size in hopes that I won't have to add in bust darts. If you want to create your own Breton striped eTee dress, find the pattern here and check out our amazing stripe knits. You know, if you made one in every color, you would be set for the week. Do you think wearing a striped dress everyday this summer would be too much? Nah!