How to Dress Nautical Style

Nautical fashion became popular back in the 1830s, jump started by a picture of a young Prince Albert Edward all dressed up in a sailor suit. Since then, nautical style has become a fashion staple, from Audrey Hepburn’s casual striped shirts to Kate Middleton’s chic sailor dress. A nautical outfit is fun and easy to pull off, for both men and women. With a few key wardrobe pieces, you’ll be out to sea in style in no time.


Dressing Nautical for Women

  1. Go for a blue, white, red, and light brown color palate. The classic sailor suit is white with royal blue stripes. The idea is to take the color palate of the classic sailor suit and complement it with other hues like red and light brown.
    • Adding not so nautical colors will help to mix up your outfits and keep your look from being a costume. You don’t want to look like you’re dressing for Halloween! Instead, think of nautical as a style you can customize to fit your wardrobe.
  2. Choose several key wardrobe pieces, like a striped shirt and a cotton skirt. Start with basic pieces that you can then pair with other bottoms or tops.
    • Look for a striped shirt with vertical stripes, rather than horizontal stripes. Horizontal stripes can make your torso look wider, rather than long and slim.
    • Don’t be afraid to go bold with your stripes. Make a statement with large or thick stripes on a shirt or a skirt.
    • Go for lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton, jersey, and denim. You can wear nautical year round, though it may be more suited to warmer seasons like spring and summer.
  3. Go for jeans or cotton pants. Jeans are a great way to integrate nautical style into your wardrobe, especially a dark navy skinny jean or a relaxed boyfriend jean.
    • You can also go for a pair of cropped navy pants or a pair of high waisted jean shorts to add some variety to your nautical look.
  4. Dress nautical down or up with a few tweaks. If you’re dress your nautical style down for a casual day out, go for a striped shirt, jeans, and comfortable flats or sandals in light brown. You could also slip on a pair of tennis shoes or your favorite white Converses.
    • For a more dressy night out, choose a dress with stripe details or a small anchor print. Or go for a pair of cotton pants and a striped blouse. Add white heels or wedges to the outfit to complete the dressy nautical look.
    • Another great way to add some nautical to your look is to wear a navy or white blazer with a striped shirt, jeans, and flats. For a night out, pair the blazer with a navy or striped dress and a pair of simple wedge heels.
  5. Highlight one nautical element in your outfit. Keep only one element, like a shirt or skirt, nautical. Then, keep the other outfit elements simple so they complement the nautical piece.
    • This could be as easy and effortless as pairing a striped blazer with a plain t shirt and jeans or with a collared white shirt and a pair of navy pants.
    • You can also add different textures to your outfit, like a white cashmere sweater instead of a blazer, or a ribbed sweater on top of a white collared shirt.
  6. Accessorize, but don’t go overboard. Choose a striped purse with rope details or gold jewellery with anchors or sail boats, but don’t pile one too many accessories at once. The key is to highlight one main accessory and then keep any other accessories simple and minimal.
    • Look for a striped purse with brown leather details or rope details.
    • Go for a bold statement necklace in gold with blue or white details. Look for a bracelet with anchors or little lobster charms. Or layer on two or three thin gold necklaces for a more subtle look.
    • Add a thin gold belt to a navy or striped dress to give your outfit a fun, chic element.
    • Make your outfit nautical with a cotton scarf in navy or in an anchor print.

Dressing Nautical for Men

  1. Focus on several key pieces in your nautical wardrobe. These could be striped shirts, relaxed fit jeans, or seersucker pants or shorts.
    • Build off of these key pieces. Pair a striped shirt with jeans or white cotton pants. Or wear a plain white t-shirt with a pair of seersucker shorts.
    • Look for shorts that fall just above your knees. They should fit snugly but not too tightly.
    • Bold stripes look great paired with a simple item like jeans or a pair of cotton shorts. So, don’t shy away from making a statement with stripes.
    • Go for lightweight fabrics like cotton or seersucker. But don’t be afraid to add in other colors to the standard navy and white nautical palate. Complementing hues like red, orange, brown, and gray can really add variety to your nautical look.
  2. Go for outerwear with a nautical twist. You can easily add some nautical to your wardrobe with a key item like a blazer, a jacket or a coat.
    • Pair a seersucker blazer with a pair of cotton shorts and a white t-shirt. Or dress up the blazer with a collared shirt and a pair of cotton pants.
    • Look for a smart sailing jacket in bright hues like royal blue, accented with red or brown. Make sure the jacket is slim fitting so it looks chic instead of frumpy. Roll up the sleeves to just below your elbow to style the look.
    • Go for a classic navy trench coat. A trench coat is a great investment piece, as it will look as good on the weekends with a striped shirt as it will during the week over a suit or more formal outfit. Don’t be afraid to add color with a pair of red cotton pants or a pair of striped running shoes.
  3. Look for stylish boat shoes or loafers. Boat shoes have a round toe, good traction, and are easy to slip on and off, perfect for the laid back nautical style. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Sperry Top Sider, and Bass make stylish looking boat shoes that can be dressed up or dressed down.
    • Another classic nautical style is loafers. Look for a pair of loafers in neutral colors like brown or white. Avoid square toed loafers, as they can look too dressy. Instead, go for round toed loafers in soft leather or canvas.
  4. Add touches of nautical to your accessories. A fun and easy way to add some nautical style to your wardrobe is through accessories like a hat, a belt, or a tie.
    • Top your nautical look with a straw hat or a slick fedora in a light woven material.
    • Tuck your shirt into your seersucker shorts or pants and wear a light leather belt. Or be bold with a bungee belt in complementing hues of orange and gold.
    • Add a striped tie to a plain white collared shirt for a nautical look that is appropriate for the office. Wear a tie bar with an anchor tip or a wave shape. But only wear the nautical tie or the nautical tie bar. You don’t want to end up overdoing the nautical look!
    • Add some nautical to a navy or gray suit with a pocket square with an anchor or ship print.


Sources and Citations


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