There is no doubt in our minds that Meghan Markle is a fan of the boat neck neckline. While we’ve seen it on her in the past, it’s been her use of the neckline as a member of the Royal Family at a regular frequency that has us wondering if this silhouette will be one that will come to define her style for the foreseeable future.
While you may have overlooked the Theory blazer worn back for Meghan’s first visit to Wales as having a boatneck, it’s highly unlikely that you missed her clavicle bearing wedding dress, or her bespoke Carolina Herrera Trooping the Colour dress. Or her bespoke Dior for the RAF ceremonies. Or the Ralph Lauren for Prince Louis’ Christening. Those are just some of the more contemporary examples of Meghan in a boatneck.
But Meghan Markle before the Duchess was also a fan of the boatneck. Her striped J.Crew boatneck top was one she often referenced and wore in her social media posts (as seen below), as was a Banana Republic striped version.
We thought we’d look a little at the boatneck’s history, other famous women who have been fond of the style, try and surmise if we can call it a signature silhouette just yet and suggest some new and exciting options that we’d love to see Meghan in in the future.
The boatneck (also called a bateau neck – the French word for boat – or the Sabrina) is a wide neckline that runs horizontally, front and back, almost to the shoulder points, across the collarbone. Many will associate the look with naval uniforms of France (in fact, Meghan did in her Bobo vs. Breton article on the Tig) as the style itself originates from sailors in the French Navy dating back to 1858, who wore the ‘marinière‘ style so they could easily escape the garment should the need arise on the seas.
The boatneck’s incorporation into modern fashion is thanks to Coco Chanel, who introduced it into her fashion line just before World War I in 1917. It was quite the statement collection at the time as it broke away from the so-tight-you-can’t-breathe corsets of the era and welcomed in a more relaxed look for women. (Thanks, Coco!)
The look is forever tied to the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, who loved and greatly popularized the look. In her 1956 film ‘Funny Face’, Audrey wore a navy striped Breton look, and she often showcased her elegance in the look, such as in this photoshoot.
Meghan has definitely developed a fondness for the neckline, sharing in her article about Bobo vs Breton French style that:
Frankly, I think most of us find ourselves in a crossroads of relatively put together + a polished throwback on any given day. The classic Breton shirt has that Cape Cod nod, Jackie O approved, but with distressed jeans. But that is life. It can’t always be perfect and yet it can feel remotely pulled together – à la Breton.
It’s definitely a style that has had many questioning if this is a “signature” look for Meghan, or just where her fashion heart lies at the moment. We think it’s definitely liable to become a signature look.
Why? Well, firstly, it’s a style Meghan has worn in the past. It’s a classic look, and we’re talking about a woman with rather classic styling inclinations. She had numerous breton-striped boatneck shirts in her closet and we’d be willing to wager given her fondness for them that they made the jaunt across the pond with her. Second, Meghan had her choice of designer and neckline when designing her wedding gown, which would be an iconic “Meghan” look for years to come- and she chose the boatneck. And lastly, it really suits her! Boatneck necklines do not tend to suit women with short or wide necks, neither problems Meghan has.
So what kind of boatneck styles might we see HRH The Duchess of Sussex indulge in in years to come? We played stylist for a few minutes and found some gorgeous options that she could consider.