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Ahoy!: Nautical Style for the Entire Family (Also Known as: I Want to Live in a 1960’s Butterick Pattern)

With summer approaching and school almost done, I’ve been dreaming of heading north and returning to our favorite summer spot in Michigan. This, of course, comes with fun “what will we pack?” lists which–while some things change every year–always end up taking a red, white and navy theme. Or as Heidi calls it, “your summer nautical obsession.” ‘Tis true. I want us all to dress like little sailors. For one, it’s classic American summer style. I mean, who doesn’t love a red stripe boat neck shirt or a perfect pair of linen sailor pants? Second, Florida style tends to be characterized by more jewel tones–Lily Pulitzer pinks and greens, bright florals and bold palm prints, and those, while lovely, aren’t my jam. Plus, subtlety has never been my specialty, and I bear the Literal Destination Fashion Interpretation gene which means I summarize the style of where we’re going and then take it to the moon. I dress like a first lady when visiting Washington D.C.; hippy it up in Ojai, California and get mistaken for a yacht club representative when I step on the ferry toward Mackinac Island. Ahoy, mateys! Lainey, you take port side! Nella, you take starboard!

And the kids? Well, sailor style is the holy grail of children’s fashion, and I take it very seriously.

Exhibit A:

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Exhibit B:

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Exhibit C:

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We go for Little Kennedys, circa 1962. The 60’s and 70’s clearly had nautical fashion in the bag. I want every outfit in these old patterns, please.

I mean, Nella and Dash would kill it in these:

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And don’t think I wouldn’t wear this palazzo jump suit, oh my God.

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Those pointed collar rompers! Get thee to a seamstress.

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Or how about the entire family in matching yacht club uniforms? YAAAAAAASSSSSS.

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I even found the exact equivalent to my favorite vintage sailor suit Dash wore, in a women’s version.

Would I wear it? Feck yeah, I would. I mean, maybe not with knee socks and pilgrim shoes, but with sandals, I’d totally take the pontoon boat for a spin around the lake in this.

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So, we’ve drifted away from The Good Ship Lollipop fashion over the years, but nautical style and good old red, white and blue have always served as classic summer staples, and whether you want to go full-on vintage sailor or include simple subtle hints of the sea, here’s a round-up of some favorite nautical fashions for girls, boys and mamas.

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1. Powell Craft Sailor Dress (in sizes 1-7!). This is it! Such a chic version of the classic knotted sailor dress. And it works for so many ages.
2. Freshly Picked (NEW!) Leather Sandals
3. H&M Stripe Sleeveless Bow Top
4. Mini Boden Wide Leg Sailor Pants
5. Hanna Andersson Cotton Stripe Tee. Nella has this tee and it is a top five staple of our summer wardrobe–super versatile, great quality and perfect for layering under overalls and jumpers.
6. Hum Stitchery Andi Mini Skirt with Suspenders
7. Gap Red Espadrilles. I cannot with these little espadrilles. Seriously.
8. Hanna Andersson Sailboat Tank
9. Herschel Heritage Kids Backpack
10. H&M Seersucker Knotted Blouse
11. Gap Stripe Eyelet Tank Dress
12. Navy Saltwater Sandals
13. Zara Red Jumpsuit with Frill. I wanted this one for Nella for Mackinac Island this summer and was super bummed that her size is the only one sold out.
14. H&M Stripe Jersey Top
5. J Crew Factory Scallop Hem Shorts
16. Twisted Navy Boat Shoes. Classic nautical look…and only $15!

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1. Mabo Organic Cotton Red Stripe Tee
2. Janie and Jack Linen Suspender Shorts
3. Janie and Jack Linen Blend Cap (so dapper!). I feel like this little hat with the suspender shorts is a little bit more grown-up version of the classic sailor suit for boys.
4. Tan Saltwater Sandals
5. Sailboat Toy (really floats in water!)
6. J Crew Vintage Chest Stripe Tee. These J Crew vintage wash tees are heaven. The quality is unmatched–they wash up over and over still looking brand new.
7. H&M Navy Clam Diggers. I love the length of these and that they are slim-fitting. 
8. Sperry Boat Shoes
9. Old Navy White Tee
10. H&M Denim Shorts with Suspenders
11. Winter Water Factory Sailboat Tee. Dash had this print in a tank last summer, and I loved it so much.
12. Children’s Place Red Pull-On Shorts
3. Osh Kosh Navy Sandals
4. Lucy & Leo Organic Cotton and Hemp Mantauk Tank and Shorts. I’m obsessed with this little outfit for Dash. The quality is so great (the hemp makes it a bit more structured).

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1. Gap Vintage Wash V-Neck Tee
2. Gap Red Bandana Necktie. Well, you know how I feel about neck ties. GLAMOUR DO. And a perfect way to sailor up an otherwise ordinary outfit.
3. J Crew Factory Navy Shorts ($14.50!). These shorts are my secret summer staple. I have them in several colors–J Crew quality, but super inexpensive.
4. Women’s Saltwater Sandals
5. J Crew Factory Panama Hat
6. J Crew Factory Striped Off-the-Shoulder Boat Shirt. I love this shirt, especially with the sailor pants. It’s so I’ll-see-you-at-the-yacht-club.
7. J Crew Linen Sailor Pants
8. Modcloth Nautical One-Piece Suit but you’re totes going to need some…
9. Silicone Reusable Pasties for that white top.
10. Gap Stripe Crochet Tank. I love the retro feel of this tank.
11. Women’s Classic Red Keds (YASSS. All summer long.)
12, Modcloth Nautical Short-Sleeve Sweater. I’m going to have some fun in this baby this summer.

Time to practice my square knot.

I can hear my dad teasing me now: “Admiral McCarthy called. He needs his uniform back.”

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Leave a Comment
  1. Christina says:

    The nautical theme is adorable! I would totally dress my kids in these clothes! Have you looked at LL Bean for womens clothes ever? They definitely have some nautical looking clothes! Just peek in their catalogs, I have a feeling you’d be in your zone! And I gotta represent my home state of Maine! I love your posts, been following you for years now and your Michigan trip posts (and birthday party posts) are always my favorite!

  2. Those are pretty darned adorable! It’s hard to believe it’s time to open up the cottage for the summer (we’re about an hour south of the Island). I have the packing dilemma of “what will I need to stay for the summer” — mostly play clothes but sometimes something a bit special! Well, I know if I run into these sailor-suited sweeties on the Island this summer exactly to whom they belong!

  3. Heather says:

    My mom made me that Mccalls pattern when I was in high school!!! 6468 for the WIN!!! Love it all ♥️ Hope all of your seaside dreams come true this summer. XXO

  4. There’s not much I love more than a nautical themed outfit! I got my first sailor suit in second grade I think it might be one of my favorite outfits ever!

  5. I’m heading to Mackinac Island this summer … better get to shopping to be in ship shape!

  6. swooning here – think I have just found a new obsession. Now I need one of those mod cloth tops.

  7. cindy cole says:

    Love all the nautical…You inspire me to go out and get something! Oh how I love your summer trips to Michigan …and the stops along the way. Can’t wait to see the pictures year after year. I travel along in my mind:) One day I’m getting to Michigan!!

  8. I had that outfit from pattern 8062 that my mother made me! Thanks for the memory.

  9. The funny thing is that at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in Michigan it is all about Lily P. for the ladies and girls. I agree though that nautical is the way to go!! Love everything you posted!

  10. I will definitely consider getting some of these cool looking clothes for my son and nephews. Btw, how do you get your children to stay still that long to take such beautiful pictures?

  11. Oh those Butterick patterns! My mom used to sew all of our clothes and our house was filled with Butterick patterns, even some of the exact patterns you show! Brings back so many memories of my mom. Thank you for sharing these.

  12. Spencer says:

    I actually made the sailor culotte ensemble when I was in high school. I had totally forgotten about it. What fun to have the reminder. Nautical, the best summer wear. 🛥⚓️🛳👍

  13. I wish I could dress my kids in cute, nautical clothes! Love all the collections posted here. However my kids, 10 and 8, are very particular about their clothes and rarely let me pick out what they wear. However, I am all about a cute striped sailor top and the red/white/blue color combo!!

  14. Oh my gosh, I love this so much! This is so great! You need to do a similar post for autumn/Christmas/Easter. :)

  15. Lacie Hutchins says:

    I have been to the beach only twice in my life, both times as an adult and only a year apart! I live smack dab in the middle of the US!!! Landlocked as can be! Yet my living room, dining room, and main bathroom are nautically themed! I think my husband would think the clothing would be taking it too far, but I LOVE it! :0)

  16. I dressed my kids in sailor outfits a lot when they were young. Always got lots of compliments. Still love seeing nautical outfits!

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