Most of us shudder when thinking back to our school uniform, but there is one element that we can’t seem to leave behind in the playgrounds, and that’s gingham.
We love gingham. It is a trend that constantly reappears in fashion, and this season it is bigger than ever, with the likes of Prada and House of Holland showing us new and exciting ways to wear the checked fabric, inspiring a plethora of gingham on the High Street.
But all is not always as it seems with gingham. In fact, this unassuming cloth has a rather chequered past.
The origins of the fabric are not completely clear with confusion surrounding exactly who produced it first. But it seams that gingham first made an appearance in Europe during the 17th century, after being imported from India and Indonesia, and was in its earliest form a striped fabric.
We began weaving the fabric in Manchester mills in the 18th century, where it became checked.
It was an inexpensive fabric to produce and, due to the method used to make it, it looked the same front and back, making it versatile. This might explain why it became a popular domestic textile, used for aprons, tablecloths and curtains, among other household items.
Gingham’s versatility and adaptable nature also saw it start to be used for school uniforms. It was also considered a lightweight and comfortable fabric, making it the ideal candidate for girls’ school dresses.
Gingham became further associated with the younger generation after also becoming a popular choice for baby clothing and accessories.
Its connotations with youth contributed to it being chosen, by costume designer Adrian, for one of its most famous appearances – as Dorothy’s dress in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
Judy Garland needed to appear younger than her actual age of 16 during filming and the baby blue pinafore helped with this.
Another iconic, if rather more sophisticated, use of gingham came with Biba’s pink shift dress, created by Barbara Hulanicki. It hit the headlines in 1964, when it was worn by socialite Paulene Stone, sparking high interest for both Biba and the gingham look.
Since then, gingham has frequently popped back up on the fashion scene and given new life by a number of fashion icons over the years. Brigitte Bardot, Princess Diana and modern style icons including Alexa Chung and Taylor Swift have all sported the fabric.
So gingham has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a household textile. This season, Prada strayed away from school-style dresses and showed us a new way to wear this trend: bright colours, oversized checks and interesting cuts.
House of Holland’s spring/summer 2017 show featured all out, top-to-toe gingham. The fabric appeared in bright colours clashing on the same outfit, cut at a number of different angles for a frenzy of checks.
Many High Street favourites have followed suit providing us with plenty of ways to inject the trend in our wardrobe, with dresses, off-the-shoulder tops, all-in-ones, all styles of skirt, shorts and and capri pants giving chic new ways to wear the checked stuff.
If you find it hard to shake the fear of looking like an overgrown schoolgirl, try a subtle nod to the trend with a gingham accessory – look for hair ties, bags and sandals.
To embrace the trend fully, a smock dress is a great place to start – opt for monochrome for the most wearable option. If you are really feeling brave, take inspiration from Henry Holland and layer different colours and sizes of check.