Ask most people what they associate with gingham and they’ll say food and summer. It’s a happy print. You get gingham napkins tucked in wicker hampers and picnic blankets spread out on sunny grass. I once went to Paris with a man who insisted we search Montmartre for a brasserie with just the right sort of red-check cloths on the tables. (Don’t worry, we split up soon afterwards.) Even fashion folk concur: Diane von Furstenberg, who was one of the many designers to use the print in her spring collection, called her check frocks Picnic Dresses.
I wish I could see this. I wish I looked at gingham and saw strawberries and sandwiches. My association is with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and then Judy Garland and how Hollywood and the drugs and the breakdowns drove her to an early death. Dead at 47. Imagine. So I look at gingham and think of death.
Luckily no one in the world agrees with me, so it’s still a great fabric to wear to evoke breezy summer fun. It is a perennial at this time of year, and 2015 is no exception. Ungaro, Oscar de la Renta and Altuzarra all did really beautiful, classic gingham in shades of pink, red and baby blue. The more sophisticated variation with the checks in tan and black appeared at Richard Nicoll, Michael Kors and Bottega Veneta. Marc by Marc Jacobs had this lovely blown-up and blurred gingham in black, pink and blue.
If you can afford it, buy a bit of the MBMJ collection. Designer Marc Jacobs recently announced that he’s going to discontinue the range. This is a massive shame as MBMJ is much more than a watered-down diffusion brand. Under the creative direction of British designers Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, the label has been magical. So buy it while you can. There’s one more collection in the autumn and then it’s gone for good. A bit like Judy Garland.
Of course, you don’t have to spend to enjoy this zingy print. The high street has some excellent cheap gingham on offer and even I recognise this fresh check perks up a dull outfit. I wouldn’t personally wear fitted gingham trousers as the rigid grid can be a bit unforgiving on the old bum; but if you want to, Zara and Uniqlo are the shops for you. Zara has great black-check cropped trousers and Uniqlo has leggings in lots and lots of colours. If you want a loose summer dress or shirt, then go to Asos. There are heaps of them there. I also particularly like these blue check shoes from Marks Spencer. They’re fun and they don’t cost much, which are two of my favourite things.
Prints that have an instant reaction are rare, but gingham is definitely one of them. It’s jazzier than stripes, but still simple enough to be very wearable. Perfect for enjoying the summer. Just try not to think about the fact that Judy Garland hated the sun as you put it on. She did, you know. And swimming pools.
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