The Fashion Fiend's Illustrated French Dictionary: Gingham

The gingham check is a fashion perennial, going in and out of vogue as a summer dress material for women - but also serving as a classic men's shirt fabric, as any regular shopper of the Men's store at J.Crew can attest. 

A simple yarn-dye check pattern, it's often found in a cotton or cotton blend in a shirtwaist style for women that harkens back to a simpler, more innocent time. While people in this country may associate gingham with picnics, cowboys, Americana kitsch or even rockabilly, it has long been used in many countries around the world as an accessible, inexpensive and easily produced cloth for all kinds of things ranging from home decorating to clothing.

Some fashion fun facts:

  • The word gingham is thought to be derived from a Malaysian word, genggang, meaning striped.
  • The iconic blue and white gingham dress worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz was used by costume designer Adrian to lend a sense of nostalgia ("There's no place like home") to the film and to help make Judy Garland, aged 16, more childlike (as Dorothy's age was probably closer to around 12 in the books).
  • Brigitte Bardot revived the popularity of le tissu vichy after getting married in a gingham dress by French couturier Jacques Estérel. 
  • It was the pink gingham shift dress (pictured here) designed for a newspaper insert that launched UK designer Barbara Hulanicki and her label Biba in the 60s.

For Spring 2015, gingham made a mini-comeback in fashion, used in collections ranging from Diane von Furstenberg to Michael Kors to even an edgier designer like Joseph Altuzarra. To me, there is nothing more chic than une robe d'été en vichy, a.k.a. a gingham sundress, especially one as sophisticated as this two-piece stunner in a large-scale check from the late Oscar de la Renta.