How Did Gingham Get So Popular? Ask the Wizard

One mention of the word ‘gingham’ and vivid pictures come to mind – an idyllic picnic or a carefree summer dress dancing in a gentle breeze. But no matter how picturesque these scenes are, gingham has much more to offer beyond picnic tablecloths and summer dresses.

In fact, few fabrics have shown such versatility throughout history as gingham. From its humble beginnings as the go-to utilitarian fabric, gingham has travelled the world, worn by Old Hollywood stars, princesses, runway models, and pop culture icons. The beloved fabric even reached the youngest fashionistas, starting with girls’ school uniforms and taking the world of kids’ fashion by storm from there.

But how can one fabric do it all? 

Follow the history and evolution of the gingham fabric to understand how it remained ever-so-popular throughout the years, constantly reinventing itself.

What Is Gingham?

Gingham is a fabric typically made with yarn-dyed cotton using a plain weave to form the widely recognisable checked pattern. The iconic gingham pattern is a red-white or a blue-white combination.

The Magical History of Gingham

Few materials in the fashion industry can boast such a rich history as gingham. But its popularity isn’t by chance. It was propelled by a few major moments throughout the years that cemented this fabric as truly iconic.

The Early Beginnings

The gingham fabric originated in either Malaysia or France in the 17th century. Initially, it looked more like a striped fabric with no checks to be seen. The Dutch and English garment makers of the mid to late 18th century were the first to come up with the recognisable checked design.

Functionality Over Fashion

Simple. Inexpensive. Comfortable. Durable. Those are the adjectives that best describe the gingham fabric. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that this fabric became a mainstay among women from rural areas looking for something that could withstand the rigour of factory and farm work.

Dorothy’s Magic

Gingham’s association with domesticity, industrialisation, and functionality would be shattered by a single person – the American actress Judy Garland. In 1939, she donned the now-iconic blue gingham dress in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. One film was all it took to imprint the gingham fabric into people’s collective memory and cement its place in the lexicon of fashion.

Brigitte Bardot’s Bridal Bliss

Continuing to push the boundaries of what gingham can be, the French actress Brigitte Bardot shocked the world by getting married in a pink gingham gown. This dress caused quite a stir, making this effortless yet romantic fabric fashionable in France.

Opening the Floodgates 

By this point, there was no stopping gingham. Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, and Princess Diana were just some of the world-famous stars pictured wearing this chic material.

Challenging the Familiar

The late 20th century saw gingham being interpreted in an increasingly darker and more avant-garde manner, once again proving its versatility. The 1997 Comme des Garçons Spring/Summer collection by Rei Kawakabo turned the traditional gingham dresses on their head, adding padding to unusual body parts.

An Ongoing Love Story

Gingham is staying true to its history and can now be seen virtually everywhere, from casual rompers to full-on ball gowns. The fabric has been embraced by many famous, high-profile fashion houses, including the following:

  • Christian Dior
  • Balenciaga 
  • Oscar De La Renta

How to Style Your Kids in Gingham

Due to its versatility, gingham has become a staple in closets worldwide. Here’s how you can make it the go-to fabric for your kids as well. 

Add Accent Pieces

Start with adorable accent pieces if you want to slowly introduce gingham to your kid’s closet. Add a lovely bow to their hair, and watch as the gingham pattern instantly elevates the entire look with a charming flair.

From Head to Toe

Go all out. Style your little fashion star in gingham from head to toe with an adorable red gingham dress and a matching hat. This outfit exudes playfulness and charm, capturing the essence of childhood innocence with a touch of timeless style.

Dress It Up

If you want to follow in Brigitte Bardot’s footsteps and dress your little girl in gingham for a special occasion, choose dresses with elaborate prints and gingham details. Take Oobi’s Angelina and Lena dresses as an example. A gingham pocket is all it takes to add a touch of whimsy to any dress.

Welcome Gingham Into Your Closet

Are you looking for an online store with striking gingham pieces to add to your kids’ closet? Oobi has got you covered! With Oobi, you can even match with your mini-me, making gingham a fabulous family affair.

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