When you talk about gingham in a crowd, it can remind each listener of something different. One person may picture the iconic Bridget Bardot pink gingham wedding dress of the 60s, another may think of western cowboy button-up shirts, yet another thinks of classic Americana home decor, and another thinks of modern children’s clothing. The interesting thing about gingham is that everyone is correct. Gingham has been used over time in so many different ways! This fabric is iconic for many different reasons, and rightfully so! Gingham has earned its reputation!
Gingham is a mid-weight woven fabric. The yarn used to weave the fabric is dyed before the weaving process, which means that the fabric has no “wrong side”. In gingham fabric, the colored warp threads (the threads which go long-ways, providing the grain) are purely the colored yarn, whereas the colored weft threads have white yarn mixed in-this provides the paler horizontal stripe. This is unique to gingham.
Gingham’s check pattern is very distinctive, but that wasn’t always true. In fact, in the
17th century when gingham was originally imported from India and Indonesia into Europe, the fabric was striped, rather than checked! It wasn’t until the mid 18th century, when gingham was produced in Manchester, England, that it was turned into a check pattern.
While the mills in England began producing the new check gingham, mills were also established in the USA. The popularity of gingham rose as the prices were lowered. Over time, gingham changed from a practical choice to a more fashion-based choice. Hollywood stars in the 1940s modeled gingham fashions both in their movies and in their everyday wear. Some iconic gingham outfits from this time are Dorothy’s dress in The Wizard of Oz and Katherine Hepburn’s fancy gingham gown in A Philadelphia Story. Gingham continued to be in vogue in the 50s thanks to the popularity of western movies and musicals such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Annie Get Your Gun, and Oklahoma! In the 60s, gingham easily transitioned to the mod look which became so popular-helped along again by movie stars. The raging popularity of gingham declined in the 70s. It wasn’t until the 2000s that gingham began to pick up speed again.
Today, gingham fabric embodies nostalgia, vintage style, and the “good old days”. It has flourished in the sewing world for over 200 years! Something that classic needs to be celebrated.