Design, Photography, & Fashion

What Is Gingham? Different Ways to Use and Wear Gingham

Written by MasterClass

Aug 23, 2019 • 2 min read

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Gingham fabric is almost synonymous with picnic tablecloths and was imprinted in the collective pop-culture memory via Dorothy’s blue gingham dress in The Wizard of Oz.

Whatever you associate with gingham, the quintessential checked pattern has a long legacy in the U.S. and Europe and is still popular on runways today.

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What Is Gingham?

Gingham is a cotton fabric, or cotton blend fabric, made with dyed yarn woven using a plain weave to form a checked pattern.

Gingham is usually a two-color pattern, and popular combinations are red and white gingham or blue and white gingham. The checked pattern can come in a variety of sizes. The gingham pattern is reversible and appears the same on both sides. Gingham is a popular fabric due to its low cost and ease of production.

Gingham is used frequently for button-down shirts, dresses, and tablecloths.

Where Does the Word “Gingham” Come From?

There are a few theories as to word gingham’s etymology. One theory is that the word “gingham” came from the Malay word “genggang,” which means “striped,” which then moved to the Dutch language as “gingang” to evolve into “gingham” in English.

Another theory is that the material was made in the town of Guingamp in France and was named for the location. However, the French also call gingham “Vichy” and claim the design originated in the town of the same name.

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5 Different Ways to Use and Wear Gingham

Gingham is a popular print for clothing and home decor, and there are several ways to incorporate gingham style into your daily life.

  1. Dress it up. If Brigitte Bardot’s wedding dress is any indication, gingham can be dressed up to the nines. The pattern is often seen on the runways, frequently used as gowns, capes, jackets, and more.
  2. In the workplace. Gingham button-down shirts and gingham dresses translate to the workplace. Gingham dress shirts go well with a pair of slacks or jeans. Gingham shirts come in short-sleeve or long-sleeve and are very versatile.
  3. At the beach. Gingham is also a popular pattern for bathing suits and beach towels, though both are usually made with a printed gingham pattern rather than being true, woven gingham.
  4. To accessorize. Gingham is great for accent pieces and accessorizing since the simple, checked pattern works well when pairing with other patterns. Pocket squares, scarves, and headbands are a great way to incorporate a subtle pop of gingham into any outfit.
  5. Home decorating. The classic gingham check looks great in any home, whether as chair upholstery, tablecloths, window treatments, and bed linens. The plaid pattern functions as a neutral so it can complement almost any home designs.

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