What Is Gingham And How Did It Become A Southern Style Icon?

What Is Gingham And How Did It Become A Southern Style Icon?

by Esme Addison

As a southern girl who grew up surrounded by gingham fabric, I’m excited to share with you the history behind this timeless textile. As I’m quite sure no one from the south has ever asked the question: What is gingham? those reading this article may hail from everywhere else besides the south.

Gingham is a common material in the southern home. From elegant mansions to the humblest of abodes, gingham can be found on pillows, accent chairs and other southern-style decor.

This popular southern textile has always been a beloved element of chic country cottage decor, adorning everything from curtains to tablecloths to clothing. But what you may not know is that gingham has a rich and storied history, dating back centuries to its origins in Southeast Asia. From there, it made its way across the world and became a beloved staple in homes and fashion alike. classic fabric.

Makes you wonder how it got so popular in the south, doesn’t it? But first… a definition.

So, What Is Gingham?

Gingham is a type of fabric that has a distinctive checked pattern, with even-sized and even-spaced checks in alternating colors. The history of gingham in the South is closely tied to the history of cotton production and the development of the textile industry in the United States.

But now, you’re probably wondering.. isn’t gingham the same thing as plaid? No, it’s not.

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Checking the Differences: Gingham vs. Plaid

Gingham is a type of checkered pattern that features even-sized squares of alternating colors, usually white and a bold hue like red or blue. Plaid, on the other hand, is a pattern of intersecting stripes that can have different widths and colors. Plaid patterns often incorporate diagonal lines and feature a variety of colors, whereas gingham typically only has two. Plaid patterns can be found on a variety of materials, including wool, flannel, and cotton.

Actor Sam Hueghan is wearing plaid… not gingham.

Another difference between the two patterns is their popularity in different regions. While gingham is often associated with the American South, plaid is commonly seen in Scotland and other areas with Celtic heritage. Additionally, while gingham is commonly used in home decor and clothing, plaid is often used in a wider range of products, such as furniture, accessories, and even food packaging.

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Where Does The Name Come From?

The name “gingham” is believed to have originated from the Malay word “genggang,” meaning “striped” or “checkered.” Gingham fabric was initially created in Southeast Asia and was made of either cotton or silk, with checks woven into the material. It gained popularity in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, and different variations of the pattern emerged over time. In the United States, gingham became closely associated with Southern culture and was particularly favored as a durable, affordable fabric for clothing in the 19th century. Today, gingham continues to be a popular fabric with a timeless, distinctive look that is frequently used in modern fashion and home decor.

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It’s A Southern Thing

In the South, gingham became a popular fabric for clothing due to its durability, affordability, and versatility. It was especially popular among farm workers and laborers who needed sturdy clothing that could withstand hard work and frequent washing. Gingham was also used for home goods, such as curtains, tablecloths, and bedspreads.

black and white gingham dress
Taylor Swift wears gingham.

During the 20th century, gingham became an important part of Southern identity and was associated with traditional, rural values. The fabric was often used in Southern fashion and was particularly popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when women’s dresses made from brightly colored gingham became a fashion trend.

Today, gingham continues to be a popular fabric in the South, with many designers and fashion brands incorporating the iconic pattern into their collections. Current trends find that pink gingham dresses and blue gingham dresses are most popular right now. It has also become a staple in home decor, particularly in country-style and farmhouse-inspired interiors.

Four Interesting Facts About Gingham

  • Gingham fabric is usually made from cotton, although it can also be made from other materials like polyester or a blend of different fibers.
  • Gingham patterns come in a variety of colors and sizes, with smaller checks often being called “gingham” and larger checks being called “gingham plaid” or “gingham check.”
  • Gingham is often associated with warm weather and is a popular choice for spring and summer fashion. It is especially popular for picnic blankets, tablecloths, and outdoor decor.
  • In the mid-20th century, gingham became associated with the American West, particularly with cowboys and rodeo culture. Today, it is often used in Western-inspired fashion and home decor.
Young Marilyn Monroe in pink gingham.

Gingham Famous: A Southern Textile In Pop Culture

Gingham is a pattern that has been popular in the South for generations, with its roots in the textile industry and cotton production. While gingham has been a staple of Southern fashion and home decor for decades, it has also made its mark on the wider world of celebrity fashion. However, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that gingham began to make its way into the world of fashion.

In the 1950s, gingham became a popular fabric in women’s clothing, thanks in large part to its association with the wholesome, all-American look of movie stars like Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe. Gingham dresses and skirts became a staple of women’s fashion, and the fabric was also used for men’s shirts and children’s clothing.

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Judy Garland as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz wearing her iconic blue and white gingham dress.

In the 1960s, gingham continued to be a popular fabric in fashion, with designers like Mary Quant incorporating the check pattern into their designs. Gingham also made its way into pop culture in the 1960s, with the iconic gingham dress worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” becoming a symbol of Americana.

Gingham continued to be popular in fashion throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and it made a comeback in the 1990s as part of the grunge fashion trend. Today, gingham is a timeless fabric that is used in a wide range of clothing and accessories, from dresses and skirts to handbags and shoes.

Princess Di wore pink gingham.

The popularity of gingham in TV and film has also played a role in its journey from farm to fashionable. In addition to “The Wizard of Oz,” gingham has been featured in numerous TV shows and movies over the years, including “Gilligan’s Island”, “Mad Men,” “Clueless,” and “The Brady Bunch.” In each of these instances, gingham has been used to evoke a sense of nostalgia and to create a sense of whimsy and playfulness.

Gingham In Men’s Fashion

James Dean in gingham

Gingham is a pattern that is not only popular in women’s fashion, but also in men’s fashion in the South. Historically, gingham fabric was used for work shirts by laborers and farmers who needed sturdy clothing for their jobs. The check pattern also made it easier to spot tears and worn areas that needed mending. Over time, gingham shirts became a staple of Southern style, often paired with khaki pants or jeans for a casual and practical look.

Today, gingham shirts are a popular item in men’s fashion in the South, with many designers offering a range of styles and colors. While classic blue and red checks are still popular, there are also more contemporary versions of the pattern, including smaller checks and a wider variety of colors. In addition to shirts, gingham can also be found in other men’s clothing items, such as shorts, pants, and blazers.

Gingham is a pattern that has a long and storied history in men’s fashion in the South. From its origins as a practical work shirt to its modern iterations in a range of styles and colors, gingham remains a popular and versatile fabric for men’s clothing. Whether it’s a classic blue gingham shirt or a more modern take on the pattern, gingham is sure to be a staple of Southern fashion for years to come.

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