The history of vichy checks, the pattern of the tablecloths that the cinema became synonymous with style | The USA Print

The history of vichy checks, the pattern of the tablecloths that the cinema became synonymous with style

Rosalía’s wardrobe on her tour of South America has challenged the style codes usually followed by the Catalan to extol the simplicity of a garment with centuries of history behind it: the gingham dress. The drawing, always associated with the hot months, seems to have little to do with the transgressive style of the artist, little friend of the basics and a faithful follower of disruptive mixes. For her performance in Mexico, she chose a red and white checked design, with a square neckline and asymmetrical cut from Acne Studios. Weeks ago we had seen her in Buenos Aires with another similar version, this time with albiceleste vichy checks, a nod to the country. The chameleon-like ability of the vichy print to adapt to all types of situations and styles is beyond doubt and backed by its presence in wardrobes for decades. This drawing of humble origin left behind its merely functional character at the end of the 19th century, when it was used for making table linen, to arouse the interest of royalty and the stars of the seventh art.


One of the Acne Studios dresses that Rosalía has worn in the last concerts of her tour (specifically in Argentina) and two proposals from the firm on the catwalk, pv-23. Photo: launchmetrics / instagram @rosalia.vt

The French town of Vichy, located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, is still remembered as the infamous capital of the French collaborationist government, led by Marshal Pétain between 1940 and 1944. However, this place was already famous centuries before that History made him known worldwide. Its thermal waters have been a place of pilgrimage for decades and decades and current proof of this are the luxurious spas dotted throughout the city, constructions of great architectural value that attracted the wealthiest fortunes in Europe. Among them, Napoleon III. The French emperor visited the city frequently throughout the 1860s and on one of his trips paid a visit to a textile factory, a routine act of no apparent importance that nonetheless linked Vichy forever with the world of fashion. . In the factory, a spinning mill located in the town of Grivats, very close to Vichy, a printed cotton fabric with a latticework of two-tone checks was made. The exact origin of the fabric – vertically striped at its inception – is not clear. Some historians point to Malaysia as its birthplace, while some believe that it was introduced to Europe by Dutch traders before it became popular in France. In any case, the French textile industry was already manufacturing it in the 19th century, being used for table linen, napkins and later for making country clothes. Napoleon III and his wife, the Spanish Eugenia de Montijo, a great lover of fashion and haute couture, were interested in this checkered fabric, known since then as vichy checks, which endowed this fabric of humble origin with unusual prestige. . It was a matter of time before the region’s high-society ladies began to incorporate Gingham check dresses, usually made of cotton, into their wardrobes. During the Belle Époque, the period between 1870 and the start of the First World War, the fashion industry began to articulate and consolidate as a business. The concept of haute couture arose from the hand of the British Charles Frederick Worth and designers such as Jeanne Paquin or Paul Poiret defined the new style canon. In these years, vichy checks, almost always in black and white tones, were definitively consolidated in the summer wardrobe.

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Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz Brigitte Bardot’s wedding dress

Already in the forties of the 20th century, the big screen revived interest in the most French paintings. In the United States, where the drawing is known by the name of gingham, the movie The Wizard of Oz linked forever prints two-tone squares with child-inspired designs. Dorothy, the protagonist of the famous film directed by Victor Fleming and released in 1939, appeared during the footage in a blue gingham dress, a design that the character played by Judy Garland combined with a lantern-sleeved shirt that underlined the air childish of styling. In the plot, it is Dorothy’s red shoes that acquire special relevance, but not even that shiny shoe with magical properties could outshine the iconic dress, which today has become an icon of the seventh art. Disappeared for forty years, the design was recovered last year and is expected to be put up for auction soon, where it is estimated that it could reach the figure of 1.2 million dollars.

In 2023, the premiere of the trailer for Barbieone of the most anticipated titles of the year, has once again placed the famous The Wizard of Oz. Fans of the film directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie have detected several similarities between the world of Barbie and the universe of Oz, starting with the costumes (designed by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran, creator of the period looks of Atonement, Anna Karenina or the latest version of little women). In the trailer, the most famous doll, now in a flesh and blood version, appears dressed in a pink gingham dress, matching a hat with the same print. Some have interpreted this wardrobe choice, as well as other symbolic elements hidden in the trailer’s less than two-minute duration, as a nod to Dorothy and the fantastic world of Oz.

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The childish aura that the vichy print could have had in the film that launched Judy Garland to stardom, was dispelled by the roles of Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Stories (George Cukor, 1940) or Lauren Bacall in Howard Hawks’ 1944 film adaptation of Hemingway’s novel to have and not to have. However, the one who turned the pattern into a super trend was the actress Brigitte Bardot. The French interpreter, an erotic myth of her generation, embodied the most country-style French style like few others and found in the vichy print one of her favorite options. We saw her dress in pictures both outside and on the big screen, but her most remembered outfit was her wedding with actor Jacques Charrier, her co-star in Babette goes to war (Christian-Check). The link was held in the French town of Louveciennes in the summer of 1959. For the occasion, designer Jacques Esterel created an atypical pink wedding dress with a gingham print. The garment featured a below-the-knee length, sleeves below the elbow, and cut at the waist. That same year, the film Do you want to dance with me? (Michel Boisrond) hit theaters and Brigitte Bardot consolidated her idyll with the Gingham print in the eyes of the whole world. On that occasion, the character she played wore an A-line skirt and a rural aesthetic designed by Jacques Esterel, the designer of her popular bridal gown and responsible for the popularity of two-tone checks.

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot posing in a gingham dress. Photo: gettyimages

The summer of 2023 will be fertile territory when it comes to talking about looks with gingham checks. On the current catwalk, firms like Acne have made obvious nods to printing in their latest campaign, transforming it into an urban bet capable of being innovative and current despite its long existence in the annals of fashion. The almighty Miuccia Prada demonstrates in her spring/summer 2023 men’s collection that the male public also wears gingham checks, whether in coats or shirts reminiscent of children. Centuries after entering the wardrobes of the most demanding women and after having slipped into some of the most emblematic photos of icons such as Marilyn Monroe or Lady Diana, Gingham checks continue to enjoy their status as a seasonal trend, alien to time and capable of remain relevant in the sea of ​​constant novelties that is the current fashion industry.


Princess Diana in gingham pants in 1986. Photo: gettyimages

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From vichy checks to sailor stripes: summer clothes that never go out of style

From vichy checks to sailor stripes: summer clothes that never go out of style

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