Does anyone remember the TV show “Little House on the Prairie?” The cast of “Little House on the Prairie” is certainly somewhere in the “Where are they now” files, or perhaps you have seem them on “Dancing with the Stars.” Well, to all of you millennials, “Little House on the Prairie” was a prime time drama that immortalized the tales of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, a real life author (now long dead, as may be half of the cast members) who wrote about her life growing up as a pioneer girl in the 1800’s. But, anyone who has any recollection of the show, will most likely associate it with the word “gingham.” Everyone on that show from mean Nellie Olsen to the pure as the driven snow Caroline Ingalls wore gingham.
What is gingham? Gingham is a woven linen cloth. Although it began bearing a bright striped pattern, it has since evolved into a checkered design. Gingham originated in Dutch Malaysia and it arrived from the Malaysian word “genggeng,” meaning “striped.” It was exported to America in the 18th century and caught on because of its durability, comfort, and affordability. Hence, it was all the rage for the American pioneers. So, why would we wear something that has been out of style for about 200 odd years?
Well, while gingham may be as old as rope, it has managed to have made several appearances in the world of fashion many times since it was worn by our early ancestors. Gingham is famously synonymous with the cowboy style and wholesomeness. It may be the juxtaposition between the wholesomeness of the fabric with the modern sexy styles that makes gingham work in the present. Now, we find gingham patterns on everything from tailored trousers to miniskirts, pencil skirts to evening gowns! Yes, evening gowns! Did you know sex kitten Brigitte Bardot famously wore a gingham wedding gown when she married?
For those of you who may not be familiar with the “Little House” reference, gingham was also worn by Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy Gale in the “Wizard of Oz” and was also a main staple of the mod style, popularized in the 1960’s by designers such as Fred Perry and Ben Sherman. And by the way, does anyone remember Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island?
But still some will cry, “The Wizard of Oz? That’s ancient history! Who is Brigitte Bardot? Isn’t gingham found only in thrift stores now?” Possibly, but it is also found on models and celebrities currently walking runways and red carpets all over the world. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry (can I write those names in the same sentence?) are great defenders of gingham and the checkered print can also be found on items in the new Victoria Beckham and J Crew collections. So go out and get your gingham on! Does anyone know where the costumes from “Little House” are now? If we could just get a pair of scissors, a few sequins and a sewing machine….