A Chequered Past

Gingham is essentially tartan's light-hearted, eternally optimistic younger sibling.

If tartan has locked itself in its bedroom to listen to Rage Against the Machine and a little Patrick Wolf on a particularly dark day, sweet old gingham is getting a gel mani with her huns and bopping to Katie Perry. Tartan has links to Scottish war-lords and naughty punks, (it often turns up in Vivienne Westwood's and Alexander McQueen's designs) while gingham has a touch of the regressive, being as it is the go-to warp and weft of every primary school uniform up and down the country.

It can, whisper it, be a bit basic, a bit C Major. Even the name sounds like the giddy noise you make to yourself after landing a new job. *gingginggingham* No? Just me.

It's also bloody everywhere right now, which is great in theory because that means it's On. Trend. and there is lots of choice, but such ubiquity means you run the risk of having simply exchanged one life-stage gingham uniform for another. There's nothing fun about seeing 7 separate people wearing your exact outfit on the commute.

Approach with caution, then, because (ironically) you can look a bit, well, square.

I don't dismiss it though, because it's a beautiful fabric- versatile, summery, tolerant of errant wine splashes and stains- and with lots of variations to choose from. The way I'm discovering is to seek out interesting, unexpected silhouettes, anything to reassure everyone you haven't absconded from the local comprehensive. Gingham is a simple, geometric pattern and so can take a bit of architecture by way of a ruffle or frill. Throw in an unexpected minor chord and funk that rhythm up, as it were.

First up is this rather snazzy jumpsuit from ASOS.

It is a nice clean shape, with pinafore-style straps and a squared neck (good for a bit of clavicle action in the sunshine) with wide cropped trouser legs. So far so double-geography right? But wait! What's all this? A completely extraneous piece of ruffled fabric across the top of each arm you say? Sold! It's a bit of a pain to wear anything over it, to be honest, but I think that adds to the summer vibe, and also good on you Gingham for getting your bad-boy on. This garment gives no shits, waaaay! So it's a good job it looks cool with stuff under it. I've gone down the black polo-neck route here (inevitably) but I could just as easily have gone for a Breton striped t-shirt or a crisp white shirt for your board-room days. I have also since experimented with a coral coloured fine-knit jumper underneath, which looks pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

Next up is a shirt (Zara), again simple in style, but with an interesting neckline. The key-hole detail is a good half-way house for people who don't usually bear their chest, like me. It's a good shapeless shape and works just as effortlessly with jeans as it would with tuxedo trousers and heels for nighttime.

Another blouse/shirt which I couldn't resist buying so it could poke out of fine-knit jumpers in a gamine, let's-go-to-Paris sort of way was this discreetly ruffled number from Urban Outfitters. This is probably the diciest in terms of evoking the classroom but I like it for that. It's prim and proper, and some things you just can't, or shouldn't fight.

But there are actually lots of options I've seen out there subscribing to the kooky/architectural/asymmetry vibe, including a lovely shirt dress from Finery (£85) and a top from Topshop (£29) with some serious ruffle action going on. There's plenty to check out (lol).

So I plan to employ a little gingham tactically in my summer wardrobe this year, despite, or maybe because of its chequered (sorry, not sorry) history and connotations. But maybe I am full Basic B, after all. Where's my 'But First, Coffee' mug?

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