Gingham

Gingham check or stripe originates from Malaysia and was imported to Europe and America in the 1700s. The Masai people have worn it for in traditonal dress for its said thousands of years.

Its a woven or printed cotton striped or checked with two colours. A truly international fabric the check can be found in women's dress in probably every country in the world. I love all the different ways its layered and used in different cultures.

An interesting thought is that the two colours represent good and evil, combined with traditional summer dress for children still today. Will they become good or bad girls?

Society is closely connected to cotton in each country and linked the world together. Sadly not in the fair way it should have been, just imagine if European lust for power hadn't been so vile and instead they worked together. 
Manchester wove ginghams, so did India and now China, Japan and America produce ginghams. 

People were kidnapped from Africa and forced to pick cotton as slaves, today the land and waters are polluted by the industry. Cotton hasn't always been so good. Thankfully now, there's a fair trade option that is also organic. 

In the 20th Century gingham has been used as a puritanical pattern representing the christian, cleaner than clean, domestic version of femininity. Hollywood musicals of the civil war and wholesome stories of family. Southern Belles and 1950s kitchens.

Brigit Bardo married in a gingham dress sparking a fashion revolution and setting up Biba in business. Mods took on the check, the monochrome 2-tone which was then taken harder by the punks and skinheads. Gingham sure has a checkered history. (pardon the pun) 
Images from pinterest
1809 gingham fashion plate - Jane Austin era soft blue gingham. Feminine Summery. 
Painting of young girl in gingham 1767 with Doll. English unknown painter - Children's wear has been traditionally gingham for summer school dresses. The painting uses soft pinks and blues.
African American woman in Victorian or civil war era hooped gingham dress and matching bonnet. The bodice looks pleated at the waist. 
Gullah GeeChee women of Carolina I'm not sure on the date of this photo but I love the mix of cotton fabrics and how they are styled. The Gullah GeeChee people are descendants of the enslaved people from Central and West Africa. They worked along the cotton belt states of the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia. Being sectioned from the inland states, the Gullah Geechee people were able to maintain their original cultural heritage, arts and languages. 
American group portrait 1860 civil war era by S C Landon found in the Library of Congress. Women with hooped skirts and gingham dresses. I don't know who these people are but I would love to know the story. I immediately assume the white people have enslaved the African American woman. But maybe this isn't the story? She is central to the image so must be important. 
New Orleans Woman with gingham headscarves and daughter late 18th Century. Free woman of colour. This is an interesting textile portrait. 
Mexican women sewing approx mid to late19th century. Gingham full skirted dress with shawl collar. This is a style continued by Frida Khalo.
Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies, photographed by Camille Silvy, 1862
Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies was a child born into a royal West African dynasty. She was orphaned in 1848, when her parents were killed in a slave-hunting war. She was around five years old. In 1850, Sarah was taken to England and presented to Queen Victoria as a “gift” from the King of Dahomey. She became the queen’s goddaughter and a celebrity known for her intelligence.
God daughter to Queen Victoria Sarah Forbes Bonetta 1862 in plaid stripe full skirted dresses.
Frida Khalo in a ruffled gingham blouse embellished with ric rac ribbon. 1930s. 
Frida Khalo in blouse and traditional full gingham skirt. Almost Victorian in style. 
Cyprus late 19th century dress.  Costume of Karpasia, "saya'" with "douple'tti". Late 19th Century. Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.
I'm interested in the layering. 
"Klemantan women dressed for Harvest festival - The women dress in men's attire at the Harvest festival. There is general merriment and all kinds of jokes are played, one of which is slapping men on the face with a sooty mixture, after which they run away; chased by the men, who retaliate"
Somali nomadic couple 1920s draped in cotton plaids with ceremonial necklaces of precious beads and silver. The traditional draping of cotton from Somalia is beautiful and clearly has an impact on design today. 
American Apache women from Arizona late 19th century with traditional basket weaving. Full cotton skirts with gathered waists and smocks. 
Women in plaid silk dress in civil war era USA with Union soldier. Gingham seems to be very heavily used in the civil war era of America. 
Postmortem photograph of mother and child civil war era in black gingham dress. More about postmortem photography here. 
Late 19th century photo of two Winnebago Indian women.
Long scarves worn over more modern dress at the time.
Tamil woman 1914s in gingham plaid sari. Photographed in Columbo. The draping of the one shoulder is beautiful along with her elegant posture.
Dorothys dress designed by Adrian 1939 for Wizard of Oz. The utilitarian cotton of the wholesome farm girl outfit makes those ruby slippers pop. The most famous gingham outfit in Hollywood.
Joan Crawford 1940s as Mildred Pierce
Brigit Bardot on her Wedding Day in 1959 to Jacques Charrier in a pink gingham or Vichy cotton dress designed by Jacques Esterel
Here are some great articles about gingham, the cotton trade and women in history
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Initial ideas and more questions I need to ask before starting design work.
cotton farmer China

Where did my gingham come from that I am using?

I purchased the gingham I am using a two years ago from Millie Moon fabric shop in Frome. The fabric came from a wholesalers - Oddies and is 100% cotton.
I spoke to Oddies and they told me the fabric was woven in China.
Since purchasing this fabric our policy on all new fabric purchases are that cottons must be organic and fair trade. Prints from Liberty and ethical provenance must be checked on any other prints. 
fair trade cotton weaver 
Fair trade cotton india
Who makes cotton in America today?
The cotton belt still exists in America today. Most cotton is exported and most producers have signed up to OEKO -TEX
The National Cotton Council American cotton industry 

Gingham is a fabric of history and the world. It seems to span classes and cultures. 
The good girl/bad girl theme is interesting. Good and evil weaves crossing over. 
Crossing cultures, interweaving.
Mod skinhead two tone use of gingham. Why?
Ultra feminine almost virginal. Lets make this wholesome fabric sexy. 
Work wear like denim. Farm worker, western wear in Hollywood.
Dorothy and her ruby slippers.
The southern belle, is this what Jacques Esterel was portraying in Bardots dress?
Draping and tying.
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Conclusion. 
cotton is about people and about the world. Its ingrained and literally woven in all of our lives. As an independent designer I can decide what fabrics we use and be more responsible about sourcing. Now to get on with designing dresses, I had no idea how deep Gingham went!

 

Transparency and Ethics in Alexandra King Production

We believe that transparency and ethical fair production should be expected. All of Alexandra King's dresses and accessories are designed and manufactured at the Somerset studio and atelier. We source all of our fabrics and supplies from the UK working with Beckford Silks, James Hare Silks, Bennet silks, Tia Knight, Jaycotts, SE Simons, MacCulloch and Wallis, Organic Cottons and Liberty of London. Manufacturers that are credible in their processes. 

It is very important to us that our products are made ethically and everyone involved in the product is treated fairly. We continue to purchase fair trade and ethical fabrics and supplies where possible and hope to expand on this over time.
We now only use organic fair trade cotton or where a coloured cotton is needed cotton from Kona by Robert Kaufmann who has signed up to OEKO-TEX. 

We actively ask our suppliers about fabric manufacturing practice and where we are not able to verify fair trade or environmental impact we donate 10% of the cost of that dress to the Fair Trade Foundation and Greenpeace.

The Environmental impact of our business is of equal importance. We recycle any scrap fabrics into either useable pieces, donation to local schools and for the fine scrap as fillings for our accessories. We try not to waste anything. 
Yes we do love glitter and sequins but for these materials to stay on the dresses and accessories not in the sea. 


Our packaging is designed to store your purchase and is not to be disposed of in refuse. The other waterproof mailing bags are biodegradable recycled plastic.
We also have an electric car to commute in so, yes, we're quite proud of taking the time to think about the environmental impact of the business. 


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