Checks come in many guises. Tartan. Madras. Gingham. With each, an idea of the wearer is inescapably conjured. Tartan is the pattern of the Scots and of Vivienne Westwood-era punks. Madras, the most colourful check, is found on American preppy types, while gingham is for school uniforms and Little Bo Peep. It just is. But what if we told you it didn’t have to be this way? Checks, and importantly gingham, have grown up and had something of a fashion girl makeover for SS17. So take off those knee socks and pull out those pig tails; this is for adults only.
On the runways, checks ranged from sweet to sultry. At House of Holland, gingham in fruit pastille shades opened the show – off-shoulder ruffed dresses, crop tops and flares looked part Brigitte Bardot, part rockabilly. Cute, yes, but undoubtedly worn with tongue firmly in cheek. Blumarine was altogether less irreverent – it took its fondant fancy pink gingham with a side of sugar, and made no apologies for it. Puff-sleeved dresses had enough flounce to sit firmly in the girly camp, but the cuts were ultimately restrained, allowing them to have broad appeal – whether you’re a kitten heel or Converse sort of woman. In fact, that last word is important to note: woman. These dresses, while youthful, never step into young territory. The same applies at Carolina Herrera. Monochrome gingham midi dresses and gowns alluded to ‘50s starlets more than school girls. This mid-century mood was felt at Prada: bombers, pencil skirts, blazers and tank tops came in bright Bay City Roller check. Many looks were belted and worn with high-waisted – what could only be called – gym knickers. Thankfully the fit and fabric bore no resemblance to the PE kits of yesteryear. Pringle, spiritual leader of all things check and golfing Argyll, played to its strengths; picnic-blanket gingham dresses and separates in patchwork tartans– the effect enhanced by uneven hems and strapped panels across the chest and shoulders. One thing to note, however, is that within many of these collections were stripes. Half a check, maybe, but no less impactful, stripes are the other pattern team of the season.
At Pringle, stripes looked decidedly retro and subtly sporting – what you’d wear to watch Wimbledon in the 1970s, maybe. At Carolina Herrera, the monochrome mood continued from the gingham into the bold striped dresses. Black and white stripes, almost Op-Art in their execution, contoured the body as they flowed both down and across the models’ bodies. Seriously sophisticated (this is Herrera, after all) but not without their distinctly modern merits. At Proenza Schouler, vibrant Bauhaus stripes appeared on skimming knit dresses and uneven hem skirts – some accented with a flourish of feathers. The effect was artsy and directional. Altuzarra’s collection had a similar mood to Prada’s – that of quirky 1950s coquettishness – but championed stripes over checks. Colourful banded off-shoulder dresses and skirts (and briefs!) were belted and worn with retro knits and greaser-girl hair. Mulberry and Jil Sander, however, got down to business; at the former, school uniform stripes appeared on blazers, skirts and shirts – although none looked regulation – while banker pin stripes were the go-to on tailoring at Jil Sander.
In fact, it is this simpler take that is felt most keenly on the streets. Shirts, maybe in an oversized cut, in striking stripes or checks act as the easiest new season update. Tuck them into your trusty denim or layer under a midi dress, preferably in tweedy check, for something of an Annie Hall vibe. It’s a look that sits comfortably between louche, Parisian ‘I’m wearing my lover’s shirt’ and fresh innocence. It’s all in the tuck – unkempt or neat and tidy are both, ultimately, suggestive. So whether you go for crisp gingham or retro candy stripe, styling is key.
It’s time to pick a side: will it be check mate or stripe out?