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The limits of Gingham

Posted on Sep 10, 2012 in Fashion

I came across the above photo some time ago while reading a post on Rookie.com. (That’s Tavi Gevinson on the right I think.) Anyway, this photo conveniently illustrates something I’ve been wondering for a while now, and that is what are the reasonable parameters of scale within which the pattern we know as gingham can indeed be referred to as such and when does it become too big or small to continue to be known as gingham? At its essence, gingham is the graphic representation of unbending, transparent ribbons in a basic criss-crossing weave pattern wherein each ribbon is distanced from the next parallel ribbon by a distance equal to its own width. This weave pattern is totally ubiquitous, appearing way more frequently in 3D basket, furniture and textile production way more than it does in 2D graphic abstraction. The weave pattern is shown below and then with a color overlay, rendering it gingham.

Do we call a simple basket woven from flat material gingham so long as the negative space equals the width of the ribbon? No. Do we call a simple weave of threads in textiles gingham? No. That pattern is too small to perceive. Ok, so then when does gingham kick in? Well first of all it has to be a printed pattern I think. But how big does the pattern need to be to become gingham? Maybe at around 0.0625″ or one-sixteenth of an inch in the case of J.Crew’s “micro-gingham.” From there, J. Crew, the most heinous abuser of poor gingham’s gentle reputation for the past few years, moves through their gingham scale:

medium gingham
and peri gingham

Peri gingham. Ha! Peri being latin for “too big to wear out of the house.” Which brings us to the other end of the spectrum. When does peri-gingham become what is better known as “table cloth?” And when does “table cloth” give over to “lumberjack” and then finally to “buffalo plaid?” And then what after that? Where does it all end?!?!?!

These are the things that keep me awake at night. Thank you Tavi and everyone else at Rookie for posting that photo so I could finally write this critical contribution to the web and fashion at large.