Gingham, the woven cloth in contrasting checks, has had a fashion moment in recent years. Somehow, it’s managed to become a pervasive summer style. Now it seems those checks are starting to fade. The pattern is peaking and will likely retreat back to its status as a humdrum basic for warmer months, fashion trend analysts predict. This means that, while we’re bound to see city sidewalks laden with gingham again this summer, it may be the last such time in a while.
Last year, fashion labels latched on to gingham as their go-to print, elevating the simple pattern in all kinds of clever ways. There were giant checks, tiny checks, inverted checks, diagonal checks, long gingham dresses, halter tops, maxi skirts, bikinis—anything they could think of. Meanwhile, the ever-present men’s gingham button-down chugged onward. Fast-fashion stores picked up on the runway trend, with Asos and Forever 21 boosting the style to ubiquity.
Now mass-market stores have adopted gingham, sending the number of new gingham items skyrocketing. Last month, new gingham apparel volume doubled on a year-over-year basis. Stores such as Target Corp. and department store outlets updated their basic offerings, including shirts and blouses, with gingham. They caused a 73.8 percent spike in new items featuring the print in March, according to data from trend forecasting firm WGSN.
That’s not necessarily good for gingham. It means fashion is moving on. These days, trends tend to begin on either high-fashion catwalks or Instagram. Fast-fashion stores, such as Zara and H&M, are the first to follow, tailed by mid-market specialty retailers. Finally, it trickles down to the cheapest, most-discounted shops. Then it’s over. The mass-market stores are “where trends go to die,” said Emma Griffin, an analyst at WGSN. The garments being sold at those stores are the simplest basics. It’s gingham in its most boring form. “It’s reached its peak,” she said.
Gingham, for decades a safe summer style, began its boom in the late 2000s as shoppers sought more casual options. Gingham’s popularity hit such a nerve that in 2014 an Instagram account devoted to photos of men wearing a particular black-and-white gingham J. Crew shirt went viral. But as excitement around the design wanes, weakness is already evident in its most mundane form: men’s shirts. This March, new gingham in men’s shirts is down more than 20 percent year-over-year, WGSN data showed.
Even J. Crew is beginning to focus its attention elsewhere. The retailer added just six new gingham styles to its selection of shirts this year, down from 43 new looks in spring 2015, according to data from fashion analytics firm Edited. In total, the retailer has downsized its gingham shirt offering across men’s, women’s and kids’ wear by 61 percent, according to the researcher. Instead, J. Crew chose to sell lots of new gingham items in non-tops, such as dresses and skirts, to take advantage of last year’s craze.
What’s replacing gingham? Mixed checkered patterns and plaids, another timeless print with overlapping stripes. Appearances of these checks are up 15 percent year-over-year on pre-summer 2018 catwalks, thanks to such high-end fashion brands as Victoria Beckham and Red Valentino, according to WGSN. Meanwhile, gingham was relatively quiet on runways over the past two seasons. That may have been a signal. While the fashion world may want both men and women to cool it with all the gingham, it can’t force people to give up their checks forever. “Gingham’s always going to be around,” said Griffin. “It’s a staple.”