Houndstooth, Tartan and more : where do the different checked patterns come from?

The checked patterns seen on suits, jackets or even skirts jostle to outdo each other in terms of their details and the secrets of their manufacture. The best known of these designs give us a glimpse of their English, Scottish and French influences. Let’s take a closer look at these repeating patterns which create a kind of trompe-l’oeil effect and afford their wearer immediate style.

This pattern is so called because, well, it has the shape of a dog’s teeth! In French, though, it is known as “pied-de-poule”, or “hen’s feet”. Houndstooth first emerged in Scotland at the start of the 19th century and was rapidly adopted by the upper classes in the 1830s. There are smaller and larger variants of the houndstooth pattern, and a very small-scale version known as puppytooth.

Once again, it is to Scotland that we owe this pattern that is such a significant feature of the country’s history, although according to various sources it could have come from China and then been adapted to Scottish culture. Since then, it has spread to every country and thanks to its green and red designs, it lends itself particularly well to winter and Christmas. Tartan is a chequerboard pattern of varying sizes. The larger the check, the more suitable it is for bed linen or soft furnishings in general.

Prince of Wales check
The history of the Prince of Wales check has a flavour of Downton Abbey about it. In the 19th century, a Scottish noblewoman, Lady Caroline, Countess of Seafield was looking to dress her gamekeepers for her residence in the valley of Glenurquhart. She could not plump for tartan, though, as this was reserved for an elite. Her ultimate choice was this pattern of superimposed checks. It was Edward VIII, formerly Prince of Wales, whose father used to hunt this land, who gave this pattern its name in popularising it in England.

Vichy check
At first sight less elegant and certainly with a more summery feel, Vichy check – also known as gingham – derives from table linens and originates from the French town of the same name. This checked pattern has stood the test of time, and can even be seen on the dress worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in 1939. Many designers still use it today, hinting at the 1950s and 60s.

Whether woven or simply printed, none of these patterns has fallen by the wayside – and in fact, the situation is quite the opposite. Checked patterns are a staple in a stylish wardrobe for both men and women, and always make the perfect partner for high quality wools.


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