How to Wear Gingham Vintage Style

Last updated on July 20th, 2024 at 12:58 pm

I am a big fan of gingham and plaid, my favourite patterns on 1940s suits, which I have in abundance but never enough, and in today’s post, I would like to show you how to add more than just a touch of vintage style by incorporating these classic patterns into your wardrobe. I will demonstrate how to wear a vintage-inspired gingham skirt and blouse in six different ways with inspiration drawn from Old Hollywood movie stars and stunning fashion images from the 1940s and the 1950s.

How to wear gingham vintage style
How to wear gingham vintage style! Picture by Nina Leen, 1958

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Vintage style gingham skirt from Son de Flor.
How to wear gingham vintage style.

Katharine Hepburn in the Gingham Dress in The Philadelphia Story

I never feel as elated watching a film as much as when I see George Cukor’s visual feast, “The Philadelphia Story’ released in 1940. It was adapted from Philip Barry’s play, and Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of Tracy Lords was outstanding. She initially played the same role in the original stage production at the Shubert Theatre in NYC a year before the film adaptation.

Barry created the character of Lords with Hepburn in mind.

I have a great admiration for Philip Barry’s writing – for the way he makes his people talk. That is one reason why I like my part so much. He had me in mind for it from the beginning.

Katharine Hepburn in an interview with Helen Ormsbee in March of 1939.

Howard Hughes bought the copyrights for the movie “The Philadelphia Story” and gave them to Hepburn as a gift. She then sold the rights to MGM, with the condition that she could select her co-stars and maintain creative control. This project held significant personal importance to Katharine.

She wore costumes designed by Valentina for the stage production (on the left), but for “The Philadelphia Story” film, my favourite Hollywood costume designer Gilbert Adrian was in charge of creating the costumes and took them to the next level, especially the ginger dress in the picture on the right.

“The Philadelphia Story” images. This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1929 and 1963.

As for the colour of both gingham dresses, fashion historians have different ideas and I’m not sure we will ever know the truth. I’m inclined to agree with Gutner Howard that Adrian’s design was in the same blue and white gingham fabric he used for Dorothy’s dress in “The Wizard of Oz”, 1939.

Adrian’s costume for the same encounter on film turns Tracy into billowing Dresden Sheperdess, with an orchidaceous organza blouse and a skirt built from layer upon layer of gingham check. The gingham was a touch of Americana that Adrian had found on a trip through Appalachia in 1938. He used a blue shade of the material for Judy Garland’s farm dress in The Wizzard of Oz, and here he employs it to connect Tracy with a kind of driven, never say-die American pioneer spirit.

Gowns by Adrian, Gutner Howard
How to wear a gingham dress
How to wear gingham vintage style.

In Christian Esquevin’s wonderful book entitled “Adrian: From Silver Screen to Custom Label” we read:

Hepburn wears a delightful Adrian creation, blending high style with Americana, when she encounters a pair of reporters. Adrian called it a dance frock; it is composed of a red and white gingham skirt, flounced with four layers of ruffles stylishly placed on the bias, and a blouse of mousseline de soie, edged at the sleeve, collar, and string tie in the same gingham.”

Christian Esquevin


Brief History of Gingham Fabric

Gingham: Period: 17th century. An imported cotton fabric from India made from dyed yarn and copied in Manchester and Glasgow in the 18th century. In the 19th century the name was given to a stout chequered cloth, originally of linen, later of cotton.

The Dictionary of Fashion History, by Valerie Cumming, C. W. Cunnington and P. E. Cunnington
How to wear gingham vintage style
Nina Leen Photography for Life magazine.

Gingham fabric, also known as Vichy check, has an intriguing history going back to the 17th century. The term “gingham” is believed to have originated from the Malay word “genggang,” which translates to “striped” or “separate.” It’s also possible that “gingham” fabric was named after the Guingamb town in France.

This lightweight plain-woven cotton textile is characterized by its distinctive checkered pattern, typically featuring alternating white and coloured squares.

The popularity of gingham surged in Western fashion during the 17th century, following its importation to Europe by Dutch colonizers. From the mid of the 18th century, it was produced in Manchester, and even though I’m still trying to establish the name of the very first factory producing gingham fabric, I believe it was Arkright’s factory, the Cromford Mills. After all, the first water-powered cotton spinning mill was built in 1771 by Richard Arkwright, the inventor of textile mills. It’s also possible that it might have been the Piccadilly Mill.

As of the 19th century, gingham fabric had become widely popular in the United States, being used for making dresses, shirts, and children’s clothes. Even today, gingham remains a timeless favourite, especially as one of my preferred patterns for vintage clothing.

Gingham was the pattern of choice for some of the most prominent Old Hollywood movie stars on and off the screen. From Joan Crawford’s character Sadie Thompson in “Rain” (1932) to Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” (1944) with her stunning gingham suit designed by Milo Anderson and the flirtatious gingham dress worn by Katharine Hepburn, designed by Adrian, who also created Judy Garland’s iconic gingham dress in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

In the film “Rain” from 1932, Joan Crawford wore a daring gingham suit with short sleeves, paired with a wide belt. Costume designer Milo Anderson selected the suit from a store in LA.

Joan Crawford in “Rain” (1932) publicity still, on the left and a screenshot on the right.

SADIE THOMPSON BUYS WARDROBE FOR $17.50. Joan Crawford’s Outfit in “Rain”Bought in Department Store. After wardrobe experts and costume designers had depated weeks over the most appropraite clothes for Joan Crawford to wear in her latest starring picture, “Rain”, which comes to the…theatre on…, the United Artists studio bought her a $17.50 outfit in a Los Angeles department store. It was not a question of finances, but of realism, that prompted the film corporation to pass up the facilities of its own large wardrobe department and shop for an inexpensive, flashy bunch of finery for the usually fastidiously-dressed star. (…) She wears but one costume practically all through the picture, consisting of gaudy skirt and jacket, small feathered hat, near-silk stockings, high heeled, flash shoes and an imitation fur.

Rain (United Artists Pressbook, 1932)

How to wear gingham vintage style. Joan Crawford in Rain film from 1932
How to wear gingham vintage style. Joan Crawford in Rain film from 1932
Joan Crawford in gingham dress When Ladies Meet
Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet, 1941 wearing a wonderful gingham attire.

Lauren Bacall in a gingham skirt suit by Milo Anderson designed for “To Have and Have Not” (1944).

One of my 1940s Handmacher suits in green and white gingham is very similar to the one Bacall wore in “To Have and Have Not.”

The American Look 1940s fashion
In the picture, by Gregory Michael King, I’m wearing a 1940s Handmacher suit paired with a 1950s Koret wicker purse.

Judy Garland in the most recognizable gingham pinafore “Dorothy dress” designed by Adrian for “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

Dorothy of Oz gingham dress
How to wear gingham vintage style.

How to Choose the Perfect Gingham Outfit in Vintage Style

Before you start hunting for the perfect gingham vintage-style piece, consider if you’re more of a dress, skirt, or slacks kind of person. There’s no sense in splurging on something you’ll only wear once, or worse, keep stored in your closet for that elusive special occasion. For instance, I hardly ever wear my three pairs of slacks, maybe once every five years. So, even if the most stunning gingham slacks caught my eye, it wouldn’t make sense for me to purchase them, as I mainly wear skirt-suits and dresses.

That being said, I can see myself in a gingham blouse paired with classic black slacks and a wide belt.

Rosalind Russell In Gingham dress

Rosalind Russel in a beautiful checkered dress adorned with a patent belt and a flower brooch is the epitome of elegance.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, permits “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education, and research.

Gingham dress for the summer
Gingham dress or skirt with a matching blouse in the 1940s.

how to wear gingham vintage style
Tips on wearing vintage gingham style.


For my all-gingham look I chose a black and white gingham blouse and skirt from Son de Flor that I paired with an original late 1940s patent belt, Spitz saddle shoes and my favourite Manhattan sunglasses Audrey Hepburn wore in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Gingham dress from Son de Flor
I’m wearing a gingham skirt and blouse from Son de Flor.

Son de Flor gingham skirt reviews
How to wear gingham vintage style.

1. Start with one gingham piece such as a dress, skirt or blouse.

2. Pair it with classic items like high-waisted pants, a cardigan, a velvet bolero or a beret for a touch of vintage flair.

3. Stick to vintage colours, like pastels or earth tones, to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the era or go for a classic black and white pallet.

4. Incorporate vintage accessories such as a locket necklace, cameo brooch or cat-eye sunglasses.


The most beautiful antique and vintage-inspired jewellery made of porcelain by POPORCELAIN brand.

vintage photography for social media

5. Choose vintage-inspired footwear such as Mary Janes, loafers, ballet flats or saddle shoes to complement the outfit.

Vintage fashion blogger  wearing gingham potfit


Tips on how to style saddle shoes.

6. Style your hair in classic ways, like victory rolls, a sleek bun or my favourite bumper bangs you see in the picture of me below.


vintage fashion blogger

7. Complete the look with vintage-style makeup featuring winged eyeliner, red lips, and rosy cheeks.

Vintage fashion blogger Dominique de Merteuil in 1950s dress. Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick.


How to Incorporate Gingham into Your Vintage Style Wardrobe

Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, and Audrey Hepburn, iconic Hollywood movie stars known for their timeless elegance and fashion influence, frequently showcased their impeccable style by wearing classic gingham and plaid patterns.

Bardot was such a fan of the Vichy check that she chose that pattern for her wedding dress in 1959. The pink and white gingham lace-trimmed dress designed by Jaques Esterel was probably one of the most copied pieces in France and beyond in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Bardot’s choice of a gingham wedding dress not only showcased her unique style but also set a new trend in the fashion world, reinforcing her status as a true fashion icon.

In the pictures below we see examples of beautiful gingham skirts of different lengths paired with tops in solid colour for an understated chic. A simple top or blouse in black, white or of the same colour as the checkers on the skirt will always look elegant.

How to find the perfect gingham dress
How to wear gingham vintage style.

6 Styling Tips for Wearing Gingham Skirt in Vintage Style

Incorporating gingham into your vintage-style wardrobe doesn’t have to be on the “safe side.” And if you feel a little bit more adventurous, I suggest opting for an all-gingham outfit or mixing and matching gingham with other bold patterns and textures.

I will show you how to wear a vintage-style gingham skirt from Son de Flor in six different ways showcasing its versatile and timeless appeal.

1950s gingham dress
All gingham vintage look! D.H. Holmes fashion. Image courtesy My Vintage Vogue.
  • For the all-gingham look, I chose the vintage-inspired Son de Flor gingham skirt with a matching blouse. My favourite 1950s wide black patent belt that goes with almost everything in my wardrobe was the obvious choice here as it draws attention to my waist which I cinched with the lightweight CS 201 Orchard corset in mesh, perfect for spring and summer.
Gingham skirt Son de Flor.
How to wear gingham vintage style. Son de Flor gingham skirt and blouse.
  • Gingham skirt with black Wolford body for the sexy “All That Jazz” look.
How to style gingham dress vintage ways.
Vintage fashion blog.
  • Another way of wearing a gingham skirt vintage style is to pair it with a 1950s velvet bolero. You can, of course, look for a contemporary one, but nothing beats a true vintage bolero, and don’t forget that every lady needs her gloves!
How to style gingham skirt vintage way.
  • Choose a classic black roll-neck with a black and white gingham skirt for a very simple yet elegant look à la Audrey Hepburn. I added a large locket necklace from POPORCELAIN for an evening out.
styling tips for wearing gingham vintage way.
How to wear gingham vintage style.
  • Gingham skirt paired with a 1940s-inspired black short-sleeved top adorned with 1940s buttons for a casual look.
gingham skirt from son de flor.
Styling gingham skirt in a vintage way.
  • Gingham skirt paired with a solid pink blouse and black patent belt.
vintage fashion blog
1940s-inspired gingham outfit.

Accessories that Complement Vintage-Style Gingham Outfit

If you are not ready to fully embrace the bold gingham pattern by choosing a dress, skirt or blouse with the motif beloved by Old Hollywood movie stars, perhaps a gingham accessory like gloves, belt or shoes will be more to your liking.


How to wear gingham vintage style


The stunning Audrey Totter in the most beauteous gingham gloves with a matching sash belt.


The stunning outfit designed by Travis Banton was worn by Myrna Loy in “Love Me Tonight” and is probably the reason why I fell in love with the gingham pattern in the first place. The oversized bow and sleeve trimmings in matching fabric are a real show-stopper.

How to wear gingham vintage style
Myrna Loy as Countess Valentine in “Love Me Tonight” (1932).


The Gingham Girl in the 1920s

In 1924, Asa T. Bales filed for a patent for putting flour and other commodities in sacks of textile material that could be used or reused for making clothes.

The sack should be of a size suitable of being remade into clothing with a substantially indelible or permanent pattern…Having stripes or checks in two or more colours. (preferably gingham cotton)

Feedsack Secrets Fashion from Hard Times by Gloria Nixon

In Gloria Nixon’s insightful book “Feedsack Secrets: Fashion from Hard Times,” we discover that Asa Bales transferred his patent to the George P. Plant Milling Company in St. Louis, Missouri. This marked the introduction of the famous ‘Gingham Girl’ to consumers.

The trademark for the new sack is Gingham, under which come a number of different brands, of which the principal one is the Gingham Girl. Others are Mother Gingham, Baby Gingham and Gingham Queen. These brands, and others, have already gained a wide distribution and are well established in several markets.

Feedsack Secrets Fashion from Hard Times by Gloria Nixon

Do you love gingham as much as I do?

What do you think?

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  • Alicja
    July 9, 2024

    I love this post so much and the fact that you found the source of what outfit Crawford wore in the Rain. I read online that it was a dress and thanks to your research we now know that it was a skirt with a matching blouse. Thank you for that!

    I find your gingham styling very inspiring and now I want that skirt!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      July 9, 2024

      Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words. For me, research is at the core of every article I work on. I have to admit, finding the press clip was quite challenging. I felt like I was hitting a dead end and looking in all the wrong places. 😉