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Guest Post: The History of Our Favorite Prints

Hello friends!
Today we have George, a guest blogger, who is going to teach us about our most memorable patterns.
 
These designs and patterns that we’ve known by heart all throughout the years all have a
story to tell. So the next time you’re wearing a fancy shawl with a lot of funky patterns,
you would not only have a stylish garment but a fantastic conversation piece!
 
Paisley - CQA3601
More often than not you have encountered your share of pashmina shawls and your great-
aunt’s Sunday blouses with these designs all over them. You recognize them as those
teardrop or tadpole shaped patterns straight out of an LSD induced hallucination. Not that
you have had any experience with those.
 
These psychedelic patterns are well known as the Paisley design. Its name comes from
the less well known town of Paisley, Scotland, where in the 19th century had become the
foremost producers of these patterned shawls.
 
But the design itself originates from Persia, called the Boteh Jegheh, a convergence of
a stylized floral spray and cypress tree, a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity. The
pattern is also used in India, where it is called Mankolam, meaning Mango, and is still
used in gold and temple jewelry, and is also a very prominent design in sarees.
 
 
 
Tartan - CVI6465
Popularly known as “plaid” to North America, Tartan is a pattern that consists of criss
crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. It is usually associated with
Scotland, being the usual pattern used in traditional Scottish dress, the Kilt (not a skirt!).
In the 19th century, Tartans were associated by region, specifics of which involved the
local tastes and available textiles and natural dyes in that area. Later on in the century,
tartans would be used to differentiate certain clans and families.
 
 
 
Houndstooth Check - UWB4899
An example of tesselation, a classic houndstooth pattern consists of a duotone textile
pattern consisting of broken or abstract checks. It is traditionally from the Scottish
lowlands, sewn into woven wool.
 
Over the years, especially in the late 19th to the early 20th century it has been used as
pattern for the garments of workers like gamekeepers and farmers because the patterns
hide dirt well. This technique is utilized by modern chefs; the houndstooth pattern on
their pants hide food bits and stains.
 
 
 
Nautical Print - CWI 6152
If you are not familiar with the word, then you could conjure up a picture of Popeye,
and the eponymous sailor’s outfit. If you don’t know who Popeye is, then you need only
come up instead with the mental image of all the sailors that have ever crossed you mind,
eyes, and whatever senses associated to the registering of clothing prints.
 
The word itself means anything that pertains to sailing: whether it be nautical maps,
charts…so basically, a lot of the things related to sailing, you could call it nautical. And
this is where the nautical print was born. It began as a standardized uniform for the navy
in the early 19th century, but the crossover from uniform to civilian wear came with the
then four year old prince Albert Edward, future Edward the VII, dressed in a miniature
uniform thus paving the way for the classic favorite children’s wear. Soon it also crossed
over to other countries, used as school uniforms for boys and girls, more pointedly, the
infamous but curiously incredibly chic sailor fukus of Japanese schoolgirls. The style
transitioned from children’s wear to swimwear: outfits for any activity that included
swimming or fishing or yachting. Later on it reached mainstream fashion, ultimately
becoming incredibly stylish for the female demographic for its crisp, sophisticated look
and its comfort; a reason that led to it becoming the design of several uniforms then and
now. It reached a pique in the wartime, where they were popularly worn in support for
the wartime efforts.
 
 
 
Polka Dots - BDA6354
Ah, the favorite youngest child of all the clothing patterns. The polka dots are a series of
filled circles printed all across a fabric. One would think that the polka dot got its name
from the dance, the polka, but it is surprisingly not so; instead it is named because of the
popularity of the dance at that time, seeping into even the naming of a various many other
objects.
 
But the history of the cute and fumbling polka dot go way back, predating even its own
name. It has embarrassingly grisly origins from the medieval times, as it had been as a
pattern negatively associated to the scattered and circular appearances of the outbreaks
of rash, measles, and infections. It entered into a more positive light, albeit with merely
a more tolerable reputation in a cosmetic trend known as “patching.” no doubt you’ve
seen this on the fancy powdered ladies and gentlemen of the 19th century, as those little
moles. They are painted on, or cut out from felt fabric, and depending on the location on
the face, has a different meaning. Often it is used as a strategic way for women to cover
up blemishes.
 
The polka dot truly came center stage as it was featured in the first Minnie mouse
cartoons, as the eponymous pattern for her clothing, thus making it synonymous to
coquettish, girlish, flirtatious behavior. It became a kooky, whimsical staple of I love
Lucy’s lead, comedienne Lucille Ball, earning it more adjectives like quirky and bubbly.
It is referenced in cultural events, and its most famous reference is that song, “itsy bitsy
teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini.”
 
 
 
Guest author George Shaw is part of Color Tex Inc.’s sales and marketing team, a dyeing and finishing
company in Brooklyn, NY. He is also an aspiring blogger and writer whose interests are in the fields of arts
and design.

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