Gingham. It’s everywhere. Specifically, gingham off-the-shoulder (Bardot) tops. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been plagued by them – every shop window I pass, every website I browse, every Instagram feed I scroll through. If you shut your eyes and I pushed you into any high-street shop, I can guarantee the first thing you would fall on is a gingham Bardot top.
The problem with this is that they are virtually impossible to wear. There’s the obvious bra issue (strapless? Urgh. None? Yikes!). And then the jacket issue – as in, you simply can’t wear one. And God forbid you should want to raise your arms higher than your chin. I challenge you to brush your hair/drive/swat a fly without it pinging off your shoulders.
But the frustrating thing is I love gingham. I love the simplicity and the uniformity. Ever since Victoria Beckham put a load of gingham dresses on her spring catwalk last year, I have been contemplating trying this print, once synonymous with school uniforms and tablecloths everywhere. Now, I’ve decided that this is the summer that I’m actually going to do it. So, the challenge is on: where can I find something gingham that isn’t a ridiculous Bardot top? Off to the shops I go.
First up, it’s Debenhams, where I find the perfect spring coat at Studio by Preen. I always find that a trench coat works well at this time of year – it’s more lightweight than a winter coat, but warmer than shorter, more summery styles – and this gingham version would work brilliantly with culottes and a jumper now, or with a cotton dress on those (inevitable) cooler summer days. It fits true to size but I chose to go for the size up (12) so it was slightly baggier.
On to Coast, where I have found the ultimate dress-up/dress-down skirt. I’d wear this with trainers and a T-shirt during the day and switch in a pair of heels and a black, silk blouse for the evening. My tip would be to try a pussy-bow blouse if you want to make it even dressier. I reckon you could even wear this to a wedding. This does come up quite small, so I would recommend buying a size up.
One of the easiest ways to wear gingham is on a top, paired with jeans – only tops you can happily wear with a bra, mind. My absolute favourite is this shirt, again by Studio by Preen. I’m wearing mine with a white, A-line midi skirt and ankle boots. It’s true to size, so I wouldn’t recommend going for a bigger size – baggy frills are not a good look.
If you’re still worried about the school-uniform connotations of gingham, then have a look at COS for its minimal take on the print. There are some strong contenders for non-dull workwear, like this unfussy top, which would look great with a simple pair of pumps and tailored trousers. Available in sizes 34-44 (8-18), I’m wearing a size 10 and it fits true to size.
Zara’s pink, frilly take on gingham is actually easier to wear than that description might suggest. Slightly cropped, this sits neatly over high waistbands, which is very flattering. I’d wear this on holiday with a pair of denim cut-offs and sandals but, when at home, chuck on a smart jacket or blazer to counteract the frilliness. Available in XS-XL, I’m wearing a medium, which I wouId say is true to size.
And then there is the boho vibe. While Zara does describe this as a dress, it’s very short. That’s why I wore it as a top, tucked into a midi skirt, but you could also wear it over skinny jeans as a tunic. Alternatively, it serves as a beach cover-up to chuck over a swimming costume with a pair of espadrilles. I’m wearing a medium, which I would say is a 10/12.