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Do you also think that we take our beautiful clothes patterns for granted? I agree, especially when looking at the growing popularity of florals, animal prints and stripes this Summer. As I started looking more into the history of patterns and its growth in popularity in the fashion industry, I found myself astonished by the amount of content out there on the topic of patterns, and here are some facts I wanted to share with you.

You might have also noticed the growing popularity of patterns in the fashion industry for the last 2 years, with headlines such as “Pattern is back” in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, which is mainly the reason why we thought it would be an interesting time to look back at our favourite pattern’s history.

Honeycomb, flower petals, star constellations, sky scrappers, if you take the time to look at everything that surrounds us, you will notice the impressive number of both natural and man made patterns. But funnily enough, and something that I had never thought about, patterns have rich cultural stories and meaning behind them.

The word and meaning of today’s cheerful polka dots, for example, once signalled disease in the time of the plague, until the 19th century famous polka dance changed its status for the better. The main reason why medieval Europeans rarely wore dotted patterns on their clothing was mainly due to the lack of machinery to create evenly spaced dots. Especially in an era of deadly illness, irregular dots reminded the population of outbreaks of incurable diseases such as smallpox, measles and syphillis which therefore didn’t make it a popular clothing pattern.

Not to mention the usage of stripes on clothing which were reserved for prisoners and prostitues in the middle ages. According to historians, the bias of stripes was well entrenched in Europe’s laws by the 13th century, and wearing the pattern depicted men and women’s status as criminals. The reason for picking this specific pattern is most probably due to it’s high visibility, which discouraged people to escape from prisons, but stripes were also considered vulgar and brash, something that is today most likely not a popular opinion!

Who knew there could have been so much history behind patterns, right? Another funny one is Houndstooth, the popular checked pattern we often see on high quality jackets, was commonly worn by shepherds in the Scottish Highlands who splashed mud on their clothes but used the pattern as a camouflage. The word houndstooth itself comes from its visual similarity to the teeth of hunting hounds. The pattern is also called pied de poule in French, meaning chicken foot (not sure where this word came from!). Houndstooth is now however very popular in the higher class English society, sometimes used as hunting wear, and more commonly worn by Royalty in the English countryside.

Plaid has also got an interesting history especially in the UK, as the British in an effort to subjugate the Scottish Highlands, banned tartan (the technical name for plaid) from the country. Let me tell you, this ban was not taken lightly as the penalty for wearing the pattern would be death. The fabric was banned for about 40 years, until the nostalgia of the Scottish pattern made a comeback in the country.

Are you also going to pay more attention to the patterns around you and the ones found on your clothing? I certainly will, especially knowing that there is much more to a piece of fabric than meets the eye.

Shop our pattern-filled selection below to celebrate its long-lost history

Images via Unsplash

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