Your grandmother’s butterfly-adorned tablecloth has never looked so stylish. In fact, she could probably give you a lesson or two in how to wear chintz, given that this re-emerging SS16 trend peaked in the 60s and 70s.
Originally, chintz was a brilliantly hued calico imported from India, emblazoned in botanical and animal patterns. It became significantly popular for use on furniture during the early 18th century, with offcuts occasionally supplied to household staff.
Stylish servants crafted clothing from the leftover fabric and became the envy of fashion-forward members of the aristocracy. Chintz soon became softer in colour with the print made daintier to placate the tastes of English society’s upper echelons.
Now, chintz florals are taking another turn on the fashion wheel, bringing with them the romance of gothic fairytales – and more than a touch of Little House on the Prairie. The catwalks were so covered in petals in 2016, it seemed designers were exclusively reusing fabrics from suburban 70s soft furnishings. Innovative twists on English chintz were both twee and modern, occasionally combining with striking nude lips on models and sheer fabrics for a contemporary update.
Wearing chintz at work has never been so tempting. Clashing colours and offbeat styles were strewn through the SS16 Suno collection, with double gingham making an appearance. Check flannel shirts may evoke bearded men in the forest, but its delicate little sister is no longer considered out of place at the office. Take inspiration from the Miu Miu catwalk and throw a sheer baby-doll dress with ruffles on top of a tailored gingham blouse for an ethereal finish. A refreshingly barefaced look will match the wholesomeness of the print.
Vetements proved that even a PVC tablecloth can be worn as workwear, with its SS16 collection featuring floral-tiled apron dresses produced from stiff, wipeable chintz fabric. Layered over a white shirt and paired with black espadrilles, this easy-clean ensemble is a practical outfit for artists.
Tea with gran
The risk of wearing head-to-toe Emilia Wickstead to tea with your grandmother is that you might blend in with her tablecloth. The designer’s SS16 collection pays no mind to accidental chintz camouflage, pairing clashing patterns in delicate florals and intricate ditzy prints.
A form-fitting top half ensures the look does not swerve into twee territory, while voluminous trousers, shorts or skirts in traditional English chintz provide a Little Miss Muffett aesthetic suitable for sipping tea and devouring scones. The entire outfit could be rounded off with the ultimate prim and proper accessory: a Chanel vintage headband.
Actress Stacy Martin donned a Miu Miu chintz creation – affectionately described as a ‘wallpaper dress’ by the press – to the 2016 Met Ball. In sepia-toned yellow dotted with pink floral detailing, the design was finished with a silver bow at the waist and given an after-dark edge with heavy eye makeup. She complemented the ensemble with chandelier earrings – another item inspired by home décor.
Similarly, Keira Knightley showed how to wear chintz for a demure evening aesthetic at the 2015 Golden Globes in a Chanel dress complete with nature-inspired prints and ruffles. This fairytale look was finished with dewy, natural makeup and amped up by a bold red lip.
To replicate the effect, look to exuberantly feminine blouses by Comme des Garçons.
Weddings are the chintz floral mothership. Everyone from the bridesmaids to the mother of the mother of the bride will be bedecked in botanicals for a spring wedding, like overgrown members of the Von Trapp family.
For a dark fairytale take on how to wear chintz, look to the Dolce & Gabanna AW16 collection. Picking up where the Brother’s Grimm left off, designers Domenico and Stefano offered up a truly fantastical folk-tale tableau on the catwalk. But rather than styling the models as princesses in need of rescuing, the duo created fiercely feminine looks: soft tulles and voluminous tweeds were offset with black patent accessories, thick chokers and outlandish headpieces. Classic A-line shift dresses and military jackets were reimagined with all the gusto of Hans Christian Anderson. The show finished with 76 models gracing the catwalk in sequinned peony-pink or silver cocktail party dresses featuring crystal embroidery.
If you're not yet convinced of wearing chintz, look to Gucci for hard-edged interpretation. To stand out from the sea of matching floral skirt suits, take a leaf out of the label's book and toughen up a vintage look with gothic touches. At the fashion house’s SS16 show, models in floral or tartan dresses sported ladylike crochet gloves overlaid with oversized rings in jewel tones.