Prints & Why We Love Them by Morgan Watkins
Have you ever slipped into a classic striped sweater and felt an indescribablesense of cheer? Is your favorite silk scarf abundant in paisley print? With designers far and wide dropping collections dripping in patterns, like Carolina Herrera’s Spring 2019 show clad with plaid and bursting with polka dots, it’s safe to say that prints bring out the best and brightest in fashion. But what is it about patterns that make people feel such joy? And where did these staple prints come from? Keep on reading to learn more about patterns in fashion.
For as long as civilized man has roamed the Earth, clothing have served as a sign of wealth and status. The way you dress says a lot about who you are as an individual, and in that same vein, colors speak volumes as well. For example, bright colors, like red or yellow, evoke high levels of energy and happiness. Psychologically, those colors, and a plethora of others, trigger the release of dopamine, the chemical related to pleasure and happiness. Put these colors together into an aesthetically pleasing pattern and boom — euphoric happiness. Something to consider, though, is that prints aren’t for everybody. In a study done by the Psychology of Fashion, it was noted that optimists prefered prints while those with less of a sunny disposition were opposed. “One of the biggest differences was rooted in the trait of neuroticism,” noted TPOF writer, Natalie Ovadia. “Those who loved prints were more optimistic, worried less and found it easier to stay in a good mood, while those who disliked prints were more prone to anxiety and worry, but were more creative and fashion-forward.”
(Image from https://www.fashiongonerogue.com/jessiann-gravel-summer-prints-fashion-editorial/)
Arguably one of the most popular, peppy patterns are polka dots. According to Artteca, polka dots were first referenced by Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular magazine from the early 1800s. It was in 1857 that the magazine made mention of the pattern, which was printed on a scarf. By the beginning of the 20th century, polka dots made a splash when Miss America Norma Smallwood wore an iconic spotted swimsuit in 1926. Just two years later, Minnie Mouse was drawn in her signature polka dot get up. This lead to dotted mania in the 1930s, manifesting in the forms of ribbons, dresses and bows.
(Image from https://talkingfashion.net/products/copy-of-sail-boat-nautical-figural-whimsical-red-blue- white-beige-vintage-clip-earrings)
Although they initially served as a symbol of condemnation, stripes were another pattern that rapidly rose to fame. Originally worn by prisoners, prostitutes, and hangmen in Medieval Times, stripes weren’t truly accepted by higher class society until Queen Victoria dressed her dashing son, Albert Edward, in a striped sailor suit for a trip on the Royal Yacht. Around this era, the navy seamen of Northern France adopted knit and wool sweaters with horizontal blue and white stripes as their primary uniforms. Inspired by the fashion and nautical themes of these mid-19th century sailors was the one and only Coco Chanel. In 1917, the designer featured a collection straight from the sea with stripes galore. Stripes gained big screen exposure in 1953, thanks to Marlon Brando inThe Wild One. James Dean also brought stripes into the spotlight in Rebel Without a Cause, along with renowned artists Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol sporting Breton striped tops. The popular print became a style staple for the ladies of Hollywood as well, as Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot clung to their signature stripes as if their lives depended on it.
Another trend adored by print lovers the world over is the oh-so classic plaid. The oldest remnant of plaid printed fabric dates back 3,000 years, and was discovered with the remains of a mummy that was buried within the western Chinese desert. Fast forward to 1500, plaid was referred to as “tartan,” and worn prominently by the Scottish military. It wasn’t until the British and Americans started creating tartan fashions of their own that the pattern was renamed plaid. The print became really hot in the 60s when the surfer rock band, The Beach Boys, popularized plaid by sporting printed Pendleton shirts. By the 70s, the pattern was pretty much everywhere, from power suits to TV shows like Charlie’s Angels and The Brady Bunch. With the rise of grunge style and music in the 90s, plaid continued to shine as a classic pattern staple for everyone from Kurt Cobain to Britney Spears.
(Image from https://talkingfashion.net/products/copy-of-vakko-designer-scarf-brown-tuxedo-burgundy -red-navy-long-silk-scarf-necktie-vintage-accessory)
Like plaid is to grunge, paisley is to boho. While this unique pattern may have been loved by hippies in the 70s and bandana wearing bikers in the 80s, paisley’s origins actually started far from the States. The paisley print was birthed from Persian and Indian culture, representing life, fertility and eternity. But since being turned into a rock ‘n roll staple by The Beatles in the 1960s, paisley evolved from a pattern of symbolism to a signature style for artists and musicians worldwide. David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and other male musicians took the bohemian trend and added their own edge to it. More recently, brands like like Zimmermann, Dolce & Gabbana, and Etro jumped on paisley for Spring/Summer 2019 to add a free spirited twist to their high fashion collections.
Prints in fashion are like sprinkles for ice cream — they add immense color, vibrancy and fun. But more importantly, patterns can be a means of expressing your own unique style and personality, whether that be through a cozy plaid scarf or a full blown Cher Horowitz plaid ensemble. Check out talkingfashion.net for patterned pieces that pop or to consign your own printed fashions!
Baines, Wesley. “How Looking Great Can Make You Happier.” BeliefNet, https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/the-psychology-of-fashion-how-looking-great-can-make-you-happier?p=2.
Baker, Lindsay. “Paisley: The Story of a Classic Bohemian Print.” BBC,6 Nov. 2017, http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20151021-paisley-behind-rocks-favourite-fashion.
Barnes, Sarah. “From Coco Chanel to Alexa Chung: A Brief History of the Iconic Breton Stripe.” Style Caster, http://stylecaster.com/breton-stripe/.
Desimone, Lindsey. “A Brief History of...Plaid.” Elle Decor, 18 Nov. 2015, https://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/a7612/history-of-plaid/.
Kaplan, Sarah. “The Scientific Reason Your World Brightens up When You Do.” The Washington Post, 3 Sept. 2015, The Washington Post, http://www.tpof-thepsychologyoffashion.com/features/fashion-psychology.
Lewis, Danny. “A Brief History of Plaid.” The Smithsonian, 20 Nov. 2015, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/brief-history-plaid-180957342/.
Ovadia, Natalie. “ Tale of Love & Hate: The Big Print Divide.” The Psychology of Fashion,27 Oct. 2017, http://www.tpof-thepsychologyoffashion.com/features/fashion-psychology.
“The History of Patterns in Fashion.” Artteca, 17 Nov. 2016, https://artteca.com/blogs/artteca/the-history-of-patterns-in-fashion.