The Check List

12th January 2018

Checks are enjoying a revival – in town and country. From tartans to dogtooth, their trad image has been updated on slip dresses, trench coats, even ballgowns. Trust us, you’ll never look square again 

Words by Laura Craik 

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“I’M NOT REALLY A CHECKY PERSON,” my friend Frank said to me the other day. “Maybe it’s because I’m not... thin, but checks always make me feel like Rupert the Bear.” I looked at him afresh. To be fair, his body was a little bear- like. But I could never say so. Besides, Frank is very fashion- conscious and the catwalks have decreed that, this season, checks are having their moment in the sun. Rather than saying, “Why don’t you drink less beer and go to the gym more?”, a more constructive approach would be: “Let’s nd some checks that work for you, Rupe – sorry, Frank.” 

I’m not really a checky person either. This may be because I consider myself a city person, not a country person. Checks have strong associations with the countryside, from the lining of so many Barbours to the Tattersall shirt – so called because blankets made of this small check were sold at Tattersall horse market in the 18th century to cover the horses. And glen plaid, a very distinctive design, got its name from out tting gamekeepers in the Glenurquhart valley in Scotland. You may know it better as Prince of Wales check – as Edward VII (prior to his coronation) discovered it while shooting in the valley, and made it his signature. 


And as I said, this season checks are everywhere, in town and country. And from the moment the last checked cap had disappeared down the catwalk at Burberry, I’d resolved to dig out all the old Burberry house checks I possessed (wasn’t there a bikini languishing in a drawer?) and give checks another chance. That Burberry has reclaimed its house check after a long hiatus is signi cant: outgoing CEO Christopher Bailey always insisted Burberry is for everyone, but photos of low-rent celebrities wearing it throughout the Nineties seemed to have deterred the brand from promoting it for a while. Now the time feels right for a revival.

If you, too, are not a checky person, Burberry would be a good place to start in trying to persuade yourself, particularly if you’re worried about checks being fusty and old fashioned. Its checked caps, windcheaters, pencil skirts and ponchos look totally modern, because the garments themselves are. On a similar tip are the checks at Calvin Klein – Raf Simons, who has taken on the design mantle, can do no wrong at the moment, and his women’s double- breasted Prince of Wales checked blazers look ace. If you wore one with a plain white T-shirt and a pair of cropped-to- the-ankle jeans, you’d look like a fashion editor en route to a meeting. Or for a show-stopping piece, you could join the waiting list for Simons’ grey Prince of Wales check trench coat, which comes with a transparent layer of PVC over the top. It’s £2,350 – and has already sold out.


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The Calvin Klein trench is one of many examples of the way checks have been modernised this season. Banish all thoughts of Miss Trunchbull, your grandad and, indeed, Rupert the Bear: the best checks for winter have nothing in common with them. Even my least favourite example of the genre – windowpane – has been given a new lease of life, courtesy of Valentino and Miu Miu, both of whom used windowpane checks on knitwear with strong graphic ect.

More pleasing still is that a fabric traditionally used for suiting is cropping up in unexpected places. Plaid Gucci ballgown, anyone? Checked Ganni slip dress? Prince of Wales checked Tibi corset? Maybe even the Duchess of Cambridge will get on board the checked train this season. One of her favourite designers, Jenny Packham, has the perfect plunge-fronted ballgown waiting in the wings.

There are so many variants, even the staunchest checkophobe may be seduced. If you’re not really a print person, start o with an accessory, such as Comme des Garçons’ plaid clutch bag, Stella McCartney’s Falabella shoulder bag or Loewe’s distinctive red-and-black checked scarf. Next, you could try graduating to a knit. A textured knit, such as mohair, will soften the harsh appearance of a check, leaving you feeling less like a chessboard. One of the most understated ways to wear checks is via a simple shirt: Balenciaga and Prada both have good ones, in subtle hues. 

Unless you’re particularly confident, or dress purely in a way that’s designed to look striking on Instagram, you will probably avoid integrating more than one check into any given out t. As with any print, checks are most easily worn with solid colours. A checked maxi skirt such as Marni’s would work well with a black polo neck, while the formality of a tailored checked jacket such as Alexander Wang’s could be o set with jeans. Don’t rule out a checked coat, either: the dream would be Stella McCartney’s oversized version, or for a more informal take, you could try Isabel Marant’s cocoon coat. Either would update your wardrobe to perfection: you could wear almost anything underneath, and still look modern. Although perhaps not a Rupert the Bear waistcoat. 

This article is taken from the Goodwood magazine, Winter 2018 issue

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