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Gingham makes a comeback

| Monday, June 18, 2007

Gingham popped into Technicolor when Dorothy clicked her ruby slippers down the yellow-brick road, but the pretty little print isn't always so home sweet home.

The pattern plays peek-a-boo on camisoles, dresses, bikinis and shorts that might make even Brigitte Bardot blush. The Parisian sex kitten wore a tight, playful dress in sugar-pink gingham to her 1959 wedding to Jacques Charrier. But now, at age 72, Bardot could be a grandmother to the new gingham generation that's wearing the not-quite plaid from head to toe.

"I'm glad it's popular again, because whenever you look at it from far away, it's sweet and soft, but when you look at it close up, it's kind of edgy," says Ali Pace-McMutrie, co-owner of Bombshell Boutique in Shadyside. "I think it's perfect for summer."

The chocolate-and-cream gingham capris decked with copper buttons and big square pockets at Bombshell Boutique ($42, by Nick & Mo) are perfect to pull on with a summer tan and flip-flops. Even when gingham gets more glamorous, like the pink-and-white v-neck halter the store will carry at the end of the month, there's no need to overdo it. "I don't know if I'd pair it with diamond earrings," Pace-McMutrie says. "You just look like you should be carrying a picnic basket and wearing a big pair of sunglasses."

E.B. Pepper in Shadyside has armfuls of brightly beaded bracelets ($30-$90, by Metal Monk) and medium-brimmed, shimmery, white straw hats ($200-$310, by Louise Green) to top off the gingham ensembles.

"It looks fresh and summery. It does come around every few summers," says E.B. Pepper, owner of the boutique that bears her name. "It's a classic look, very Jackie O., and that's kind of the era that fashion is in right now."

Three styles of dresses in black-and-white gingham already have checked out at E.B. Pepper this season. But a halter dress in green, orange, pink and white gingham multi-stripes with tuxedo trim ($286, by Tibi) could make the perfect picnic dress. E.B. Pepper also carries a mod navy gingham dress with an empire waist and pockets with chunky white buttons ($248, by Tibi).

Gingham isn't always so girlie. Most of the shirts at Charles Spiegel For Men in Squirrel Hill are decked in checks.

"It's been stripes, it's been plaids, and the patterns are running their course," says Frank Sgro, who manages the store. "It's been trendy for a little while, and it seems as though the industry has played with the size of the checks for a while. This season happens to be gingham check."

The checks can be tiny or chunky, and they come in a "full color spectrum." With all the variety, guys can get away with gingham when they're at work, going out or just hanging out. "Some shirts are dressier, and some you can throw on with a pair of cargo shorts if you want to," Sgro says.

Shirts by Eton ($220-$245) can be paired with a suit or sports coat. At The Garage, Charles Spiegel's offering to younger men, Scotch & Soda button-down collared shirts come paired for a double layer of gingham ($80).

"It's a fresh, upbeat and light kind of feeling for spring," Sgro says.

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