Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What's That About: Hound's Tooth Pattern

I've been saving this image of Jackie Kennedy, which I love because she looks so happy. I believe it shows her deplaning in Paris for their May 1961 state visit--the happiness was understandable. She was an avid Francophile, adored French literature and especially Malraux, who was due to give her a personal tour of the arts, even preferred to be called jah-KEE to the more traditional English pronunciation. Her visit to France was a triumph. According to Vanity Fair:
Jackie’s star power proved irresistible. Beautifully regal, she impressed onlookers by answering questions from reporters in superb French.

She would have thought very carefully about her costume. Here she's immaculate in a hound's tooth check suit. Some things about hound's tooth: first widely popularized by the Prince of Wales, the pattern is said to derive from the Scottish lowlands, and is akin to plaids (especially Glen Plaid, which Edward also favored). Ian Fleming dressed James Bond in a hound's tooth suit, worn with a navy-blue shirt. Back in those more sartorially sensitive 1960s it would have imparted a casual air to a traditionally cut garment--something you'd put on in the country, on the weekends, or on a transatlantic flight.

The woven pattern is deceptively simple to create on a loom, with alternating bands of four dark and four light weft threads. Despite the simplicity, it can bring on a migraine due to the eye's attempt to resolve dueling identical shapes. In this, hound's tooth is strongly similar to Escher motifs (which are also deceptively simple to create).

The lesson here is that if you want to wear hound's tooth in the chicest possible way, keep the pattern size fairly small, or else it will start wearing you. Allow Jackie to show you how. If her dress sense could wow the Parisians, she was doing something very right.