Recently, this pattern has more than once appeared in contemporary fashion trends... It is probably not accidental, because its history is rooted in the Middle Ages and its use in clothing ornamentation must be also associated with the Medieval Times and the Renaissance.
Undoubtedly, this must be also associated with a certain extravagance, because not every Medieval individual could afford to display such a striking black and white pattern! And even if it merely appeared in detail, it could not be overlooked! By all means, I am talking about a chessboard pattern and a game of black and white squares in clothing composition!
Illustration of King Otto IV of Brandenburg playing chess with an unidentified woman by Master of the Codex Manesse (Additional Painter I), between 1305 and 1340. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meister_der_Manessischen_Liederhandschrift_004.jpg
The Black and White Game
Chess has been popular in Europe since Medieval Times. It represents a battle between kings, queens, and their supporting armies - in a symbolic playing out of the conflict between opposing forces. [1.] Sources say that chess reached Europe via Persia and Arabia by the 9th century. [3.] Since then chess has been represented in arts and literature soon after the game spread from the Arab World to Europe during the Middle Ages.
The representation of the game of chess in art is often seen in the illustrated Medieval manuscripts, but the appearance of the pattern in costume can be spotted in the Renaissance fashion era. Chess became gradually more popular in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in Spain and Italy where the geographical location determined closer contacts with the Arab World. As we can see, the artist Vittore Carpaccio in his epic work "Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto" (1496) depicted a gondolier who is wearing an eye-catching chessboard pattern on the upper part of his tights. At that time, it was associated with the tradition of heraldic clothing (Mi-Parti), as well as the origins of corporate clothing and professional uniforms.
Nowadays the chessboard pattern in clothing, however, is more associated with 20th century fashion and is obviously derived from uniforms, checkered flags of racing and the Opart, reflecting the style of the 60's.
The check pattern has become a symbol of the police where it is known as Sillitoe tartan. It was named after Sir Percy Sillitoe, a Glasgow police chief "who rose to director of Britain's elite MI5 secret service." [2.] From there Sillitoe tartan trims the uniforms of coppers through the former British Comonwealth. [2.] "Sir Percy first introduced his tartan in 1931 to improve police visibility.[...] Spreading outward from Glasgow, Sillitoe tartan had blanketed the entire British police force by 1974." [2.]
From Mods fashion of the 60's, Opart, Rudi Gernreich's Opart to Louis Vuitton Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear fashion show and more other features of iconic pattern have come to this day.
The importance of this pattern is further emphasized by the iconic historical drama Queen's Gambit (costume designer: Gabrielle Binder) and the performance of Anya Taylor-Joy who is representing the main character in this film, actualizing the role of this ornament in today's clothing.
The main pattern of the series is, of course, the check... Scenically and visually it is clearly noticeable that chessboard symbolism is here and it makes us to pay attention to the attractiveness of the historical board game as well as to use contemporary references in our clothing. It seems to arrange our living space, forcing us to get involved in the game ...
References & Further Reading:
1. Signs & Symbols. An Illustrated Guide To Their Origins And Meanings. /Project Editor: Kathryn Wilkinson. - London, New York, Munich, Melbourne, Delhi: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2008.
2. Stewart J. Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, & Other Graphic Patterns. - Bloomsbury USA, 2015.
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