As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Iconic Patterns and Designs: A Journey Through Fashion

15 minutes

I’m a social media manager by trade. Naturally, I’m always on the prowl for new content to post. Enter my girl, Jodi, an assistant warehouse manager here at Armoire. One February morning via Slack, she sent me an article about the history of the houndstooth pattern (spoiler alert: it’s rooted in Scottish heritage). Jodi was doing my job better than me when she suggested we make a social media post about iconic patterns and designs we rent out to our clients here at Armoire. 

Over the next few weeks, Jodi kept sending articles on countless other patterns, designs, and facts about fashion—i.e. why do men’s and women’s shirts button on opposite sides?  At that rate, she was giving me a run for my money, so I thought to myself, why don’t we write an article about all of these? So, if you’ve ever begged the question, Where do polka dots come from?, you’re in the right place.

In this exploration, I’ll delve into the rich history behind some of fashion’s most beloved patterns and designs, from the classic houndstooth to the free-spirited tie-dye. Join me on a journey through the threads of time as I uncover the origins and evolution of these iconic fashion statements. The best part? You can rent all of these and more, and have a fun morsel of trivia to share next time someone compliments your fabulous rented outfit.


Let’s start with patterns. Not only does pattern provide extra intrigue and dimension to any outfit, but it carries with it a rich past and a story to tell. Read on for background on popular patterns you have probably seen and worn, but never knew the backstory on.


Originating from the Scottish Lowlands, this iconic pattern, known for its distinctive broken checks or abstract four-pointed shapes, has traversed centuries and continents to become a timeless staple in fashion. The exact origins of houndstooth are a bit foggy, but its earliest iterations can be traced back to the woolen textiles crafted by Scottish weavers in the 1800s. Initially known as “shepherd’s check” or “dogtooth,” the pattern was favored for its durability and rustic charm, making it a popular choice among the Scottish aristocracy. In the late 19th century, houndstooth gained recognition beyond Scotland’s borders, thanks in part to the burgeoning textile trade and the influence of the British upper class. The pattern’s elegant yet understated aesthetic appealed to fashion-conscious consumers, leading to its adoption by renowned designers of the time.

One pivotal moment in houndstooth’s journey to fashion prominence came in the early 20th century when it caught the eye of the legendary French designer Coco Chanel. Chanel, renowned for her innovative approach to womenswear, incorporated houndstooth into her collections, elevating the pattern to new heights of sophistication. Christian Dior also embraced the pattern in the post-war era. Dior’s iconic New Look silhouette, characterized by nipped-in waists and full skirts, provided the perfect canvas for Houndstooth’s graphic appeal, cementing its status as a symbol of timeless elegance and sartorial refinement.

In the 21st century, houndstooth remains as relevant as ever, gracing the runways of haute couture houses and high-street brands alike. Its enduring appeal lies not only in its aesthetic beauty but also in the rich tapestry of history and heritage that it represents.

Rent iconic patterns and designs like houndstooth from Armoire

Polka Dot

We can’t speak of iconic patterns and designs without mentioning polka dots. The term “polka dot” itself is believed to have originated from the polka dance craze of the mid-19th century. The lively and exuberant nature of the polka dance, characterized by its quick tempo and lively steps, inspired the creation of a pattern that reflected its spirit of merriment and vitality.

The earliest documented use of polka dots in fashion dates back to the late 19th century, when they appeared on clothing and accessories as a decorative motif. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that polka dots truly burst into the fashion scene, thanks in part to the rise of the flapper culture. During the Roaring Twenties, polka dots became synonymous with youthfulness, freedom, and a rejection of traditional Victorian values. Flappers, with their bobbed hair, short skirts, and penchant for rebellion, embraced the playful charm of polka dots, incorporating them into their wardrobes as a symbol of liberation from societal constraints. By 1928, Minnie Mouse had donned her trademark polka-dot dress on the small screen, and by 1934, Shirley Temple had on her iconic dotted crinoline number in Stand Up and Cheer.

In the post-war era, polka dots experienced a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the influence of Hollywood starlets like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. These glamorous icons embraced polka dots both on- and off-screen, further fueling the pattern’s popularity and cementing its place in fashion history. The art community began recognizing the pattern’s playful potential in the 1960s when painters such as Yayoi Kusama began using the abstract pattern in their works.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, polka dots have remained a perennial favorite among designers and fashion enthusiasts alike. From retro-inspired dresses to modern accessories and even avant-garde couture, the playful charm of polka dots continues to captivate audiences around the world. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the polka dot carries symbolic significance in various cultures and contexts. In some traditions, polka dots are believed to bring good luck and prosperity, while in others, they represent a sense of joy and spontaneity.

Polka dots for rent at Armoire

Tie Dye

The origins of tie-dye can be traced back thousands of years to various cultures across the globe. In Asia, for example, tie-dye techniques were practiced in China, Japan, and India as early as the 6th century. In Africa, tie-dye was a prominent feature of traditional textile arts, with techniques like resist dyeing and indigo dyeing used to create intricate patterns and designs.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that tie dye truly captured the imagination of Western audiences, thanks in large part to the burgeoning counterculture movement. Inspired by Eastern philosophies, anti-war sentiments, and a rejection of mainstream values, young people embraced tie-dye as a form of self-expression and cultural rebellion.

Tie dye’s association with peace, love, and communal living made it a staple of the hippie aesthetic, adorning everything from clothing to posters to album covers. Bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane embraced tie dye as part of their visual identity, further solidifying its status as a symbol of countercultural cool.

Beyond its association with the hippie movement, tie dye also found its way into mainstream fashion and popular culture. Designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin incorporated tie dye into their collections, introducing the bold and vibrant patterns to a wider audience.

In the decades since the 1960s, tie-dye has experienced numerous revivals, each time capturing the zeitgeist of the moment. From its resurgence in the 1990s rave scene to its recent popularity among DIY enthusiasts and fashion designers, tie dye continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of style and culture.


While iconic patterns and design may seem synonymous, their meanings vary subtly yet significantly. A pattern refers to a repeating theme or structure, such as houndstooth, while a design is an arrangement of elements created to serve a particular purpose. Let’s dive into some of the oldest design choices in fashion that we still see and wear today.

Cable Knit

This is where iconic patterns and designs meet. While cable knit is commonly referred to as a pattern, it serves a function beyond mere aesthetics. I was in Ireland this past winter, and in the seaside town of Galway on the west coast of the small island, cable knit shops were everywhere. Shops built into centuries-old stone buildings with names like “Aran Islands Knitwear” and “Aran Sweater Market” lined every street and corner. You may be wondering, what is “Aran”? The better question is, where is Aran? 

The Aran Islands sit just off the coast of Ireland, a series of windswept isles that boast the origins of cable-knit textiles. Cable knitting—a close cousin of the Scottish fair isle sweater – is believed to have been developed out of necessity by fishermen’s wives to create warm and durable garments for their husbands. The intricate cable stitches not only added visual interest to the textiles but also served a practical purpose, providing extra insulation and protection against the harsh Atlantic winds and sea spray.

Each cable stitch in traditional Aran knitting held symbolic meaning, with patterns reflecting elements of maritime life, Celtic folklore, and family heritage. For example, the honeycomb stitch symbolized the hardworking bee and was thought to bring good fortune, while the diamond stitch represented the small fields of the Aran Islands and the hope for a bountiful harvest.

In the early 20th century, cable knit gained recognition beyond the shores of Ireland, thanks in part to the efforts of the Congested Districts Board for Ireland, which sought to promote the sale of Aran textiles as a means of economic development for the island communities. The intricate craftsmanship and timeless appeal of cable knit caught the eye of fashion designers and enthusiasts alike, leading to its incorporation into high-fashion collections and the wardrobes of style-conscious consumers around the world.

One pivotal moment in cable knit’s journey to fashion prominence came in the 1950s when iconic American designer Grace Kelly was photographed wearing a cable knit sweater in the film “To Catch a Thief.” Kelly’s effortless elegance and timeless style catapulted cable knit into the realm of Hollywood glamor, cementing its status as a symbol of sophistication and refinement.

Since then, cable knit has remained a perennial favorite in the world of fashion, cherished for its classic elegance, cozy comfort, and artisanal craftsmanship. From cozy sweaters to intricate blankets and accessories, cable knit continues to adorn wardrobes and homes around the world, serving as a reminder of the enduring beauty of tradition and the timeless appeal of handmade craftsmanship.

Peasant Blouses

The exact origin of peasant blouses is difficult to pinpoint, as variations of this garment have existed in different cultures throughout history. However, the archetype of the peasant blouse as we know it today can be traced back to the traditional clothing worn by agricultural workers and artisans in rural Europe during the medieval and Renaissance periods.

Peasant blouses were typically made from lightweight fabrics such as cotton or linen, with loose-fitting silhouettes and billowy sleeves that provided comfort and mobility during long hours of labor. Embroidered details, lace trimmings, and colorful embellishments were often added as decorative elements, reflecting the artistic traditions and cultural heritage of the wearer’s community.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, peasant blouses experienced a revival as part of the Romantic movement, which celebrated nature, simplicity, and the rustic charm of rural life. Artists and intellectuals embraced peasant-inspired fashions as a rejection of industrialization and urbanization, viewing them as symbols of authenticity and connection to the land.

One pivotal moment in the popularization of peasant blouses came in the 1960s, during the height of the counterculture movement. Influenced by the bohemian lifestyle and anti-establishment ethos of the era, young people embraced peasant-inspired fashions as a form of self-expression and cultural rebellion. With their relaxed silhouettes and folk-inspired details, peasant blouses became a staple of hippie fashion, adorning the wardrobes of free-spirited individuals seeking to break free from mainstream norms. Designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Ossie Clark incorporated peasant-inspired elements into their collections, further fueling the trend and solidifying the blouse’s status as a symbol of bohemian chic.

Since then, peasant blouses have remained a perennial favorite in the world of fashion, cherished for their versatility, comfort, and timeless appeal. From the runways of haute couture to the streets of bohemian enclaves, these blouses continue to captivate audiences with their romantic allure and carefree spirit.

The curious phenomenon of men’s and women’s shirts buttoning on opposite sides is steeped in centuries-old tradition and practicality, with origins dating back to the medieval period in Europe. In medieval times, garments were typically fastened with buttons or laces, but the concept of shirts specifically designed for men and women had not yet emerged. Instead, both sexes wore similar garments, often consisting of loose-fitting tunics or chemises.

The practice of differentiating men’s and women’s clothing through the placement of buttons began to emerge in the 16th and 17th centuries. At this time, clothing was tailored to fit the wearer’s social status, with affluent individuals often relying on servants to assist them in dressing. As most people were right-handed, having buttons on opposite sides made it easier for servants to dress their overseers. How typical that men can’t get anything done without a woman there to help—ha!

For men, whose clothing often mimicked military uniforms, buttons were placed on the right side of the garment. This placement allowed right-handed individuals to unbutton and remove their jackets swiftly, facilitating ease of movement in combat situations. Consequently, men’s shirts and jackets have continued to feature buttons on the right side to this day.

Conversely, women’s clothing was influenced by the styles favored by the aristocracy, which often incorporated elaborate designs and intricate detailing. Women’s garments, including blouses and dresses, began to feature buttons on the left side as a reflection of this luxurious aesthetic. Additionally, having buttons on the left side made it easier for women to dress themselves, as they would typically use their right hand to manipulate the buttons.

While the practical reasons for this difference in button placement have diminished in modern times with the advent of self-dressing, the tradition persists, serving as a nod to the historical customs and conventions of dress. As such, men’s and women’s shirts continue to button on opposite sides.

Women's iconic patterns and designs

I saved the best for last since this design harkens back to one of my favorite Armoire company slogans: “These aren’t my pants.”

The history of women wearing pants is a tale of liberation, defiance, and changing societal norms. While women have been wearing variations of trousers for centuries in certain cultures, the widespread acceptance of women’s pants in Western society is a relatively recent phenomenon that gained momentum in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In many ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, Greece, and China, women wore garments resembling trousers for practical reasons such as mobility and labor. However, in medieval Europe, societal norms and religious beliefs dictated that women should wear long skirts or dresses as a symbol of modesty and femininity. Trousers were considered masculine attire and were reserved primarily for men.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that we saw significant strides towards women wearing pants in Western society. One notable example is the “bloomer” costume, which emerged as part of the dress reform movement led by women’s rights activists such as Amelia Bloomer. The bloomer costume consisted of loose-fitting trousers worn under a knee-length skirt, providing women with greater freedom of movement and challenging traditional notions of female dress.

Throughout the early 20th century, women’s pants continued to gain acceptance, albeit slowly. During World War I and World War II, women took on roles traditionally held by men in the workforce, leading to practical considerations for more functional attire, including trousers. However, even as women’s pants became more commonplace in certain contexts, they were still met with resistance from societal norms and expectations.

The 1960s and 1970s marked a turning point in the history of women’s pants, with the rise of the feminist movement and the emergence of second-wave feminism. Women began to assert their right to wear pants as a symbol of equality and liberation, challenging the notion that feminine attire should be limited to skirts and dresses.

In popular culture, icons such as Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich defied gender norms by wearing trousers both on and off-screen, further normalizing the idea of women in pants. Fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent also played a significant role in popularizing women’s pantsuits, offering stylish alternatives to traditional feminine attire.

By the late 20th century and into the 21st century, women’s pants had become a staple of contemporary fashion, embraced by women of all ages and backgrounds as a versatile and practical wardrobe essential. While societal attitudes towards gender and fashion continue to evolve, the history of women’s pants serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of defiance and empowerment that drives progress toward equality and freedom of expression.

Armoire rental

Fashion serves as a vehicle for the diversity of human expression and the timeless beauty of creativity in all its forms. Whether through the intricate stitches of a cable knit sweater or the bold hues of a tie-dye T-shirt, fashion has the power to weave together cultures, communities, and generations, uniting us in a shared appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship that shape our world. 

Fashion’s ability to stand the test of time is seen and felt in all corners of our lives, and it’s thanks to creative folks like Jodi that we get to carry out these traditions and share them with the Armoire community. Check out all of these iconic patterns and designs for rent on Armoire.

Source link

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)