Christian Grey’s character archetype is to literature, what chambray is to fabric. Whether you think ‘50 Shades’ is a literary abomination or a masterpiece, E.L James has created a pop culture icon out of Grey, who’s a prodigious businessman by day and a renegade by night. Except, mind-blowing plot twist (sike), deep in the recesses of his callous heart is a hopeless romantic. Grey is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and it just so happens, so is chambray. Let me explain.
Chambray is a bit of a pseudo-rascal. It likes to ride on the coattails of denim, and freerides on denim’s tough, gritty image. In reality, chambray and denim don’t even belong in the same family of textiles. Denim is a twill, meaning that it’s unevenly woven and rough, inside and out. Chambray, on the other hand, is plain woven. It’s smooth – any appearance of coarseness is simply an illusion put on by the thread. While I will concede that chambray has had a choppy past, as it was used to uniform the US Navy from 1901 through WWI, it’s since lived a much refined lifestyle, on the torsos of stars of the silver screen and style icons alike. Chambray has virtually become the flagship fabric of those who “summer” in Montauk for crying out loud (madras is a close second) – the odds of it actually being a misbehaving nihilist are slim to none, with a strong slant towards none.
Though we can see through its assumed exterior, there’s still something irresistibly charming about chambray. What follows is a breakdown of tips on how to enter into a partnership with it, based on (hyperbolic) identity breakdowns:
For Those Who Live for Tea and Chevron Print
Chambray and crochet go together swimmingly. Eyelet works too, but then we’d be missing out on an opportunity for alliteration. As far as color palettes go, pastels and jewel tones are a safe bet. If the thought of powder pink and baby blue is a little too saccharine, and lapis and emerald a little too flashy, try an updated monochrome: chambray with cobalt blue.
→ AshleyOh takes her chambray with eyelet detailing and a bow. T-strap flats top off the look. Cue the “awws”.
→ NAAZandRAAZ wears an oversized chambray top, with cobalt blue skimmers, and turquoise platforms.
For the Resident Badass
Leather is magical in that it can toughen up any look. You could be wearing a tutu, but as soon as you throw on a leather jacket, your street cred instantly shoots through the roof. Chambray itches to be tougher, and leather makes its dreams come true. Waxed denim is also a solid option, for those who aren’t a fan of leather. When in the presence of textile greatness, chambray will be on its a-game.
→ Davie of DavieandErica pairs his button down chambray with a classic leather moto jacket. Customize the look with how many buttons you button. The buttoning of a shirt speaks volumes, people.
→ TheBlackFeather wears her chambray with waxed skinnies, heels, and a wide-brimmed fedora. Wax on, wax off, young grasshopper.
For “The Only Purpose of Clothes is to Prevent Public Indecency” Type
You may not have palazzo pants or a tapestry jacket, but I bet my bottom dollar you own pair of jeans. As long as the denim a different shade than the chambray, switch out your usual T-shirt for a classic chambray shirt. If you’re feeling ambitious, tuck in your chambray. My, my, don’t you look fancy.
→ Sorelleinstyle tucks a chambray button up into some loose fitting darker wash jeans. Effortless.
→ BlairBadge keeps things simple with a white tank and skirt. Instead of the usual flannel shirt tied at the waist, she opts for chambray. So fresh, so clean.
For Those Who Peruse Anna Wintour Memes in Their Spare Time
Chambray is one of the most versatile fabrics. It’s an incredibly light layering piece, and it goes well with any print, be it checkered, striped, spotted, or floral – and the list goes on. If you wear a larger block of chambray fabric, say, the standard chambray shirt, you can print mix to your hearts content as far as jackets, pants, and accessories go. Chambray provides a safety net (and a chic one at that), to help tie the look together.
→ ladylamode wears her chambray under a sequined, polka dot tee and scalloped, lace shorts. If you choose to layer a chambray button down underneath a short sleeve, rolling up the sleeves and having them, along with the collar, peek out from under, will minimize any potential frump factor.
→ triple thread pairs her chambray circle skirt, with an embroidered, ikat-inspired top, a printed canary yellow scarf, and lace-up, peep-toe boots. Was that enough adjectives for you?
Tough or not, chambray has won a spot in our hearts, and try as we may, we can’t turn a blind eye to love. Christian Grey may not be up for grabs, but his fabric equivalent is. Now, go knock yourself out.
By Adrienne Y. Han