Today is our first post in our new Get to Know Us series of posts, where we'll tell you more about our company, our products, our stores and maybe even a little about ourselves. To kick things off, we wanted to tell you more about madras fabric. Our madras clothing is one of our most popular styles, but we realized not everyone is familiar with the history of the fabric, how it's made, and how we use it.
History of Madras Fabric
Madras refers to a specific style of fabric, named due to its origins in the Indian city of Madras (modern-day Chennai). Colonial-era British soldiers noticed locals wearing brightly colored cotton shirts and pants, and upon further investigation discovered that the lightweight, breathable fabric was perfect for staying cool in the Indian heat. The now-ubiquitous plaid stripes in madras fabric are a perfect example of cultural fusion as they were inspired by the pattern of the tartan kilts worn by the Scottish regiments posted in Southern India. From there, the fabric was quickly adopted by Europeans and Americans as being the ideal fabric for summer clothing. The bright colors are also perfectly in line with summer fashion, and the bold plaid designs make a statement while the lightness of the fabric allows the wearer to stay cool in hot weather.
The fabric gained popularity with the preppy crowd and Ivy League set in the 1950s and 1960s. From there, it spread to country clubs and summer resorts. Thanks to its unwavering popularity with those crowds, today madras is almost synonymous with images of summer: relaxed, colorful, and comfortable. Whether it’s a round of golf at the country club, a spirited polo match, or casual drinks at Straight Wharf on Nantucket, a quick glance around will inevitably find this irrepressibly stylish fabric making its presence known.
How Madras is Made
Betheny Frankel wore one of our (now-retired) madras dresses on Bravo TV show. Image from BravoTV.
There are essentially three types of madras fabric: single-fabric plaids, bleeding madras, and patchwork madras. Single-plaid fabrics are exactly what they sound like: single pieces of fabric in bright plaid designs. Bleeding madras was most popular in the 50’s and 60’s when the color was purposely kept unfastened from the cloth to create unique fades after every wash. Lastly, is patchwork madras, which is typically what we at Nantucket Brand are referring to when we say madras.
True patchwork madras fabric is made from multiple fabrics which are cut into equal size squares and then sewn back together. Most often, the fabrics are of the plaid variety, but it's not uncommon to see striped seersucker, solid chambrays and more.
How we use Madras Fabric
We use madras fabric in a variety of products, but every one of our products starts with great quality fabric. We source our fabric direct from India, where they still make the best madras fabric in the world. We find 3-4 fabrics we love, have the fabric cut into small pieces, and then each piece is sewn back together to make new rolls of fabric.
From there, we ship the fabric to our factory in the United States. The fabric is then cut and sewn into various styles including men's shorts, women's shorts and skirts, and even used as a lining in some of our women's sweatshirts.
We're always finding new opportunities to use madras fabric, so be on the lookout (or sign up for our emails) for new madras goods. For now, go check out our current madras clothing items and add some color to your wardrobe!