Checks are practical. Checks are flannel shirts and cheerful tablecloths, nursery soft furnishings and aprons. Checked sleeves are sleeves that are made to be rolled up. Except not this season, because the check has gone haute.
The chessboard check, a stark grid of square tiles in traditional black and white, or in yellow and white, is the king of the fashion game. The Louis Vuitton dresses that started the ball rolling at Paris fashion week last October staked a claim to the red carpet early on, and have been holding high-profile positions on various glossy magazine covers since the new year. They are in high demand, despite carrying a price tag equivalent to a mid-priced family car and being wildly unflattering on anyone bigger than a British size 6.
What you see today used to be called a windowpane check, but in honour of the checkerboard craze, I'm rechristening it the noughts and crosses check. Noughts and crosses is a game everyone can play, while chess is for the elite, you see? Similarly, the noughts and crosses check is a check anyone can wear, while the chessboard check is for people who are richer and thinner – in other words, the fashion world's version of the elite.
The noughts and crosses check has a catwalk pedigree all of its own – this dress is by Sportmax – and, being more wearable, has been more widely picked up on the high street. To amplify the look, I have chosen the extra-hot-sauce version, all asymmetry and overlaps; in its more sober version, the noughts and crosses check is not kooky. It has a pleasantly soothing appearance, like a crisp sheet of graph paper.
The trick to styling a noughts and crosses check is not to treat it too reverentially. Style it as you would a stripe: just as a striped collar peeking over the top of a crew neck sweater is a classic, and a striped T-shirt looks good glimpsed under a cardigan or gilet, so the noughts and crosses check will look more chic in small doses. Ease your way in. But be careful: if you let it, this look could become a gateway drug to Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear. And that, my friends, is a dangerous and expensive game.
• Jess wears check dress, £705, by Sportmax, 020-7518 8010. Shoes, £49.99, zara.com.
Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Dani Richardson using Nars Cosmetics.
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