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Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric with typically patterned texture and plaid design, used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, and jackets. The fabric takes its name from the former name of the city of Chennai, India. This cloth also was identified by the colloquial name, "Madrasi checks."
Madras today is available as plaid patterns in regular cotton, seersucker and as patchwork madras. Patchwork madras is fabric that is derived from cutting several madras plaid fabrics into strips, and sewing them back together as squares of 3 inch sizes, that form a mixed pattern of various plaids crisscrossing. As a fabric, it is notable because the front and back of the fabric are indistinguishable.
One style popular during the 1960s was called bleeding Madras. It used dyes that were not colorfast in a typically plaid design, resulting in bleeding and fading colors that yielded a new look to the fabric each time it was laundered.
In contemporary fashion, it is used for men's shirts, women's skirts and pants, golf apparel, children's wear and for accessories.
In popular culture
The fabric is mentioned many times in the S.E. Hinton book The Outsiders as a favored pattern of shirts and jackets worn by the Socs gang. The book is set in the early 1960s, a period when Madras was particularly fashionable amongst preps. It is also referenced in the Vampire Weekend song "M79" on their eponymous album.
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