Chin Up, Chintz Down

Chin Up, Chintz Down

posted on 04/02/2013 by Adam

Chintz! Get used to it.

Such was the mantra of any respectable design connoisseur since the pattern style emerged on fabrics some 400 years ago. (Non-respectable design connoisseur mantra: “Chintz! Collect them all!”)

Yes, chintz--the plural of chint, which, much like a lolcat, demands your “ess” sounds come strictly in the form of “zees”.

Why does chint exist? How has it managed to stick around for so long when things like Twin Peaks and Twinkies have come and gone without a fight? And how can we unite as a band of brethren to put an end to it once and for all, marching forth with a new battle cry: “Chintz! Smite and scourge to you evermore!” (Or perhaps the more family-friendly “Blintz, Not Chintz.”)

Let’s lift up the dusty floral curtain at Grandma’s house to see this faux pas for what it really is. First of all, there are a lot of people to blame for this, so get your pointing fingers out. Second of all, you might want to construct special chintz viewing goggles as you move through this post, so you don’t cross over to the dark side. (Instructions here.)

Chintz was (Or is it were? Damn you, chintz!) originally produced in India in the 1600s, using woodblock printing, painting and staining methods on calico until the end of the 18th century. Ever anxious to up their tacky quotient on the home front, Portuguese and Dutch traders started bringing chintz back to Europe almost immediately. 

In less than a century, they were spreading literal millions of pieces across the continent, like a pack of frenetic old-timey Rachel Ashwells, re-wallpapering your whole living room and swapping out all your glasses for little chintzy tea cups when all you did was run to the store for like 10 minutes and—my god—that’s actually quite impressive, but also completely heinous, so please for the love of chrome and leather stop what you are doing and get out of my house!

Oh my God, Rachel, what have you done?

Phew—ok, easy now. No need to jump the centuries and get all hot and bothered about Shabby Chic, though surely it will burn in effigy on the day the Great Chintz Battle commences.

From Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic blog, apparently frequented by practicing bulimics.

Now, amidst this Renaissance-era chintz epidemic, there were some clear heads in government. To put it in the words of the English parliament themselves, in the year 1720 they banned “the Use and Warings in Apparel of imported chintz, and also its use or Wear in or about any Bed, Chair, Cushion, or other Household furniture.“

Yes, but you forgot the teacups! Oh the little teacups; I want to smash them.

A very good place for testing out a new sledgehammer.

There were other loopholes, too. Poorly-styled men, their minds undoubtedly ravaged by the constant sight of chintz (far worse than scurvy, no doubt), began to study and record the process for making the fabrics themselves, and sent information back to the doomed European folk.

By 1759, the ban was lifted and chintz was tainting entire production lines in French and English mills. 

In fairness, this original design work was far superior to what chintz has become today. But this is largely due to the meritless credit anything gets for being over 200 years old. It’s a crutch, a cheap lie—just a chintzy excuse.

What people need to realize is that the chintz epidemic never really ended, just like ending the prohibition didn’t rid the world of closet alcoholics (or as I like to call them, friends). And like those alcoholics, let me tell you: there are thousands if not millions of chintz sufferers who Need. Our. Help.

For the next time you want to have a party, and then ruin it.

Chintz is a blinding aesthetic cult that leaves its victims powerless. Just listen to this blogger (a professor no less!) rave:

“I suppose, on a purely aesthetic level, I love the colors, the crisp imagery, the sheen and volume (a byproduct of all the sizing used to give the fabric added body and make it resemble fine silk taffeta) … You'd think it would induce vertigo, but it's actually rather pleasant in a mad and charming sort of way.”

Fine silk taffeta? This man is not on the same planet. He is on Planet Chintz, a native chintz-panzee, but at least he can admit it’s “mad.”

Here’s another example of the maddening effects of chintz. The people at Field Candy believe they can charge more than $600 for a pup tent. Take a chintzy product and cover it in chintz, and what? That’s supposed to even out? Like a pup tent covered in chintz, that logic is just flimsy.

A $600 chintz tent, the subject of my next scary campfire story.

I’m telling you, people. Be warned. If we don’t act now, chintz could start taking over the minds of our families, our friends, even our pets.

Sarah McLachlan, where are you when we need you?

Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe a small, alternative weekly like the Wall Street Journal. It’s coming.

It is time to rise up! Hold your head high in the air and declare it: “Chintz! Smite and scourge to you evermore!” and/or “Blintz, Not Chintz.”

Who wants to make t-shirts?