Tuesday 26 January 2010

Marc my Words

In George Mikes’ book, How to be an Alien - an amusing look at the British - one of the first things he describes is our obsession with the weather. “In England this is an ever-interesting, even thrilling topic, and you must be good at discussing the weather,” he writes. He also goes on to mention the aspect of etiquette during said conversations, most notably that you have to agree with whoever you’re talking to when they say things like: “lovely day, isn’t it?” even if sleet, snow and hurricanes are causing utter devastation across the horizon! Okay, that last point may be a bit dated now, but THE weather-related issue we seem to be notorious for overseas is how we jump at the chance of dressing for summer, stripping down to shorts, t-shirts, vests etc. as soon as the summer months set in and/or we see the first glimmer of sunlight, even if a freak incident of temporary global freezing brings ambient temperatures of minus 50 degrees!

Well, I’m going to make that exact mistake again for my next entry… sort of. For once, it is pretty warm here and has been (touch wood!) for a good few weeks. However, in planet fashion, we are, of course, moving into autumn time, with dark hues and coats heralding the coming gloom of the winter months and already edging their way into shops and magazines as we speak. I’ve chosen to ignore all that in favour of a look that’ll help make the summer last and make the most of the warm season. It’s also got the same perverse rationale, of optimism about the weather and seizing the opportunity to enjoy anything resembling a summer that it throws at us. It’s also likely to prove useful if you’re wondering what you’re going to do with a white summer tunic leftover from this season.

Image: marcjacobs.com

This jolly ensemble sets the mood for tranquil, sultry summer evenings, recalling the romance of the Henley Regatta. Word on the press has it that the most obvious way to copy the look on the high street is by investing in a boater hat for £20 (now £10 in the sale) at Topshop. Well, I can go one better than that - by making the tunic within that price region - so there!

You will need

A white or light cream tunic, ideally in linen or silk if you’ve got one.

The one I used for this entry is no longer available, sadly, as I only found out this very afternoon. Again and again the computer laughed in my face with those inane words “sorry, your search returned no results” after I entered in the product code on the website, implying that I’m actually the last person on earth to find out that summer garb is all clearance stock now and on its last commercial legs for the rest of this year.

Thankfully help was at hand when I found a Pure Cotton Short Sleeve Tunic priced £12 from Marks & Spencer (Product Code: T415043) online, and also a white tunic from Dorothy Perkins, priced at £15 on the sale ( Product Code: 67109601 - although it’s only available in a few sizes and you’ll need to cover up the embroidered design with the appliqued flowers) Otherwise, you can ignore my advice and look for one and compare prices online at www.shopstyle.co.uk - just search for a “white tunic” and pick your price range.

Fake leather or laminated lycra in metallic bronze and royal blue. The Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham (27 Moat Lane, Birmingham, B5 5BD, Tel:0121 643 7356 www.fancysilkstore.co.uk)
have fake leather in metallic bronze and lycra in metallic royal blue. Both retail at about £4.50 for half a metre, which will be more than enough for this design.

3.5-4 metres of black bias binding about 2cm in width. It’s best just to go to your nearest haberdashery for this one, so prices will vary around the country. I only paid 60p a metre at my local, so going on that it should set you back no more than £2.50 or £3 tops.

Black thread.

Sewing machine

Leather needle for your machine or fabric glue, £2.75 at John Lewis Tel: 0845 604 9049.


Unpicker aka. “quick unpick” aka. seam ripper… you know the thing I mean!


Fabric scissors… maybe

Total Cost

About £23.50 to £25, depending on the tunic and method of attachment you use, or no more than £30.



A piece of afternoon tea and cake! Basically a question of cutting your appliqued flowers out and whacking them on, plus one or two stylistic tidbits around the garment.


I haven’t been timing this one, but it’ll take you a few hours to cut out the flowers (no rhyming intended), plus an hour or two to do the bias binding round the edges, I found, so it should take an evening to a day.

So, here we go…

Fold the bias binding in half.

If you want to make your tunic look authentically like the Marc Jacobs one then cut or unpick slits about 13cm from the bottom on either side. You might also want to cut away or unpick any sleeves and slash a line about 16cm long, from the collar along the centre of the garment. Don’t worry about the raw edge as it’ll be covered up by the bias binding.

Pin the folded bias binding along the armholes, slits and the bottom of the garment, with the fold covering the edge.

Sew the bias binding in place.

Cut out 15-20 flowers in each of the two colours, in the same shapes as the ones in the Marc Jacobs design.

You will notice how the flowers in the original have little white lines all over them. Creating this effect is simple, just scrape a set of straight lines across the flower with the lines closer together towards the outside of the petals.

Glue or sew your flowers onto the tunic.

…And finally for, the most imperative rule of all, without which this process is truly not complete - radiate and sparkle, darling, in your simply ravishing new creation!

Sultry weather calls for sultry, fabulous style, my dear. What’s more, it really is that simple to give a washed out old tunic a new lease of life for the last of the summer, before it’s forgotten, abandoned and consigned to cruel cold world of the charity shop storeroom, so far from the loving home it once found. Let’s think about that, and let’s make a difference - you know it makes sense!

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