Tuesday 26 January 2010

Parrot Fashion

In these financially trying times, staying in style, for most of us, is about the ability to make do and amend, be it by customising, re-styling or rediscovering the past in the form of vintage and retro. However, plumping for the vintage option can prove something of a double-edged sword: recycling looks from the past, in the face of an ecomonic downturn, is a good idea, charging the earth for archaic frocks your granny would have thrown out once she hit “the change” is not! And yet, even now, I’ve seen plenty of the latter, especially in trendy vintage boutiques and typical scenester hotspots.

That minor gripe said, I’m not knocking retro regalia in general, since some of it is truly fabulous and deserving of the term “vintage chic.” It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder and there’s definitely a romance in nostalgia, as long as it’s done well. What’s more, if, for this entry, I wanted to be really pretentious, I’d bang on about how I learnt about the concept of looking to the past during my Art History lectures, back at university, and its significance. The theory of post-modernism suggests that every possible style that could possibly be has already happened, but that new sartorial statements can be made from the way a stylist combines the various different styles from different times, in an expressive “language” of clothes. There’s another point to me mentioning that here, namely that you can also make novel fashion statements by taking existing footwear and gluing pretty shapes on it, as with my current favourite vintagey item: The appliqued boot.

Image: shop.irregularchoice.com

Okay, strictly speaking, these boots aren’t technically classified as vintage, per se, but, while I was discussing this with a friend, the agreed consensus was a) the look they were going for at Irregular Choice was definitely of the vintage persuasion and b) they’re hot - need I say more? Still, retailing at £89, they might arguably be in danger of falling into the overpriced vintage category. Fear not, it’s Chic Cheat to the rescue!

You will need

Ankle boots -New Look do a pair for £25, in black (Prod. no. 1729031)

Offcuts of leather in red, yellow, blue, jade green, olive green.
It might be a mission to obtain some, depending on where you live and whether they sell leather offcuts locally, but if you’re lucky enough to be in London, good places to look are:
- JT Batchelor, 9-10 Culford Mews, London, Tel: 020 7254 2962
- Alma Leather, 12-14 Greatorex Street, London E1 5NF,Tel: 020 7377 0762
- Borovick Fabrics, 16 Berwick Street, London W1F 0HP, Tel: 020-7437-2180
- Walter Reginald, Unit 6, 100 the highway, London E1 W2BX. Tel: 020 7481 2233

Most leather retailers have offcut bins which are always worth a nose around - and cheaper than forking out £20+ for a whole skin.


Contact adhesive

2 A4 pieces of card

Printer (presumably you’ve also already got a computer or you wouldn’t be reading this!)


Medium/ Easy

The process for me was pretty straightforward, you’ve just got to be careful of cutting your fingers when you’re using your scalpel especially if, as I recommend, the blade is sharp.


After the groundwork I’ve done for you, I’d say a maximum of two days, for about 6-7 hours work per day - so a weekend, effectively.

Total Cost

The leather offcuts should come to about £10-15 in total, plus £25 for the boots, resulting in an overall cost of £35-40 - less than half the cost of the originals.

So, then, here we go…

First step is to get the image to trace and cut out of leather. Here’s one I crafted earlier from the shoes, using Photoshop, by tracing around the different layers of leather using the pen tool. It’s my version of the parrot design All you have to do is print it out, making sure it’s as close to the size specified below as possible:

Note: Okay, my example for this entry might be all about the parrot design, but why not try some other shapes and images, say of a prancing horse, or the layers of flame-like designs you get on vintage style cowboy boots - it’d prove so much cheaper than forking out for the originals, certainly from my experience!

Place your printout on top of some card, hold it in place and prod holes along each coloured line to make an outline on the card, for each of the layers of colour, including the parrot’s beak in olive green.

Cut around the outline with your scalpel and your templates should look like these. You might want to print and cut these straight out. They should look like these ones below, for each of the different colours:

Place them onto your pieces of leather, in each colour, on the wrong side. Draw around the templates. Turn the templates over so that they are facing the opposite way and repeat.

Cut your leather out with your scalpel.

Glue your pieces of leather on top of one another, starting with blue at the bottom, then jade green, then yellow, then red and finally the olive green beak.

Glue your parrot to the outer side of each of your boots, making sure they’re put in the same place on both boots.

And there you have it! Something most definitely to squawk about! For best results wear while sauntering through the art bars around Brick Lane with the assured, nonchalant strut of a fashion hipster, and your lead will be followed - parrot fashion!

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