Tuesday 13 April 2010

The Graceful Dead

Time for the human skull to make a cameo appearance...

Image: Moe Jackson

Alexa Chung.  Model, presenter, TV personality, fashion icon and, of late, skull-bearer - of the porcelain persuasion.  Who could not love her delectably individual style of designer-meets-vintage ...especially when they can get the look for £5.  Yes, 5 of our British pounds - a fiver, or less, if you're lucky with charity shops.  Intrigued?  Read on - and all will be revealed...

Alexa's necklace was one among the many masterpieces of the Italian Jewellery house, Iosselliani.  Its gotta-have-it cachet, I'd say, is down to its ingenious part-glamour-goth, part-vintage, part-precious-costume-jewellery originality (and 18k yellow gold to boot)... not sure if it's worth the asking price tag, though.



A piece of cake, in principle, but it helps if you're good at modelling - with clay I mean, so modelling of the 3-dimensional variety, not the catwalk one.


About 2 or 3 of them - hours, that is - required to make a cameo skull necklace, tops.  This has to be one of the simplest Chic Cheat projects I've taken on since starting this blog.

Total Cost

I made two necklaces, one of whose raw ingredients cost me a total of £4 and the other a total of £6, so a fiver per necklace, on average.

Save it!

The Iosselliani original will set you back - wait for it - £850, I kid you not.  Vogue can't be wrong, after all, can it, dear fashionistas?  That, in turn, makes it 170 times what the Chic Cheat solution would cost you, thereby making getting creative 170 more sensible!

You will need

  • A necklace with a plain stone pendant - ch-check out your ch-ch-charity shop for some good bargains.  My necklaces cost £2 and £4 respectively.

  • Classic white Fimo clay About £2 from Hobbycraft.

  • Blue Ink (optional)

  • Contact adhesive

  • Narrow palette knife like the one pictured below:

You knead it in your life...

Cut out a blob about 3 or 4 mm thick out of your slab of Fimo and kneed it to get it soft enough to work with.  What I find helps, at this awkward beginning stage is pounding it hard and slamming it against your desk until it softens... No, of course I don't harbour violent or sadistic tendencies!

When your clay is nice and soft, cut it into a flat skull shape, about 2mm deep or thereabout, and no wider than the stone you have to fit it onto.  You can also use your pallette knife to sculpt the sort of textures that the skull in the original has.

You can dab it with blue ink to make it look like the skull on the original necklace, but be very sparing or it may look cartoon-like.

Bake your clay skull in the oven, for however long you're instructed to - ahem - stick it in.  If you get the Fimo I used, that'd be half an hour.

Finally, after leaving your skull for about five minutes or so to cool down, glue it to your pendant with contact adhesive.

And you should have something which looks like this:

...Or this:

Long live McQueen - Edited Highlights

For some hot fashion rocks, check out the following ankle boots from Alexander McQueen's latest collection:

Want to know how to make some?  Of course you do.  Please read on...



I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by promising an easy-as-falling-of-a-log outlook, but I'd say this one was pretty straightforward.


The work itself is doable in an evening but you may have to allow longer for the paint to dry at the beginning.

You will need

  • Chunky black platform ankle boots mine cost me £15 from Raid

  • Tiger eye stones

  • Gold spray paint

  • Clear lacquer - about £7 from Halfords

  • 2 Broad gold chains - I cut some off hair bands I found on sale at £1 each in Miss Selfridge

  • Black plaited leather rope - about 40p/metre from my local haberdashery

  • 2 carrier bags

  • Parcel tape

  • Glue gun

  • Newspaper

And this is how we do it

Cover your shoes with the carrier bags, except for the heels and bottom of the soles.  Secure the carrier bags in place with parcel tape, making sure you go right up to the edge.

Spray paint the bases and heels of your shoes gold, and also most of your tiger eye stones.  I suggest you do this on your newspaper to avoid damaging any surfaces.  Leave to dry.

After your gold paint has dried, spray on your clear lacquer.  This might well take a day to dry.

Using a glue gun, stick on all of your stones  for about an inch around the ball of the foot of each shoe.

Now for the chains.  If, like me, you used the aforementioned ones from Miss Selfridge, you need to cut away the ribbons and elastics.  Then, you have to take your black leather cord, cut it in half and weave it in and out of your chains.  Secure it with glue at either end.

Glue your chain in a spiral around the heel of the shoe and end it so that it covers the top of the heel.

And there you have it - creative problem solved- it really is that simple.

Monday 12 April 2010

Rorschach Chic

Feeling uninspired? Maybe it's time to reflect.

Whether it was the recent remake of Alice in Wonderland or fashion's undying affinity for the classic Lewis Carroll story (references of which are too many to mention, and include a collection by the Tim Burton film's costume designer, Sue Wong, herself,  for all those with $300 -$600 at their disposal)  its classic English Rose aesthetic topped off with surrealism remains a favourite among the fashionistas.   Once again, this season, fashion has gone through the looking glass, this time with kaleidoscopic and reflected prints from the likes of Alexander McQueen and Mary Katrantzou, dancing around dress after show-stopping dress.  Here are a few designs from the poignant last collection by McQueen:

Sadly, I've yet to find (or indeed fathom) a way to re-create the elaborate motifs of the above McQueen designs, but I did find a design under the so-called "affordable" fashion category I wanted to copy- the following Karen Millen dress:

... because the flickers of colour were sexy and vibrant, and because the £150 price tag elicited a need to make do and customise.



Not that the slopping on of paint wasn't extra fun in this exercise, but going for the masterful-not-messy look proved a little more fiddly than expected.


1-2 hours for the painting.  A day or so to dry, then another hour or so to touch up with black paint.   One more day and a good ironing later, you shall have a rorschach chic dress.

You will need

  • A plain, black short-sleeved dress in a stretch fabric. I found one at H & M for  £10

  • Tailor's chalk

  • Pallet knife -  about £3 from Hobbycraft.  Apologies, for the vague, ball-park figure, readers, but in atypical, non-Chic Cheat fashion I have lost the receipt.

  • Pebeo 45ml Setacolour Opaque Fabric Paints in Cobalt Blue, Bengal Pink and Garnet Red (which is actually, rather confusingly, purple)- £3.79 each from Hobbycraft

  • Magazines, carrier bags or something that isn't porous to put between the two layers of the dress to ensure the pain doesn't seep through.

  • Black Dylon fabric paint - £2 from John Lewis - for correcting smudges.

  • Small paint brush

Total Cost

About £25...

Save it!

...Which is a massive saving of  £125 from the original.

So, you...

Put your magazines or plastic carrier bags between the two layers of the dress.  If you're using the latter, you might want to pin them in place.

Trace out the design you wish to do using your tailor's chalk, on one side of the front of the dress.

Time to slather on your fabric paint with the pallet knife.  Do so fairly generously until all the chalk is covered.

Fold your dress in half so that it is reprinted on the other side and you get an exact repeat of the pattern.

If your paint smudges or you feel you would like to sharpen up your shapes a little, go around any rough edges with your black fabric paint.

Leave your paint to set and fix it by ironing....

...And you should have something resembling this: