Saturday 7 August 2010

R U Miu Miu?

There are so many of us creative types who find ourselves lingering under the category of "visual creator." That is, less pretentiously put, a person paid to draw attention to a product and increase its sales by making it pretty. From artists and graphic designers through to composers, all parties concerned are united in their ultimate goal of making their products seductive. One such discipline you've probably heard of is "visual merchandising" or strategically and beautifully placing retail products on display in a shop window to turn heads - an turn in those all-important profits. This is practised everywhere from Topshop to the corner shop.

"Never judge a book by its cover" your mum probably told you, but anyone looking to apply that sort of logic to the clothing business is clearly looking at the wrong book, and needs to pick up another one entitled "You Don't Get A Second Chance at a First Impression" How many times have you walked into a shop you didn't plan on entering because you were lured, and consequently reeled in by the evil clutches of, the window display? Research has shown that most of us tend to turn right as we enter a shop. My own bitter experience suggests that you enter transfixed beneath the glare of the bright lights, towards a triptych of mannequins styled to the hilt in an outfit you wouldn't normally have as a gift, even if you were paid a six figure sum or assigned to wear it for a charity as an alternative to being baptised clumsily in a vat of fermenting baked beans...and yet you're intrigued enough to step inside and try the garments on. Wending your way to the changing rooms, you're bombarded with a delectable confection of styling options and accessories to try, each one proving ever more tempting than the last. Even in times of medal-worthy resilience, when you do manage to resist and succeed in your mission to the register undeterred, don't think you can breathe your much deserved sigh of relief yet, for there awaits yet another array of shiny belts, make-up and novelty lip balms. Cute - purchase! Alas! There are also huge flagship stores who take the shopping-as-entertainment aspect to the extreme with nail bars and even in-store hair salons, pulling out every possible stop to stimulate every sense in your body and squeeze every penny from your purse. It's not like this by accident, but thanks to the feverish strategic, formulaic and - possibly - creative efforts of a team of merchandisers trying to promote the company and its image as much as the goods.

Images: Marcio Madeira/, Rankin for Elle UK,

...And now for something a bit different- the one thing that can shift record clothing sales in the blink of a liquid-lined eye, more so than any nail bars or visual merchandising can hope to - celebrities! Have we got a Chic Cheat treat for you, dear readers. Not only am I referencing THE collection of next season, but giving you a double DIY whammy of two A-listers' oufits. In the black corner, we have Cheryl Cole. In the lilac corner, we have Lily Allen. I bet you didn't think we could get both of them on the same bill with the notorious feuding history they have - well, so I've heard. I'm not the greatest follower of celebrity gossip, especially regarding catfights. I've a relative who says that there are 3 sides to every story - or argument - your side, my side and the truth. I find that for every celebrity brawl there are 3 possible sides the dearly adoring public can take - Team *insert first person's name*, Team *insert second person's name* and Team Couldn't give a Flying Fuck! No prizes for guessing which side I tend to find myself on. Still, a trend is still a trend, a fashion statement is a fashion statement, and it is my civil cyber duty to share the craft of that trend with you all. So, once again, here's how to get the look...

Cole Runnings

Images: Marcio Madeira/,

You will need

  • A strappy black dress, which Asda do for £14 (product code 3281105)

  • Half a metre of black jersey.

  • 1m of black PVC, available at most good haberdashers, prices may vary.

  • Black bias binding, available at all good haberdashers, prices may vary.

  • Silver wire - £1.85 from most jewellery shops and haberdashers.

  • Pliers.

  • Needle and black thread

  • Scissors

  • Scalpel

  • Sewing machine


This one should take about 2 days.



Nothing too taxing here.

Let's Frock!

Cut 14 flower shapes out of your PVC, in varying sizes 2 to 5cm in width.  Glue them, matt side to matt side, onto the rest of your PVC and cut the shapes out again, so that you have 14 PVC flower shapes that are shiny on both sides.

Cut out 28 flower shapes, identical in size to the PVC flowers, in black jersey.  These must be the same size as the PVC flowers, so cut 14 matching pairs of flowers in different sizes varying from 2cm to 5cm in width.

Machine-stitch each of the matching pairs together, 5mm from the edge.

With each of your new fabric flowers, cut away as much of the excess fabric around the edges as possible, without cutting into the seam.  Cut a small "X" in the middle of the flower, on the top layer of the fabric.  Turn the flower inside-out, so that no raw edges are visible.

Attach your fabric flowers to your PVC flowers of the same size.  The side with the "X" shape cut out must be face down, so that it is not visible from the outside.

Now to make the metal filaments for each flower.  You can do this with your silver wire and pliers.  Twist your wire into spokes, bending the wire outwards and back again, and twisting your wire spokes into spiral-like shapes, as shown in the illustration, below:

Stitch your filament patterns into the centre of your flowers.

Cut two oar-like shapes out of your black jersey which are about 5cm longer than your dress straps.  Fold black bias binding around the edges and machine-stitch it in place.

Attach these pieces to your dress directly on top of your straps.

Finally, stitch your flowers onto your new straps.

My variation

...Same principle, slightly different dress.

The Allen Key to Success

Images: Marcio Madeira/, Rankin for Elle UK

You will need

  • A white lace dress - I found one in Primark for £13 (prod. no. 8083671)

  • A metre of white lace with a clear floral pattern, ideally with flowers of different sizes.  You might need to buy two different fabrics - half a metre of each.  Mine came to £11.50 from Barry's Fabrics in Birmingham (1 Moseley Street, Birmingham B5 6JX tel. 0121 622 6102)

  • White and violet thread

  • Needle

  • Pins

  • Scissors

  • Scalpel

  • Dylon Intense Violet hand fabric dye - £3.25 from Hobbycraft

  • Half a metre of violet jersey.

  • 1m of violet PVC (or, better still, metallic silver PVC if you can find some), available at most good haberdashers, prices may vary.

  • Violet bias binding, available at all good haberdashers, prices may vary.

  • Silver wire - £1.85 from most jewellery shops and haberdashers.

  • Pliers

  • Sewing machine


This one should take 4-5 days.



Nothing too taxing here.  It gets a bit fiddly at times, but I'd say this one was more a test of patience than skill, you'll be pleased to know.

Let's Frock!

We go a little in at the deep end in the mind-numbing stakes, unfortunately, for this laborious yet essential stage.  All you have to do is cut 100-200 flowers out of your lace, or as many as you can find, without your eyes crossing!

You can also use the borders of your lace fabric.  Simply cut out 4 pieces and make a flower shape out of them as shown in the picture below:

Congratulations on surviving that lengthy process, now all you have to do is sew them on, one by one, in neat rows like those in the following picture.

Good news:  Not only do you officially deserve a medal for your tireless embellishing, but you should have your own version of the following Miu Miu dress:

Images: Marcio Madeira/

...Which looks something like this:

Violet Delight

If you want to get Lily's look, you've got to change the colour of the dress to violet, so this is where your violet dye comes in.  Ensure that you follow the instructions on your dye carefully.

Repeat the previous procedure to make the straps and filament-centred flowers.

And, if I'm not much mistaken, you should have something that looks like this:

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