Sunday 29 April 2012

Chic Cheat Reloaded - A blast from the past

Another aesthetic blast from the not-too-distant past, here’s another of my recent “sew-last-season” initiatives -  a sartorial reincarnation of a ghost of fashion almost-present, if you will. A bit behind the times?  Yes, however, isn’t looking back to the fashions of yesteryear currently very … au jour d’hui, with “retro” and “vintage” the buzzwords on every on-trend fashionista’s lips? With fashion constantly in flux and trends now moving faster than ever before, even a mere decade’s difference has started to seem increasingly far away with time – leaving the significances of a garment or collection’s age to metamorphose at a greater rate, from old hat to a kind of charming classic chapeau.

Regrettably – and so very unprofessionally - I don’t have a copy of Alison Lurie’s book, The Language of Clothes, to hand, but I remember reading, when I was barely out of high school (why thank you, you’re very kind!) through a timeline of clothing’s significance. It typically followed an arc of looking progressively uglier and more dated over the years, until it crossed the walls of fashion history to become a “vintage” piece. Alternatively, at that point it would be about the right time for the trend to be revisited for a contemporary update – with fashion’s powers that be at the Department of Work and Prada deciding they missed it after all. Thankfully, I found the full list online, which was quoted in the book as Laver’s law, and reads as follows:

Indecent  10 years before its time

Shameless 5 years before its time

Daring    1 year before its time

Smart  —————

Dowdy 1 year after its time

Hideous 10 years after its time

Ridiculous 20 years after its time

Amusing  30 years after its time

Quaint  50 years after its time

Charming 70 years after its time

Romantic  100 years after its time

Beautiful 150 years after its time

Taking that into the current context, last season’s inspirational decades of choice included the (amusing) eighties, the (quaint) sixties and the distinctive fit and flare of the (supposedly part quaint, part charming) fifties. Spring 2012 is currently looking to the (awkward-editor’s note) nineties, otherwise known as a combination of hideous and ridiculous by the above standards. They were a difficult time for me, having got into popular culture – most notably music – at the latter half of the decade when the paradigm shifted from a tasty confection of guitar music (Grunge, Riot Grrl and Britpop) to the formulaic, attention-whore consumerism of pop bands. Worse still was the supply-side economics of conventional TV and radio being the only media available, meaning audiences had to accept whatever slop was broadcast rather than picking and choosing from the internet. The freedom of choice I relish now came with online music and video sharing that wouldn’t become available until circa ‘02/’03 (that’s right, Spice Girls, you owe my generation for seven years of lost evenings, weekends and school run in-car entertainment we’ll never get back – don’t even try to deny it!)

But then this isn’t just about my opinion is it (unfortunately) or Alison Lurie’s for that matter? The Language of Clothes was published in 1981, making it “amusing” by its own standards, no? To make the bold leap of faith back into the nineties, today’s fashion would surely have to have evolved, in approach, if nothing else. Riot Grrl style has given way to Meadham Kirchoff’s cartoon grunge aesthetic. Alaia’s trademark bodycon silhouette has now reached the high street with American Apparel’s chic clinginess. Jeremy Scott’s ingenious Bart Simpson repeat knits are a contemporary bow to the similarly Simpsons-immortalised pencil cases from back in the day. (And Draw Something – the new Pictionary or a well-marketed cyber tribute to the 1990 game show Win, Lose or Draw? You decide… did I say that out loud?) The list of comparisons is endless and my point is, for all that has to be left behind, there are little timeless paradigms that get carried through to become part of a bigger picture, also Illustrated in Lurie’s book. She chooses to see them as parts of a whole look that interdependently punctuate the fashion statement in question. It’s what you do with them, and how you work with what you’ve got that counts.

I’m tackling the starburst-printed kilt from Miu Miu’s Spring 2011 collection, in shorts form, for this entry. I like to think I’ve already justified why, but if you’re still unconvinced and think it’s too much like Dolce & Gabbana’s stars, can I not tempt you, by highlighting its particular resemblance to the still-very-now tribal printed look, and that clashing prints are  unmistakably very "this season."

You will need

 A black  kilt or shorts

0.5m white satin                    

Black leather or pleather (Want the real McCoy for less? I paid about £3 for a binned and dissected jacket in a leather shop. Great trick of the trade for small jobs like this!)

Silver fabric paint (£3 by Dylon from John Lewis)

Black  fabric paint (as before)

1m Bondaweb ( about £4 John Lewis or £3.50 from Wright’s Fabrics if you happen to be near the Whittlesey area)

Pattern paper

Sharp pencil

Tracing wheel

Patternmaster or graded setsquare

Scalpel (optional)

Fabric glue (optional)


Sewing pins

Sewing Machine with a leather needle

Contact Adhesive (£2.08/ tube B & Q)


 About ten hours


Medium Easy

Following last week’s challenge, this one was a doddle. Everyone loves a bit of couture-inspired cut, stick’n’colour!

So, your mission is…

Draft out a star shape big enough to cover the top of the left leg. Use your pattermaster/ graded set square to straighten the edges.

Use your patternmaster/ graded setsquare to trace out two more parallel star shapes inside your main one, including a much smaller one at the centre.

Use your tracing wheel to draft out the three stars separately on your pattern paper, trace along the punched lines on each sheet and cut them out.

Iron your bondaweb onto your satin, peel it off and start sketching your line and spike shapes, as well as your stars.

Cut them out and iron them – bondaweb side down – onto your garment. If you find they’re covering the pockets, simply cut across where the pocket edges are and help reinforce them with an extra iron.

Paint your black dots and silver lines onto the satin.

If you get any fraying on your satin you can put some fabric glue on the edge of a scalpel and smooth them along the edges.

Pin (or position and hold using masking tape) your three star patterns on your leather. Cut them out. Paint the middle layer silver and machine stitch them together, using a leather needle.

Decide where you want to put your leather star on your garment and trace around some corners or any equally good reference points.

Using your contact adhesive, coat both the back of your star and the designated area of your garment in glue. Leave them to dry until they become sticky and then stick your star in place.


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