Sunday, 22 November 2009

Why my love affair with Embellishments continues - S.V.

So: many people have this thing where they claim very adamantly to dislike ‘fuss’. As if there is something wrong in having a penchant to sparkly, spangly luxury. From personal experience however, I find that what people say and what people are actually attracted to are two different things! I for instance succumb fully to it, the more sparkle, the better (okay, within reason) and naturally as a self-confessed magpie my joy was great in realising embellishments were still in style this winter.

My question is why do people love sparkle? Why is there a need to jazz up otherwise ‘simple’ outfits? First of all, I think the idea of fantasy is a key player. We have grown up in a culture that is constantly alluding to the land of make believe and fairytales. The idea of princesses and faeries is one that is still prevalent in our culture, and it is these associations we make when we think of jewels, sequins, beads etc.

In short, embellishment means wealth, it means opulence and mysticism. There is something exotic about rich fabrics studded with beads and jewels and things that draw attention to the outfit and its wearer. There are connotations of luxury when we think of this, which is something that is a constant throughout history also. Whether it be a Russian Tsarina, a Tudor queen or an Indian Maharani, the portraits are all the same; these people in positions of power covered from head to toe in the most expensive and eye-catching minerals of the earth:

Designers for centuries have been fascinated by the creation of these beautiful things, from Charles Fabergé’s extraordinary eggs and the fabulous Cartier necklace commissioned for the Indian Patiala family in the 19th century to modern day detailing from all the huge names.Obviously then, there would be a natural transition of jewels on clothes....

Perhaps it is the versatility of embellishment – its ability to completely transform an outfit’s mood and style that this interest is rooted in. This can clearly be seen in this picture from Italian vogue where the mirrors and studs add a really edgy and rock-chick angle to the look. Whereas in the picture next to it, the same mirrors give off an exotic far-eastern radiance:

Perhaps it is the break away from the historical sensibilities of austere, strict and simple dressing, often associated with certain 17th and 18th century groups, or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (we all know what happened there) - the escapism embellishment provides externalises its appeal. Whatever the reason, it is one trend that I don’t think will go anywhere, or if it does, will come back very soon. There is only so much interest that lies in clean lines!

One of the hardest things to do is to recreate the look of opulence and find cheap embellished garments. Often the high street and designers think the more shit you stick on an outfit the more you can charge for it. However it is so easy to embellish your own clothes with a bit of well-placed sequin trim or appliqué. This is a great tutorial that shows how to embellish your own tights: [Click!] 

There are also a few books on it like [Fine Embellishment Techniques: Classic Details for Today’s Clothing] by Jane Conlon. One of my favourite places to go is East Ham market (left from the tube station, main entrance next to the Sainsbury's) to find bits of trim and beading. There is a great stall left of the fishmongers where everything is really reasonably priced. Alternatively any good fabric shop has a great section for ribbons and beads etc. With the right level of sparkle, any outfit can be totally transformed and the best and most rewarding thing is that you have done it yourself, and the possibilities are endless!

Keep it MODO people ;-)

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