Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Seeing stars

Luxurious lace and sheer sophistication get their star turn at D & G

In a final attempt to squeeze in my ode to Dolce & Gabbana's massive star print trend of the season, like an expertly yet painstakingly harvested gourmet orange juice, I give you not one but two video tutorials.

They're about how to make your own version of the star print jeans, worn by Julianne Hough in Elle magazine, and the lace insert dress, worn by Lily Allen, also in Elle magazine, both of which are by Dolce & Gabbana.

First of all, a little background: Thinking of Dolce & Gabbana's starry take on their trademark sartorial sex appeal, it seems reminiscent of the theatrical whimsy of early 20th century fashion from the eloquent flair of Erté's illustrations to the theatrical oeuvres of couturier Paul Poiret.

Think of couture's founding masters and you may well remind yourself of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, but the slightly lesser known Poiret was the most influential designer of the pre-war period. How prophetical he was in using the influence of fashion to project his image of shock and theatrical panache, noting that "all fashion ends in excess" He gave us endlessly-renewing fads of harem pants, the spectacle of the outré fashion show and the commercial addition of perfume to a fashion house's repertoire. In short, and in no uncertain terms, fashion's first branding genius, you might almost say he was ahead of his time - and how times have changed...

From designer to celebrity and lucrative branding empire - in that order - those were the days! Fast-forward a hundred years and play musical chairs as to who gets to sit in the pound seats and you'll find that fashion modus operandi reversed, with celebrities taking the lion's share as so-called "designers" in the name of becoming a brand. Those who've really arrived monopolise a design studio and put their image-inspired stamp on it. Those who want to extend on that add to their world-dominating repertoire with their "own fragrance"  (sadly not in the Jean-Baptiste Grenouille sense, but I digress) or attach anything else you care to name to their name and ever-growing empire, whether or not they're responsible for the credit they claim (which, f.y.i. makes plagiarising their style for a fraction of the price, from which they can't profit, all the more satisfying!) Okay, so there's aspirational method in such madness on the part of the adoring public, so my whinging, mean-spirited leftie point is? That who says this lavish lot needs to include celebrities of the talented persuasion?

It has been said, in a context for which sadly I can't claim credit, that reality is for people with no imagination. I couldn't agree more, and believe the same goes for reality TV, particularly in the celebutante vein. Speaking of no imagination, okay, the effort-to-instant-returns ratio make the genre - and lucrative opportunities - the perfect short-term investment, but what of society taking that angle in the long run? Civilisation as we know it, and to which we've grown comfortably accustomed, thank you very much, runs on teachers doctors, nurses and, dare I say ,social workers, not vapid, reprehensible attention seekers with entitlement complexes!  I have neither the energy nor the allocated character space to argue the toss as to where social fascism ends and common sense begins in this entry but it's an understatement to say I have an issue with charlatanry yielding gilded lucrative avenues of "designer branding," perfumes and overpublicised 72-hour marriages? I speak of course of Kim Kardashian's - ahem - blissful union that would drum up exponentially higher income from publicity than its extravagant costs and provoke an online petition to get it taken off the air. That effort that would prove about as punitive as making her write lines using a copy and paste function. Tens of thousands signed it but tens of millions still watched the wedding in the first place, the cynics continue to argue. Not that that was enough to convince countless news outlets that it wasn't purely a sham marriage, including Kim's own (okay last) publicist - what a Kard!

Okay, rant over, back to fun fashion creation and thinking happy thoughts!

For the dress, you will need

A black jersey dress

Black thread


Contrasting thread for tacking

Stretch lace, about 4m long and 15-20cm in width - got mine for about £4 including postage and packing costs from Gypsy Lace, based in sunny Derby, I believe, and listed as seller Bunter 177 on Ebay

Interfacing about 0.5m

White fabric paint - £2 by Dylon from John Lewis

Foam shapes - more on that later...



Tailor's chalk

Pattern master

Felt tip or biro

Fabric scissors

...And this is how the magic happens

Check out this video tutorial to see how I made my couture-alike creation:

 For the jeans, you need... 

 Black jeans, would you believe

 2 pots of white fabric paints, as before I used Dylon's white fabric paints, £2 a pot from John Lewis
Small, flat bowl into which you need to pour a can of your paint

Spatula, for best results, use one with a pliable scoop - all will be revealed, my friends

 Foam shapes or sheets

 Pen or pencil Scalpel

On the dot

Spotted: The best way to carry off appliqued dotty chic this season.

"Fashion rebels against the static; it is always in flux," as Jane Mulvagh highlighted in Vogue's History of 2oth Century Fashion book. To each trend, silhouette, fad and movement that dominated fashion through the ages, she asserts, "a reaction is (simply) inevitable." A valid point though that may be, it seems to be much less to do with fashion as a reactive swinging pendulum, drifting from one excess to another, than about its inherent pressure of aspiration. It revolves around the creation of ideals delivered at an ever more frenetic pace through a melee of style advisor apps (Ask a Stylist et al), the scrutiny of blogging and, lest we forget, the dreaded haul vlogging phenomenon. How zealously fashion and style businesses compete for their products to get a place in such divinely influential liturgies of fashion - whether they be the scriptures of celebrity gossip, fashion blogs or a conspicuously spoiled brat with a webcam and too much time on their hands - to be recommended as the gospel truth of all that's oh so now by the "experts." Terry Eagleton pointed out in The Significance of Theory "Power succeeds by persuading us to desire and collude with it; this process is not merely an enormous confidence trick, since we really do have needs and desires which such power, however partially and distortedly, is able to fulfill," so now you know. My sincere thanks for his use and acknowledgement of the word "distortedly" but I digress, since that may be the mentality fashion wants to perpetuate to keep us buying and consuming to keep it afloat, but here at Chic Cheat, I have other ideas, namely those of the recycling, reworking and customising persuasion. That's right - stick that, academics! Looks like you don't have to play the financially feckless fashion victim to be fabulous, after all! Or should I stay out of that debate, being at a disadvantage as only a part-time navel-gazer?

While we're on the subject of ever-changing fashion, I spent most of my art education theorising on post-modernism and the idea that every possible style has already been done, but in a way that leaves an array of possible references and permutations that can be mixed together in different ways to create new visual messages. This gave me some meaty food for thought and the motivation to dissect the meanings of each look I explore as well as the clothes I cut and splice through to recreate them. This season has seen a resurgence of sixties trends, including jewel tones, bold Cardin-esque tailoring and an explosive, body-conscious take on polka dots. It's out with the quaint, clown-like fare of fifties fashion...

... and in with the spotty sex appeal of the sixties...

...reiterated as a collaged concoction today - for us to celebrate in DIY-form.



More on the painstaking and time-consuming side, this one, but a good technique and precision for circle cutting certainly helps.

You will need

A white dress with a mesh top

1.5x 1m white twill or a similarly stiff fabric

1m bondaweb

White thread


Compass and pencil

Iron and ironing board

Sharp fabric scissors

 And your mission is, if you choose to accept...

Fold your twill in half, across the length and sandwich your bondaweb in between.

Iron your bondaweb in place on a high heat, one side at a time. Maybe I should mention that you need to peel the paper off the second time around - just sayin'!

Using your compass, pencil and ruler (as you may see, I used a patternmaster for mine but fear not for a ruler will do) measure and draw a circle 5cm in diameter directly onto your fabric and repeat this 50 or so times. Ensure you only do this on the twill that has bondaweb and another layer beneath it.

Using your fabric scissors, cut your circles out. I find it helps most to skim your scissors along the edge, pulling on the fabric as you go, to avoid nasty jagged edges.

Repeat this process with 150-200 smaller circles 2cm in diameter. This process may prove long-winded and hard work, so I recommend you stick the telly on or some of your favourite music, or perhaps even a DVD - here at Chic Cheat we like to take a liberal view of each reader's approach, you'll be pleased to know.

Time to finally stitch them on individually. It's yet another painstaking phase but it's thankfully on the home run. Stitch most of your larger circles in a cluster on the bust with the rest sprinkled sparingly around the top, and your smaller circles in a linear cluster across the middle of both sides of the skirt, graduating more sparingly outwards towards the top and bottom.

...And you should have something that looks like this:

A spot of stylish crafty chic to see you through the season!

Miu Miu for you

It's not too late to add a touch of seasonal sparkle with my ode to these celebrity-favoured Miu Miu glitter and suede fan ankle boots.

This was meant to be my final pre-holiday Chic Cheat entry and I thank you for your patience, dear readers, as I'm sure it's veering well towards tired excuse territory, but the past month's been a particularly busy one, where I've found out through my bitter experience that 'D' is for 'December,' for 'Duty' and for 'Distractions-aplenty' as my weekends have become more and more zealously peppered with work, family and social life-related demands that have taken me from my Chic Cheat pursuits.

This was to commemorate, acknowledge or arguably celebrate in the 'well, it got your attention, so it must have worked' sense the - shall we say - well-practiced holiday season ritual of dousing the high street's contents in glitter. Still, hear me out before jumping to any rash conclusions about my homage to these fabulous Miu Miu shoes, exacted on some old ankle boots loitering nervously towards the forgotten depths of my wardrobe. Incidentally, within my research, I tried to find out where glitter may have come into fashion in the historic sense but, other than being used in cave paintings, to little avail. Like with so many Christmas rituals that are, at best, just going through the motions with precious little rationale (Happy new year? In this climate? Surely only slightly more wishful thinking than a troglodyte trying to set up a PR company!) I've always avoided the recurrent festive sparkles trend, only to come a cropper with these fabulous designer ankle boots... sweet shoe-fetish surrender!


Medium Easy

In the interests of general arse-covering this one stops only slightly shy of the casual walk-over mark, thanks to a bit of fiddly jiggery-pokery with fake suede and a glue gun, but nothing for you to worry your pretty heads about I promise - girl guide's honour!

You will need

Black ankle boots, peep-toe or otherwise

Craft mount - I paid about £9 for mine at Hobbycraft

Fine silver glitter - Hobbycraft do an 80g shaker for £3.89


Glue gun - and make sure it's fully loaded!

Yellow (ideally fake) suede *Author's note: Finding suede of that colour may prove a challenge to you. It sure as hell did to me. It can be quite the rude awakening when something so seemingly innocuous as yellow faux suede turns out to have the illusive rarity of lapis lazuli, but, hey nothing you can't fix if you use...

Yellow fabric paint - by Dylon, £2 from John Lewis, or £2.75 at Hobbycraft if you want to save yourself the extra journey. Just saying!

Face sponge - would you believe, it being nice and soft.

Palette - Something flat and wide, a tupperware lid will do.

What to do with these wondrous finds...

Check out the video and find out! Follow the video and you should have something resembling these...