Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Thing #6: Artisanal Tartan Jumper, purchased 2013

After my investigation of Pringle and its reinvention as an international fashion brand, I decided to show you the real deal. A genuine Scottish jumper, tartan no less, knitted in East Lothian and purchased last year at Macraes of Edinburgh at the bottom end of the Royal Mile, where Scott Officer's gorgeous hand-framed intarsia sweaters had a small cult following among the neighbours. I later discovered on a subsequent trip that its riff on the Hunting MacLeod tartan appears on more or less every carpet in every guest house in the country, making it the perfect nominee for the title of Appropriated Edge Christmas Jumper 2014. 

This wool-silk mix jumper is so far removed from the vagaries of high fashion and the ubiquities of the high street that it probably shouldn't exist at all. In fact, it's tempting to say that it lives outside of fashion entirely and any attempt to recontextualize it as an objet de la mode is bound to be fruitless. But I'm going to try anyway.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Thing #5: Vintage Andean poncho, acquired 2003

This poncho is the sartorial equivalent of a holiday snapshot: a traditional textile purchased on vacation in Peru. We walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, ate piranha ceviche on the Amazon, and went shopping for blankets in Cusco.

In the space of a few seasons, wearing a blanket has gone from fringe (ahem) trend to completely normalised in fashion land, thanks to Louis Vuitton's eyewateringly expensive throws and Burberry Prorsum's faintly ridiculous monogrammed security blankets. Suffice to say that this was absolutely  not the case when I bought this over ten years ago.

But I'll say it upfront, if my wardrobe were to catch fire, this unique piece would be one of the first things I'd rescue. Its controversial status as a fashion item has never bothered me particularly when for every snide remark from one onlooker there's always been a gasp of admiration from another. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is no ordinary blanket.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Thing #4 Pitagora plaid cardigan, 2014

This cardigan was an emergency purchase prompted by bad weather at Primavera Sound in Barcelona last May. It caught my eye while I was traipsing the obligatory festival market, but I might not have gone for it had the skys not opened and rendered my optimistically lightweight weekend wardrobe inadequate. When the storm kicked in I knew exactly where to look for that much-needed extra layer. 

A festival market might seem an unlikely source of alternative fashion but it can be a good platform for small local brands and independent designers looking for a foothold with a hip young audience. Among the knit-your-own sandals and Joy Division t-shirts there's often treasure to be found and at prices accessible to a crowd of impovorished twentysomethings a long way away from the crass commercialism of the high street.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Thing #3: Margiela Sock Sweater

Martin Margiela is known as the master of deconstruction, and it doesn't come more deconstructed than a sweater made out of socks. This design dates back to the early 1990's, and is something of a classic.  It makes ingenious use of the heels of the socks to shape the  jumper at the shoulders, elbows and bust. 

I've made a few of these and it is one of my favourite quick patterns. It comes together in an afternoon and it's a good way to develop skills with the overlocker. It's the perfect project for the festive season, combining as it does those two essential ingredients of the fashionable family Christmas, socks and jumpers. Make them as presents for your favourite chic relatives or use up those gifted socks that nobody needed or wanted on Boxing Day.

My version uses four pairs of socks and proposes some changes that I think improve the construction and fit, using the the toes of the socks in the side panels as gussets under the arms (a weak point) and rotating the socks a quarter turn in the sleeve to follow the line of the elbow.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Thing #2: Pringle 1815 jumper, circa 2007

When the weather changes and darkness is drawing in, the breaking of the seasonal wardrobe is a consolation in the gloom. In dwindling daylight there's nothing more comforting than cosying up to a favourite woolly jumper.

I always look forward to putting on this oversized turtleneck for the first time in the autumn. Baby soft merino wool with skinny sleeves, a big pouch pocket in and nary a pill in all the years I've been wearing it. This big softie is a masterpiece of knitwear design by Pringle 1815, the second line of Pringle of Scotland, the Argyle pioneers of the rampant lion

Monday, 17 November 2014

Thing #1: Doc Martens Safety Boots circa 1994

I once had a job that required me to walk around construction sites, for which I needed safety boots. (Actually it was several jobs and it was a career, but I've since fixed that.) At the time, stylish protective footwear for ladies was very much an oxymoron, so I had no choice but to use my imagination. I'd been through numerous pairs of fugly shoes by the time I discovered these beauties, Classic Docs from the time when Docs were still Made in England.

There's a lot to say about the role Dr Martens have played in Britain's vibrant popular culture, riddled as it is with the angry politics of class warfare played out to a soundtrack of the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Long before they rose again as a fashion brand, DMs were the go-to no-nonsense bovver boot of choice for policemen, football hooligans and political extremists of all flavours. Eight holes and a steel toecap spelled trouble, the kind of people you'd cross the street to avoid.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

We are not invisible.

This blog is part of a research project in which I seek to understand how we use clothing to shape our identities. As I've grown older, I've come to view my own style choices as part of a bigger story that stretches back over time. I recognise the collection I've built up over the years as the continuation of something I began around thirty years ago and am still engaged with. It's a work in progress and it gets better every year.