Every now and then there are those few points in the year where high street stores all sell exactly the same style of clothing and duh, these are called trends. Except, I don’t think ‘this is great I have five different options when it comes to embellished skinny jeans’ or whatever happens to be ‘in’ at the moment. I get a little frustrated and insanely bored. There’s nothing inspiring about only having the option to look and dress like everyone else. To break out of this rut, I raided a few well-known haberdasheries at the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown, Singapore. Collecting a few metres of pastel pink tulle, velvet ribbon, crystal buttons and rainbow sequins, I made a ‘fairytale’ dress. An outfit that tells a story and is weird as it is wonderful. Not everyone is into making their own clothes from scratch and I did this without a sewing machine (I was really bored and it’s a summer holiday). So here are five tips on how to make DIY look expensive when you might not really know what you’re doing:
You can use sew on crystals, studs, beads or sequins on collars (particularly cute on Peter Pan style ones), on sturdy material like denim and leather. The latter is extremely hard to pierce so I’d recommend using a thimble and the point of a sharp scissor if you’re planning to go down that route. As for studs, the type that screw on at the back are the best quality and it also means that if you make a mistake, it’s easy to readjust your design.
Haute tip: Don’t use glue-on embellishments, even if you have the right glue. It makes for sloppy work and you want to be able to enjoy your creation not look back at it like a failed kid’s project.
Replace the straps of your camisoles or strappy tops with a velvet or grosgrain ribbon to elevate it and give it a girly edge.
Haute tip: I don’t recommend sewing them horizontally across dresses or tops (for example, across the waist of a dress) because this disturbs the ‘flow’ of the material and can affect the way that the clothing sits on your body. At worse your outfit will be far too tight and restrictive, at best you’ll have a slightly wonky ribbon across your waist. It’s better to just tie it as a belt.
This is probably the material that people gush over the most at haberdasheries. Except from the time I used to stalk Project Runway, found out which textile shops they frequented and started at the $200 a metre tweed and dreamed of making my own Chanel-esque suit. While those days are over, mostly due to a lack of willpower, lace is still one of the easiest ways to make a piece of clothing look a little more dressy. Think of those Red Valentino t-shirts that rocked a spray of delicate lace!
Haute tip: Avoid draping lace over the shoulders, it could be a bit of a 80’s ‘Sunday best’ kind of look. Also, never buy lace where you can see that the flower design is attached to the trimming by thread – that’s poor quality lace. As is anything remotely shimmery because that’s probably flammable too.
4. Distressing denim
You can find countless tutorials that basically all say the same thing online so I’ll give you a tip I learnt when I was doing the visual merchandising at Abercrombie. Before you snigger, it was a very serious job okay. And they have very high ceilings so you had to be a big girl about changing the light bulbs. Jokes aside, their denim was one of the only things that lasted long after I left and they have a particular way of styling them on mannequins to showcase its rugged resilience.
Haute tip: spray the legs of your jeans up to the knees with water. Scrunch them up tight and hold them together with clamps (or those really big butterfly hair clips). Leave overnight and the next day, you’ll be left with wonderfully crinkled ‘worn in’ looking denim.
So I’m a bit neurotic and I’ll totally discount articles of clothing if I hate their buttons. I’m a big sucker for tortoiseshell and other ‘natural’ materials. The good news is that if you have the patience to replace every single button of your Zara shirt from matte plastic to a slither of mother of pearl, you can make that £19.99 blouse look like a £75 one.
Haute tip: I’m cheating with this tip because it’s more common sense than a best practice. Always keep your thread the same colour as the material and refrain from trying anything too fancy like contrast stitching. If you’re extremely tempted and you’re like, ‘no this is what I want’, then try doing it on like, one button first. Just to see if you like the cute subtle touch. If you still want to go all out then I’m not taking any responsibility.