Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Retail Return

Some items of clothing are simply too good to just fade off the fashion radar. Most things blend in and out of fashion but there are some things that blended into fashion and, well, just forgot to blend out again. They break the circle of fashion but we love them anyway. They make their retail return each and every season. These wardrobe essentials appear before us in the form of the LBD, the t-shirt, the floral sun dress, jeans and black heels. These building blocks to a chic wardrobe have changed a lot since the concept first came about.


Originating from Mme Chanel herself this classy and fabulous little number is the go to choice for a night out where you want to feel sexy and confident and look great. It is the friend you can go to when you arrange a last minute night out (or you have just been reminded about a night out that was planned but you had forgotten about) and have not planned anything to wear. It is the revolutionary LBD. 


The above image is iconic as it was a very significant moment for the little black dress; a big moment for a little dress. This is how American Vogue popularized the look in 1926. Vogue and Chanel (two of my favourite things) working together to create the next fashion phenomenon; how marvellous. Before this time society women virtually never wore black, unless in mourning. It is the best colour to wear if you are not feeling completely confident as it means you don't particularly stand out and it is the most slimming colour. However, just because you don't stand out, doesn't mean you won't look hot as the latter points out.


Today, hemlines have risen the make the little black dress even littler. However, the recent twenties trend has sparked the popularity of the drop waist style like in the drawing from Vogue. This River Island dress is plain enough to go with pretty much anything but the zip detail and the shape give it personality and save it from being boring. It really is a classic example of the wardrobe staple that is the LBD. 

Source: style.com

The LBD was designed for comfort as that was a main thing that Chanel stood for. She wanted to relieve women from the pain of wearing tight corsets, heavy hats and weighty dresses. It is difficult to believe that that is exactly what most women were doing just twenty years before the classic LBD was featured in American Vogue. A.P.C really explored simplicity, neat proportions and comfort in their a/w collection and this dress is really synonymous with the whole concept.

The T-shirt 

This is something I know a little less about (thank God for Google.) But just like it is difficult to imagine a time when Google wasn't around it is near impossible to remember a time when t-shirts weren't around. However, t-shirts are in fact a relatively new movement.It is believed that men in the navy used to wear them under their uniform for comfort and this was back in the 1910s. They were kept hidden from the public eye and worn as undergarments of a sort until the 1950s. The best kept secret for forty years. The massive influence over t-shirt wearing was James Dean in Rebel Without A  Cause (1955) which made t-shirt wearing cool and rebellious. It appears that it was more Hollywood than the fashion industry that popularised t-shirts. Influential films that also had an impact include Grease (1977) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951.)


James Dean was and is and icon in so many ways. Perhaps he could be described as the t-shirt of film. Or not because the t-shirt has stayed with us since 1955 and shows no signs of going away any time soon. Maybe it will go out of fashion one day and people will look back at our pictures on "vintage computers" from their spaceships and be like "ew, what were they wearing?" However, I cannot imagine that happening when any of us are still alive so there is no need to worry about the extinction of the t-shirt. This one's a keeper. Perhaps fashion will come round in full circle (assuming that we don't all die this December) and in a few hundred years time people will be wearing those tight corsets, uncomfortable dresses and heavy hats all over again. Chanel would turn in her grave!


T-shirts are available in such an array of colours and designs. They can be used to advertise, inspire and make people laugh. I have a collection of three t-shirts that I have been given for free for doing a sports leadership course however, you can purchase a garment that is the exact same size and shape for hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. 

Source: style.com
T-shirts usually get overlooked in catwalk collections and then you get those girls from Paris who are annoyingly chic and do that thing where they mix a few designer items with a white t-shirt et voilà; they're ready. We're also going to start getting those annoyingly chic girls who wear A.P.C. a/w because everything about the A.P.C. collection says understated elegance through the means of cross body bags, loafers, fur coats, socks and lots of blues and browns; oh, and a t-shirt.

The Floral Sun Dress

When I think of floral dresses I think of women with babies in prams standing around chatting to each other in floral shift dresses and cat eye sunglasses with full fringes and beehives, smoking cigarettes. However, floral prints have been around for a lot longer than this. Whilst they were only used for things like aprons and nightwear before the twenties, they have still been used in clothing for over a hundred years. They made their début onto the fashion scene in the twenties and became more popular in the forties. That is why I love the twenties. So many things became so much more acceptable and the LBD and the floral sun dress came onto the scene.


I love this forties frock. I would wear this like ALL THE TIME. It is just so the sort of thing I would wear. Everything about it is so beautiful. My mum always says that she thinks certain people look like they came from certain time periods and we look like we came from the forties so this dress could really suit me. Plus it really would be acceptable to wear out.It might be seventy years old but was clearly mostly for younger women at the time and both midi lengths and florals are still in (OK, florals never go out of fashion, but still.)


I adore the colour of this dress. It will really suit you if you have blue eyes because it is the type of eye popping blue that will make the colour in your eyes pop (but not in a gross, eye exploding way but a strikingly attractive way.)

Source: style.com 

Autumn/winter Peter Pilotto is a classy combination of preppy cardigans and feminine florals. Florals (especially on dresses) often get overlooked over the winter months. Even the most optimistic of us seem to think that because flowers do not bloom in winter we should not pretend that winter is all about flowers and not decorate ourselves with them. However, winter florals are actually a huge trend this season just as much as summer florals were and are every season. I often get bored by the fact that florals are weaved into spring/summer collections year after year after year. You would have thought that all designers would want to try something more original by now. But like the LBD and the t-shirt, the floral dress has amazing staying power so will be around for years to come.


Although I do not actually own a pair of jeans as of now, a fitted pair of good quality jeans are a worthwhile investment. However, I do own some jeggings. Many of my friends do also but do not own jeans. In some ways the jegging has taken over the jeans for women. Nevertheless, it is not like you don't see women in jeans. You see a lot of women in jeans but then that is what you expect from such a celebrated garment. If you were to sit in a cafe and watch passers by you would see a lot of jeans wearers. The first jean material was made of a mixture of things up until the 18th century but after that it was made almost entirely from cotton as slave labour increased. Workers wore it because it was strong and did not wear out easily. It was dyed an indigo colour. When the Gold Rush began in the 19th century after gold was discovered in California, gold miners would wear jeans as they needed a material that did not easily tear. In 1853 Leob Strauss started a business, selling clothes. Although originally named Leob, he later changed the name to Levi; probably the most well known jeans retailer today. Cowboys often wore jeans in films and this increased their popularity. James Dean popularised jeans just as much as he did the t-shirt in the 1955 film Rebel Without A Cause. Some schools in America even banned students from wearing denim in the '50s. Previously known as "waist overalls" it was this decade that created the name that we refer to them today, "jeans." With the 1960s came a lot of different designs of jeans and the 1970s brought a huge increase in jeans sales with lots of designers marketing their own jeans.


The huge popularity of cowboy films in the 1930s was a massive selling point for jeans or "waist overalls" as they were called then. Tourists would travel to the Ol' West and purchase a pair of "waist overalls" and take them home as a souvenir. 


MOTO Light Vintage Martha Jeans, £40, Topshop

These are a classic pair of jeans. Nowadays you can get jeans in every colour under the rainbow with every pattern and every detail imaginable. Florals, polka dots and perhaps the most recent phenomenon, pastels. However, for a wardrobe essential, nothing beats a good quality pair of jeans. If you are on a tight budget and you are looking for some good jeans for under £100, Topshop are probably the best place to go to. I have not bought any jeans from Topshop but every other item I have purchased from there I have been entirely satisfied with and their leggings are excellent quality.

I just discovered Kasil Workshop who stock some absolutely gorgeous jeans and shorts. This pair are just one example of how jeans have changed into different fashions over the years. This year, denim ombre shorts are increasingly popular. This shows the evolution of denim which has also recently thrived as shirts with the do-it-all-denim; a previous fashion faux pas. Unfortunately Kasil Workshop clothing is only available in shops in America and there is not an online shop; just a view of the collection. Here is the website: http://www.kasilworkshop.com/

Black heels 

A brief history of the high heel: in Greek and Roman plays the characters with the highest status used to wear shoes with big platforms to show their authority. This was only done in serious plays, not comedies. The traditional Japanese dress includes a geta platform even to this day. All around the world in ancient times people of a higher status were literally above others as they wore platform shoes to put them on a pedestal. It was in the Elizabethan era that the high heel shoe that we know today first started its journey. It was a time for new fashions. Cinderella was first published in France in 1697 and without the shoes in this there wouldn't be much of a story. Before the Revolution in 18th century France women would wear heels so high they were standing on their toes and had to use a stick to walk. After the Revolution women wore smaller heels either in sympathy for the poor or to hide their true wealth. Heels came back in the 1910s and reached new heights in the 1950s. They have been around ever since. In the 1980s women were competing with men in the world of work and the wide shouldered power suits came into existence. Heels were also empowering as they brought women to men's levels so they could look them in the eye. So heels are both pro feminism and anti feminism (like porn but that's another debate entirely) because some women wear them to make them sexier for men and some wear them to intimidate men. Then there's people like me who really have no deep metaphorical meaning for wearing them other than the fact that I think they look nice. 


It was not until the '20s that black heels really came into play. Before then it was all coloured silk for the rich and boots with a small heel for the poor. But rock on twenties for they made so many contributions to fashion and women's rights and music and I want to live in the twenties xasdbfjsgekgjvl. 


STARE2 Platform Pointed Courts, £50.00, Topshop

These basic high heels are so versatile. Wear for work. Wear for after work cocktails. Wear on a girl's night out. Wear on a date. Wear to the cinema. Wear to a restaurant. Take on holiday. Wear clubbing. They can literally be added to any outfit for any event (apart from going down the gym; going on the treadmill in these might be a little dangerous.) They might take some practice to get the walk right. Walking in heels is an art. One I find that is best perfected mucking around with friends and trying on the highest most ridiculous shoes you can find in a local New Look, preferably whilst you are in your early teenage years. This pair from Toppers will make a good starting point if you are low on cash but seeing as you can wear these everywhere they might get worn down easily so it is perhaps best to make more of an investment. Red soled Louboutins here we come! You really can wear them anywhere because did you know if you are at home doing housework and you walk around in high heels you burn lots more calories. However, that makes me cringe like the 'sandwich' joke because it sounds all like sexist stereotype-y; a woman doing housework in high heels. But, hey, if it works and you want to lose a few pounds in the final run up to summer then go for it.
£495, net-a-porter

In black, Louboutins are the perfect staple of sophistication with the red underneath hinting at a subtle sexier side.


  1. Love it, can't wait to see what you do next! Come check out my blog, maybe we can follow each other!
    Material Fixations

  2. Great list! I immediately thought of pearl necklaces which are another timeless fashion item. Although they were initially worn mainly by the nobility they have long become indispensable to regular folk too. I think they add such classic elegance :)


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