Book Review: DIY Fashion

Selena Francis-Bryden has distilled her years of designing, customizing, and selling clothing in London’s Portobello Market into 40 ways to revamp your old clothes. In the tradition of DIY craft culture and eco-friendly design, this slim paperback aims to show you how to refashion (in your own fashion) everything you own. Her approach is completely opposite from many “wardrobe” books – no mad dash to the mall for a structured blazer or wide-legged trouser here. Instead, she rouses our creative senses with promises of rejuvenating preexisting closets.

Francis-Bryden opens the book by evoking a tailor’s intuition, presenting fledgling seamstresses with notes to consider on colour and fabric durability. She points out that timeless fabrics like denim and linen are versatile and sturdy, whereas something like lamé will not stand the test of time (for both physical and trend-y reasons.) Of course it’s always awkward to chaperone creativity, but Francis-Bryden does well to remind readers of the importance of imagining the longevity of these projects within their own aesthetic.
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Boutique: A 60s Cultural Phenomenon

As much a history lesson as it is a chronological account of fashion happenings in 1960s London, Boutique is an attractive, easy-to-read, and overall pleasant approach to explaining the impact of the boutique. Author Marnie Fogg hopes to demonstrate just how the rise of boutiques in the sixties “gave voice, form, and location to the youthful desire for independence and personal freedom, and in turn led to an unprecedented awareness of fashion as a vibrant medium of self-expression.” By talking about the clothes themselves, as well as the individual retailers and designers who provided new styles to shoppers, and, most importantly, the meanings these clothes expressed in the context in which they were worn, Fogg takes an intelligent and informative stance on a topic that could otherwise be light and fluffy.

The word “boutique” originally defined a shop within a shop, or a section of a department store that offered entirely different merchandise than what was available throughout the rest of the store. In the ’60s, boutiques began to separate from department stores, opening their own doors on obscure back-streets and alleyways, and they initially required shoppers to search for them. With the rise of innovative boutiques such as Biba, Mary Quant, and Granny Takes a Trip, which were set up to feel more like a closet or bedroom than a market, shopping became an exciting activity for those with money.

Boutiques gave more credit to designers and quality than department stores ever did, and they allowed shoppers new means of self-expression and creativity with their wardrobes. Because independent boutiques didn’t offer mass-produced merchandise, they had very limited numbers of garments that sold out quickly, causing a fast turnover of styles. There was always something new to buy, and if you were young, wealthy, and cool, you’d be in line to buy it.

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Crushing on Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson is a London-based illustrator who, on top of depicting the typical Prada bag will also add her own elements, like birds with mullets and the anatomy of a banana split. Her clients have included Marc Jacobs and The Guardian.

How do you decide what your girls will wear?
I think a little of my own style creeps into theirs! I suppose my own likes/dislikes influence my work, but I also get a lot of inspiration from street style and fashion blogs as well as walking around and people-watching myself (it’s a guilty pleasure for me!).

Many of your illustrations are based on actual fashion collections; what are some of your favourite collections?
I love anything by designers like Luella and Karen Walker, but also quirky labels like April77, Wren, and Charles Anastase. I’ve recently been trying to buy more vintage pieces and have indulged in a great brocade skirt from Liebemarlene Vintage, who I think you featured a while ago.

Have you ever incorporated your own designs into your drawings?
I haven’t as of yet but it’s something I would love to do, probably starting with t-shirt designs, but I think it’s time I learned how to sew properly so I can whip up my own designs!

Usually your fashion illustrations focus on the clothes, often leaving the faces of the models blank, but occasionally you will go into detail on their faces (like this example here). Why is that?
To be honest, at first it was because I found it really tricky to get their faces to look right! For some reason whenever I drew a face it made me dislike the drawing… but as I went on I grew to like the spacing that it gave the images. It offsets the intricate detail I normally use by having that blank space. I hope that covers up my inability to draw faces properly.


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