Boyfriend, skinny, flared or in jacket form, denim's latest directional turn isn’t about which style of jeans you choose to wear, but how they've been decorated. The embroidered denim trend has been spotted on the streets outside fashion weeks as much as the shows inside, gaining in popularity thanks to designers like Alexander McQueen. Elaborate stitching is making a cool comeback, offering ensembles a powerfully rock-bohemian look.
Paying homage to the '70s, today's types of embroidered denim have been freshly interpreted: some denim finds itself emblazoned with off-color messaging by statement making designers, others playfully feature flower motifs and ethnic prints that take the form of jean jackets, skirts, and pants. Explore the many different ways to wear embroidered clothing, easily the season's most cheerful trend.
The embroidered denim trend began as a political statement, serving as a way for civic-minded youth to share their support for various causes. Hippies took to their Levi's, stitching messages of peace, love and resistance in brightly colored threads, adding slogan patches for good measure. This customization was ultimately popularized to the point of diffusion. Soon, crafty DIY-ers and designers alike were embroidering clothing, albeit with much less controversial wording and in more palatable patterns for the masses.
Fast forward to the early '90s, when rabble rousing collections by designers like Anna Sui and Todd Oldham proudly showcased embroidery on vests, skirts and dresses in hippie-like motifs such as butterflies. These pretty-meets-punk collections marked a revival of the style, showcasing ways to wear embroidered clothing fusing bohemian and grunge aesthetics.
As an age old textile craft, embroidery is often incorporated into both couture and ready to wear collections. But the technique hit a high note for Spring/Summer '17, with several designers using artisanal designs in dramatic denim looks.
Runways were rife with a vintage inspired mood: Alice and Olivia featured a chambray pouf dress with delicate white flowers, along with low rise bells with a floral design creeping upward from its exaggerated flare. Alexander McQueen sent head-to-toe denim looks heavy in baroque-inspired flora embroidery down the runway, worn from coat to clog in an artfully distressed finished. Red Valentino’s denim offering featured a fluttering of butterflies on denim co-ords such as a bralette — another trending style for the season — worn with matching high waisted denim.
Though the embroidered denim trend is rooted in a '60s/'70s-era sensibility, wearing a heavily stitched jean piece need not read as retro. Choose pieces wisely, opting for versatile separates that can be worn with a simple, streamlined ensemble, adding just a touch of embroidered flair. Embroidered pieces that can transition through the seasons, like shirts and dresses, along with accessories like clutch bags, can be layered underneath sharp blazers or paired with a tonal ensemble for just a pop of color.
For those afraid of long-term commitment, an embroidered patch allows you to experiment with the trend now with the freedom to remove it later. Channeling the subversiveness of its '60s roots, embroidered patches can transform a relatively plain pair of jeans or a denim jacket into a subtly flamboyant, of the moment piece.
However, those partial to flora and fauna designs and wanting to push the boundaries may want to reach for one of the jackets from Alessandro Michele’s decorative Spring/Summer '17 collection for Gucci. There's a choice of tiger, bird and flower patterns, along with French phrases along the back of a shearling collared jacket. Styled with plaid, high waist trousers and Dr. Martens, you have the makings of a look that would make any '90s Seattle grunge fan proud.
Denim day and night
As a casual wardrobe staple, denim can be styled in a seemingly endless number of ways, ranging from sporty to slightly more tailored and put together. A pair of classic, straight-leg jeans with a rose-embroidered pocket easily team with a classic white shirt and a pair of punchy crimson footwear, drawing out the coloring of the stitching.
For an oversized, boyfriend denim jacket with an embellished back, a streamlined, midi pencil skirt or pair of trousers in a block color with sneakers might complete an off-duty look. Outfits featuring over the top, ethnic-inspired embroidery pair well with minimal accessories such as flat sandals, cross-body bags and a single statement cuff.
For dressier, after-dark occasions, there are two schools of thought: either opt for slightly more restrained embellishment, or alternatively, turn up the glamour with heavy, all-over embroidery in a classical baroque style. Look to Olivier Rousteing’s earliest collections as creative director for Balmain (Autumn/Winter ’12 in particular) for inspiration. Darker denim in deep marine or black in cropped and a-line skirt styles, and mini dresses and tunics benefitted from embroidered floral motifs nestled amongst rococo-style pearls and beading. Streamlined silhouettes offset the bulk of embroidery and were instantly evening appropriate when worn in micro lengths with ankle boots or with tailored separates such as an embroidered denim blazer with a slick, cropped leather trouser.
With embroidery having made such a strong, cyclical comeback, you can be sure that whatever ornate separate you choose to invest in will make a big impact this season and in the decades to come.