Set any preconceptions about crochet being traditional or twee to one side: a new summer staple has moved out of the haberdashery, and innovative ways to wear crochet are being weaved.
The fabric with a folk aesthetic appeared on the catwalk several times for SS16, including in intricate, armour-inspired patterned dresses at Balmain. However, it also has a lengthy history in high fashion, having been utilised sporadically by luxury labels over the course of decades. In turn, discovering alternative ways to wear crochet has become easier over time.
Crochet has long been associated with homemaking, but it received an update during the ‘20s when the cloche and evening gown were the height of style. The crochet hat merged the era’s heady fashions with a homespun element, in a nod to the post-war austerity the decade was desperate to shake off.
Flash forward to the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the weaved material was given a stylish twist by the likes of Twiggy and Sophia Loren. Twiggy sported crochet shifts in monochromes and nudes that hung off the model's slight frame; a look so iconic it has now been recreated by Spell & the Gypsy Collective for Autumn 2016. The bohemian Australian brand's tea-stained crochet dress is named after the illustrious ‘60s supermodel, but it puts a sultrier spin on the designs she wore with a lower neckline and a tighter, shorter fit.
Even Clint Eastwood donned the ‘granny square’ – a classic from the crochet patterns catalogues – in the 1969 Western musical Paint Your Wagon. Janis Joplin also popularised the crochet vest during the same era, elevating the craft from beside-the-hearth comfort by slipping it on over flares and adding reams of beaded necklaces.
Crochet on the Catwalk
While the fabric largely fell out of favour after the ‘70s, Christopher Kane brought it back in 2011 with his Autumn ready-to-wear collection, working granny squares galore into crochet tops and dresses. These chunky knits were trimmed with undulating plastic casing filled with liquid in acid tones, offering a futuristic take on traditional hand-woven blankets.
In a cosmic – and entirely accidental – meeting of minds, House of Holland embraced crochet in its loudest guise for the same season. The label looped clashing colours together, setting them against a harsh black background on floor-length scarves and dresses.
Five years into the future and crochet experienced a reboot in 2016, gracing the catwalks in delicate designs with a hint of the sultrier side of the ‘70s. Contemporary crochet veers away from its nostalgic yet fusty overtones, and has even become appropriate as eveningwear. New designs are also appearing in bold colours, such as in Tommy Hilfiger’s ‘Island Life’ collection for SS16.
Hilfiger himself, a regular visitor to Mustique in St Vincent and the Grenadines, injected the island’s vibrancy into his youthful outfits. The designer took a casual look at crochet, showcasing it in tropical tones and Caribbean-inspired prints. The collection brimmed with thick-knit bucket hats in sunshine shades, along with crochet dresses, bikinis and tops. Crochet insets ran down the sides and arms of Hilfiger’s signature football tracksuit in burgundy suede.
Gigi Hadid, who featured in Hilfiger's ‘Island Life’, seemed to be referencing the show earlier in 2016 when she appeared in a classic granny square calf-skimming cardigan in New York City. The Rosetta Getty item and matching scarf had a distinctly urban edge, while the model’s simple sleek ponytail, skinny jeans and round sunglasses imbued her ensemble with a sense of effortless chic.
Rosetta Getty breathed vigour into crochet with this cardigan, veering away from its traditional grandmotherly association by focusing on monochrome shades and nudes with a retro mod feel. Proenza Schouler has also taken the much-loved craft material in a new direction. Unorthodoxically, it went autumnal for Resort 2016 with calf-length crochet dresses featuring flared sleeves in black and earthy tones.
Off the catwalk, models adorned themselves in the fabric for events such as Coachella in 2016. Alessandra Ambrosio and her group of friends upped the ante on squad goals by appearing at the Californian festival in contrasting crochet outfits. The Brazilian supermodel opted for a cut-out crochet dress with a hi-lo hem, which would have been far more fashion forward had she not matched it with a Coachella cliché: cowboy boots.
As crochet in its latest iterations has proven, the handicraft can embody casual cool or be worn for the evening. Yet one thing modern crochet isn't, is dated. This is a trend that continues to reinvent itself decade after decade, sparking new ways to wear crochet.