How to wear embroidery without looking like a hankie

Photo: Getty Images

On a recent shopping trip, Stacey Duguid fell in love with a needlework jacket and a folksy shirt. A bit Heidi (but in a good way), here’s how to wear it 

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By Stacey Duguid on

My kids love Heidi, as in the classic fictional novel based on a girl who lives in the Swiss mountains with her grandfather. I don’t recall reading the (pretty bloody spooky) book as a child, but I do remember the 80s TV series in which Heidi wore a series of really cool embroidered bodice dresses. Of course I remember the dress, not the book.

If you ever fancied doing an impression of Heidi, now’s the time – it’s all gone a bit "folk" on the high street, folks. Pop to Zara today and you’ll find everything, from twee needlework flowers (just like Granny has on her hankie) to totally bonkers embroidered OMGs and LOLs on denim jackets and jeans. Why? Why wear emojis on clothes? How did this happen? 

The thought of folky embroidery may have you running for the hills, but bear with me, caller. At some point late last summer, I bought a black velvet jacket covered in bright embroidery from Zara, and I still love it. It works over thin tops AND over jumpers. It looks more expensive than it was and it’s basically what us fashion folks call “a trophy jacket”. (But I bought it because I loved it, not because it was “in”.) Even so, I didn’t expect to wear it as often as I have, proof that high-street embroidery needn’t be a one-hit wonder, unless, of course, you’re talking jeans covered in hashtags and WTF patches. As in what the actual fuck? 

Every shop on the high street has something embroidered, but how you wear it without looking like a pair of Laura Ashley curtains circa 1978 (or Heidi) is a question you may ask yourself. 

When I went to Zara last week, I saw women of all ages carrying bundles of embroidered dresses, flouncy tops and silky embroidered jackets to the fitting rooms

Not head to toe, for starters, unless it’s an embroidered midi dress, in which case wear it bare-legged with ankle boots, sandals or white trainers. Wear one patterned thing and break it up with simple stuff, like white or pale blue skirts, T-shirts etc. Or pick one colour from your embroidered skirt and wear that on your top half. If you go to a formal office, throw an embroidered bag over your shoulder. Or, if that’s a total no-go (bear with me, for I’ve never worked in a formal office), how about teeny-weeny bits of embroidery on a smartish blouse? 

Plait your hair, grab your lederhosen? No, please, God, no. Add one or two pieces to your wardrobe and mix in with denim or tailoring? Yes! And I’ll take the pale blue embroidered shirt to wear with dark denim flares, and maybe an embroidered clutch bag to jazz up a pub outfit at the weekend. 

The explosion of embroidery on the high street feels like the antithesis of the austere minimalist aesthetic that’s dominated the shops for so long (thanks to Phoebe Philo of French fashion house Céline). And when I went to Zara last week, I saw women of all ages carrying bundles of embroidered dresses, flouncy tops and silky embroidered jackets to the fitting rooms. Proof girls and women just want to have fun when it comes to fashion? I reckon. 

If you worry about ageing two decades in an embroidered top or dress, do what I did and buy a little throw-on jacket to wear with jeans. I mean honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? Apart from maybe, “Oi, Heidi” and, “Wearing your nan's tablecloth, love?” 

Click here for the non-hankie embroidery edit


Photo: Getty Images
Tagged in:
fashion honestly
shopping fix
Stacey Duguid

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