Embroidery is back, baby! (But did it ever leave?)

Amelia Rowland

Zara have fallen in love with embroidery like Leonardo Di Caprio fell in love with Claire Danes in Romeo and Juliet. 

They’ve embroidered shirts, bags, bomber jackets and culottes (remember when we went mental over wide leg trousers? We’re still getting over that). They’ve embroidered satin, denim and leather. Seemingly anything they can get their hands on, they've embellished the heck out of it. We won't beat around the bush - we're big fans. If we don't get these culottes, we'll likely shrivel up like a prune in fits of jealousy. 
So where did their inspiration come from? In true Zara style they’ve spun their own (more affordable) versions of the biggest designer trends from 2015/16. 

Gucci truly spearheaded the return of embroidery in their Fall/Winter 2015 collection. It was beautiful, feminine and also made a huge impact on the runway (featuring in editorials and fashion blogs for days and days and days and days). Their motifs were colourful birds, florals and insects. They were simply and effectively re-interpreting some of the most common and beautiful designs seen in historic embroidered textiles. After all, embroidery has been used throughout history to distinguish a luxury textile - something the Gucci brand can relate to. 

Embroidered textiles were primarily owned and commissioned by the wealthiest members of Medieval society, and were often donated to the Church. It was also a fine art in Medieval Islamic society, and as well as being popular for wealthier patrons it adorned many textiles. This ranged from slippers, horse covers, tunics to handkerchiefs. To learn more about English embroidery and to see some beautiful examples - we’ve found you a neat overview here

The embroidered designs seen in Gucci’s Fall/Winter 15 pieces are perhaps most similar to the secular embroidery seen in Tudor examples. Workshops and independent needleworkers were stitching their designs on all kinds of accessories and home textiles including: cushions, rugs, sleeves, handkerchiefs, shoes and gloves. The designs of embroidered textiles at this time not only had pattern books to work from, but also looked to contemporary scientific and botanical texts. These texts detailed and illustrated some of the most exotic and romanticised flora/fauna of the time - and captured the imagination.

Flash forward to the present and Gucci continue to be inspired by nature in their embroidered denim range fresh for pre-fall 2016. However their aesthetic couldn’t be any further from the Tudor references. This range features pieces for both men and women, and worn by nearly any celebrity you can think of (Rihanna, Florence Welch, Beyonce AND BLUE IVY, to name but a few). They’ve also got a decidedly 70’s influence - the flora and fauna motifs are less romantic and delicate, and no longer looking as if they have naturally blossomed from the satin or wool. These appliques are bolder and more stylised - but still insanely beautiful in their own right. 

We’re also seeing brands other than Zara taking inspiration from this embroidered denim styling. Some are just fixating on applique patches - for a great guide to making your own, check out this Refinery 29 DIY. Or like me, you might ride the obsession train to the embroidered denim skirt station - with cheaper pieces by ASOS, Glamorous and Alice & You. I may have had to buy one as soon as I finished writing this… FOR RESEARCH OF COURSE. Take a guess at which one I bought in the comments section, I dare you ;)
As embroidery is being reworked into contemporary styling, let’s all unanimously put our hands together and pray that some designs are left to rest peacefully in the 70’s - I’m looking at you patchwork denim.

Endnote: Whilst editing this post Susan left me this annoyingly cute note: “I don’t know how to break this to you… http://fashionista.com/2015/09/spring-2016-trends-patchwork “ Well congratulations fashion, you’ve really hurt my feelings.