Crochet in Fashion

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on Jun 21, 2006 5:52 PM

As an admitted magazine junkie, I try to keep the sheer volume of glossy paper in my house down by tearing out and collecting “inspirational” images from back issues, recycling the rest. As a designer of crochet and editor of a crochet publication, I am always on the lookout for crochet ideas. It used to be that my file of knitted images far outweighed my file of crocheted images. In fact, there was such a dearth of crochet in fashion, home décor and art that I would tear out any image of crochet, like it or not, just because it was a novelty to see it.

Somewhere between Fall ’05 and Spring ’06 things changed. To my delight there is such a proliferation of crochet that I have to separate my files into categories. Walking through a major department store a couple of months ago I thought I was dreaming as signs next to numerous displays urged me to “Think Crochet”. Not since the crochet explosion of the late 1960s – early 1970s has crochet hooked everyone’s attention with such a fervor. Crochet is everywhere in fashion right now. This is such an exciting time for all of us devotees. It is as though the (fashion) world suddenly understands what we’ve known all along. Without looking very hard in stores, catalogs or magazines you can find everything from full garments to bags to jewelry to trims on shoes and boots to belts. What is driving this phenomenon? After enduring the “lumpy” and “granny” references for years, is it just a fluke, is it merely the cycle that fashion takes or is there something more to it?

To find the genesis of this latest trend it seems necessary to work backwards. First, let’s go back to Fall ’04, otherwise known as the season of the Return of the Poncho. How do you keep this potentially heavy garment from looking or feeling too heavy? Create it in an openwork fabric like crochet. Of course, the crocheted poncho got an unexpected boost the following spring when Martha Stewart appeared fresh from incarceration in her now-famous garment. In Spring ’05 the influential Italian designer Prada featured crochet in her collection. Besides a strong emphasis on garments, she featured some iconic accessories such as the raffia bucket hat. In my observation Prada has set many a fashion trend in recent years. What happens in her couture collections one season seems to influence many ready-to-wear collections of the next season.

Spring ’05 was also the beginning of the strong fashion presence of “Boho Chic” or “Hippie”. (I take personal issue with this terminology. It seems to take a meaningful movement and reduce it to a shallow fashion statement. However, I’m so glad to see these fashions back again I won’t complain.) This trend in fashion brought about a rediscovery of all types of embellishment: embroidery, beading, and of course crochet. With relative ease one can edge a simple tank top with a crocheted border and add a few flowers to transform it into a one-of-a-kind fashion statement. Thanks to the aforementioned poncho revival, accompanied by related garments like the shawl and wrap, traditional sweater shapes have been challenged and influenced. The shrug has become a new-again silhouette. In its simplest form the shrug is merely a glorified scarf or rectangle, modified to fit the body covering just the shoulders and upper arms. Some shrug shapes are more elaborate, becoming an abbreviated sweater while others resemble more of a cocoon, becoming almost voluminous in shape. Crochet lends itself beautifully to any of these shapes and with all the choices there is something to flatter every body type. While the shrug is more or less a vintage revival, the cardi-wrap, a combination shawl/sweater is totally new. Think of it as a wrap with sleeves. It drapes and flows but also stays on the body. Once again, crochet seems to be the perfect medium. Perhaps it’s the ability to use lighter weight yarns to make elaborate-looking fabrics with relative ease in a reasonable amount of time. Then again, perhaps the newer silhouettes allow us to view crochet in a way we haven’t seen it before.

As someone who came of age in the early 1970’s I have to remind myself that there are several generations after me who have never even considered crochet until now. For them it is opening up a whole new world of possibilities. While writing this article, I saw a segment on early morning television that considered “Granny Chic,” which of course included crochet. The reporter’s conclusion was that there is a certain degree of comfort in fashions inspired “out of the attic” but that an important element of the new look is to take these items and rework them in a new way. Maybe it’s best not to question why crochet has found its newest glory days but merely to revel in the moment, to keep finding new ways to show the beauty of crochet, be they traditional or unexpected, and make the moment last.

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