Carrie Bradshaw customises instinctively: a larger than life corsage on a plain dress, a thin patent belt over a wide-skirted coat. In every episode of SATC Carrie adds her own stamp to her outfit, ensuring that no other woman in Manhattan will be dressed quite like her.
From changing the buttons on a cardi, to transforming a pair of jeans into a denim skirt, I find customising is one of the easiest ways to inject va-va-voom into my wardrobe without splashing the cash. Here are my favourite customising clothes ideas – all really easy to do on a budget.
Buttons: It’s often the buttons that give away a cheap shirt –those little clear plastic numbers that populate every school shirt in the land. It’s time to move on, girl! Sewing gorgeous new buttons onto old clothes zazzes them up in an instant. At the Porte de Clignancourt fleamarket in Paris, I found a brilliant stall which lets you fill a plastic cup to the brim with buttons for five euros. Look what they’ve got! Little sweeties, aren’t they?
If you’re many miles from Paris, try your local charity shops – they often sell assorted bags of buttons for about £1. Sew ebony black or silver buttons on a white shirt, or add pearl or diamante ones to a black cardigan to lift it above the crowd.
Flowers: I add fabric flowers to coats, dresses, jackets and cardigans. Very Carrie, very chic – go as big as you dare, then go bigger.
Brooches: Brooches are sociable wee things: always happiest when clustered together, four or five at a time, on a plain cashmere jumper. They like to get around too – pinned on hats, scarves, belt loops, the knot of your favourite wrap dress. Cheap as chips in charity shops: it’s as if they were sent from heaven. Like the vintage brooch hairpiece that this funky lady is sporting? It’s just brooches glued onto haircombs! To see how to do it, head over to portovert
Double Up: A simple way to add interest to your wardrobe – and give you twice as many clothes – is to make your clothes multitask. I use scarves as belts – they look great threaded through the loops of your jeans – and sometimes wear jewelled, elasticated bracelets in your hair instead of hairbands. Clip-on earrings jazz up the neckline of a jersey and also look good clipped through the buttonholes of a cardigan.
Ribbon: Add bright ribbon to strapless dresses (try making the straps on each shoulder different colours), or tie some round the brim of a boring hat. Ribbon is great for trimming the necklines, cuffs and pockets of cardigans and spring coats too. When I sewed a broad strip of velvet ribbon down the outside seam of my jeans people kept asking me about them – as if I’d discovered some hot new designer brand.
Accessories: From scarves to necklaces to a new pair of sparkly socks worn with an old pair of heels, skint in the city girls know that accessories let us lead the style pack without breaking the bank. Hey, we might even create your own signature look, the way Carrie did with giant corsages, horseshoe necklaces and necklaces that spelt out her name. I try to think creatively about accessories: could those broken pieces of jewellery be threaded onto a pin to make an eye-catching brooch? Could that brooch, together with a few sequins, then jazz up last winter’s beanie hat?
Just changing the position of accessories can add a touch of originality. Do belt buckles always need to be centred when they’re looped through trousers? I like to buckle mine off to the side. Ditto brooches: in the penultimate episode of SATC, Carrie wears an enormous brooch on her coat, not on the lapel as you’d expect but right at her throat. The effect is dramatic and I remembered it long after I’d forgotten the details of the plot. That’s what skint-in-the-city girls are after too: maximum bang for minimum buck.
Be Bold: A coward dies a thousand fashion deaths – probably in a black trouser suit and a pair of court shoes. The skint in the city girl on the other hand, understands that even if she screws up and finds herself temporarily looking, as the SATC girls say, like ‘fashion roadkill’ well, at least she’s lived and learned. Don’t be afraid to take a risk: to sew that frill on your collar, to wear the hot pink tights instead of the brown. What’s the worst that can happen?
I love this customised skirt by Edinburgh-based Joey D, made from tweed with a leather belt sown on. It’s smart enough for the office, but tells them that they’ll never own your soul.