Fashion notes: How to achieve 3-D femininity

Embellishments are becoming more and more mainstream, and increasingly acceptable in ready-to-wear attire.

Floral prints are so yester­year. Escape the ordinary, and invest in fashion that has power, pizzazz and pretty, protruding elements. There was a time when floral appliqué work was limited to the realms of haute couture and bridal wear. That time has ended. Embellishments are becoming more and more mainstream, and increasingly acceptable in ready-to-wear ­attire.

Generally, there are three different looks that are possible to achieve with three-­dimensional flowers. The style can be dreamy and whimsical, elegant and sophisticated, or fresh and playful. ­Sarah ­Burton’s collection for ­Alexander McQueen spring/summer was Victorian-inspired, with lots of ruffles, lace and pastel shades. The light beige, blush pink and lilac tones provided the ideal bases for the pretty floral work, which – while being inspired by a past era – communicated an innovative, romantic message. “I wanted it to be believable, touchable, soft,” Burton is reported to have said backstage. Even the clog shoes worn with the looks showcased floral handwork.

No stranger to floral appliqué work, Giambattista Valli incorporated a fair bit of it in his spring/summer collection, particularly on white textiles. The result was flirty and feminine, but retaining the class and sophistication of a proper lady. A jacket-and-miniskirt ensemble was decorated with roses and vines on top of what appeared to be a raw tweed fabric, while a tailored white dress with long sleeves and princess shoulders featured a similar design.

The Dolce & Gabbana collection for this season flaunts a ton of floral embroidery and appliqués, atop of lace, net and silk textiles. But in my opinion, one of the most striking looks was a black capri trouser and blazer, which had bright floral patches pasted all over it. Some of the more adventurous designs, however, had beautiful appliqué work on striped sundresses, see-through chiffon skirts and gold brocade coats.

This is a trend you have to be careful with, because often, depending on the materials and colours used, the look can come across as cheap. I know I have been raving a lot about Gucci in recent weeks, but hey, I can’t help it – Gucci’s creative director ­Alessandro Michele is really doing it for me. And when his tiered, prairie-style dress depicting a pair of embroidered peacocks on the bodice, and spaghetti straps covered in large pink and purple flowers was walked down the runway last year, I oohed and aahed along with everybody else. But when we received the sample for our latest spring/summer fashion shoot, I got to see the flowers up close. And after touching them, I realised they were no more special than the budget-friendly versions available at craft stores.

While floral-adorned clothing is undoubtedly beautiful, it’s rarely affordable. Also, its trend appeal may be short-lived, and even if the item in question is of the best quality, hand embellishments are delicate and difficult to maintain. They can crumple, crack, unravel, fall off or stain with age. So less-­expensive accessories are a great alternative – a cute little box clutch or pair of new pumps can also be a great canvas for 3-D flowers. Just look at Fendi’s spring/summer accessories collection for inspiration.

And if you wear an abaya, note that some regional designers – check out 21 Technique (@21technique) and Raymos Collection @raymoscollection) on Instagram – have tuned in to the floral appliqué and embroidery trend, too, decorating sleeves, shoulders and shaylas with charming flower accents.