Though the exact origins of embroidery are technically unknown--it's an extremely ancient art, that we're certain of--your WWW editors are positive about one thing: this elaborate stitching is making a triumphantly cool comeback! No longer the stuff of grandma's craft projects and Renaissance Faire costumes, embroidery is shedding its delicate and girly associations for a more rock-bohemian look. Whether it's embellishing leather outerwear, fringed bed jackets, or lovely sequined pieces, we can't help but admire how industry insiders like Kirsten Dunst and Jen Brill are addressing these ornate designs!
While we typically see embroidery on dresses and tops, we find that this decorative stitching is even more interesting when emblazoned on a tough-luxe piece like a leather jacket. The contrast of the feminine and colorful detailing against the hardworking fabric makes for an unexpected, yet visually intriguing, outerwear option. Just take, for example, the memorable ensemble Jen Brill put together a few months ago. The Chanel ambassador turned heads at the 6th Annual Chanel Tribeca Film Festival Dinner in New York when she paired a black lace Chanel dress with a Christopher Kane floral embroidered leather jacket from the designer's F/W 10 collection. The jacket balances the provocative nature of the see-through frock, giving the overall ensemble a surprisingly ladylike finish. Model Dorothea Barth Jorgensen went for a similar downtown-lady look, albeit via a daring peek-a-boo dress, when she was running between shows during New York Fashion Week earlier this year. The Swedish stunner selected a different Christopher Kane jacket (also from the F/W 10 collection), and juxtaposed its cool-girl vibe with a silky nude frock.
Another excellent canvas for these intricate designs is a shawl or bed jacket. As demonstrated by Angela Lindvall and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the colorful embroidery further accentuates the bohemian vibe of these pieces, ultimately lending itself to a cool, Stevie Nicks-esque look. At a Chanel party benefiting the Natural Resources Defense Council's Oceans Initiative in Malibu last month, Lindvall caught our eye with a floor-grazing fringed shawl--a gift given to her by Karl Lagerfeld. To keep the spotlight on the stunning embroidered piece, which featured a wonderfully vibrant floral design, the model/actress opted for basic neutral separates, including a Nightcap t-shirt, Chanel skirt, and vintage hat. Two months earlier in Malibu, we spotted Huntington-Whiteley wearing an embroidered bed jacket with a sheer tank, leather pants, and suede boots. We were particularly pleased by the combination of the flowy jacket and slouchy boots, which gave the outfit a bit of that boho-redux look we've been seeing lately.
Traditional needle and thread embroidery is certainly beautiful and eye-catching, but if you really want to make a statement this season, we recommend going for sequin-embroidered clothing a la Kirsten Dunst and handbag designer Sara Battaglia. Both ladies elevated their after-dark looks with ornately crafted and shimmering pieces, and the results were quite luxurious and memorable. Dunst captivated crowds at the 2011 Met Gala two months ago in a dazzling Chanel dress from the F/W 10 collection with Valentino heels, while Battaglia impressed at a Swarovski Fashionation event in Milan last month in a vintage Yves Saint Laurent sequined jacket. Note you can go one of two ways when styling such elaborate clothing: if you opt for a dress, follow Dunst's lead and keep your accessories minimal to avoid a look that is too busy, however, if choose a smaller article of clothing, feel free to punch up your outfit with a statement bag or earrings like Battaglia.
Now that you're familiar with some on-point ways to wear embroidery, it's time to talk products--and we've got a pretty thrilling selection you don't want to miss! While tracking down an embroidered leather jacket may prove challenging at this time of year, we'd like to direct you to a killer denim version, specifically Roxy's Bonfire Spirit Icon Jacket ($80). It features a few different embroidered designs, which are quite cool, and the light wash is a great choice for summer. If you're more of a bohemian girl, we've got some stellar options for you as well! Free People's Embroidered Flora Pullover ($128) will turn heads thanks to its bright red hue, and would look amazing worn over a bathing suit or with a pair of denim cutoffs. We also appreciate Shakuhachi's Embroidered Lace Kimono ($148), Topshop's Black Embroidered Kimono ($109), and ASOS Curve's Embroidered Shoulder Bed Jacket ($78), all of which are excellent throw-on-and-go pieces. When it comes to decoratively-stitched dresses, Motel's Beth Embroidered Shoulder Dress ($43)--the pop of turquoise makes it a standout pick--and Modcloth's Midnight Del Mar Dress ($110) are currently topping our lists. For those of you hoping to snag something with a little more pizzaz, be sure to check out French Connection's Garden Beads Strapless Dress ($180) and Aidan Mattox's Sequin-Detail Blouson Dress ($395); their shimmering designs are sure to make a lasting impression at your next soiree.--Jessica Baker
Photo of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, courtesy of Bauer Griffin; Photo of Sara Battaglia, courtesy of Getty; Photo of Jen Brill, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency; Photo of Dorothea Barth Jorgensen, courtesy of Imax Tree