It's funny how some fashion motifs stand the test of time. Case in point is Elsa Schiaparelli's trompe l'oeil bow, which looked like an outstretched butterfly on the front of her sweater collection in 1927.
The Italian designer, whom Coco Chanel scathingly dismissed as "that Italian artist who make dresses", was a true innovator with an incredible eye for detail.
Many fashion techniques are about deceiving the eye, and Schiaparelli's idea was to make the bow look like a scarf tied around your neck.
It was, in effect, in-built accessorising, and her concept has lasted nine decades, adding a couturier polish to everyday looks.
Homage to Schiaparelli's bow concept features in an exciting, new affordable 'posh' collection from Penneys, which hits shop rails today. We have an exclusive preview of the pieces, which cost from €17 to €25.
Penneys is one of few brands to see its market share grow in current trading conditions. But in this new initiative, they are introducing a more fashion-forward collection, using more expensive fabrics.
Limited Edition is, as its name suggests, less mass market, and the prices are slightly higher than we have seen at Penneys before. The fifth collection to emerge from the Limited Edition design team features five strong pieces that shout simplicity and luxury.
Colours hover around a narrow but expensive-looking palette of nudes, blush peach and mushroom, and these clothes are available from a number of Penneys stores, including Dublin shops at Mary Street, Blanchardstown, Dundrum, O'Connell Street and Swords. Around the country, you will find them in Penneys stores in Galway city, Newbridge and Wilton in Cork.
My absolute crush from the shoot, which we did around the streets of Dublin, was the blush-peach smock top with Peter Pan collar. I loved everything about it, from the luminosity of the subtle shade -- so very good with pale Irish complexions -- to the quality and drape of the fabric. Just look at the pretty sleeve, how it bellows out into a gentle flourish and drape before it is gathered in with a narrow black cuff.
It's all of these little touches that make this €17 smock top all the more desirable. It would look equally divine with a shorts/tights combo or with cropped capris, such as the ones we used for our shoot.
And what about those fabulous tan leather brogues with beige linen insets for €13? They are from Penneys' mainline collection. Park any reservations you may have about brogues being for men. Directional Irish designer Simone Rocha was way ahead of her time when she wore men's brogues five years ago and now look at all of us copying her. (See overleaf for well-priced brogues.)
Apart from being very comfortable flats, they look great with a wide range of looks, from shorts and skirts to flowy dress and wide-legged palazzo trousers. You can totally ham it up with a golfing chic look (à la Jordan Baker in 'The Great Gatsby') or give them a young, girly feel with playsuits.
The Schiaparelli-style bow features in the mushroom chiffon top, also €17, and we teamed it with silky-feel shorts, which will hit Penneys stores in May.
It's the little details on the mushroom dress that make it look so much more expensive than €25, such as the black-trimmed scalloped collar. I was particularly impressed by the generous use and cut of fabric in the sleeves, which fall softly and in a really feminine way, before they are nipped in with a black cuff that matches the bow.
The silk-feel peach dress with butterfly print features a black collar and bow and gently tailored short sleeve; a pretty buy for €25.
Doing the Penneys shoot, I quickly rekindled my summer passion for baskets. Oh, how I love deep rattan baskets into which you can stuff a world of things -- especially Romy, my miniature Yorkshire terrier who adores promenading around town, her oh-so-cute face peeping out of my basket from Antibes, which is on its last legs.
Saturday afternoons in the market town are especially fun if you take a pew with an espresso to watch all the wedding parties disappearing into the town hall. Later, take a trip to the basket shop for a holiday bag in which to carry your baguette in the morning and beach wear in the afternoon.
Closer to home, I discovered similar great buys at New Look, Debenhams and Next. Check them out.