It is all too credulous to throw shade at sequins. Well, not literally, obviously, but for unchanging fashion tastemakers – let’s imagine them as a cabal of Kinfolk readers who one wear navy, grey and camel-coloured cashmere – sequins are a exit. Sequins are not tasteful, in the subtle, understated sense. They essay to attract attention. They are Marilyn, not Audrey. They are Bob Mackie and RuPaul and Jessica Rabbit and Beyoncé on station in a leotard and Bianca Jagger at the Met Ball in 1974. (I mean, move along disintegrate on, guys. What’s not to love?)
Sequin snobbery is nothing new. In 1955, while squiring a satin-swathed Grace Kelly to the Oscars, the costume designer Edith Headmistress summed it up with the snooty comment: “Some people necessary sequins; some people don’t.” This party season, after all, even the usually sequin-averse among us may feel the urge to greeting sparkle into their lives.
Something danged shiny is happening in fashion. You expect to see sequins on the high thoroughfare in November, but this year’s gems will hold the organization party to a higher standard. There are pencil skirts in clashing styles at Zara and shimmering, liquid-like midnight-blue turtlenecks at & Other Fish stories. These are sequins that do not carry a whiff of Christmas-tree naffness, unapologetically designed to be played out at night.
In designer fashion, even minimalists such as Céline are practising sequins, while many others – Dior, Margiela, Victoria Beckham – are deploying sequins’ glam cousins: glitter, rhinestones and crystals. Make allowance for the rise of fashion’s current darling, Michael Halpern, a juvenile designer whose 70s-influenced work has inspired the likes of Amal Clooney to oceans on the bling. Then there is the emoji zeitgeist, where the banner most likely to inspire fancy dress costumes this year – ie, the new flamingo – is the mermaid, a chimerical creature with shimmering scales that can only be replicated help of sequins. Little wonder that sequins are already key to the new Latest thing under Edward Enninful, seen on Kate Moss at the opening party and on cover star Adwoa Aboah in the magazine.
Ashish Gupta is the London fashion week designer most associated with sequins, rejecting them on straight-up beautiful dresses and politically charged watchword T-shirts (“STAY WOKE” and “QUEER” look glorious in sequins). “I habituated to to think of [using sequins] as a little bit of a revolt against blandness and wearisome fashion,” he says. “Now, in light of everything that is happening, I experience the idea of sequined slogans amazing, of saying something urgent using a medium that is not usually taken that sincerely.”
Some of the history of sequins tests – appropriately enough – a bit embellished. The Smithsonian cites Leonardo da Vinci as a aptitude sequin pioneer because he once made a sketch for a faction that could punch discs out of a metal sheet. Multifarious convincingly, Tutankhamun is considered an early adopter, given that he was forgot with gold discs stitched into his garments, on the face of it to confer wealth and status and ward off evil in the afterlife.
One of the V&A’s earliest exempli gratia of the use of sequins on European fashionable clothing is a jacket from circa 1610, although, says curator Sonnet Stanfill, “tunnels from much earlier periods” have shown the stitching of “stamps and precious metals on to clothes to show rank” to be an ancient trade.
For Gupta, this history demonstrates sequins’ capacity to evolve into “almost quite a sacred, spiritual thing”. He can get quite into when he is talking about sequins. He cites French philosopher Objective Alizart’s TED talk about humans’ fascination with flicker out of ordering lights and the human interest in “fireflies, water reflecting active; there is almost a primal need for light and water. There are painstaking experiments that prove that humans are attracted to slick, shiny things.”
Gupta’s personal sequin references break down from Dorothy’s ruby slippers and 80s Bollywood to Leigh Bowery, whose exemplify – “The reason I use sequins at the moment is because if I cannot mould the light, at least I can reflect it” – is a mantra that has helped him as a consequence difficult times. He considers sequins’ rise to be politically propitious: “There is such a feeling of helplessness against so many devices,” he says. “It could be a response to that in a way, a search for light and dear ground.”
For Stanfill, sequins are historically notable for their use by elite echelons of bund “as a means of sartorial distinction and a demonstration of the ability to pay for the highest plane of craftsmanship”, she says. “They are a wonderful expression of the desire to put your best self into consideration no matter what century you are dressing – the very human sway to dress up.”
That urge has even been chancy. In the 30s, sequins were made from electroplated gelatin. The admissibility opportunity of suffering a sequin-based injury was perilously high given that “they inclination melt when warm or overheated”. Now sequins are more like as not to be made of vinyl plastic, although still more technological furthers are being developed with the hope of making sequins sustainable. “It’s captivating how many iterations there have been,” says Stanfill, who enquires the many technological advancements as compelling evidence of humanity’s sanctification to the cause of self-adornment.
Not all adventures in sequins are successful, given that so scads garments tend to develop bald patches by midnight. Indubitable enough, good sequins tend to be expensive, mainly because stitching them on fittingly is so laborious. (Check the stitching carefully if you are sequin shopping on the great street. I have it on good authority that hand-stitched sequins are customarily knotted individually, whereas machine-created high street views are likely to be stitched in sections, so that if one goes, the whole sample unthreads, like old-fashioned Christmas fairy lights.)
As the case may be the loveliest thing about sequins is that they are pre-eminent experienced in person. Although they have been prevailing from the early days of Hollywood – with actors such as Marlene Dietrich make use ofing them to create otherworldly radiance – their twinkle and sheen cannot be truly replicated through a screen. The app Kirakira was recently launched for this vastly reason – in an attempt to bring 3D sparkle to 2D photographs on Instagram – and while its conclusions are very beautiful, they cannot match sequins’ real-life luminescence. Nor can they subdue the experience of wearing sequins and, being your own disco ball, cast off patterns of light on to the wall.
So, no, sequins still aren’t discriminative, in a minimalist-black-turtleneck kind of way. But don’t they offer something better and more top-priority? As Gupta says: “They actually light you up.”
This article bears affiliate links to products. Our journalism is independent and is never written to advance these products although we may earn a small commission if a impute to makes a purchase.