Do you use trimmings in your sewing projects?

If I am truthful I have always had a bit of penchant for plain, classical looks.

A nice, fitted navy jacket, some unbranded denim jeans, a plain white shirt, a classic dark brown leather belt with an unobtrusive buckle.  These models look amazing because they have great figures, luscious hair, and sunglasses. But if you are ordinary-looking sometimes, if everything  you wear is quiet and understated, you can feel a bit underdressed; even a little boring. Most days I add a scarf, brooch and colourful belt to my outfit. I like to wear more than two colours. So you could say I was open to the idea of trimmings.

But I was absolutely not the type of person who stalks the outdoor markets, picking up a bit of froo-froo binding, some tinselly trim or yards of rickrack. Shops like this seem a bit, you know, naff, bordering on crazy-cat-lady.  I suppose with accessories you can always take them off, while trimmings are, effectively, for life, not just for Christmas.

Using trim in sewing
Bury Market

In my case, it started in a small way. Using patterns from the past I would read a requirement, under “notions”, for “purchased trim”, “novelty edging”, and “contrast binding”. I like to follow the instructions, so found myself, last December, with a YSL pattern that needed some bling. I found a market stall in the North of England that could help me procure some “silver trim”.

Vogue1897 YSL dress
Vogue1897 YSL dress

Darleen from Greens had so much choice! At least  20 or more versions of silver trim, before we start on the other colours. The overhead cost of such stupendous choice must be low at Bury market, with the sad green button-eyed clown. Or possibly the people of Lancashire use more trim, buttons and zips than I had realised.

I examined the shiny edgings that Darleen pulled off shelves and out of drawers  – thin, thick, shiny, dull, hard, soft, sparkly and OTT or simple bias binding. The thing that struck me was that many of these trimmings had a vintage feel. Maybe because trimmings are not open to ravages of fashion in the same way as other items. Perhaps once designed that is it – the manufacturer (now in China or India, probably) continues to produce a specific design as long as someone keeps buying it.  I felt, as I handled the silver trims, that several of them were just perfect for a 1960s dress.

In fact the same thought occurred to me about with my vintage turquoise beaded trim. Probably the dress it had been sewn on to long ago looked very date. So while the dress was discarded the trim survived, (and was handed on to a charity shop which is where I acquired it).  I imagine someone decoupled the trim from an evening or bridesmaid’s dress;  perhaps someone who felt the beaded trim had not dated and could be recycled.

Using trimmings in clothesmaking
Turquoise 1960s trimings


My other source of trimming, egged on by naughty Demented Fairy, was to investigate the output of the sub-continent. For my Pucci pant suit I used a piece of “vintage Sari border trim” that was sent to me (post free) from Delhi. What a delight that turned out to be. I love this “product” so much – with its vibrant colours, hand stitched edges, embroidery and bead work. Hours of delicate work are invested in each £3.50 yard. These trims also have mitred corners which I incorporated into the neck of my tunic. You could order a few, which together would  make a unique evening handbag. But I really want to apply them to something plain, like a white T shirt, or the pockets of a simple navy skirt, for example. I also investigated other trims – specially shaped neckline inserts in lace for example, and even “silk” flowers.

Recently I have aquired some really sensational silk trims that are so gorgeous that they need a garment – even a hat or bag – to support them. The first two pictures are of a skirt panel I got from the School of Embroidery. It is a old Chinese handmade, pleated skirt panel, with quite a lot of damage. I will have to be careful how I use this.

The second one is vintage sari border trim and is of amazing quality and colour. The little flowers stand proud. Like my previous piece I am pleased to report that the trimming washed just fine in the washing machine (cool, silk wash). This border is even more exciting than the one I used on the Pucci pant suit – I tried it against some lemon silk and it looks amazing. The second picture shows just how much work goes into these items.

How about you? Are you the classic, unadorned type, or do you like a bit of bling? Do you use trimmings with your stitchery? If so, do you have any tips or suggestions? Specifically Mags of Mags Creative Meanderings asks if we have any suggestions for suppliers of trim for a Chanel jacket, or the Chanel type chain?

15 Responses

  1. Marianne Koster

    This subject has been on my mind for several weeks now, Kate! In my younger days I always went for the Italian style classic look. Like you describe, the navy fitted jacket on jeans. a nice watch, quality heels and handbag and ready to go. What looked ‘effortless chic’ then now suddenly looks like I didn’t make an effort! I’m experimenting with colour and accessories but so far I have not been succesfull with trims. In fact, I’m stuck with a Chanel style jacket for over a year now because I cannot decide on the trim. So I can’t help Mags on that issue, but am very interested in the tips and suggestions! Susan Khalje is selling chains in her webshop. I don’t know about the UK, but in the Netherlands some jewellers are selling what looks like the same quality chain per meter.

  2. Anne Frances

    My first recourse for trims -braid, chain, etc – would be Barnett and Lawson ( It doesn’t look like a shop from the street level, but you can walk in and buy retail and they have lots. For more “bling-y” trims I would try New Trimmings ( in Great Titchfield St. I doubt if either compete with the shop in Bury Market which I saw when I was there at Christmas time, but they are I think the most promising sources in London.

  3. Mary Funt

    I use trims but mine are usually not the bling-type. I agree that finding quality trimming can be difficult. Much of what is available is too heavy and stiff for garments. Having altered many, many Chanel jackets I’ve had an opportunity to see and feel what the trims are like. Chanel uses light, flexible trim which doesn’t affect the drape of the jacket. Many are made from unweaving the jacket fabric and using the yarns in varying proportions to complement the fabric. I sympathize with Mags on the difficulty of finding something appropriate. My best ever trim haul was from Janssens and Janssens in Paris; closer to London than NY! For the chain, Toho Shoji in NYC has a website and they do mail order. They have a vast selection of colors and weights.
    The craftsmanship in your vintage trim is amazing. I would think they would need to be removed when the garment was cleaned. The turquoise trim is gorgeous; thankfully someone had the sense to save it.

  4. Stephanie

    This is a very interesting question, Kate. I definitely fall into the “classic, unadorned” camp. I’ve always loved the clean, classic or gamine look of an Audrey Hepburn, say. But I take your point about getting older and taking some risks in complementing the look with some “garnish.” It’s worth thinking about. I know a couple of chic Italians who aren’t classically beautiful but who accessorize simple outfits with interesting pieces of jewellery (often quite large and bold), etc., and end up with a striking look. That said, last weekend Gianni and I were out for lunch and I saw an older woman (70s I would say) who looked amazing. She was wearing a beautiful Aran-style sweater in a dark blue, with good slim jeans and boots and her silver hair pulled back. I don’t recall any accessories or jewellery. She looked so chic and sharp and definitely turned my head. I guess it must depend on the person’s colours, shape, etc.

  5. QPlourde

    I never like too much flash, however I do feel like I need to step up my game and experiment with some trimmings. I’m feeling my stuff is getting too boring and straightforward and maybe adding a little something would make it more my own and original. Just a little though 🙂 Those silk trims are really fabulous.

  6. Karine

    I like the idea of the trim needing a garment, and not the opposite !

    Because of your beautiful pink dress and its silver trims, I’ve spent some time on Etsy recently, and found this shop : I haven’t bought anything yet but added a few trims on my wishlist !
    I’d say that the first reason why I haven’t used them till now, is because I mainly sew fabrics with prints.

  7. jay

    I tend to the plain jane look, but can’t resist at least buying a beautiful trim and kidding myself I’ll use it. I wouldn’t be able to walk away from your border trims. Chanel had a lot of trims woven from the yarns of the fabric, I’ve tried a poor imitation of that both by using the fabric yarns with others couched down to make a braid and with other yarns in crochet trims. I’ve never fallen on a commercial trim for a Chanel jacket that has really hit the spot, but my area of search has been limited. The trim on these jackets makes them – a cheap looking trim can waste all your effort.

  8. Bunny

    I generally go for designs that are more classic and a white shirt and jeans ensemble is my favorite. I do like to accessorize with art type jewelry, some that I make. Since I also enjoy surface design and try to use that frequently in my projects, additional trims are just too much. If I use a trim, it needs to be fairly simple, like an entredeaux or bias strip but I don’t do that very often. Despite my dressing a little less embellished, I adore trims and have quite a stash. Some I inherited and some I’ve been given by folks cleaning out their Mom’s stash and such. I thouroughly enjoy organizing, touching and just appreciating them for the beauties they are. But my personal style is really simpler with the only extra usually an art piece of jewelry.

  9. Mags

    Thanks for the call out. I found a rather strange combination of the trim with the chain in it on etsy, but still no luck. I’m happy to pay the postage from the USA but it’s the customs which is crippling. I bought some wool recently from the states and the delivery firm charged an extra £32!

    • fabrickated

      Thanks so much for your link. The photograph and story are so charming. I will have to give it a try on my next visit there. I am so pleased that Stephanie of my vintage inspiration is also interesting on Italian shopping. Like her I find BlogSpot so difficult so can’t actually comment on your post.

  10. Ameliawilliams

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful post. Really I appreciate the way you have designed the dress. If you want your clothing to make you stand out from the rest then you should definitely try trims. Honestly, if there are no trims, your clothes my look flat and boring. Trims And Buttons by abm fashion are very useful to make the dress beautiful. Keep blogging like this.

Leave a Reply