Smocking /Ààsm…ík…™≈ã/
noun
 [mass noun]
decoration on a garment created by gathering a section of the material into tight pleats and holding them together with parallel stitches in an ornamental pattern.

There are some words that give me sheer unadulterated blips of joy when I roll it off my tongue and "smocking" is one of them.  It's partially to do with what "smocking" actually physically produces, as seen in this Rue du Mail S/S 12 dress, which I've hugely enjoyed wearing, just so that I can say "This is a smocked dress."  It's also to do with the word itself.  There's the association of kinkiness – smocking rhyming with stocking.  Then again, it could be repressed kinkiness, as seen in the heavy smocked garments of Medieval yesteryear.  Either way, it's all good when it comes to the gathering of fabric with intricate stitches hlding them in place.  

Rue du Mail's dress here, which features tight pleating with rows of ornamental stitching in the shoulders and a criss-cross pattern running down the bodice in a looser formation, is by far the most beautiful example of smocking I have in my possession.  Excuse me whilst I get this pun off my chest, but it's smocking hot.  There are precarious moments within the stitching where threads look like they could come loose and the frock might become duly unsmocked but I've been keeping a beady eye on it to ensure that it's smocking goodness is in ship-shape order.      

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(Photo from Couture Caddy)

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A preoccupation with surface detailing has of course always been key to Martine Sitbon's work at label Rue du Mail and so experimenting with this age-old technique and adding contemporary twists and turns to it shouldn't come as a surprise.  S/S 12 was stuffed full of delicious moments where exposed thread and fraying edges are tactile positives rather than flaws.  

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The smocking developed into criss-cross gathers of fabric for A/W 12-3 and the appearance of smocking was also mocked up (mock-smock?) in instances of complex embroidery.  Smocking aside, Sitbon also takes the amateur string art we all did when we were five and applies that to a real garment with lengths of yarn looping in vertical lines, forming blocks of embroidery on top of sheer black tulle.  Sitbon's skilled hand in fabric manipulation needs to be appreciated on a regular basis and thankfully, I've got just the right bit of smocking in my possession to do so.  

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Comments (27)

  1. Elisa Eymery says:

    “Robes a smock” used to be for posh, nice little girls when I was a child in Paris, and as such my mother loved them and my friends would find me so uncool for wearing them. But things have changed. The girls are now probably wearing boring polyester black office trousers, and I’m thanking my mum for giving me an appreciation of smocking! Your navy is dress is so cool.
    Elisa
    Wandering Minds fashion
    http://ourwanderingminds.com

  2. Malena says:

    Wow, looks like some great fabrics :)
    - Malena
    http://www.fashioncontainer.com

  3. Tian says:

    Great post, it looks amazing! The entire collection looks stunning.
    http://aspiringforever.blogspot.com

  4. Beautiful, the last one is my favorite
    http://www.liligabbiano.com/

  5. jean cave says:

    I am off to do a smock project on my over-apron type thingy I am making.(For Ziggs)
    Brilliant timing just when I need some additional inspiration.
    Takes time of course but I have plenty at the moment and the weather in Cornwall is stormy as hell . . ..

  6. Duck says:

    Smocking, definitely a J’ADORE word

  7. Hi Susie!!it’s an amzing collection;)
    and difficult to realize i think;))
    you always doscover amazing fashion thinks!
    kiss,
    Amy
    THE FASHIONAMY BLOG

  8. The Minx says:

    every photo is so exquisite! I always admire designers that innovate their design through beautiful construction. and your dress is amazing as well!

  9. iLaktionova says:

    The post is awesome!
    ilaktionova.blogspot.com

  10. Lia says:

    just one word: stunning!

  11. Very nice, thanks for sharing.

  12. Joy D. says:

    Between this and the Fela Kuti post I want to live in bizarre textiles! Fun Fact: Smocking was not always just an aesthetic practice.

  13. A smocking good post! (^_^) x

  14. Fashion is really in touch of our lives. I like the way they wear it, so beautiful and elegant.

  15. Nathan Niche says:

    fab look babes, smocking is smoking!! lol (lame i know, apologies for the bad pun)
    love ur kane sandals, u make them work
    oh i turned 21 and i bought the prada SS12 runway sunnglasses, check it out on me in my newest blog post!! and tell me what u think ;)
    xx nathan.niche
    http://style-niche.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/turning-21.html

  16. fashionnoble says:

    Such a lovely dress and such epic pictures! Simply beautiful

  17. fore-trend says:

    very nice photos! and your dress is soo cute!

  18. What an exciting collaboration! I get nervous meeting new people too, but for a beautiful girl dress like this, I think I could get over it!

  19. Virginie says:

    Sitbon designs are beautiful, i love the mix of materials and their effects -it never looks too much sophisticated but rather crafty.
    Virginie/
    Style Reload

  20. This is a fabulous collection of smock-frocks. Smock-frocks are great for the summer, the lightweight material is just right for displaying some fun-loving summer spirit. Summer smocking is smokin’!

  21. I love it! and the whole collection is amazing!
    My grandmother used to make smocking dresses for me when I was a child!
    today in my blog: GET THE LOOK! how to wear…
    http://etralalondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/get-look.html
    xoxo
    Maria
    Etrala´s Designer and Co-founder
    London

  22. Becca says:

    Love how you have referenced your outfit from the catwalk
    x

  23. Brynn Snow says:

    Is that a red dress or a shirt? either way, i can appreciate it!
    view D2G Apparel

  24. Brynn Snow says:

    Is that a red dress or a shirt? either way, i can appreciate it!
    view http://d2gapparel.com

  25. Wow it’s such a cool detail that causes some great effects in the different fabrics. Muy Bien.
    For one of a kind clothes check out MTX Designs
    http://mertxehernandez.bigcartel.com/

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