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.
(Photo from Couture Caddy)
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.
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.