What Gives a Garment “Edge”?

If I had to describe my personal style, I’d say I’m classic with an edge. That is, I go for traditional styles done in slightly non-traditional ways that interrupt our expectations and make us think. Here’s a RTW example of a dress I wear to work:

Karen Millen Midi Shirt Dress

I bought this shirt dress because, while it’s a traditional shirt dress in some respects (and therefore suits my shape well and is OK for work) it has an edgy side too because of that corset-like panel, fastened with hooks and eyes at the waist, and (to a lesser extent) the bold blue color and the high-low hem. Without the corset panel, it’s like every shirt dress you ever saw.

Some hallmarks in edgy style I look for or add are:

  • Metal hardware and details – Exposed zippers, unusual fasteners, metal buttons and just overall more metal give garments a hard edge for soft bodies and curvy shapes.
  • Leather and other animal inspirations – While leather, real or faux, can be a cliche, it’s undeniable that a T-shirt trimmed in leather or suede is edgier than one without. Same goes for feathers, reptile skins and bones – it’s all about blurring the lines between human and animal, modern and ancient.
  • Asymmetry – High-low hems, off-center cuts, draping and origami-like pleats and folds push your perception of a garment a bit sideways, because we’re so used to seeing symmetrical clothing on symmetrical bodies.
  • Exaggeration – Oversize cuts, ballooning sleeves, hard shoulders and super-skinny pants all sharpen a look by obscuring the expected human form.
  • Bold colors – Black and gray, to be sure, but also blood red, acid green, flame orange, hot pink, eggplant purple and electric blue shake up the senses, especially when color-blocked or in bold prints.
  • Surprise – Maybe the back is different from the front, or seams are unfinished, or a detail reveals something unexpected, like a shirt in a masculine cut and fabric is finished with a girly collar.

Here are three recent of edgy me-made makes to show what I mean:

The Oki Style “Joker” shirt has asymmetry and off-kilter drapes and pleats. I accentuated the design with color blocking. Without those features, this is just a button-up raglan sleeve dress shirt.

This is a tunic top from the Japanese sewing book “Happy Homemade Sew Chic”:


If you look carefully, you will see that this is a snakeskin print done in purple, hot pink, black and gray. I further edged it up with the black lace sleeve detail and the metal-capped black bow.

Finally, a moto jacket from Simplicity 8174 is obviously edgy. But this one has some surprises:

It’s made of red ultrasuede with the expected metal zippers and epaulets, and an asymmetric front. But inside, the lining is a Japanese-inspired floral silk charmeuse. Surprise!

For me, “edgy” is not really body-con or revealing. If anything, “edgy” looks drift into “cheap” when they’re showing a lot of skin. It’s much edgier to me to play with the traditional concepts of how clothing is shaped, fit, styled and embellished.

Do you wear edgy looks? Any other factors you look for?

Author: shoes15

I live in Connecticut, USA with my husband and my dog, in an old house outfitted with a sewing room, a garden, an orchard, and a big liquor cabinet.

11 thoughts on “What Gives a Garment “Edge”?”

  1. I like contrasts, whether that means making a garmet using a fabric that’s not tyically used, or making a vintage pattern in a thoroughly modern print and fabric. That’s what makes things “edgy” to me. I like your moto jacket, great colour!


  2. I try to go for edgy but I suspect I fail quite a lot because I also like to be comfortable! I try to stick to a limited colour palette but use a lot of metallics, both fabric and hardware.

    Would you describe Oonaballoona’s style as edgy? I’m not sure I would, and yet she’s certainly unconventional in an entirely different direction.


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