Prim n’ Proper

Prim n’ Proper

I've never liked the term the 'the thinking girl's label' with certain brands deemed to have a higher propensity to attract 'intelligent' women than others.  Prada and Jil Sander are the main culprits.  Wouldn't a 'thinking girl' have the initiative to mix it up rather than be slavishly loyal to one brand?  One label that has made itself widely available to clothing mixology as well as conjuring up a host of cinematic images and historical references that might be cooking up in a 'thinking girl's' head is Carven.

It's nearly time to revisit all those A/W 11-12 showroom images, whilst I'm sweating it out in the real world but secretly pining away for windy grey days when layers of buttoned-up Carven feel just right.  Carven's collections become increasingly storied with each season and for A/W 11-12, I ended up thinking up all manners of film references that probably never even entered Guillaume Henry's mind.  Miss Jean Brodie's neat little ensembles, flirty plaids in Clueless, the pared-down simplicity of Never Let Me Go, the swagger of Eva Green's character in The Dreamers, Sylvia Beach and Paris' Left Bank in the 40s-60s and  uniforms of all sorts (Primary school, Bloomsbury, New Wave) all melded together to make something un-uniform‚Ķ. all of this coming up as an image package before I've even touched the clothes.


Henry himself referenced Simone de Beauvoir and Lee Miller as background muses for this season's collection, a continuation of the aesthetic that he dreams up for girls likely to be seen in the library reading history of art books.  In reality, Carven's clothes are more wide-reaching than that, appealing to people who might not even know who de Beauvoir or Miller were, but that's no bad thing.  Being buttoned up has never looked so interesting than in the hands of Henry and I for one am all for his promotion of all things prim n' proper.  In the showroom, the collection revealed itself to be even more multi-faceted than the vaguely 40s, vaguely Scottish/French mix of perfect prefect looks…


From a crumpled up map, he has derived a dress that looks a little kind the map dress created by artist Elisabeth Lecourt and this print turns up on a few shirt and knitwear pieces…


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In a season of coats, Carven doesn't fail to proffer up a few robust wool and tweed options that come with removable leather and teddy bear fur collars…



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The French Fleur-de-Lis has been used as a motif in the Les N√©r√©ides-collaborated jewellery as well as scattered over dresses and tops in muted tones – a gaze over France's pre-revolution history, as opposed to being staunchly nationalistic. There's also the appearance of what looks to be a coat of arms-derived lion that claws its way over several sweaters and curiously looks a little like an English pub sign. 








Then there's a bit of tartan thrown into the mix made into dresses with in-built cups (something that I used to not be able to tolerate until Carven actually sized up the dresses so that my fried eggs can go in them…) and in wrapover dresses that reveal that below bust, above belly button peek of a triangle. 

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It's also used as a contrasting pattern with these multi-yarn knits….I love that the colours of the yarns pick up the colours of the tartan making the patterns blend more seamlessly…



If the revealing triangle on that previous dress is a wee bit too small, then this season, Carven does dare to bare a bit more with these velvet balconet bras which I thought were cut so low that they revealed the nips but actually, I think they just about cover them.  When the bra is paired with a loose white pleated ruff, it reminds me of that sort of campy/racy Medieval lingerie, which drama series like The Tudors seem to love cooking up with historical license.  Good thing there's a cropped jacket and a super high-waisted, flared out skirt, which covers things up a bit.  There are also little crescent curve cut-outs above the breasts on a dress – a slightly more austere version of the collared and exposed d√©colletage dresses that Carven have been doing for the past few seasons with that hint of suggestion still lingering. 




The rest of the collections is an odd blend of traditional traits that for me, is more like a French ideal of 'Anglaise' style, as well as riffs off English countryside wear and public school uniforms.  Duffle coat toggles, quilted Barbour-esque shorts, fleecy gardening gloves, vests made up in rah-rah school stripes and weathered lace inlays all point to something that is a blend of French and English traditions.  There's something pleasingly familiar about Carven's clothes and yet at the same time, that familiarity has been rejigged somewhat for Henry's brand of bon chic, bon genre aesthetic or in his words 'bonne mani√®re' – to be properly attired.  A peek of a knitted cycling shorts from under a short and jacket suit, lace combined with a casual sweatshirt or an elbow-patch wooly jumper and shirt collars that look far more interesting when rendered in a grey wool – all of these things left traces in my head back in March, that have lasted until now when this stuff will be creeping into stores. 









Shoes are also becoming fuller and more well-rounded with the neat back-bow heel of last season, now in a mustard furry texture.  In addition schoolish T-Bar shoes and rounded wedge loafers courtesy of a collaboration with Robert Clegerie add more sturdy shoe alternatives to the collection.  




(Backstage images by Morgan O'Donovan for Dazed Digital)


Leave a comment
  1. monia

    2011-07-05 at 9:00 PM

    I like the leather jacket and the lace applications, I think I will steal this idea for next winter!
    Monia, Rome

  2. Kate

    2011-07-05 at 10:11 PM

    Oh my gosh, what a gorgeous post. Amazing collage and love the map dress and the lace…

  3. Claire

    2011-07-05 at 10:14 PM

    Really enjoyed this post – the collection is amazing so much detailing and Carven’s price point is more realistic as well – very informative x

  4. Taylor Lewis

    2011-07-05 at 10:27 PM

    Im wanting one of those velvet bra’s lovleey!

  5. Amy Marie Bowness

    2011-07-05 at 10:43 PM

    wow i love the map dress! so inspiring and beautiful..

  6. Sara

    2011-07-06 at 12:02 AM

    I love those jackets with the removable collars! Genius!

  7. Betsy

    2011-07-06 at 12:14 AM
  8. heather

    2011-07-06 at 12:34 AM

    carven has been so awesome! very wearable but so interesting! the effect the pleating has on the map print is just breathtaking.
    i’ve never heard of the term ‘thinking girl’s label’ but it is completely stupid! i think that all girls that have true personal style are thinking girls anyway

  9. Mary

    2011-07-06 at 1:28 AM

    I really enjoyed this post too! What a lovely collection 🙂

  10. Grace

    2011-07-06 at 2:45 AM

    Love the vision that Carven conjured in your mind beyond the influences that Henry himself cited. Especially keen on those “robust” coats, and that prim leather jacket. I’ve never been big on the schoolgirl look before, but I love the grown-up take on this as presented by Carven. Thanks for introducing me to a designer I was previously unaware of.

  11. theEmocarebear

    2011-07-06 at 3:38 AM

    The map dress is adorable!

  12. The Visual Jerbil

    2011-07-06 at 4:39 AM

    the collage reminds me of Tavi Gevinson and the map/leather jacket look is like Amelia Earhart explorer girl. Win win.

  13. Online Pharmacy

    2011-07-06 at 10:25 AM

    I really enjoyed this post. That is a wonderful collection.

  14. Islamic Clothing Online

    2011-07-06 at 12:51 PM

    Amazing pictures. Specially the check color dress wear by a girl. Looks really amazing.

  15. Bea Acquah

    2011-07-06 at 12:59 PM

    Oh Wow, it’s amazing. Really is one of the only labels I’m lusting after at the moment, and really great for giving inspiration for those on a lower budget!
    Think I’ll have to save for the real thing with the teddy bear collared coats!
    Thanks for posting something different, all the other blogs seem to post the same things!
    You make my temping jobs a little more interesting!
    Sorry about your burglary.

  16. shopaholic

    2011-07-06 at 1:30 PM

    any idea where the clothes are made in?
    i’m intending to get a carven top but am not too keen to pay over 200 pounds if it is indeed made in china.
    anyone own a piece of carven clothing?

  17. susie_bubble

    2011-07-06 at 2:57 PM

    Shopaholic: I have several Carven pieces, and they seem to be made in Hungary.. others don’t have make labels in them….

  18. carrie

    2011-07-06 at 6:51 PM

    I really like the use of lace, especially in the shoulder of the sweater piece. Its pretty unique. The pictures came out really well also. thanks 😉

  19. Morkovkapopka

    2011-07-07 at 7:41 AM

    I’m crazy about Carven shoes on your picture. It’s a pity I can’t bye its here in Moscow.

  20. Sara Frajnd

    2011-07-07 at 8:14 AM

    Really excellent post! Love the detail, the pix and the writing. Keep it up girl!

  21. meili

    2011-07-08 at 6:30 PM

    My gosh I love it so much !!

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