Having spent my formative years in South Florida, I have irrevocable associations with chain prints, and they are mostly of leathery-skinned retirees from what Floridians call “up North,” a region of the United States encompassing everything beyond Washington DC, an area that requires no further specificity for Floridians other than as a place where snow happens and therefore a place utterly inhospitable to human life.
Said retirees are usually a fun group of people, if you’re OK with cigarettes, drinking before noon and a complete lack of tact, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I ever wanted to dress like them. Indeed, I had never thought of chain prints as something worn by anyone under 50, but suddenly right now I’m seeing them everywhere, so I thought it might be time to investigate.
I find chain prints kind of inexplicable, myself -- it just seems like a weird thing to make a print of. We don’t see trends in which people are going wild for prints of hammers or nylon zip ties or plumbing materials, so why chains? I even tried to do a little research on the history of chain prints, which took the form of asking Google “Where do chain prints come from,” and I acknowledge that this is hardly a well-constructed search phrase such that my lack of useful results (most of which were related to chain letters or the food chain) is likely my own fault.
I will make one confession: In middle school, my mom bought me an equestrian-themed intarsia-knit chain print cardigan. From Talbots. It had big brass buttons and a felt horse’s head appliqued on the back. I loved that cardigan although I knew it added 40 years to my age, and I always felt self-conscious wearing it when really I could have been following my horsehead-cardigan bliss wherever it may have led me. So possibly chain prints have a unique magic. Let’s look at our current crop of options here.
This Praslin dress ticks all the chain-print boxes. Lots of flourishes? Check. Occasional “jewels”? Check. Arbitrary flowers, because flowers and chains totally go together? Check. This is the garment you put on when you want to look like you didn’t so much dress yourself this morning as you dumped the contents of a junk drawer belonging to an aging Disney princess (possibly one reeking of gin, Aspercreme and decaying beauty) onto your body.
You may think I’m being glib, but who ISN’T into that as a fashion statement, really?
Oh, but I was wrong -- there’s a chain-print box the previous dress doesn’t tick, and that’s the Random Patches of Animal Print box, which this dress from AX Paris handily satisfies. I bet leopards would totally be into chains if they weren’t, like, busy being elusive and stealthy predators in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia and killing and eating ungulates and being nocturnal and hanging out in trees and communicating with other leopards via the white spots on the backs of their ears.
But if they weren’t doing all that? Leopards would be absolutely mad for chains, I’m sure of it.
ASOS Curve’s contribution to the chain print dress parade is a tich more subdued, if such a thing can be said about a garment printed to look as though it’s draped in golden chains with links and joinings of mysterious and therefore disturbing specificity. What are all the randomly-attached d-rings for? Why does one of these chains look like a belt? Why is that model’s placid and inscrutable stare suddenly so ominous? WHAT IS SHE PLANNING TO DO?
It’s like somebody made a dress based on a hypothetical spinoff of the “SAW” series of gross torture porn movies and called it “CHAIN,” and when you see that title you’re all, “Oh, ‘CHAIN,’ that’s just a normal hardware product, how terrible can this movie possibly be?” and it is more terrible than anything you could possibly imagine.
The dress is kind of cute, at least.
You can also get your chain print in leggings format, if you don’t mind possibly looking like you have a very painful skin disease from a distance.
eShakti offers a more austere and somber take on the chain print, with a monochromatic dress covered in pocket watches, for the lady who is interested in chain prints in theory but who also does not want to forget that life is ultimately fleeting and every moment that passes is a moment less we have before we are enveloped by the inevitable embrace of death.
Or maybe she’s just into steampunk or something. Whatever.
For those of you only reading this far to prolong the moment where you inform me how ugly all of these clothes are, I present Zandra Rhodes’ “Necklace Tunic Dress,” featuring a trompe l’oeil necklace print of, naturally, some big honking chains. Surely we can all come to a consensus about this one. Personally I have never cared for garments that dictate my accessories to me. It just seems rude.
So what do you think of chain prints? Are they forever the dominion of Golden Girls? And should I try to locate my old horsehead-applique cardigan on eBay? I’ve little doubt I would wear the crap out of it today.