April 19, 2015 by Ville Raivio
Up and by coach to Mr. Cole’s, and there conferred with him about some law business, and so to Sir W. Turner’s, and there bought my cloth, coloured, for a suit and cloake, to line with plush the cloak, which will cost me money, but I find that I must go handsomely, whatever it costs me, and the charge will be made up in the fruit it brings.”
– Samuel Pepys in his famed Diary of Samuel Pepys, October & November, 1664
April 15, 2015 by Ville Raivio
“All this I see, and see that the fashion wears out more apparel than man…”
– Conrade in William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
April 14, 2015 by Ville Raivio
The History of Tailoring: An Overview
by G. Bruce Boyer
The knowledge and art of tailoring, of cutting and sewing cloth — the two basic aspects of constructing clothes from a pattern — developed slowly and gradually in Europe between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference to the word “tailor” gives the specific date of 1297; and certainty by that date tailoring guilds, as well as those of weavers, and cloth merchants, were well established in Europe.
During the Middle Ages clothing had been regarded as a means of concealing the body. But with the Renaissance came the accentuation of the human form. The loose robe, that standard uniform of the medieval period so easily constructed from a single piece or two of cloth, was shortened and tightened, and eventually cut, pieced, and sewn together in attempts to bring into prominence the contours of the human form. This was the birth of tailoring and, in fact, of fashion.
These attempts at re-constructing the human body in fabric called for a growing expert skill and division of labor. Soon the cutter (the one who makes the pattern) and tailor (the one who does the sewing) joined other craftsmen as important members of the community.
Until this time the cloth had been the distinguishing feature of garments, and the wearer took most of the responsibility for the design — and, in most cases, the actual production — of his own clothes. But little by little, the tailor took on equal importance with the wearer, and gradually came to overshadow him. Master tailors in the growing towns eventually became responsible for the clothing needs of society, and the art and science of tailoring became a highly specialized, complex, and jealously guarded craft.
As towns became cities, then city states, and finally empires of power, fashion followed. First Italy, then Spain and France became the center for fashionable dress in concert with the power, wealth, and influence of those empires. Italy reached its great flowering during the age of Michelangelo, followed by Spain early in the 17th century. France reached its fashionable peak for tailoring during the long reign of Louis XIV (1643 – 1715), when foppish young men from all over Europe flocked to Paris for their wardrobes. Almost every comic play written in the second half of the 17th century includes the character of a Paris-dressed fop, perfumed and beribboned, with powdered wig and silver-buckled shoe in the latest French mode. But by the time of the French king’s death in 1715, there had already begun a shift in power, and influence — and fashion.
Even during Louis’ long lifetime a great shift in masculine costume was occurring. In the middle of the 17th century men began to give up the doublet, hose, and cloak that had been the staple items of their wardrobe since the 1500s, and began to wear coat, vest, and breeches, the three components we can begin to identify as modern dress.
Across the Channel, the English had not only turned away from the doublet and hose, but quickly moved through the phase of embroidered ostentation decreed by the French court. They had just survived a bitter but democratizing civil war (l642 – 1649) which, among other things, called into question the brocades and velvets, the silk and pastel satins and powdered wigs and other ostentations of aristocratic French court dress. Over two centuries later, Oscar Wilde would quip that the Puritans and Cavaliers who fought that war were more interesting for their costumes than their moral convictions.
The English moved away from the highly decorative and delicate court style, and took up a more practical form. The costume of both the landed gentry and the newer mercantile class became progressively less gorgeous and exquisite during the 18th century, and far more somber and sober. By the early decades of the 19th century, sobriety (in dress at any rate) had begun to penetrate even the court circle itself, and kings, consorts, and princes were seen to dress in a manner almost identical with their subjects. By mid-century the age of stovepipe hats, umbrellas, and frock coats — each in glossy black — was firmly in place.
English tailors, particularly those in London, now came to dominate the fashion scene. First, the English had evolved a style for masculine clothing that was a subtle blending of landed gentry, sporting attire, and bourgeois business wear produced in the tremendous wake of the Industrial Revolution. Secondly, aristocratic court clothing had not been constructed so much with a concern for fit as it had with concerns for decoration, fabric, and color. But when the shift away from ornamentation and ostentation began to occur, fit became the criterion of dress for men. We take it for granted today, but the idea of “fit” as a criterion for men’s clothes is a fairly recent one. It is an idea calling for great skill in execution.
The English tailor was trained to use woolen cloth, and over years of experimentation and practice he developed techniques for “molding” the cloth close to the body without exactly duplicating the true form of the wearer. In short, the tailor could now actually develop a new aesthetic of dress: he could mimic the real body, while at the same time “improving” and idealizing it! It was no longer a question of voluminous yards of flowing silken brocade. Men became “gentlemen” (itself a 19th century term) and frowned upon gaudy display in favor of discretion, simplicity, and the perfection of cut. It was, in terms of fashion, the culmination of that radical turn taken in mid-17th century: the Modern had finally arrived! And the Modern was the tailor’s art.
There have been tremendous innovations in these past hundred years in fashion and the art of tailoring: sewing machines now do the work on straight seams better than could be done by hand; new fabric technology has produced more comfortable cloths; fashions have adapted to more leisurely, climate-controlled lifestyles. But tailoring is still, and likely to remain so, an art. It has not been brought down to the level of a science. The tailor still believes in making personalized clothing, statements of fashion for the individual, as he always has done.
Ever since the invention of ready-made, cheaply-produced clothes in the middle of the last century, the demise of the tailor has been predicted. Like the panda and the whooping crane, it has been said, the march of modern life is against him. Mega-international corporations seem to own everything, calculatedly obsolete gimmickry abounds, and Coca-Cola now sells clothing as well as soft drinks by the millions of units. But craftsmen have indeed managed to survive in this age of the mass-produced and quickly thrown away, even to prosper. There is still a clear need for the uniquely personal and individual in our lives. In this age of the shoddy and the quick, the vulgar and the mass-consumed, tailors can still be counted on to champion uniqueness and quality. It is the hallmark of their tradition.
Today, skilled tailors can be found in Rome as well as Richmond, VA, Paris and Pittsburgh, Hong Kong, Kansas City, Rio and Dallas — as well of course as Milan, London, and New York They are the fitters and pattern drafters, the stitchers of the handmade buttonholes, the cutters of the fine worsted and cashmere and heathery tweed. And they are all standing in the long shadow of tradition and craftsmanship that is the art of tailoring.
April 13, 2015 by Ville Raivio
The Duke&Duchess of Windsor Historical Society has but one purpose: to preserve and disseminate all thing DoW-related. The society has been at it since the ’90s and below is a sample of their offerings on the style of the late Duke. Their quarterly journals provide more for the enrichment of aspirational royalists around the world.
Photo: The Duke&Duchess of Windsor Historical Society
April 13, 2015 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
IA: Now in March 2015 I am 64 years old (born in 1950). My occupation is business consultant and business coach. I help management to plan operations and marketing. I’ve been working with communications and marketing, both in advertising agencies and in big companies, my whole career.
VR: Your educational background?
IA: Marketing and communications at university level. But I started out as a Bachelor of Theology.
A chalk striped grey DB-suit from the 1940s
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
IA: My wife (since 20 years) shares my interest in vintage clothes. She has an extraordinary collection of dresses and she wears vintage clothes almost every day. Since we both have reduced our weight almost 20 kg (40 lbs) since 2011, every garment we had at that time became too big, so all we have now are second hand, except for underwear. The two boys, twins, are now at the age of 26, and they are not interested in clothes — as engineers seldom are. But they accept wearing second hand and vintage if they like the garment. On a funeral last week one of them wore a suit from Corneliani and brogue shoes from Allen-Edmonds, both second hand.
“My graduation blazer from 1970 specially made for me. The fabric, called Pompelmona, from Borås Väveri, was made for furniture.”
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
IA: Their influence ended in the mid ’60s. They were not interested in clothes. My mother helped me sew a pair of wide trousers in Bonnie&Clyde-style (after the film) when I was teenager. That was not so common at that time. And when I ordered a flower power jacket for my graduation in 1970 they couldn’t stop me.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
IA: I have been hooked on oriental kilims and rugs, and have been chairman for the Stockholm Rug Society Pazyryk. I am also interested in surrounding topics such as antique peasant art and textiles. And we have a small collection of vintage bicycles just to be able to join Tweed run/Bike in Tweed. Since the 1960s, I have played the guitar and I have a small home studio.
“How I was dressed before 2011, when my wife called me her black Labrador: a Burberry coat, a Hollington jacket, a made-to-measure black shirt, and my first hipster hat.”
VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics?
IA: I have probably been a snob all my life, interested in beautiful things, architecture, design and clothes. As a boy I wanted to be a furniture designer. But I had more taste than money. In the ’80s, when I started to work in advertising and earn money, I bought exclusive brands. But suddenly, around 1990, I changed my style completely to a Less Is More-style — I wore black jeans, black t-shirts and black jackets with a Mao collar every day. And I have had a beard or a stubble since 1973. The man in black was the guy my wife met.
In October 2010 we spent my 60th birthday in Chicago and my wife bought me a hat. I realized that I was not young, hip and promising anymore, so I said to myself – now I shall give the old man a face. Jeans and T-shirts look pathetic. But what to wear instead?
A month later we saw a historic Dandy exhibition in a museum in Stockholm and there were some expressions of how a dandy style could look today. Five designers had been invited to show examples, and both I and my wife found out that the classic British gentleman’s style was the best style for an old man like me.
The 4th of February 2011, we discovered the second hand store that dressed the models at the Museum – the Herr Judit vintage store in Stockholm. I bought an elegant Italian overcoat, a green Borsalino hat and a matching scarf. My black coat I carried home in a bag. And as my wife tells the story; I entered the shop with a black Labrador dog and went out with a gentleman.
Now I have realized two things. First; what my new style and image should be; a gentleman with a suit, waistcoat, tweed jacket, cuffed trousers, suspenders, bow ties, hats etc. Second; where to find it — there are a lots of fine and cheap garments out there if you just look for them in vintage and thrift shops. But also in flea markets and charity shops.
There was only one problem. My size was XXXL/56 and my weight was almost 100 kg (218 lbs), and I am tall, over 190 cm (6’3”). There are very few vintage garments that fit such a big man. So I started to eat less, especially for breakfast and lunch. The objective was to be size XL/52. It took me approx. six months to reach the weight of 82 kg (180 lbs). And since autumn 2011, that has been my weight. And then the big vintage market was open to me.
“A typical match and a favourite: new cord-du-roy jeans, an English wool jacket for invalids from the 2nd World War (dated 1942), second hand boots from Crockett&Jones, second hand shirt and tie, a new belt made of a recycled English fire hose. On top an old Italian straw boater.”
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
IA: My style sources and inspiration are social media communities like Styleforum and different Facebook groups. Sven Raphael Schneider at Gentleman’s Gazette has become a friend. I discuss with some vintage dealers. I visit exhibitions. And we have a small library about fashion. When you become a nerd – whatever the subject is – it is a great pleasure to seek information and you have your eyes and ears open everywhere you go. Wherever we travel, we ask if there are any interesting vintage stores in the city, and we try to get time to visit the best ones.
A chalk striped grey DB-suit from the 1940s
VR: How would you describe your style?
IA: The word Matched is most important. I always try to dress with the whole impression of my outfit in mind. When I was young and had a much easier style, I wore blue jeans, a surplus military shirt, an odd waist coat, but you can be sure my bandanna matched the socks.
The second word is Vintage, which I define as clothes with age in good quality. That means very few items made after 1975, when the industry moved to countries with cheap labor and mass production became big. I prefer suits from the 1930s to 1950s, but it is hard to find them. Almost all the clothes I have are second hand and some are real vintage, except for underwear and socks. But it is not so important if the whole outfit is from the 1940s or if it’s a mix of relatively new garments. The important thing is how the details match to make a nice and complete outfit.
When I am working I can’t shock my clients coming dressed in a chalk-striped DB-suit from 1940. I will look like a man from a gangster movie and they’ll wonder if I am serious. So, meeting customers, I often wear a more old academic style – a tweed jacket, an odd waist coat, corduroy trousers, brogue shoes and a vintage tie. Everything carefully matched, of course. I always wear a hat. And often a boutonnière on my jacket.
“A typical match: a jacket from the ’70s, second hand cord-du-roy trosers, second hand waistcoat and tie from the Salvation Army, new pocket square, and a bag from Palmgrens. This outfit I often wear at work.”
VR: Which tailors or RTW makers do you favour and why?
IA: I do not buy new clothes at all. And I cannot afford to go to a high-quality tailor. I can buy fifty vintage suits for the same money as one bespoke suit from Savile Row. After a visit to my tailor, a second hand garment fits well, not like bespoke, of course, but better than new outfits from the racks of modern fashion stores. The quality is much better, both the craftsmanship and the fabric.
Some may think that a well-conserved bespoke suit is the best buy. But it’s not a sure thing if it won’t fit your body. The open buttonholes in the sleeves, for instance, make it impossible to change the length to fit your own arms. The best vintage store I have found is A. Marchesan in Stockholm. A huge stock of suits, coats, hats and shoes, almost everything from before 1970. It is really an experience.
“The dogs just passed by when Jeanette Milde was shooting pictures for a book. The linen suit and the Panama hat are from Kanaljen in Söderköping, nubuck shoes from Grenson, the bow tie, the bag, and the glasses are old. The rest is new stuff.”
VR: Who or what inspires you?
IA: My wife. We have so fun discussing clothes. Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and other well-dressed icons from the mid 20th century look great. I collect old fashion catalogues and old DVD-films. I am active in vintage communities in social media. I visit exhibitions and read books about fashion.
“My first vintage or second hand outfit that I bought on the 4th of February 2011. An Italian overcoat, a Borsalino hat, and a matching scarf.”
VR: What’s your definition of style?
IA: Well matched colors and materials are an interesting mix. The dress must be well cut, have good proportions, high quality fabric and be a fine piece of craftsmanship. As a classic well-dressed man from the mid 20th century, your style becomes great. Then add some carefully selected details that enhance your style; like a vintage watch, old cuff links, a silk boutonnière, matching belt or suspenders, welted shoes, a matching scarf, a leather briefcase, and on top of that – a vintage hat from Borsalino or other fine hatters.
“My award-winning outfit on Bike-in-tweed in Stockholm, 2013. A bespoke suit from 1938.”
VR: Finally, given your vast knowledge on the subject, why should Keikari’s readers consider vintage textiles in home decoration?
IA: The most important thing, when you look at an old textile, such as an oriental carpet or kilim, is the quality of the colors. Pattern is not so important, but if the colors are wrong, the whole decoration can be wrong and unbalanced. And old textiles from the 19th century have warm natural colors with a beautiful patina that you seldom find in modern textiles. It brings life to a modern functionalistic furnishing that often is “lovely dead”. The room becomes more vivid and lively. When you decorate a room – start with the carpet. There are thousands of furnishing fabrics, curtains and lamps to match the carpet. It’s much harder to find a carpet that matches the sofa.
Photos: Ingemar Albertsson
April 13, 2015 by Ville Raivio
April 8, 2015 by Ville Raivio
“On the screen the slightest flaw in the cut of a suit is exaggerated. Sometimes as many as eight or ten fittings and alterations are necessary to get a satisfactory fit. If I had bought my clothes at a special price, I would never have had the nerve to keep going back for additional fittings. As it was I never hesitated to go back, even a year later, if I was dissatisfied with a suit.”
“In delving into the habits of the British well-dressed man, I discovered that the old tailoring firms of London think the world revolves around the problem of proper attire for men. One time I went to Anderson and Sheppard to order a dress suit. With great ceremony they brought out a bolt of cloth that they said they reserved only for their very best customers. ‘What is so special about this bolt?’ I inquired. ‘It is the same piece of material from which His Highness, the Prince, recently had a dress suit made.’ I couldn’t pass up anything like that, so I ordered the suit. I will say it is the most durable dress suit I’ve ever owned.”
“Major E.D. Medcalfe, Equerry to the then Prince of Wales, explained to me that the really smart dressers of England thought that one firm of tailors turned out superior trousers while another was better at waistcoats and a third was expert at jackets. I was also told that the Prince would purchase a piece of material and have three different tailor shops work on the three different parts of a suit. This seemed to me to be carrying the art of dressing to a preposterous extreme, even for a Prince. I also heard that he had one bootmaker who made the upper part of his shoes while another attached the soles. I never quite believed that story; probably somebody was trying to pull my leg, as they say in England. When I finally met the Prince, I was tempted to inquire if it were true but lacked the nerve.”
“In another Zanuck picture, called Cafe Metropole, I wore what I consider my most publicized wardrobe. It consisted of four suits, all of which were tailored for me by Hawes and Curtis in London. I had purchased these suits in the summer of 1936, when Verree and I finally went on our delayed honeymoon. When we reached London, I ordered the four suits and had preliminary fittings. But since we were leaving England before the suits could be finished, I asked if Mr. Benson, their cutter, could come to Paris with the suits and give me a final fitting there. It was not uncommon at that time for London shops to do this, and they readily agreed.
Two weeks later I received a telegram in Paris to the effect that Mr. Benson, with an assistant, would arrive at a certain hour on a certain day to complete the fitting of my clothes. So on that day I waited in my rooms at the Ritz for Mr. Benson to appear. Time went by and no Mr. Benson. Finally the phone rang. It was Benson. ‘Mr. Menjou, I am down at the Gare St. Lazarre with your clothes in a trunk, but they will not let me in. They won’t give me a temporary entry visa.’
We went to the office of the chef de gate. We had another voluble exchange of French, but to no avail. Mr. Benson and the clothes could not be allowed to leave the customs office. ‘You seem to believe, monsieur,’ I said, ‘that I am trying to smuggle four suits of clothes into France. But I will prove to you that I am not!’ With that I took off my coat and my waistcoat and started to remove my trousers. ‘What are you doing, Adolphe?’ demanded Verree. ‘I’m going to have my clothes fitted right here,’ I answered. ‘Camera! Action! Mr. Benson, open the trunk and go to work.’ The office of the stationmaster was a glass enclosure open to the waiting rooms of the station. In five minutes we had a tremendous audience. We should have charged admission. Mr. Benson was a bit nonplused. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before – or to me, for that matter. As for Verree, she collapsed in a chair; she thought it was the funniest thing she had ever seen. But we fitted the four suits, then put them back in the trunk, which was sealed and sent back to England.”
“I made a trip to England for the purpose of getting acquainted with London’s great tailors and picking up new ideas in the designing of clothes. In fact, I took my new job so seriously that eventually I had clothes made by most of the great tailors in the world. That was why my wardrobe grew to such tremendous proportions. I tried all the best tailors in New York and in London, too. I had clothes made for me by Scholte, Anderson and Sheppard, Pope and Bradley, Leslie and Roberts, Plaidell and Smith, Birkenshaw and Knights, [Henry] Poole, Sandon, the famous makers of breeches and riding clothes, and several others. I also tried the Italian tailor Caraceni, Caraterro in Madrid, and Knize of Berlin, as well as Larson and Pile in Paris.”
“Whenever I met a well-dressed man, I’d start talking clothes with him. On one trip to England the Earl of Portarlington told me about the firm of P. and J. Haggart in Scotland, who would manufacture tweeds to order. After that I couldn’t be happy until I had made a trip to Scotland and had ordered special material for tweed suits.”
“Although I had dozens of suits made by London and Continental tailors, I found that Eddie Schmidt was as fine a creative tailor as any of them. Most of my experiments in clothing were made with the assistance of the elder Schmidt. One of the first things we tried was taking the buckram out of the lining of coats so that they could be draped with a little fullness over the chest and the shoulder blades. It took a long time to make this style popular, but now one seldom sees anything but a draped coat. We also narrowed the sleeves of coats and eliminated the creases in them. Then we spread the top buttons on double-breasted suits so that the shoulder line was broadened; and we tried a number of other innovations that have become standard in men’s clothes.”
“Clothes have always had a wonderful influence on my physical well-being as well as my self-assurance. All I have to do to make me feel like a new and younger man is to order three new suits of clothes. My fur-lined overcoat gave me such a glow of health that very shortly after acquiring it I was able to enjoy the hazards of a Gargantuan studio cocktail party without a single twinge of pain.”
– Adolphe Menjou is his polished, non-scandalous, and bland autobiography It Took Nine Tailors
April 5, 2015 by Ville Raivio
I blame that Roetzel guy. Ever since reading his Gentleman book in my impressionable youth, I haven’t shaken off the image of Kent’s very proper, very oval hairbrush, even though my hair cannot be combed by any means known to man. G.B. Kent & Sons Ltd., one of the oldest companies in England, has been making brushes since 1777 so they must know a thing or two about the craft. Enough to be granted Royal Warrants from nine reigns, at least, if those mean anything these days. The company sources bristles from India and China, woods from sustainable forests, and has a factory in Apsley. Kent makes brushes for clothes, shoes, hair, teeth, beards, cars, gardens, autos, nails, hats, floors, walls, makeups, and bodies. The handmade range is likely a small part of their trade, but the Kent heritage obliges.
The example brush is Kent’s model MHS18, the handmade men’s bristle brush with that nice oval shape. It arrives in a hard, dark red mock-leather case with polyester satin lining. The base is beechy, the back is satinwoody, the bristles very coarse. In fact the bristles are so coarse that the model is hardly pleasant or kind to the scalp, and best suits the man with very long hair. Metalheads and rockers are not likely to invest in a brush of this price range, so I’m left to wonder who the regular customer is. The coarse britles kind of beat the point of using a brush at all, as the scalp has those oils that are good for the hair and should be brushed from the skin upwards. This is no option with the model.
The brush is palm-sized, light, the sides are hollowed for better grip, and the woods are nicely polished, likely treated with several layers of varnish. In sum, the brush is very well made and the option of having the bristles changed one day is a bonus. The current price for the MHS18 is 165 pounds, but the cheaper model with softer bristles is the one to choose. The handmade oval hairbrush looks the part and will last for several decades. With the right set of bristles, it can do no harm.
April 4, 2015 by Ville Raivio
Edward Tautz founded his eponymous tailoring business in the West End London of 1876, later on renamed as E. Tautz&Sons. He learned the trade at Hammond&Co., who specialized in sport and leisure clothing. The Tautz company mostly dressed the sporting and bellicose gentry, but he also searched for new ways to treat and make garments. E. Tautz was the first to use rainproof tweed for tailoring in Britain, and came up with the first pair of knickerbockers, so favoured by The Duke of Windsor on his many journeys across the globe.
As sported by A.J.
Tautz held Royal Warrants to The King of Italy and the Duke of Aosta. E. Tautz dressed Nöel Coward, that very English enunciator and playwright, and A.J. Drexel Biddle, Jr, often named the most stylish American of his time. In his younger and more vulnerable years, Winston Churchill was also a Tautz customer. Others include F. Eugene Dixon, owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Stanley G. Mortimer, of the Standard Oil fame, and Cary Grant, the English working-class chap who created himself anew in America.
The modern interpretation in E. Tautz’s current lineup
Tautz is best remembered in tailoring lore for its Tautz lapel, a singular way of cutting double-breasted revers. While most double-breasted lapels have sharp points, Tautz decided to round theirs and also extend the points past the collar line. The V-shape gorge was smaller and lower than most cut by other tailors, and usually horizontal or angled toward the shoulder. The end result was most proper, as was expected by the Brits, but also just enough to set a man apart in a mass of the usual notch and peak lapels. While Tautz was the progenitor, this eccentric lapel shape is just the thing for the man in search for a different but understated look. There is no need for loud or screaming buttonholes, colours, or shining cloths when we have mostly forgotten details just waiting for discovery. The Tautz lapel is one of them.
…with short lapels
The Cowardly look
Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio