Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reader Question: Opening My Closet

A reader asked the following questions:

"With all that vintage clothing what does your closet look like? And what sort of moth protection do you use?"

Well, here are a few quick snaps of my closet and an extra rack of suits. Nearly everything in these photos is my own personal vintage. I keep my sale items in another area. It's a little crowded but it works.

click images to enlarge

A quick note on hangers. You'll notice I don't have any metal hangers; that's because metal hangers will eventually oxidize and rust on the clothing, thereby ruining it. Plastic hangers aren't bad though if the garment is heavy they tend to bend and often times the hanger can be too narrow. I prefer wooden hangers as they're usually fairly thick, often have a natural shoulder shape to them, they're sturdy and will absorb moisture.

As for moth control, I use a variety of techniques since I have so much.

First is mothballs. I use these sparingly since they can be harmful and they are strong smelling. A few mothballs in an enclosed area will go a long way.

Next is Cedar. I the above photos you'll notice that there are Cedar rings on the hangers. Cedar is a good smelling natural moth deterrent that isn't harmful to your suits or yourself.

Third is another natural deterrent: sunlight. Most closets are pretty dark and enclosed. Moths love the darkness. Therefore, open your closet on a sunny day and let the light in.

Fourth: keep your clothes clean. Mothes love to munch on not only the garment itself but also any left over food or crud they can find. Now, I'm not saying you should dry clean your suit after every wearing since too much dry cleaning is harmful, but occasionally look it over, brush it and remove any staining you can with a little water and some soap. Doing this will give mothes fewer opportunities to start munching.

Lastly, mothes hate movement. Whether it be air movement or the owner changing things around, mothes don't like it. They're pretty lazy critters: they like to hang out in a dark, motionless closet while chowing down on your clothing. Rearrange your closet occasionally, rotate your suits and throw out anything that cannot be repaired or you don't use anymore.

In other words, your closet is like yourself: keep it clean, smelling good and well exercised.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On the Drape Suit, Part 2: a Short History

In On the Drape Suit, Part 1 we learned all about what makes a drape suit a drape suit: a correctly sized, well-fitted jacket with a full-cut chest, often with telltale vertical waves next to the armholes.

Now we're going to take a short look at the history of the drape suit.

The drape cut of a suit is believed to have begun during the early 1930s when cutter Frederick Scholte observed the drapey officer overcoats of the London's Brigade of Guards: full in the chest while being well-cut through the waist.

Before Scholte's moment of genious, suits were cut very close to the body. This type of close cut suit came, surprisingly, from the First World War.

click images to enlarge

Tailors of the post-WW1 era wrongly figured that the returning Doughboys would want tight fitting suits just like their tight fitting military uniforms. Tight chest, tight waist, tight sleeves, tight hips and narrow trouser legs. And pretty much up until the "Dawn of the Drape Suit" that's all they had.

But then came Frederick Scholte who spent several years perfecting the drape style and then made it his own at Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row where it became popular with clients. Called at that moment in time the "London Cut", the drape style spread beyond Savile Row and most famously made an important stand in America where it influenced suit styles for the next 20 years.

In America during the late 1930s to the early 1940s the drape suit was often called the "Hollywood Drape suit", the "Contour suit", the "Blade suit", and just the plain "Drape suit", among others.

There were other unique styles that fall under the drape category such as the pleated front suit shown below.

Sears, Roebucks catalog, spring and summer, 1940:

Notice how the pleats accentuate the 'chestiness' of the jacket while still allowing the waist to be well suppressed. Below are modern photos of a pleated front sports coat that recently sold on Ebay for big bucks. Note the back pleats even while the jacket lacks a belted back. Also note the verticle chest waves.

The following photos via Marc Chevalier, 1930s sports coat:

The iconic Zoot Suit might also be considered a drape suit but that's for a different blog post.

Like it often does with many things, America took the drape suit to the extreme from the mid-1940s through to the early 1950s with the Bold Look. During the Bold Look the drape suit became a joke of itself: enormous shoulders and lapels, hugely full chest and baggy jacket body and skirt.

Boxy, top heavy, disproportionate. A far cry from the nicely proportioned drape suit of the late 1930s.

A joke of itself.

Once the Bold Look ran its course by the mid-1950s the drape suit finally died a quiet death with the invention of the sleek and clean-cut "Mr. T" suit and the "Mod" look, both topics for different posts.

Today the drape style has made a popular comeback in what is called "Neapolitan tailoring", a very confusing tailoring style that differs from tailor house to tailor house and even confounds the experts. I myself am confused as to what it is exactly, its characteristics ever-changing like the blowing sand dunes of an endless desert. One hapless trend at the moment seems to be pairing natural shoulders with a full-cut chest and a flaring jacket skirt. In other words, a hideous pear-shaped jacket with weak, sloping shoulders. Gnashing of teeth and heated arguments are sure to spring up at the very mention of its name and because of these issues I will go no further to attempt to explain Neapolitan tailoring.

What started as a bold statement and an exciting more casual style has now become a tired, much debated, often misunderstood and usually badly tailored debacle. It's sad to see the influential Drape Suit become such an enigma to so many iGents and tailors throughout the world.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Houndstooth Haberdashery

Exciting news for the Houndstooth Kid.

The blog has expanded onto Etsy so now readers can purchase quality vintage items at reasonable prices, some even from the blog.

Click the link below and see what you'll find.

The Houndstooth Kid Haberdashery

New items are continually being added so keep an eye on the Haberdashery.


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