2012: A style retrospective

Monday, December 31, 2012
It's that time of year where all the mainstream media are busy filling column inches with lists of stuff from 2012 - from best movies to worst political mishaps. After a relaxing and laptop-less Christmas break, I thought I might as well seize the opportunity to get in on the action. So here is a hastily assembled selection of notable style 'stuff' from the past year.

Least hideously dressed Apprentice contestant
The nice thing about The Apprentice is the certainty of the format: there will always be essentially the same set of tasks, most of the contestants will be frighteningly deluded about their own abilities, and all of the men will be appallingly badly dressed in one of a handful of separately ghastly ways. It's rare, nay unheard-of, for me to watch the show and think "I might actually go out in public in what that chap's wearing". This year, however, was an exception. Ladies and Gents, I give you Mr Tom Gearing.

Modern cutaway collars, tie bars, a pocket square in a colour other than white, and a matte tie with a discrete pattern tied with a sensible knot, all give his outfits personality whether or not they happen to be your particular cup of tea. More than anything, though, I love the fact that he's wearing a suit that's not plain (shiny) blue, grey or black. I have a particular personal dislike for plain coloured suits most of the time (though there are obviously exceptions) and anything that adds a little bit of texture is good news.

Best dressed movie character
The latest James Bond divided style bloggers. Many loved his restrained British dress sense, others bemoaned the strangely tight fit of his suits, which looked as if he was almost ready to burst out of them. For myself, both factors felt like deliberate choices, illustrating either side of his conflicted character: a suave English gentleman, and a violent, muscled, goon. Regardless, it's hard not to love those beautiful Tom Ford suits.

I'm not normally a fan of the restricted palette that Bond wears - plain blue shirts with plain grey suits rarely look great, and a plain blue tie on top risks looking bland, but of course that is partly the point when one is a spy. In this case, the costume-designers lift the outfit out of mediocrity with restrained touches of personal style: a slightly broader than usual herringbone on the suit, a quirky but oh-so-2012 tabbed collar, and a neat, businesslike pocket square. If everyone dressed like this for work, the world would be a better place.

Best Oscars black-tie outfit
The terrific Black Tie Guide website does a far better break-down of the hits and misses of the red carpet than I could hope to, and has done so for several years. All the same, I was struck by one particular outfit that couldn't go without a mention. Hollywood royalty looking like Hollywood royalty, it's Tom hanks:

It's a double-breasted shawl-collared dinner suit, and yes, that's 'legal' though highly unusual. It's by far the most casual dinner jacket, a mere toggle and trim away from a smoking jacket, which is itself only one step removed from a dressing gown, and historically would be appropriate only at a very private dinner in ones own home. These days, that distinction is rarely important and certainly not at the Academy Awards where merely wearing a bow tie and a white shirt makes you one of the smartest men there. No, Tom Hanks has got everything right - from the beautifully proportioned suit to the simple white pocket square and the inch of cuff. If I were to be picky, I would personally wear a slightly smaller bow tie, but that's a personal choice, and doesn't detract at all from the most classically elegant outfit seen at the Academy Awards in quite some time.

We've got your New Year's retro party wear!

Friday, December 28, 2012
Loads of awesome jackets and dresses for the dolls and super sportscoats and retro tops for the dudes!

Welcome to the New world.....

Thursday, December 27, 2012
Awesome new buttons in from Crazed Lemmings...


Sunday, December 23, 2012
Ugly sweaters are old news... It's all about the jacket now!

Holiday Hours

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Sunday 12/23 open 12-6p
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closed xmas 12/25
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JUST ARRIVED! Our Newest Interfacing Style!

Saturday, December 22, 2012
Pro-Sheer Elegance MEDIUM-weight Fusible Interfacing

Another of our True Professional-grade Interfacings, this is the Mid-weight version of our very popular Pro-Sheer Elegance Interfacing. Due to its unique weave and fiber content, it is totally stable lengthwise with some minimal "mechanical" crosswise stretch. 
It can be fused at lower temperatures and is washable after fusing to fabric. 
Like all of our other interfacings, it Does NOT Shrink! 
NO pre-treatment needed...because we have done that for you at the mill!
Available in three colors and 60" wide...This wonderfully flexible but stable interfacing was specially made for Light to Medium Woven fabrics like cottons, rayons, linens, denim, flannel, corduroy, and woven polyesters. This is the interfacing to choose when you want a soft lightly crisp result for collars, cuffs, and other places on your garment that need flexible support.  *** It is the "Lower Fusing Temperature alternative" to our Pro-Woven Light Crisp (cotton) Fusible Interfacing.***
Please visit www.FashionSewingSupply.com for more information.

Perfect gift 3 - Style books

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Always a good option for the chap who likes his clothes but is too difficult to actually buy clothes for (and the two things tend to go together) - there's a fairly large crop of style books out there, which range from the desperately earnest to the wry and self-aware, from the trite to the informative, and from the densely written to those who's main appeal is in their pictures. Here are a selection of my favourites, all of which have also been more thoroughly reviewed previously in the blog.

Debrett's Guide for the Modern Gentleman (full review)
Definitely a favourite, and one of the few that may actually contain some useful information even for those who prefer not to get their dress sense from a book. It covers a huge range of topics including how to order a suit from a tailor, a selection of home-decoration styles, and lists of must-have music, films and books. Its flaw is that it covers few of the topics in any real detail, but it's attractive, amusing and diverse, and may actually be of some help to someone about to leap into an unfamiliar situation like a weekend shooting party, or a Savile Row tailor.

Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion (full review)
More of a coffee-table book than a real guide, it's hard to quite figure out who would find this book genuinely useful except, perhaps, for a man who simultaneously won the lottery and was overcome by a powerful desire to develop the perfect male wardrobe. All the same, noone with an interest in clothes can fail to enjoy the detailed breakdown of every possible outfit and clothing type, nor to be suddenly struck by the feeling that their existing wardrobe is hopelessly inadequate.
Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion (Lifestyle)

Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed (full review)
Unlike the others, this is less of a coffee-table book and more of a read-in-a-single-sitting page-turner. If you have any interest in bespoke suits then you will find Richard Anderson's description of the techniques, secrets and characters of Savile Row absolutely fascinating. You will also crave a bespoke suit. Sorry about that.

Shoes: Chatham Marine Deck Shoes review

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
A couple of summers ago, I bought my first pair of deck shoes. Unless you're the sort of chap who can stomach the thought of wearing loafers without socks all summer, deck shoes are really the best option for wearing with shorts or casual trousers. While they won't be acceptable in a city club, they're pretty much de rigeur in many yacht clubs and, dressed up with chinos and a shirt, are unlikely to be frowned upon in most restaurants. Especially if you're within a mile of the sea or the temperature is over 30 degrees.

All of that was my thinking as I prepared for a mostly fictional summer of beaches, cocktails, sunbathing, and lounging by pools. A pleasingly fashionable pair of blue suede deck shoes from Charles Tyrwhitt followed and, given the undemanding purposes to which I meant to put them, I didn't really care when the insole came loose within a week and a year later, the soles started falling off. Now, unfortunately, they're completely unweareable so it was extremely timely to receive a new pair from Chatham Marine, a company with a proper sailing heritage and enough confidence in their products to provide the classic deck shoes with a two year guarantee.

And, of course, it's only the wrong season for deck shoes if you think their main purpose is protecting your feet as you stroll up the beach for another mojito. As an enthusiastic but reasonably infrequent sailor myself, I tend to forget that good deck shoes have really been carefully designed and built to wear on a boat. Their distinctive white soles are designed not to mark the white fiberglass that most modern boats are made of, and are cut in patterns known as 'siping'; jagged, razor-thin cuts that open up as you walk and create suction (and therefore grip) on a smooth surface. Fashion deck shoes may look the same, but if they're not constructed properly they'll be worse than useless on a slippery deck.

The insole on these is not only properly secured, thank goodness, but also includes a double-layer perforated edge which, I presume, helps air to circulate under the feet. The upper is made of sturdy leather in a rich, reddish-brown, double-stitched and embossed with a very discreet Chatham Marine logo. They're also available in blue (been there, done that) or white, which is suddenly very appealing for that mediterranean look. No harm in having a second pair, of course...

They're extremely comfortable, surprisingly warm in the current grim weather, and curiously elegant for a casual shoe. More than anything, though, having a decently-made pair of deck shoes reminds me that these are really a feat of engineering, carefully designed for a potentially dangerous environment. If that makes them all the more enjoyable to wear season-round as a hard-wearing, versatile casual shoe then that's part of the joy of it, whether or not you actually ever find yourself on a boat.

Note: The shoes in this article were provided by Chatham Marine for review. No payment has been made for this post, and acceptance of items for review does not guarantee positive coverage.

I've been sewing for myself!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It is that time of year when client shirt orders have been stitched and sent...and I have time to indulge by sewing some new things for myself.  After a significant weight loss over the past several months, I still have some pattern-tweaking to do, but I am so happy that I've managed to sew several very wearable casual tops for myself, including this one!

Most are quite simple and not "blog-worthy", but I thought you might like to see this one. I started with a basic jewel neck pull-over, and added a self-drafted "Split Cowl Collar".  The fabric is an ancient piece from my stash...a soft stretchy knit with a suede-like nap.  I am not quite down to my normal (goal) weight, so the drag-lines you see come from my attempts to make a larger top look a little better on a smaller form.

Here is a close-up of the Collar. If you would like me to write a Tutorial and show how to make and apply a Split Cowl Collar to any basic pull-over knit top, let me know in "comments"...because I plan to make at least one more of this style and can take photos along the way if there is enough interest.

Luxury: silk dressing gown

Monday, December 10, 2012
Long-term readers, or people who've delved into the archive, may remember this old post about my hankering for a Bertie Wooster style silk dressing gown with quilted collar and cuffs. Such things are still available, from a fairly small number of places, but cost many hundreds of pounds and often over a thousand, and even I cannot really justify that.

However, there are always ways and means, when it comes to this sort of thing, and last year I was fortunate enough to have just such a dressing gown made for me. The body is actually very fine wool, the lining a light blue silk, and the collar and cuffs also silk, painstakingly quilted and piped.
It's extraordinarily comfortable, very warm, and very beautiful. I don't know if that's particularly important given the small number of people that ever get to see it, but these days there are more occasions when wearing a dress gown to breakfast is not unacceptable, so it should at least be a nice one.

You may ask why, in this photo, I am wearing it over white tie. Well, aside from the fact that it's better than posting pictures of me in my pyjamas, and I was dressing for dinner in someone else's house, it seemed appropriate. You see, this sort of dressing gown is called a dressing gown for a reason. There is (or was) a difference between a dressing gown and a bathrobe that goes beyond the 'U/non-U', or the fact that as far I as am concerned a bathrobe is the sort of thing you only find in hotel rooms. No, a bathrobe is presumably designed to be worn while the wearer is still damp, and so is made of toweling or some other suitable material. A dressing gown, on the other hand, is intended to keep the wearing warm while dressing or undressing. It makes more sense, of course, in a time where rooms (particularly bedrooms) could be very cold, where servants might be nipping in and out, and where merely putting a shirt on could take 15 minutes and seven or eight individual pieces of gold and brass. These days, all that is less relevant, but the desire to wrap up in something warm and comfortable remains.

TUTORIAL- An Easy Dash of "Couture Facing" Panache!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

With many of us feverishly sewing gifts to give during the holidays, Click Here for the tutorial I wrote a while ago...that will bring every casual shirt and any other garment with facings an easy dash of "couture" panache !

Perfect gift 2 - Made to measure shirts

Friday, December 7, 2012
Buying clothes as a gift is never easy. Not only do you have to be sure of getting the size right, but you have to guess at the style, colour, pattern and so on that will please the recipient. The more sartorially aware the man the harder, in many ways, it becomes. There's a good chance that if the chap you're buying for cares about clothes, he's developed a strong preference for, let's say, shirts with a medium cutaway collar, rounded French cuffs, no gauntlet button, lengthy tails, and only plain colours in end-on-end fabric.

If you can get all that right, you'll impress him no end, but your chances of guessing it are slim. That's not to say anyone ever really objects to a shirt that is not quite precisely what they would buy themselves, but there's something to be said for a gift that still gives the recipient the flexibility to make all those finicky choices that make it perfect for them. That's why I'm a big fan of the made-to-measure shirt gift that a few more suppliers are doing. They have the advantage of being easy to buy, easy to claim and, crucially, you only have to buy one. Many of the old-school shirtmakers have minimum orders of four or five shirts which makes them less than suitable for gifting.

Here's a selection:
Thomas Pink
Starting from £140, and going up to over £250, you just have to pick the fabric type you are prepared to pay for and then leave the rest for the gift recipient to choose. Of course, you need to have something for them to open on Christmas Day, so Pink provide a pair of brass collar stiffeners in a gift box, which act as the 'token' - quite a neat idea.

But are the shirts any good? Personally, it's not where I would choose to spend £140, but they're decently made from good cloth and this would make a particularly nice present for someone who already has a few off-the-peg Pink shirts and likes them.

Ede & Ravenscroft
Ede & Ravenscroft always used to do rather a nice gift shirt service, not dissimilar to the Pink one except that the 'gift card' came in the form of a length of shirting cloth in a box. This meant that you could still impose some of your own taste on the gift, by picking the cloth to use, with the advantage that in reality the recipient could still swap it for a different cloth when they came to have the shirt made up.
Of course, typically, as I come to write this post I can find no trace of this service on the E&R website, and only a newly expanded page about the made-to-measure shirt service. That said, I'm sure that they do still offer the gift option, or would be happy to do so if you asked.

As I recall, the shirts started at around £150, although most made-to-measure shirts at E&R are closer to £190. I'm a big fan of Ede & Ravenscroft shirts so this would probably be my gift shirt of choice, and they are certainly well-made enough that even someone who normally buys shirts at New & Lingwood or Turnbull & Asser would be unlikely to be disappointed with one of these.

Cad and the Dandy
Like a few of the more modern tailors, Cad and the Dandy offer gift vouchers, and you can buy one for any amount, meaning that you could either fully cover the cost of a tailored shirt (starting at £125) or, for a slightly more reasonable gift, give them some money towards one. I've never (yet) had a Cad and the Dandy shirt, but their suits are terrific and the shirts I've seen have been well-fitted and nicely made. That said, the voucher itself is a little unimaginative - an e-voucher that you can put in your own card.

Henry Herbert
Like Cad and the Dandy, Henry Herbert just offers a gift voucher for a 'bespoke' shirt (at £180), although they do at least come with quite an attractive voucher. The recipient can order online by entering their own measurements which is never ideal, but may be more appealing to someone who is busy or intimidated by the idea of going to be measured by a tailor. That said, the consultation stage is part of the experience and arguably the most fun bit, so I'd recommend organising a meeting with one of their tailors.

A Near Miss...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This is a pretty darn good "final muslin" of a nicely detailed shirt...or so I thought.

I was very pleased with the bias details on the right side Front, Cuffs, and Sleeve Plackets. But more than that....this new pattern draft for my DH Roger fit him perfectly, and he really liked the design details!  In fact, even though this shirt was the "final muslin", and only made with serged-then-topstitched  seams...it looks good enough to actually wear, don't you think? [that funky bit at the left shoulder is just from not pinning it perfectly to my photo-wall]  And even more than that...this fabric was a bargain, and I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived to see that it didn't look or feel "cheap".

So, OK then...after I tossed this one into the wash to rinse out the starch I used to stabilize some of the bias details, I was ready to move on to another shirt for Roger, made from the same checked fabric in a different color. 

 I was just finishing the prep work on the final pattern for the second shirt when this blue one was ready to come out of the dryer. I handed it to Roger and he put it on, or rather he tried to put it on.  Despite pre-washing/drying the fabric...this nice blue shirt shrank! Not a little bit...the sleeves and body were 1/2" too short. No big deal on the body-length, very big deal with the sleeves. And it shrank a bit width-wise too.

OMG!  How the hell did this happen!

I may have mentioned this before. I am a compulsive pre-washer...I always, I mean always wash shirting fabric once in hot water/hot dryer, then again in warm water/warm dryer. And I measure the length and width before and after. This fabric passed my obsessive pre-wash evaluation with just a tiny bit of shrinkage. Nothing shrank during the construction, and I always press with plenty of steam. So this extra shrinkage surprise really was a surprise!

The thing is, Roger really likes this checked fabric in the other color. So against my better judgement, I am going to make another shirt for him with this fabric. But this time in addition to my usual pre-wash routine,  I am going to use my hottest wash and dry cycles one extra time, and then for good measure (ha, ha), I'll wet the yardage, spin out the excess water, and dry it on hot one more time. Not (usually) being a foolish woman, I did wash/dry the now-shrunken blue shirt you see here to see if it would shrink again. It didn't.  So I feel only a little anxiety about the other fabric.

What am I going to do with this blue shirt?  I considered pinning it on my wall as a reminder to never again buy cheap shirting fabric from that really huge online fabric store...no matter how nice it looks. But in the end I donated it...it's a nice enough shirt, someone will get use of it.

What did I learn?   To wait until my always reliable online fabric store and wholesale sources of "better" shirt fabrics have what I am looking for, and until then to shop from my considerable stash.

What are those reliable sources for menswear shirting that I use, you ask?
Retail- www.GorgeousFabrics.com
Wholesale- my little secret :)

And one more thing. Before another menswear shirt gets sewn by my hands.....my hands are going to get busy making a few tops and a few pairs of pants for myself. Yay me!      

Perfect gift 1 - cufflinks

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
In the run-up to Christmas, here's one of a handful of posts I'll be doing looking at a great gift for the stylish man, and some different options to suit all budgets.

First up, cufflinks. They may be obvious, and some might even consider them a slightly staid choice, but given some thought and care they are perfect. Any well-dressed man needs them, and given the number of days per year when they can be worn, its hard to see how an extra pair will ever be unwelcome or unwanted. They can, with luck and care, last a lifetime or longer, and you have plenty of flexibility to show you've given some thought to the recipients particular taste and personality.

Reasonably-priced option
It's not easy finding a pair of cufflinks for less than £20-30 that I'd actually wear, but it's not impossible. TM Lewin do a wide range many of which are at best unexceptional and at worst hideous. However, they do offer one or two decent, plain, classic gold or silver ovals. My preference would probably be these which have the advantage of being sterling silver, reasonably elegant, and chain-mounted which is a rarity in this price bracket.

I'm personally not a fan of more showy or colourful cufflinks, but a discrete coloured enamel can work perfectly nicely, just be sure to avoid anything that comes as a set with a tie...

Mid-range option
If you're prepared to spend closer to £100, your options open up a lot. Smarter versions of the silver ovals mentioned above are available from, for example, Aspinal of London for £99, and can be engraved with initials for £20 more.
Image propert of Aspinal of London

Alternatively, Ede & Ravenscroft offer gold and mother-of-pearl cufflinks for just £75 (and the same again for a set of matching dress studs. Go on, you know you want to.)

Stretching the budget a bit further, New and Lingwood do a range of attractive enameled oval cufflinks for £250, here. As I've said, I'm more of a fan of plain gold or silver, but these are a classic style and suit many men very well. They're also not a bad bet if you know the man you're buying for already has the classic gold and/or silver chain-linked ovals, which many will.

To my mind, the ne plus ultra of cufflinks for the well-dressed man are classic chain-linked ovals in 18ct gold, either plain or engraved with his initials. Rebus, who made my signet ring, offer a fine example here for a mere £1,860, or £1,920 including engraved initials. If that's too much, you can always go for 9ct gold for rather less, and I'm sure noone will mind. Either way, the best ones are made of decent thick chunks of gold and, in my opinion, have the advantage of being wearable with almost anything from full evening dress to a shirt and cords.

If you're looking for something a bit more unusual or showy, the independent jeweller De Vroomen in Belgravia makes some beautiful enameled cufflinks at a range of prices (all fairly eye-watering) and also does individual commissions.
Image property of De Vroomen

Preparing for Winter 2: Gloves

Thursday, November 22, 2012
The second in my round of 'buying things I need every year, and think about buying every year, and never quite sort out' came in the form of a pair of very nice Paul Smith gloves.
I don't buy a lot of clothes from Paul Smith. Although I like the quality and some of the style, I prefer more straightforward and classic colours, patterns and cuts. I couldn't resist the gloves though - made from very soft, very dark brown leather with a thin wool lining, they're exactly the thing for the increasingly chilly but not quite 'brass-monkey' weather that heralds the run-up to Christmas. People who particularly like wearing gloves can always go for an unlined pair, but my personal view is that if it's not cold enough to justify a wool lining then it's not worth wearing something that makes it impossible to use a smart phone or fish change out of my pocket.

I personally like very dark brown gloves as a fairly all-purpose option. Black is fine, and can look smart with a suit when you are (presumably) wearing black shoes, although I personally think it's a little less elegant than brown. If you have more than one pair, then grey is a traditional but increasingly uncommon possibility for day-wear.

The slimmer and better-fitting your gloves are the better, of course (and the easier it is to do that fishing for change) and the ideal is to get them custom-made. I've never done so, but it's not outrageously expensive from places such as Walker Slater, and also gives you complete flexibility in your choice of colour, leather, and lining. Wool is comfortable and straightforward, fur is fantastic but too warm for all but the coldest days in London, and silk is lovely but generally more expensive.

It's having the choice that's nice, of course, and that inevitably is wear trouble begins. Now that I have one pair, I immediately start to realise all the other pairs I really need...

Brushed Denim Shirt...Distressed around the Edges

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lately I have been spending all my free time in my studio making Shirts!  This is one of them, a Brushed Denim Shirt, featuring a Double-Pocket with Distressed Edges.   The distressing on the pocket and all the top-stitched seams was done by rubbing them lightly with fine-grit sandpaper.

SEWING NOTES:  Pattern- my original design and hand-draft. Fabric- from my shirt-making stash. Interfacing- ProWoven Shirt Crisp from www.FashionSewingSupply.com


Buttons--  These New smoothly
polished 1/2-inch 4-hole 
from   www.FashionSewingSupply.com

Mr Cameron and White Tie mishaps

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Poor Mr Cameron seems to have suffered a slight white tie wardrobe malfunction at last night's Lord Mayor's Banquet. I don't especially wish to post pictures of the PMs chest on this blog so, if you wish to see for yourself, you shall have to visit the Guardian, which has no such compunctions.

As far as I can tell, what happened is that he has used a type of stud designed for shirts so stiffly starched that it is impossible to push the stud through, and so they must in fact be inserted from either side and screwed together. Perhaps his are an old family set and the threads are worn, but it seems that several have come undone at once, which is highly unfortunate.

Ah well, such are the perils of wearing a wardrobe that requires you to be screwed in to your shirt, but at least he made the effort and generally looked jolly smart.

Still, those of you with an eye for correct formal attire will no doubt notice that he has committed the classic white tie sin of wearing a waistcoat that extends well below the bottom of his tailcoat.

Of course, he's hardly the first man to have this problem. The difficulty arises because the coat must be short, coming to barely below the ribcage, and the waistcoat must (obviously) cover the waistband of the trousers. Therefore, one is left with two options: either the trousers must come to somewhere around your navel, which is correct but unpopular these days, or the waistcoat must extend below the tailcoat. Finding sufficiently high-waisted trousers is all the more difficult if, like the PM, you hire your white tie. Mr Cameron gets his from Buckleigh in Chelsea which is, I am sure, a step up on Moss Bros but no doubt has likewise given up on trying to talk the modern customer into wearing trousers that sit a good half a foot higher than those he is used to.

It's a shame, and Mr Cameron of all people could surely justify buying his own evening suit and having it properly fitted. Even Gordon Brown, he of the baggy suits, eventually shelled out £3,000 (of his own money) on his own. That said, he probably didn't get as much use out of it as he'd hoped, so perhaps Mr Cameron is still hedging his bets.
The moral of the story? Buy evening wear that fits, and be sure that your studs are up to the task before you step infront of the national press.

Style icon: Patrick Bateman

Monday, November 12, 2012
Ok, so he's either an extremely sick and evil man or (more likely, in my view) has a very sick imagination, but it's hard to be interested in clothes and ignore the fact that the protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis's famous book is utterly obsessed by what he, and everyone else around him, is wearing. The beginning of every chapter reads like one of those strange 'what am I wearing today' threads on the more naval-gazing clothing forums and, not only that, but he and his friends obsess about the minutiae of how to wear certain items of clothing in a way that cannot help to attract the interest of a blogger like myself.

"Is it proper to wear tasseled loafers with a business suit?"
"The tasseled loafer is traditionally a casual shoe...[but] as long as it's either black or cordovan it's ok."

"There are definitely dos and don'ts ... of wearing a bold-striped shirt. A bold stripe calls for solid-coloured or discreetly patterned suits and ties."

And so on, and so on.

I'm not sure the film really does justice to the range of his wardrobe and, in particular, the way he carefully chooses exactly the right thing to wear for each event. To a U2 concert, it's "a wool jacket with wool flannel trousers, a cotton shirt, a cashmere V-neck sweater and a silk tie". I'm not sure anyone dresses like that to see bands anymore, but it would certainly do for an evening at the theatre or at a classical concert. For a day in the office, perhaps a more formal lool: "a mini-houndstooth-check wool suit with pleated trousers by Hugo Boss, a silk tie... a cotton broad-cloth shirt by Joseph Abboud, and shoes from Brooks Brothers".

Of course, Bateman's real problem is the same as some other well-dressed men I've come accross: he's enthralled (to an unhealthy degree) by details, by labels, and by what other people are wearing. There's no indication of any real flair, style or enthusiasm. But perhaps that's not surprising; he is, after all, a psychopath, desperately trying to fit in.

If we can learn anything from Patrick, it's that. Stop worrying about 'the rules', stop obsessing over every component of each day's outfit and where you bought it from, and stop worrying how other people see you. 

Menswear Shirt With Shaped Yoke

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I had a few moments to snap a pic of this shirt 
just before Fedex was due to pick it up and send it to my client.

It is made from a reversible cotton/rayon blend shirting featuring tiny herringbone checks, that has a soft limp drape...and should be very comfortable to wear during my client's temperate winter climate.  As you can see, I used the predominantly green side for most of the shirt pieces, and chose to cut the shaped yoke, button and front plackets and pocket accents from the reverse side.

SEWING NOTES--  Pattern is my own hand-draft. Fabric is from my wholesale supplier. Interfacing used is ProWoven Light-Crisp Fusible from www.FashionSewingSupply.com

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Live on the Plaza this Friday Nov 9th!

Come by and check out new tees from Crazed Lemmings and mexican skulls painted by Bomb Shelter. Open late til 11pm!

Closing of Ralph Lauren Rugby

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The always excellent 'Boxing the Compass' blog has drawn my attention to the fact that Ralph Lauren Rugby is closing, with an amusingly mocking take on the brand. I'm not a huge fan myself; while I quite like the preppy look, and occasionally veer a little in that direction with my outfits, I'd prefer to construct the style myself from decent clothes made without necessarily any conscious preppy intention than to buy it, fully formed and largely falsified, from a single store. I think I only own one item of clothing from there - a nice-fitting pair of chinos that have nevertheless largely fallen apart within a year.

I'm not quite sure what's inspired Ralph Lauren to do this - supposedly they want to focus on their own brand, and on accessories. That may be no bad thing, they actually make terrific suits and other clothes, but seem often to be overshadowed by weirdly stylised spin-off brands that feel more like costumiers than clothes-shops.

Preparing for Winter 1 - Boots

Sunday, November 4, 2012
For the last two Autumn/Winter periods, I've spent an inordinate amount of time wanting, looking for, an ultimately not buying a pair of brown brogue boots.

On the one hand, they are exactly what I need. A little warmer, a little chunkier and a little more suitable for wet (or even snowy weather) than normal shoes and yet (if well chosen) able to pass for a pair of casual, but perfectly smart, brogues when your trousers cover the ankle section.

The trouble has always been finding the right pair. It's important that they basically have the shape and style of a normal pair of brown brogues, so anything overly chunky was out. On the other hand, ideally I feel it needs to have rubber soles since it is at least in part a practical purchase. Colour, too, becomes tricky when, of the half-dozen or so shoemakers I would consider buying from, each may only make one or two varieties of boot, and some offer none.

And so time passed, and I never bought a pair. Finally, though, I have bitten the bullet and gone for what is very nearly my perfect pair of brown brogue boots.

They're made by Crockett & Jones, and are a neat and smart pair of open-laced boots with a classic full-brogue that, when I am wearing trouser, are barely distinguishable from many shoes. The colour is beautiful - a properly dark almost mahogany tone that I've taken years trying to polish into my other brogues. If they have a flaw, it's that they are not rubber-soled. Crockett & Jones do offer it, but it required returning them to the manufacturer and paying an extra £60. The money isn't so much of a problem, but the wait was. Deferred gratification has never been my strong point. I shall wear them as they are and, when they need resoling, will probably have them changed at that point.

They're warm, comfortable and beautiful - form and function combined, which is always nice, particularly if you enjoy walking for miles around London as much as I do. Although largely designed for country wear, they're perfectly acceptable to wear with pretty much anything you might wear brown brogues with. I particularly like them with one of my pairs of fairly casual, but brightly coloured corduroy trousers. At the same time, they could certainly be worn with a tweed suit and possible with other very soft, casual or light-coloured suits.

Dressing the hill

Thursday, October 25, 2012
I'm not always a fan of GQ - their content, contributors and clothing style irks me enough that I rarely buy the magazine. That said, this online article really appealed:

It exposes what I would describe as the 'everyday bad dress' of most men (not just political wonks either - you'd spot all of these problems in a single tube carriage during rush hour in London). What I mean by 'everyday bad dress' is not dressing terribly badly, but simply dressing without either thought or understanding. It's wearing a suit that's one size too big, because you lack the confidence or knowledge to get it really fitting. It's wearing boring shiny ties because they're what you've worn every day for the last ten years. It's wearing clunky shoes because they're a bit cheaper and you assume noone notices and, deep down, you're worried there's something a bit feminine about a neat pair of leather-soled brogues.

So, men everywhere could read this and learn something from it. My five key 'take-outs' (if you'll let me slip into management-speak for a moment) would be:

  • Fit. I cannot emphasise this enough! All of the men featured have enough material pooling around their ankles to make another suit out of. You don't need to know much about clothes to know that's just not right. Getting a jacket to fit may be harder, but have the confidence to ask a salesperson for advice, and if they can't give it to you then shop somewhere they can. Fit matters so much more than anything else (cloth, manufacturer and style included), that it just can't be ignored. 
  • Shoes. So easy to ignore, and so often the one thing that ruins an outfit. More than half the men in the article are wearing shapeless shoes made from cheap leather that won't age well or take a decent polish. Despite the current fashion, I'm a big fan of slim, round-toed shoes and I loathe the random seams running along the top and sides of shoes that seem to be in fashion at the moment.
  • Textures. Many of the men benefited from swapping shiny, plain grey or black suits (or suit trousers) for something with a bit of texture. For day-to-day work wear, plain worsted suits are always going to be useful, but some kind of colour, texture or pattern can really lift it out of the mundane. The 3rd man in this article is a particularly good example of that.
  • Ties. In almost all cases, then men in this article looked a million times better wearing ties with smaller knots, fewer colours, and less shine. GQ is also a big fan of slimmer ties, which isn't necessarily something I'd always advocate, but there's definitely a balance to be struck, and overly-wide ties are both a bad look and also currently very unfashionable.
  • Accessories. GQ just loves tie clips and pocket squares and, as you'll know from my previous post, I'm not a big believer in jamming every possible accessory on to your outfit for the sake of it. It's possible to be very well dressed with just a good suit and tie, and very badly dressed with a pocket square and tie clip. That said, a well-chosen and discreet pocket square can make a good outfit great, and a tie clip both looks pleasing in its own right and, if position correctly, can add form and shape to the tie.

Awesome new goodies just in!

Monday, October 22, 2012
We picked up loads of new goodies this last week! Over 100 new items of apparel including a big ol' pile of retro sweaters to restock. Also some fabulous new jewelry and hair accessories from Adele Wolf and some awesome jewelry and accessories from Tasty Grrrl Rockin Creations! You'll you have to make sure to make a trip here to check out the newbies!

Choosing not to

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The other day, my father sent me a joke he'd seen somewhere: A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion, but chooses not to.

Well, perhaps 'joke' is the wrong word. A wry comment, which amused me, all the same. Leaving aside for a minute what precisely it means in this day and age to be a 'gentleman' and whether that is even necessarily desirable, it did make me think of a number of other ideas along the same lines. Here's one for many of my friends: a gentleman is someone who can talk at length about any wine on the wine list, but chooses not to. Or, easing slowly but surely back on-topic, perhaps: a gentleman is a man who can wear a three-piece suit, a tie-pin, a pocket square and a trilby, all at the same time, but chooses not to.

My point, if I have one, is that being well-dressed seems to me to be as much about choosing what to leave out as it is about getting everything 'right'. As I've developed my enthusiasm for clothes, I'm aware that my interest in doing everything just because I can (wearing a pocket square every day, obsessing over the details of 'correct' black tie) has waned, and I have developed what is (I hope) a healthier interest in wearing outfits that look pleasing, and that please me. On occasion, to the horror of some readers of this blog, I choose not to wear a tie. Of late, when wearing a double-breasted dinner jacket to more casual events, I choose to follow the example of one of my friends and not wear an evening shirt, but an ordinary white shirt.

You don't have to like or agree with, let alone follow, my choices but I hope you'll see the importance of occasionally letting go of the 'iGent' obsession with doing things because you can, and because it's 'correct', and choosing instead to let your personality, style, confidence and even 'gentlemanliness' just speak for itself.

Weekend tweed

Sunday, October 14, 2012
I certainly don't wear a jacket and tie every weekend, but sometimes smartening up is called for. When it is, you can't beat a tweed jacket and a sleeveless v-neck jumper for giving that 'sure, I've got to work, but it's also Sunday' look.

The jacket is a mid-weight tweed from Roderick Charles - a classic olive green with blue and gold over-check, which I chose as a more traditional alternative to my Donegal tweed suit. The tie is knitted silk, which is slightly more casual and, to my mind, goes nicely under a jumper.

Wearing too much of one colour is a dangerous game, but I like the mix of different tones of blue here, particularly as it's offset by the green of the jacket. The key, I think, is that items should be different either in shade or material, or both.

Come hang with artist/ filmmaker Felix Matos

Thursday, October 11, 2012
2 chances this weekend... During Live on the Plaza fri nite from 7:30-10p at Dig It and Bad Granny's and Sat come see his movie Pumpken for free at Dig It! at 7:30pm! Last chance to see him before he heads out and he wont be back in OK til March!

Get creative this Halloween !

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Why buy a prebagged cheaply made costume this year?We have a great selection of items to create your unique costume with! You dont want to go to a party only to see 7 others in the same outfit do you! Plus Bad Granny's and Velvet Monkey r nearby so if we dont have something that triggers that great costume idea then maybe they do! So come on down to Plaza district and get creative!

Interview: Cad and the Dandy

Monday, October 8, 2012
I've been using Cad and the Dandy (albeit relatively infrequently) for about two and a half years, and my first review of them was my 16th ever post on this blog. Since then I've had four beautiful suits, jackets or coats made by them, so I like to think I've been well placed to see the company change and grow over the last couple of years. Now, to mark their 4th anniversary, I caught up with co-founder James Sleater, to find out how he thinks things have gone.

Image property of Cad and the Dandy Ltd.

St James Style: James, how have the last four years been for Cad and the Dandy, and how has the company changed in that time?

James Sleater: The last four years have flown by and we are so pleased with how far our company has grown. We started of with two of us front of house and now we have 10. Our workshop is now at around 45, and when you consider that what we do is very artisan, that is a considerable number. Fundamentally, we get the chance to do something we love every day and hopefully that shines through in our work.

StJS:You started at the height of the recession selling a product that many men, faced with tightening budgets, might see as a non-essential luxury, and yet you seem to have gone from strength to strength. Why do you think this is?

JS:Yes, at the time people thought we were crazy! Those within, as well as outside of, the tailoring industry thought we should just hold tight and wait for the market to flip back, but I think the challenge just made us work harder and also look at the costs, in order to keep our offering as competitive as possible. It certainly helps that our price point is considerably lower than the traditional Savile Row houses, as it has enabled us to offer a viable alternative product, which is more affordable but which does not compromise on quality.

StJS: And what has been the reaction of the Savile Row old-guard to a new enterprise like yours?

JS: We work in a traditional industry and everyone on the Row has, without exception, been wonderful to us. Many have sent us referrals and when we got our first one a few years ago, when we had only recently started out, we were genuinely humbled. Once we were stopped on the Row by one of the old-guard, who told us, with a twinkle in his eye, that his company had made it their business to make sure their website was better than ours. Friendly rivalry is great and if you do things the right way, with regards to production methodology, how you support the industry and your approach to business, it is a friendly and fantastic place to work.

StJS: So what do you think marks out a really great suit?

JS: One that has been crafted and not just machine sewn. The fact that the cutter, coat maker, trouser maker has cared for the suit, by applying their own specific craft, rather than it being made in a production line, means it will look 'alive' and not just be fabric that has been sewn together.

StJS: What's your own favourite suit, and why?

JS: I think it has to be the morning suit I wore for my wedding, not just because obviously it had a special function, but also because it is made with a cloth that is no longer made, as it is no longer commercial to do so. It was a gift from a fabric merchant and it truly is remarkable, the way it holds and shapes is incredible. There is something so elegant about a morning suit and the fact that you don't get to wear it every day only adds to it being special.

StJS: Now, feel free to disagree, but over the last four years, I get the impression your bespoke offering has been a big focus, and has got better and better, to the point where there is little or nothing to distinguish it from a traditional Savile Row tailor. Would your ultimate aim be to move entirely in that direction, or will you always want to offer the cheaper, more made-to-measure option?

JS: You are most definitely right, a flight to quality is something we have strived hard for and if you are in such an industry, you want to match and better your peers, that's natural. We are not happy to rest on our laurels and we are always looking to improve our suits, range of cloth and website. It's a constantly evolving story. Having said that, we want to remain as accessible as possible and and not scare people before they walk through the door.

StJS: Finally, what else lies ahead for Cad and the Dandy?

JS: Exciting things I hope. We are growing in America, where traditional Savile Row gets its lion's share of business. We are developing more interactive aspects on our site, not to push it as a merchandising platform, as such, but to help people get more of a feeling as to what we are about. We want to keep our business at the obtainable end of luxury, price wise, but getting our name out there as THE tailor to go to for a cracking suit is key.

StJS: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, and best of luck with the next four years. I certainly hope to be back in before too long, as I've been itching for a new bespoke suit for some time...

Perfect Collar Points...A Shirtmaker's "Secret" Technique

"Secret" in this case meaning that after all these years
I am finally sharing one of the ways I achieve
 "As close to perfect as possible" Collar Points
on the shirts that I design and sew for my clients.
(Extreme close-up of a Collar point)

This amazingly simple Collar Point technique is used by many Custom Shirtmakers all over the world.  Like many of the techniques I use, it was learned during my Tailoring and ShirtMaking Apprenticeship.

There are certain techniques that Custom-ShirtMakers use to get professional results, and this is one of them.  Before I get to the tutorial, please note that there are a few things that (almost all) Custom ShirtMakers "Always do", and "Never do".  We TURN collars, we do NOT "poke" them out with pointy objects, or any other object, template or gadget. Also, when we want a Point, we SEW a Point...we do NOT pivot taking 2 stitches. And we NEVER sew a collar with a 5/8-inch seam allowance, because it wastes time and fabric.

That said...if you Pivot and Poke and use 5/8-inch seams,  and are happy with your results.....I am NOT the self-appointed "Point Police Officer"!   So carry on...and disregard what follows.   :)

If you want your collar points to be perfect every time, with very little effort....here is the method that most of my professional ShirtMaking colleagues and I use with great success...even on the thickest shirt fabrics. In fact, the fabric shown in this demonstration is a thicker than usual, double-weave wool/cotton herringbone shirting fabric.

The first step to a great collar is to reduce the seam allowance of your collar pattern piece to 1/4-inch (Please note that you will also have to change the shirt-body neck edge seam allowances to 1/4-inch).  

 Then cut 2 collar pieces, and Interface one of them as shown below. Generally, the top collar is interfaced. For a softer look, interface the bottom collar or interface both for a very crisp collar. The interfacing shown here is Pro-Woven Light Crisp Fusible Interfacing, from www.FashionSewingSupply.com.) I will elaborate about interfacing techniques another time....today it is all about The Point.   

So to continue, shown below are 2 collar pieces with 1/4-inch seam allowances--

 (All photos may be "clicked" to enlarge)

Next, Place the collar pieces right-sides-together (RST), and stitch the long top seam completely from one edge to the other,  as shown--

Press the seam flat, then press it open. Then turn the piece so that the Right Side is facing up, as shown--


 The following steps will be done on both sides, for each collar point, when making a collar. 

However, just one side will be shown here to demonstrate the technique.


STEP 1--   Cut a piece of thread about 15-20" long and fold it so there is a loop on one end, as shown-- 

STEP 2--  Lay the folded thread exactly in the "well" of the seam, with a generous portion of the LOOPED side going off the edge, as shown--

STEP 3-- Fold the collar Right Sides Together, matching the short side seams of the collar, and "trapping" the folded thread INSIDE, snugged-up against the line of stitching. (The looped side sticks out beyond the edges), as shown--

 STEP 4-- Move it to the machine...but before any stitching is done, lift up one layer of the collar and make sure that piece of thread is still right against the seam, as shown below. If it isn't, use your fingernail to nudge it into place.

Now carefully match the short edges of the collar, and stitch the seam. IMPORTANT-- Because the thread loop must be secured when this seam is sewn..Stitch the First Inch of This Seam with VERY SMALL/Short /Tiny  STITCHES.   (I use 22 stitches per inch, the number 1 stitch length setting on my machine) ...then change back to your regular stitch length, and finish sewing the short end of the collar.  Notice that the looped side of the thread is still sticking out beyond the edges--

STEP 5-- After the side of the collar is stitched, carefully trim the seam allowances as shown below. (Make Sure NOT to Cut THE THREAD LOOP!  Repeat...Move that loop out of the way before trimming!)   
Yes, this is all the "point trimming" that is needed...trust me.

----- REPEAT Steps 1-5 on the Other Side of the Collar -----

Here is the really fun "OH My Gosh !" Step---

Do this separately for each Point....

Reach INSIDE the collar and grasp BOTH of the 2 thread TAILS.
 (NO! NOT the loop! Grab BOTH of the loose threads inside!)

 Keep Pulling BOTH of those 2 thread tails....
Gently keep Pulling BOTH of those thread tails....

And keep pulling BOTH of those 2 thread tails until the collar point is turned out completely--


Now to get rid of the thread...Just pull ONE of the thread tails....until the last of it slips through and out.

Here is an extreme close-up of the collar Point....BEFORE is has even been pressed and edge-stitched... No Humps, No Lumps, No unsightly Bumps!  Once turned, the 1/4-inch seam allowances "fit and fill" the point...stopping the "Tip Flip" so often seen in "made-at-home" Collars.

So...do you think you might give this fast and easy method a try when making a collar?    If you do, I suggest making a quick "mock-up" with scrap fabric (you can skip the interfacing)  to practice the thread-loop technique.