Sunday, April 25, 2010

Developing the Sleevehead book idea

I attended the 2010 American Association of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference in New York City this past weekend and learned quite a bit about the highly competitive publishing market, working with agents, developing proposals, expanding one's platform, etc. My purpose was to push forward on my book idea on men's style.

Apart from learning the business of writing and publishing books, I had some great conversations. On Saturday, I had a chat with Laura Read, a freelance writer and photographer from California. One thing men can learn from women is the ability to improvise after the fact. Laura had carefully planned and packed several sets of clothes for the ASJA event but realized they were not quite right and ended up wearing a mix and match of separates. In my view, it is this combination of both planning and improvisation that sets apart the confident dresser.

Another highlight occurred during the proposal panel when I walked up to the podium and asked a question. Chris Parris-Lamb of The Gernert Company said "I like your blazer" (actually I was wearing my Teba jacket but it's the thought that counts as they say). Great panel and I went away with some constructive feedback. Note to self: My elevator pitch of the book as the "first real intellectual history of men's style" probably needs to be refined.

I met a number of other helpful, interesting writers and journalists but special thanks to Sondra Forsyth for her feedback during my mentoring session. The lunchtime keynote by Peter Shankman on social media (four principles of, the future of) was also superb - probably the best I've heard on the topic.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bespoke in Washington, DC: Field English Custom Tailors

I received some correspondence recently that Field Tailors has moved to a new address in Washington, D.C. They are staying put in Georgetown but moving further up Wisconsin Ave. The new address is 2134 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC. New hours are Mon-Fri 9:30am - 6:00pm and Saturday 9:30am - 3:00pm.

The head tailor is William Field, Jr, whose father trained in Savile Row and moved to the states in the 1960s. As far as I know, Will is one of the youngest head cutters and bench tailors in the US. They carry an excellent selection of fabric books such as Lesser and Drapers.

I visited three years ago and have a couple of three piece suits made by Will. They are what I would call a "soft structured" shoulder and chest - a fairly thin and soft chest canvas and minimal shoulder padding - and a shaped waist. I find his trouser cutting to be especially skillful. The brace-fitted trousers he made for me fit very well, showing nice, straight lines, and striking a pleasing balance between leg width and length.

The store will be having an opening party on April 30th from 6-9pm.

Additional links
- 2008 Washington City Paper article on William Field
- Styleforum thread on Field DB suit

Updated March 2011

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Freddy Vandecasteele

I haven't had a chance to chat with my shirtmaker Freddy Vandecasteele in several months. But it goes without saying that he's probably been busy making both men's and women's shirts.

Recently, women's fashion blogger Kristopher Dukes became a customer of Freddy and gives her review here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Best men's style blogs: Sleevehead in the press

I was very pleasantly surprised to find my blog mentioned in a couple of "best of" lists for men's style blogs.

Last year, the writers behind the Art of Manliness put Sleevehead in the company of A Permanent Style and The Trad in their list of best blogs.

Just last month, Andrew Cedotal of Styleite posted "A Pocket Guide to Menswear Bloggers", listing this blog in the same company as the London Cut and London Lounge under the tailors category. He also lists his take on the best menwear bloggers in two other categories: "hipster thrifters" and the "new boulevardiers". For each, Andrew describes their commonalities, likes and dislikes.

Under "dislikes" for the tailors category, I should note that I'm actually fine with machine stitching in certain cases (perhaps I'm growing lax in a RTW kind of way) and I actually bought something on a couple of years ago (believe it or not!).

In any case, many thanks to both sites for their recognition of my blog.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

1930s style: Drape cut in Hollywood

"Gold Diggers of 1933" (1933) is a film notable for a couple of things. One is that it opens with the hit song "We're in the Money", a tune recognizable even today. It is also a pre-code Hollywood film, meaning it was not subject to the censorship guidelines that went into effect a year later.

From a clothing perspective (or lack thereof in the case of the Busby Berkeley musical numbers), the most edifying moment of this film arrives in the form of the character (Brad Roberts) played by Dick Powell.

In several scenes he wears a suit jacket featuring the elusive, oft-mentioned but rarely depicted "drape" cut. This is probably one of the clearest (and best looking) visual examples of a drape cut or drape treatment I've come across. In this case, I have selected three frames showing the front drape in the chest area between the armhole and the lapels.

The first still shows Powell (center) seated on the sofa. You can see the distinct vertical fold of fabric, especially on his left chest area next to the lapel, signifying the tell-tale drape cut.
Gold Diggers of 1933 - Dick Powell drape 03

Closer up below, the drape fold on his right chest lays differently with his hands in his pockets.
Gold Diggers of 1933 - Dick Powell drape 04

Finally, the drape effect is also clearly visible (right chest) as Powell stands in profile.
Gold Diggers of 1933 - Dick Powell drape 05

Additional links
- Page 79 of a Styleforum thread showing how the front drape on the chest is created
- German tailor's post (aka "tailorgod") in the same thread on the effect of drape in the back and undersleeve area
- Chicago tailor Chris Despos' experience with the drape cut - Yes, American tailors do know how to do the drape cut

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

History of Neapolitan and Florentine tailors and tailoring

For the historically minded, I came across a couple of informative posts by Italian fashion blogger Irenebrination on the history of Neapolitan and Florentine tailors and tailoring.

Below is a scan from the Japanese magazine Men's Ex comparing the "typical" Neapolitan, Roman, Florentine and Milanese cuts or silhouettes. Keep in mind individual variations exist by tailor within each grouping.

It seems she has gone back to the original archival sources in Italy to dig up some interesting background, names and photos associated with these two tailoring traditions. For instance, she identifies by name (Peppino Miniello) the Neapolitan tailor who first invented the idea of extending the front dart on a jacket all the way to the edge.

In her article on Florentine tailors, she mentions Armando di Preta, whom I wanted to visit in Florence but was unable to schedule successfully (described in my 2008 entry on Florentine tailors).

Additional links
- Styleforum thread on the different regional Italian cutting styles

Thursday, April 01, 2010

1960s style: Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round

I came across Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966) late one night and missed the first half hour or so, which was a pity. Don't miss it if you are a student of 1960s design and style or a fan of the lanky and accomplished James Coburn. He's a smoother, more rugged version of Jimmy Stewart with less of the "aww, shucks" affect of the latter. Coburn plays a clever con man who has a con for everyone including the gals he runs into.

Dead Heat on a merry-go-round
Originally uploaded by jovisala47

The film takes place in a couple of different locales - Boston and Los Angeles - and features great visuals of men's and women's dress.

Also front and center are iconic design examples of 1960s infrastructure and the lived environment: bright yellow school buses, LAX airport (exterior and interiors), hotel lobbies and TWA airliners. 

PDVD_093 site of robbery
Originally uploaded by herbynow

Originally uploaded by herbynow

In the film, you'll see examples of the following: a Western suit (see above), corduroy trousers, a grey suit contrasted and paired with an indigo blue oxford cloth buttondown, an astrakhan collar car coat and 3 piece suits with shallow vents. You'll also find period waitress uniforms and TWA stewardess uniforms.

Below is a YouTube tribute to one of the actresses in the film, Camilla Sparv, who gets tangled up with the elusive Coburn.

Coburn starred in other films such as Duffy (1968) and Our Man Flint (1967), a take on the James Bond franchise.

Additional links
- TCM clips from the movie
- Amazon On-Demand preview
- IMDB profile of movie