Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Gentlemen of Style

I had the pleasure of reading Gentlemen of Style by Sven Raphael Schneider of the Gentleman's Gazette, which was published recently as a free e-book.

Some of you who feverishly mined the men's clothing discussion forums in the exciting, early days circa 2004 may remember one poster who went by the name of "etutee". He was the probably first to scan and post images of old Apparel Arts illustrations of the 1930s on AskAndy and London Lounge, accompanied by extensive, historically relevant commentary and exposition. Unfortunately, most of etutee's posts have disappeared from the forum archives.

If I remember correctly, etutee's posts were probably my first exposure to Apparel Arts. That led of course to a hunt for old copies of Apparel Arts on eBay, as well as recompilations of Apparel Arts such as Woody Hochswender's Men in Style and the related reference bible of men's clothing, Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. The latter two can run easily into hundreds of dollars. A rather expensive hobby!

A much more affordable introduction to the world of Apparel Arts is Sven's e-book which contains rare images of 1930s Apparel Arts illustrations that define the Golden Age of modern menswear. The book is divided into three sections on suits, jackets and overcoats.

Like the etutee of internet yore, Sven adds his own interesting commentary to the illustrations. Sven is very sympathetic to the classical canon of Apparel Arts but also reflects a modern and up-to-date viewpoint. Instead of treating the illustrations as sacrosanct and untouchable relics, he suggests improvements on pattern and color combinations found in the illustrations. In particular, I like his color recommendations.

Keep in mind you'll have to go a well-stocked public library to find copies of Apparel Arts (or buy them). Given the scarcity of this magazine, you can't go wrong downloading this e-book sampler of Apparel Arts. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trimmings for dinner jackets

I have successfully concluded my recent search for what English tailors call "corded silk" for facings or lapels of dinner jackets or tuxedos. This is the less common alternative to silk satin, which has a bit of a sheen and less elegant in my view. Corded silk has more pronounced cross-grain ribbing, which absorbs and disperses light, lending a matte look.

I became curious about sourcing this particular type of trimming after learning from my tailor in Los Angeles that his sources for such silk had dried up. The corded silk used for facings typically come in 18 or 24 inches, which are "bastard" or unusual widths, at least for silk trimmings and ribbons. Below is a photo of the facing used in my Kilgour dinner jacket.

After asking around, I finally found a source for corded silk in London and one in New York City. The stuff is actually woven in France (next time I'll have to ask the name of the French weaver) and is fairly expensive.

First, London. Last month I visited London and stopped by Savile Row to visit a particular tailor which sells fabrics by the length to customers. That tailor is Davies and Sons.

I chatted with Robert Bailey and learned that Davies sells the 18 inch variety which is made in France. One meter is typically needed for peak or notch lapels, 1.1 meter for a shawl collar. Price is 120 GBP per meter. Davies (as well as the other tailors like Kilgour) source this silk and other specialty wovens from their trimmings merchants.

The other source is B&J Fabrics in NYC's Garment District. The equivalent American term for corded silk is "silk faille back satin" which is a literal description of the two weaves found respectively on the face and technical side. The width is 45 inches and is priced at $180 per yard. The merchant carries this in two colors - black and cream.

Below is a photo comparing all three examples (from left to right, Kilgour, Davies and B&J Fabrics):

As you can perhaps see, both the Kilgour and Davies corded silk feature slightly wider ribbing compared to B&J's version.