Tag Archives: tweed

1960s Chanel-Inspired Davidow Jacket, Part II

Earlier in the summer I posted about a great find I made, an early 1960s Davidow jacket that was clearly Chanel-inspired.  Unfortunately, there was no matching skirt, so instead of buying this jacket for my collection, I bought it to actually wear.

On the negative side was the condition of the lining.  As you can see, there were major issues in the underarm area.  I decided that the best thing to do was to send the piece off to the dry cleaners and then replace the lining.  The problem then became one of finding a nice silk fabric that would go with the tweed.  It’s times like this that I really miss Waechter’s.  I did try the remaining fabric store in the area that carries luxury fabrics, House of Fabrics, but they did not have a suitable match.

The tweed is so wonderful.  It really looks a lot like the tweeds that Bonnie Cashin used in her beautiful coats. But the two shades of blue were proving to be a color challenge.  Then while sorting through some damaged scarves, I happened on a nice old Vera polka dot.   It was not large enough for the entire job, but I also had an oblong scarf in ombre blues that could be used for the sleeves.

This is the point where I make the cutting up old stuff disclaimer.  If you are a vintage clothing shopper then you are well aware that much of what is on the market is not in its original form.  If someone were to run across my bell bottoms from 1973 they would wonder why would anyone mutilate a pair of pants like that.  Well, I cut them off because I am very short.  I also chopped off my skirts and dresses.  My cutting was part of the history of the garments, but it would tend to make them less attractive to a collector today.

Unfortunately there are sellers who are still cutting old clothing up in order to make it marketable to a certain market.  I’m not saying that it is always a bad idea to cut up old clothing; I’m saying it needs to be done thoughtfully, keeping in mind several factors.  You would like to think that anyone would know not to cut into a Charles James, but not everyone who loves old stuff is concerned with designer names.  My big fear in condoning “up-cycling” is that important pieces are being lost. Condition also plays a role, but even a very damaged Charles James is a valuable treasure.

The truth is that most clothing does not end its life as it began it.  I can be very much against remodeling vintage clothes, but then I do have to fact the fact that the mere act of wearing a garment shortens its life.  It is possible to love a garment to death, as you probably know from experience.

So what if you have a common item that is damaged, like my Vera scarf?  I feel I can cut into it with a clear conscience.  (Be aware that while Vera scarves were made by the thousands, some designs are quite rare and valuable.  Research before cutting.)  The jacket, while lovely and very wearable, is less collectible minus the skirt.  I’ll be wearing it, hopefully for a very long time.  It is quite possible that I will love it to death.

I carefully removed the old lining and removed the seams so I could use the pieces as a pattern.  The sleeve is made from two pieces, and I had just enough silk to make the pieces.  I attached them by hand, using the fringe of the scarf at the cuff.

When that was finished I cut out the bodice, using the border of the Vera scarf as part of the design. Here you can see that there was no underlining in the jacket.  The seams were in good condition.  I attached each piece to the jacket separately.

Because there was a pattern to the dotted design, I cut the back from the very middle of the scarf so that the density design would be retained.  The last pieces that I attached were the sides of the bodice.

When doing something like this, lots of basting is essential.  The silk is slippery, and the more control you have, the better.

The last step, one that I’m still working on, is the quilting.  I decided to let the dots determine the quilting design.  I’m not going to quilt every dot.  I’m already seeing spots in front of my eyes from working with it.

I’ll be changing the buttons as well.  I thought I’d found the perfect buttons, some that I’d salvaged from a destroyed sweater, but they are not the quality I was wanting, so they will probably be temporary until I can locate exactly what I need.


Filed under Sewing, Vintage Clothing

Ad Campaign – Forstmann Woolens, 1934

You see above how slim and graceful you will look this Spring in Forstmann Tweeds… miracles of softness and pliability.  The trim tailored suit combines Forstmann’s matched tweeds, with a plain jacket and plaid skirt in a new yellow-beige.  The slender coat is of feather-soft herring-bone tweed in the new Guardsman blue.  Forstmann Tweeds tailor to perfection, are light-weight yet warm.  Stores everywhere are featuring them in all their wealth of lovely colors… in costumes and by the yard.

It’s hard to imagine, but there really was a time when the quality of the fabric was one of the biggest selling points of a garment.  Today, nobody seems to notice that the new tee shirt in the shopping cart is so thin one can see through it.  That new wool coat with a mystery synthetic added to compensate for the poor quality of the wool is also accepted without question.

People used to recognize poor quality fabric, and there was even a name for it – shoddy.  Used as a noun, shoddy was originally a poor quality wool fabric that was made from the waste from the wool manufacturing process.

I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve learned in the past two months while making my “couture” wool jacket.  Probably the most important thing I’ve realized is that quality materials make a tremendous difference in the results of a sewing project.  With all the time and effort that has gone into this jacket, I’m so glad that I splurged and bought the best wool and silk I could find.

It has also made me think that a fabric stash clean out is in order.  I’ve been holding onto lots of odds and ends, thinking that one day I might find them useful, but the truth is that now I’m spoiled for the finer fibers.

I was recently listening to a sewing expert talk about why sewing has gotten to be so popular.  One thing he said was really interesting.  He said that people used to sew to save money, but today most people sew in order to have the nicer things that they could not otherwise afford.  It’s now cheaper to buy most clothes than it is to make them, but in the case of a custom made wool and silk jacket, the only way for the average woman to have one is to make it herself.  I’m so glad that I did.


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Bonnie Cashin Tweed and Leather Suit, 1970 – 71

I’ve been an admirer of the work of Bonnie Cashin for many years, so it struck me as odd when I realized that I did not have an example of her work in my collection.  I set about thinking and reading about Cashin, trying to narrow down what type of garment I wanted to fill this big hole in my accumulation of American sportswear.

First, I wanted my garment to immediately bring Bonnie Cashin to mind.  I wanted it to look like her work.  I also decided that I wanted something from Sills, from the 1960s or 70s, but I did not want a garment that was entirely leather.  I wanted something made from one of the fabrics that Cashin used very often, wool tweed.

I’ve been really interested in the tweeds that Bonnie Cashin used ever since I read a paper by Jacqueline Field, published in the 2006 journal Dress, the publication of the Costume Society of America.  The paper was not about Cashin; it was about Bernat Klein, a woolens designer working in Scotland.  Klein was quite famous in the UK, but here in the States he did not get the press attention that he garnered in Britain.  While studying the work of Klein, Jacqueline Field found that his wools were used not only by the great European couturiers like Chanel and Saint Laurent, but also Bonnie Cashin.

Klein produced couture level wool tweeds from the early 1960s through 1966, and again starting in 1969.  My suit was made in 1970 or 71, so it is possible that it is a Bernat Klein tweed.  One of his hallmarks was the use of different colors being used in one yarn, as you can see in the vertical yarn in the center of my photo.  He was also known for using thick and thin yarns to give texture to the fabric.

I’m not saying that my suit is made from Bernat Klein tweed, but it is fun to imagine that it might be.

Aside from the tweed, my suit has several of Cashin’s usual features:  leather bound edges, turn lock closures, no zippers, easy fit, interesting coloration.  The moment I saw this suit, I knew it was exactly what I needed.  The only thing wrong with it is that it actually fits me, and the desire to wear it is very strong.

These are not just pocket flaps.  There are substantial pockets, made from the same fabric,  under them.

Designed by Bonnie Cashin, made by Philip Sills, sold at Saks Fifth Avenue.

The side vents are a sporty touch.

The under collar is red leather.

The skirt has no waistband, just a strip of cotton bias.  There is a large covered snap to help secure the skirt below the top turn lock.

The skirt opening is on the left side.

I love the way the lines of the plaid are structured.

As I said earlier, this suit is from 1970 or 71.  How can I be so certain?  The F.I.T. Library has the original sketch along with a swatch of the fabric, and they have it posted on Flickr.  You might want to take a look at the sketch to see a bit about how Cashin designed.  It appears that she used her pattern pieces on more than one garment.  If she came up with a collar she liked, she would reuse the pattern, adapting it to a new design.  You can see this in the other sketches as well.

I’m very happy with my acquisition.  Now I need to find the hooded jersey dress that she designed to wear under the suit.  You can see  it in the sketch.




Filed under Collecting, Designers, Vintage Clothing

Chanel Metiers d’Art, Pre Fall 2013

It’s not often that I post about a current fashion show, but then it is not often that someone presents a show that makes me want to have been there, to have soaked it all in, to even wear the clothes.  In this case it is the pre-fall Chanel metiers d’art show, in which all the little craft houses owned by Chanel are put in the spotlight.

It makes sense that Lagerfeld choose Scotland as the inspiration for the show, seeing as how the house has recently acquired luxury cashmere maker, Barrie Knitwear.  The factory is located in Hawick, Scotland, and before the show at Linlithgow Palace (birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots), the journalists covering the show were treated to a tour of the facility.

And the show was full of cashmere, along with lots of tweed, plaid, argyle, tams and sporran-inspired handbags.  It could have easily crossed over into Scottish cliche territory, but instead, it all looked so right in a Chanel sort of way.  Maybe it was because one just expects to see tweeds and knits in a Chanel show.   After all, Coco Chanel herself spent many days in the Scottish countryside with the Duke of Westminster, and starting in the 1920s, sourced Scottish tweeds to be used in her creations.

To see just how dramatic the show was you can see a video of it on youtube, along with still shots of each look.  Be sure to note the metiers d’art touches: feather neck ruffs from Lemarie,  incredible Lesage embroidery, beautiful gloves by Causse, tweed and leather shoes and boots by Massaro, and of course, lots of tweed and leather camellias from flower maker Guillet.

And note how many of these looks can be achieved with vintage finds.  It’s enough to make one go running to the nearest thrift store or vintage clothing shop in search of the perfect argyle/tweed/leather/cashmere combination.

For a small taste:

All photographs copyright Giovanni Giannoni for Women’s Wear Daily.  DO NOT pin or copy these photos to Pinterest or to Tumblr from this site.


Filed under Designers

Two Birds with One Stone – Zippers and Tweed

It’s nice knowing that people are thinking about me when they go in search of vintage treasures.  Recently Beth at Retro Roadmap was out thrift shopping when a lovely vintage dress caught her eye.  It was tweed, made in Ireland, but sold through a shop in Vermont.  Then she noticed a detail about the construction – the dress had both a metal zipper in the back and two nylon zippers in the sleeves.

She immediately thought of my recent post on the advent of the nylon zipper, and because she can’t leave a great dress hanging  unloved in a thrift, she took it home with her.  Then, being the generous person that she is, she arranged to send the dress to me.  The dress arrived today, and I’ve been consumed with figuring out the story behind it.

Thanks to a site called iPutney.com I was able to learn the story of Carol Brown.  Born Lucy Caroline Brown in 1889, she became interested in Irish woolens during a bicycle tour of Ireland in 1926.  She became friends of the Wynne sisters of the Avoca Handweavers in County Wicklow, Ireland.  Carol began importing the woolen yardage which she sold through a shop in Boston.  In 1937 she moved to Putney, Vermont and opened the shop in her home.

There she sold a variety of woolen goods – Irish tweed yard goods, woolen blankets and lap rugs, and handknit scarves, caps and sweaters.  Her interest in natural fibers led her to expand into other fabrics from around the world, such as fine Swiss cottons and Thai silks.  The shop was mentioned in a 1971 newsletter from the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women, in which the lap rugs were highly recommended!

Brown became a community leader and a patron of the arts in her adopted town.  She died in 1990, just shy of her 101th birthday.

The dress dates from the late 1960s or early 70s.  By then the nylon zipper had been around for around ten years, but as you can see, it was not universally used.  It’s possible that the sewer opted for a metal zipper because of the heavy weight of the tweed.  At any rate, it shows nicely how the use of the two types of zippers overlapped.

And what about that tweed?  Isn’t it stunning?


Filed under Curiosities, Sewing