Friday, November 2, 2018

Going Down the Vintage Rabbit Hole

Part One.

The first recorded sale of Hickey Freeman merchandise to the retailer Capper & Capper of Chicago was in 1912. This was also the year that Hickey Freeman opened its new building, known as the Temple to Fine Tailoring.

I recently put my hands on a suit whose exact age was unknown but vintage clothing experts estimated to be mid-1920's. When I got it I did some research and from the labeling I was able to place it squarely between 1920 and 1932. Still a large window of time. Fortunately the styling helped me narrow it down. The suit is made from a herringbone-woven tweed; a 3-roll-2 button coat, one open breast patch pocket, two lower patches with rounded flaps, a belted back, and center vent. The vest has four welt pockets, and instead of trousers, knickers. This was a golf suit.

In the 1920's and 1930's the company produced style guides which were distributed around the country to advertise the latest clothing, sumptuously illustrated with oil paintings done by noted painter Thomas Webb. Being a moderately heavy tweed, I started looking through the fall style guides but found nothing. Not being a golfer it never occurred to me that golf suits would be sold in the spring and not the fall. From the early 1920's I found several illustrations of the Sports Suit but the details were wrong. Two button fronts. Three buttons with squared off, button-through flaps. The 1926 book is not correct and I don't have the 1927 spring book, but there in the 1928 Spring Clothes For Men guide I found the exact suit. Of course, it could be later than 1928 but there is a small detail on one of the labels that suggests it would be no later than 1932. The company began using the term "Customized Clothes" in 1920 but registered it in 1932, thereafter it would be "Customized ® Clothes". The ® is missing from the inside breast pocket label.

Another small detail helps to narrow things down a bit. The company had a policy of only allowing Hickey Freeman garments to be sold and advertised in one retailer per city. Those cities which had sufficient population to support more than one retailer were then given the exact same garments but branded Walter Morton Clothes, a label created by joining the first names of the two sons of the founders, Walter B. D. Hicker and Morton J. Baum. This began in 1928. The Capper & Capper Chicago stores (of which there were 3) carried Walter Morton while the Detroit stores (also 3) sold Hickey Freeman branded merchandise. If this were a post-1928 garment it woudl have to have been sold in Detroit rather than Chicago. Nothing definitive but interesting.

Also perhaps interesting is that Capper & Capper is one of several retail stores which, along with F. R. Tripler of New York, became delinquent in their payments largely due to the great depression, and rather than force the companies into bankruptcy, Hickey Freeman invested capital in them to prop them up, and in 1933 the company gained a controlling interest in the stores. By the 1950's the company owned both retailers outright. Walter B. Duffy Hickey, the grandson of the founder and the son of the namesake of the Walter Morton label spent his college years working at one of the Chicago Capper & Capper stores, in 1960 and 1961.

We'll look closer at the construction in another post.


















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Friday, August 31, 2018

Inside the New Factory- Hickey Freeman in 1912

Just over a month after the new "Temple to Fine Tailoring" was opened, a series of photos were taken around the factory. These are a few of the shots taken Thursday March 7 1912. Many parts of the building are identical to this day.





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Friday, August 24, 2018

American Suits for British Wearers- September 1919

Interesting.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Rippled sleeve heads

I just came across something interesting.

Attolini was a cutter working for Rubinacci's London House in the 1930's when he was credited for "inventing" the Neapolitan style coat as we know it today. It was a much softer construction and we are led to believe that the rippled sleeve head, or "grinze", or again the "spalla a mappina", also known as a "spalla camicia" was his invention. It is also widely accepted that the developments in tailoring at this time were adaptations of Frederick Scholte's famous Drape cut and style of tailoring.

So flipping through some old documents in my office, I came across this model book from Hickey Freeman's Fall 1935 collection. In it is described the Vanroy Sports model, featuring, among other things, a "...full draped chest...extremely soft front construction with rippled sleeve heads."

Hm. What to make of this?


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Friday, March 2, 2018

B & Tailor

It's been a while...


I've been sitting on this post for quite some time; while I was very happy to get my hands on this suit, the circumstances surrounding its acquisition made me a bit uneasy. I had been following the Korean tailors B & Tailor for some time; they post lovely photos on their instagram page, some of which I have nicked and posted below-



They certainly know how to dress a mannequin. There are several people who are selling product which is made by B&T; I know of one in Australia and one in Europe who operate independently of B&T, selling and fitting garments which are sent back to be made up in Korea, and there are probably others.

Someone with whom I have done business in the past offered me a suit and an odd trouser made by B & Tailor, as well as a coat from W.W. Chan and Sons. He had been fitted by one of these independent fitters and was unhappy with the results, to the point that the garments were never worn. I would pause here for a moment to address a common theme on internet clothing fora, that spending large sums of money on ready-to-wear garments is an abhorrent waste, when, for the same price one could have bespoke, which would naturally be far superior, and guaranteed to be perfect. Leaving aside the fact that some people have neither the time nor the inclination to go about with the selection of cloth and details, as well as the multiple fittings required, and would much rather try something on, decide that they like it, and purchase it, the end result of bespoke clothing is not always guaranteed to please. Having spent a large sum of money on a RTW suit, they are at least assured of what they are getting in the end. Stories like this one, where large sums of money were spent on bespoke clothing which ended up not only disappointing but unwearable should serve to quiet those who would advise that buying Brioni or Purple Label is an extravagance to be avoided in favor of having something made in a bespoke workshop.

The only reason I bring all this up is that a well-known clothing blogger had a garment made by B&T through a different fitter, and while his garment was at least wearable, he was disappointed in the results. On the other hand, the impeccably-dressed Andreas Weinas has had garments made by this same fitter and was very pleased so these may be two unfortunate blips.

I don't typically like to get in to this type of discussion but I wasn't sure if it would be proper to talk about the garment without discussing the reasons I had it. If the garment were horribly made I would have either ignored it entirely or perhaps torn it to shreds. But the garment is actually well-made, the trousers especially so, so I thought it worth examining.

The first word that comes to mind when looking at the workmanship is "neat". It is very clean. Made of Minnis' Fresco, this is a classic 3 roll to 2 with a relatively natural shoulder.

The breast pocket is done in a neapolitan-inspired "barchetta" style, though I don't care for the shape of it, one side being wider than the other.



The buttonholes are only ok, though perhaps because they, too, bear a resemblance to those from the south of Italy. Fresco is not an easy cloth to make buttonholes in so perhaps they do better work on more tightly woven cloth.



The interior of the coat is neatly done, and the lining had to be engineered to fit this shape of facing. Considering how sloppy many of the coats I have dissected on this blog have been, this is one of the best executions I have seen.



For those who fetishize high armholes, these are positively tiny.



Though the rest of the collar has been entirely constructed by hand, the gorge has been sewn by machine rather than drawn on with a stoting stitch.



As one would expect, the canvas and small shoulder wadding has been constructed by hand.



There are some more modern, almost industrial techniques used. Rather than the traditional, heavy edge tape, bias-cut lining has been attached to the edge of the canvas and caught in the facing seam- this keeps edges thinner and softer and is commonly used in full canvas suit factories.

The upper portion of the lapel has been stayed with fusible tape rather than sew-in tape.





I find it curious that they have used what appears to be a fusible tape in the bridle, though it is sewn down with hand stitches.



A piece of pocketing has been placed between the canvas and the cloth to enhance the roll of the lapel.



The chest canvas and haircloth have been trimmed back from the shoulder to create a softer, rounder appearance.



The shoulder and armhole seams have been stayed with lining. The armhole seam has been opened to about 4" below the shoulder seam and a piece of bias-cut canvas has been tacked to the seam.



The trouser is very neatly sewn, in particular the interesting waistband treatment. There is a hidden pocket on the inside of the waistband that has been very nicely executed.



B&Tailor definitely knows how to make a good garment, and knows how to fit a tailor's dummy; the expression of the garments they show on Instagram is very nice. I would be very interested to see more of their work, executed by their own in-house fitters. And while the two unfortunate stories might give one pause I don't think it's a reason not to try them out; I would perhaps suggest seeing them at one of their trunk shows.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Loro Piana Cashmere Cloud

93% cashmere 7% silk.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Divots

A few years ago I had posted about the dreaded "divots" but apparently that post has long since disappeared and people have been asking for it.

A fit defect dubbed "divots" by Styleforum can be seen in the top part of the sleeve and most people make the mistaken assumption (or assertion) that the jacket shoulder is too wide for the person. It is not.

Here is an example of a divot.



And here are examples of coats whose shoulders are much wider than the person's shoulder but which are mysteriously free of the divots.



The extended shoulder was a style feature which had become exaggerated from the late thirties through the fifties, and a more discrete amount of extension is often found in Neapolitan tailoring. So if the width of the shoulder is not to blame, what is?

In ready-to-wear it can sometimes be the result of poor pattern making or poor workmanship, but in most cases it is simply a coat that is actually too NARROW through the shoulders, especially across the upper part of the back. The tension across the back pulls the armhole out of shape and creates the divot. The easiest solution would be to try on the next size up. If you have already acquired the garment, the back can usually be let out at the center back seam, though this may result in mismatched stripes or plaids which, while ugly, are not nearly as bad as the divots. In some extreme cases the sleeve may have to be removed and the sleeve cap shortened. Neither of these alterations are simple; widening the back can be handled by your average alterations tailor but altering the sleeve cap takes someone with a greater level of skill and has a high risk of failure.

The jacket pictured above has been adjusted to widen the back and this is the result.

BEFORE


AFTER

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