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Vintage gentlemen's clothing and accessories
Amongst my other interests is collecting and wearing vintage clothing. I particularly favour vintage British clothing from the 1920s-1950s although I also draw much inspiration from the classic American Esquire fashion plates of the 1930s. I favour heavier cloths and favourite pieces and touches include the classic weighty grey and white flannels, Fairisle slipovers, double-breasted and slipped waistcoats, peak lapels on single-breasted jackets and two-tone shoes. I hope to use this lens to showcase some of the interesting items which I have owned or seen.
The lens illustration is a detail from an advertisement prepared by the well-known American artist F.C. Leyendecker, entitled "Quality by Kuppenheimer." I particularly appreciate the muted but beautifully toned colour palette and the way in which the artist captures the drape of the cloth.
eBay - my vintage clothing and accessories
Clearing my vintage closet!
A collar to get me started...
A rather charming rounded-point wing collar. This occupies the middle ground between formal day and evening wear and could have been worn for either. I suspect that it is late Edwardian in date, or possibly 1920s. It was supplanted in popularity by the pointed wing collar and I had thought could now only be found secondhand or made up to order. However, I have now established another source in theatrical costumiers such as Darcy Clothing.
Photo Gallery - combination white waistcoat and braces - A 1930s curiosityClick thumbnail to view full-size
A fine vintage double-breasted linen shawl-lapel waistcoat
A versatile waistcoat for day or evening formal wear.
A handsome vintage shawl collar morning or evening dress waistcoat, double - breasted with a deep (c.3") shawl collar and 6 MoP buttons. Three jetted pockets. This fine waistcoat is cut for wear with high-cut morning or evening dress trousers and would look equally well with day formal dress - under a frock coat, say, or as a component of Victorian/Edwardian white tie evening dress. A very rare shape, classic Edwardian design.
Vintage semi-formal daywear ensemble
A blend of '50s and '60s pieces with a few modern elements
This is something I put together last week to wear to church. It is intended to blend some modern elements into a predominantly vintage look, ending up with something smart which doesn't look wildly out of place in the present day. How did I do?
Useful accessories - collar bars and pins
Collar clips, bars and pins are particularly useful with soft, unlined point collars to both keep them neat and apply some upward pressure to the tie just below the knot, thus giving it a pleasing upward arch. Fred Astaire was a particular aficionado of this look. Although still made today (and often longer to accommodate the fashion for collars with some spread), vintage collar clips are worth looking out for, in particular for the clever way in which they mimic collar pins. Pins, as the name implies, pin through the collar (or its eyelets) whilst the bar or clip grips the collar edges. A neat little accessory.
Vintage Soft Collar Photo Gallery - A selection of vintage soft detachable collars for less formal daywearClick thumbnail to view full-size
Search the archives of the V&A for vintage clothing in their collection!
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, it was founded in 1852, and its 12.5 acre site hosts 145 galleries. The costume collection is the most comprehensive in Britain, containing over 14,000 outfits plus accessories, mainly dating from 1600 to the present.
Text credit: Wikipedia
- Search the V&A's fashion and costume collection for men's clothing
A spendid chance to visit and see a selection of everyday and special vintage clothing in the V&A's remarkably comprehensive collection
The gentleman's scarf
A key element in classic winter style.
The scarf is a crucial gentleman's accessory in the winter, both for warmth and also for the welcome dash of colour which it adds to even the most sombre overcoat. Scarves are an element of classic style which has changed relatively little in the past seventy years, which is a benefit for seekers as it gives a rich field of stylistic examples and periods from which to choose to complement any vintage look. The illustrated example is undated but may be circa 1950s. The material appears to be art silk and is in a handsome cream polka-dot design on a maroon field with what appear to be hand-knotted fringed ends. It works particularly well with a blue overcoat but could profitably be worn in a variety of contexts, with the colour palette even working with country clothes. Other attractive scarf types include true silks as well those in rayon or other fabrics with a more matt finish and cotton-like hand, and featuring subtle repeating patterns in a muted palette of colours, Sammy, Tootal and Duggie being popular British makes.
AN important gentlemen's requisite - the silver-backed hairbrush
The classic "army" hairbrush
Here we have an example of the classic gentleman's "army" hairbrush, handle-less and designed to be held in the palm of one's hand, ideally with another brush in the other hand, both used in tandem to style the hair smartly and efficiently. The backs lend themselves to fine materials and decoration. This particular example is engine-turned silver in an attractive Art Deco pattern of bands of hatching surrounding a central circle containing a monogramme but plain silver, horn, imitation tortoiseshell and ivory are not uncommon, as are double-brush sets in leather cases. These were a popular coming of age present and can still be bought, albeit that silver backed examples from a good maker such as Kent are now a few hundred pounds apiece. The examples llustrated is from makers D.M. Co. and bears the Birmingham Assay office hallmark for 1931.
An Evening Dress Waistcoat Photo Gallery - The basic halter-neck style, for coolness, made popular by HRH The Duke of Windsor. Note the range of shapes.Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Photo Gallery of Wing Collars - A selection of images of vintage stand and wing collars. The styles illustrated mostly date from the 1920s and 1930s and showClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Slipped Waistcoat - A classic vintage style
The slips (as illustrated) button on the inside of the waistcoat. Their purpose is debated, with origins posited including a relic of the Georgian fashion of wearing a second waistcoat or underslip beneath the outer waistcoat, or a method of protecting the visible parts of the shirt front from staining from the heavy dyed cloths of the Victorian era. Regardless, their purpose in more recent times is purely decorative. They provide a particularly formal touch for a morning dress waistcoat but are rarely seen in this day and age except on HRH The Prince of Wales.
Gallery of Day Waistcoats - A selection of morning dress waistcoatsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The (so-called) "Single-ended" Bow Tie - An easy-to-tie formal tie, now hard to findClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tying Single- and Double-Ended Bow Ties
A Useful Visual Aid
It is quite hard to find instructions for tying single-ended bow ties, so here is a visual aid which I found useful and I hope you may too.
The Single-Ended Tie - Can You Tell? - Extracts from a photo essay seeking to demonstrate that a single-ended tie is visually practically identical to the doublClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Gallery of Turndown Collars - A selection of images of modern and vintage turndown day collars, dating from the 1920s to the present. Stiff detachable turndowClick thumbnail to view full-size
Illustrating the Difference Between Single- and Double-Stripe Evening Dress Trousers
As readers will probably know, in British usage at least, it is customary for one's evening dress trousers to bear a stripe down the outside of the leg, a single stripe for black tie and a double-stripe for white tie. Since proper full evening dress trousers are hard to come by, I though that it would be interesting to post a photograph shewing single- and double-stripe evening dress trousers together, to allow for a compare and contrast. I think that the use of a flatter, plainer braid for the double-stripes is fairly typical, taking into account the relatively few pairs I have seen, whilst the braid on the single-stripe trousers is fairly typical of its kind, although some fancier braids are to be found. I have, however, come across trousers which have a twin stripe of fancy braid about six inches apart down the leg, which was a sight to be seen!
Photo Gallery - More Turndown Collars - A selection of turndown collars including some long points and long rounds.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Morning Dress - a Gallery of Morning TrousersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery - The Slipped Waistcoat in More Detail - Note the construction of the slip and the fastening method.Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Further Evening Dress Waistcoat Photo Gallery - The gallery shews a number of dress waistcoats in a halter-neck style, together with one with the traditionalClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery - My Evening DressClick thumbnail to view full-size
Vintage Suit Photo Gallery - Images of my vintage suitsClick thumbnail to view full-size
SpatsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery - My BracesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Black Two-Piece Suit - Burtons - A solid and understated suit for Sunday BestClick thumbnail to view full-size
Soft and Semi-Stiff Turndown Collars - a Photo Gallery - This gallery illustrates a selection of vintage and modern soft and semi-stiff detachable collars. AlthClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery - Homburgs and Bowlers - Classic semi-formal hats (fruits of my search to find one which would fit...)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Vintage Brown Oxfords - Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
1950s British Shirts - A Vintage Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery - Burton's The Tailor of TasteClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Gallery - the hat shelf - Mostly modernClick thumbnail to view full-size
Vintage Scarves Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
What is "CC41"?
The famous "Utility Mark"
Vintage British-made clothes can often be found with a label inside featuring a rather distinctive marking saying "CC41". The CC41 mark (Civilian Clothes 1941), was designed by Reginald Shipp, a commercial artist for a label maunfacturers in response to a competition launched by the Board of Trade. It indicates that the article bearing it (which could equally be a pair of shoes as an item of clothing, and applied to furniture as well) was made to a war economy ("utility") standard as set out by the Board of Trade and suggests a manufacturing date of somewhere between 1941 and 1948 (or 1951, according to other sources!). It is therefore useful as a dating aid.
Picutre credit: Utility mark. Source: Board of Trade, Utility Furniture Trader’s Leaflet UFD/8, 1942, Utility Furniture Distribution Committee (1942–1944), The National Archive, BT 64/1749
More Sartorial Resources on Amazon - Sartorial resources with a more historical bent.
Here I have tried to focus on resources with a more historical focus, including some vintage volumes. These are not always available at all times, so do keep checking.
A compilation of the wonderful fashion plates that illustrated Esquire Magazine and its retailer-targeted stablemate, Apparel Arts in the 1930s and 1940s. With illustrations this good (wonderful paintings that capture drape and textures better than many photographs), plus the pithy Esquire copy and excellent introductions by Woody Hochswender, it is no wonder this changes hands for exorbitant amounts. A must for anyone interested in taking fashion cues from the period many regard as the apogee of men's fashion. To be bought if you can find it at a decent price.
Sir Hardy Amies' classic
HP Trendell's magnus opus - a fascinating sartorial glimpse.
Amazon -Ties vintage and modern
An excellent illustrated history by a curator at the V&A
Eyewatering and fascinating in equal measure!
Fascinating, and no I haven't tried them all!
Sartorial resources on Amazon
A list of high-quality sources of timeless advice. Vintage enthusiasts will partiularly enjoy Storey's work, but all are recommended reads.
This is an excellent book! A superb parody of Machiavelli (so I am told) which conveys top-notch advice on what to wear and when.
Eclectic but very interesting.
Well-written (although some find the writing overblown), carefully explained and sumptuously illustrated with a selection of original photographs and Apparel Arts/Esquire illustrations, this is an excellent and enjoyable resource for any clothing connoiseur as much as for the casual reader.
Lavishly illustrated and well written, although the decision to focus only on certain manufacturers can limit its usefulness somewhat. Nonetheless an excellent introduction to the subject and a handsome book.
A very personal history!
Classic men's fashion magazines on eBay - Apparel Arts
The legendary resource...
YouTube - interesting sartorial resources
Amazon Spotlight Personal Review - vintage grooming products: ARKO Shaving Soap
This is top class shaving soap at rock bottom prices. A smooth chin is key to completing a dapper vintage look, and a wet shave with a fine soap and brush is the best way to achieve this. ARKO lathers well, smells pleasant and really lasts. Unreservedly recommended.
Any comments you have on this lens would be much appreciated.