Historical Clothing Reviews and Guides

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by CrimsonSox, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    This thread is to post historical review of firms and guides to style (1960s and older). We'll start with a guide to Paris firms from Vogue, July 15, 1931. Some fascinating finds: robes and handkerchiefs made of "sheer linen printed in the designs and colours of foulards." We'll also discover that in the 1930s, cologne could smell like a "mixture of tobacco and Russian leather."

    A preview of coming attractions: next week we will have a review of Charvet from a newspaper in 1909. Unlike shirts of today, they were predominantly made of linen, followed by silk.

    Now we leave the shoals of Sparta, sailing to the land of the Sybarites:

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    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  2. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    A detailed review of Charvet from the Chicago Daily Tribune, September 29, 1909. The article features not only shirts, but also tailored clothes from Charvet, including a sack coat with a suppressed waist and trim trousers without a break (the cycle of fashion turns 360 degrees). The formal shirts for eveningwear are made of linen, as mentioned in this previous thread with a photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.styleforum.net/t/374834/the-linen-evening-shirt#post_6832587

    The monograms are placed in an unusual position: the upper sleeve arm close to the shoulder. Nightshirts are made of linen, and fastened with gold or enamel studs instead of buttons.

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    Last edited: Mar 3, 2014
  3. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Three inches in length -- the Big Pony before the Big Pony.

    Great thread. Thanks for doing it.
     
  4. Dandy Wonka

    Dandy Wonka Senior member

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    Yes great thread.

    Next instalment please.
     
  5. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    The British poet and memoirist Siegfried Sassoon in a three-piece POW check suit (1920). Note the natural shoulder and lovely lapel roll:

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  6. cptjeff

    cptjeff Senior member

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    Some things just don't change, do they? :lol:
     
  7. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    Vogue visits Charvet in February 1914, on the eve of World War 1. The article features a tailcoat from Charvet, watered silk wallets, and rhinoceros horn canes.

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    Quote: This is just an excerpt; the rest of the article describes dressing in Europe. Although the historically minded clothing enthusiast will be aware of this, it's still remarkable to read about the dominance of the English at the time:

    “The universal acceptance of English fashion by king and commoner alike has replaced elegance by correctness, and individuality by strict conformity to rule.”

    “In this present epoch . . . men of whatever nation follow one type of dress, the most virile and businesslike of all – the English. In selecting their apparel they attempt to suppress all individual eccentricities, and they vie with each other in absolute ‘correctness.’”

    “The Italian, German, American, and Frenchman in street or evening clothes appear almost exactly alike – that is, all appear like the Englishman. The eastern nations, too, are falling into line in the universal brotherhood of dress, and the Japanese are fairly out-Englishing the English in severity of cloth and cut of costume.”
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  8. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    A 1928 review of New York shirt-makers (with an appearance by D&J Anderson) from the New Yorker. It's extraordinary to think that Charvet once had an outpost in New York, which was founded by the nephew of Edouard Charvet (www.leagle.com/get_cited/568%20F.Supp.%20470). It's unclear, however, what the relation of Budd of New York was to Budd of Piccadilly. Budd (NY) was founded by Samuel Budd in 1860, while Budd (London) was founded by Harold Budd in 1910.

    I've included a guide to convert 1928 dollars approximately into today's dollars:

    $7.50 = $101
    $12 = $161
    $16 = $214
    $35 = $469
    $50 = $670

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  9. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    In the 1930s, Sulka New York offered a laundry service for its clients, washing its shirts in olive-oil soap, hand ironing, and mending any frayed collars or loose buttons. The price was 10 cents ($4.80 in today's dollars). The service was so popular that the average client had washed eleven shirts, five pajamas, and assorted socks and handkerchiefs each week, adding up to $10 ($160 in today's dollars). Another laundry service offered to wash your white suit in the summer as many times as you wanted for $15 ($240).

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    Last edited: Mar 19, 2014
  10. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    A survey of spring fashions for men from Vogue April 16, 1908. The review includes a lavender striped shirt from Sulka and an extraordinary tailored waistcoat for white tie from Kaskel & Kaskel, a top New York shirtmaker at the time that made shirts for President Theodore Roosevelt.

    Readers with a historical interesting in style will note that the midnight blue tailcoat and dinner jacket, traditionally attributed to the Duke of Windsor, are already mentioned as fashions in 1908.

    Advice from the article that still holds true today includes the recommendation to avoid padding in suits, especially an exaggerated squareness in the shoulders.

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    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014
  11. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    Why has the price of John Lobb shoes increased by 10-fold in constant dollars since 1958? I'm asking as a purely factual matter, setting aside the moral issue of how much people should spend or be paid. In 1958 bespoke Lobb shoes were the equivalent of $564 in 2013 dollars, less than Alden RTW today (Lobbs were only $70 before adjusting for inflation). I charted the increasing cost using archival newspaper reports that quoted John Lobb representatives. The prices are for Americans and exclude VAT.

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    A New York Times article from 1965, the year that Peal closed its bespoke operations, offers an interesting explanation. The author, Lawrence Fellows, is distinct from Laurence, the famous Apparel Arts illustrator.

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    New York Times
    January 8, 1965
    pg. 24

    Number of Bootmakers is Dwindling in Britain
    by Lawrence Fellows

    At Harry Hall's on Regent Street, where the smell of leather is pervasive and conversations are thick with the clipped accents of horsy aristocrats, Douglas Bedford, who manages the store, ran his finger over an elegant black riding boot fashioned for a foreign duchess.

    "Who has a pair of boots made today?" he asked.

    The answer, which he provided himself, was that relatively few do, as relatively few order custom-made shoes or custom-made riding habits or hunting outfits.

    The reason, according to Mr. Bedford and others in the trade, is competition from machine production at lower prices and high pay for craftsmen.

    Because craftsmen are disappearing, Peal's, the firm of bootmakers, founded in 1791, will close its "Bespoke," or custom department on Wigmore Street next month and after that sell only factory-made shoes.

    "We're flooded with orders," Rodney Peal said. "With us, it is just a matter of stopping on a high note, so to say. Our craftsmen have been dropping by the wayside for years, through age and retirement. We're left with a few old men, over-aged men, overdue for retirement. It was time to stop."

    The disappearance of Peal's as a custom bootmaker will disappoint such aristocratic customers as the Dukes of Windsor, Buccleuch and Beauford, among others.

    Humphrey Bogart and Douglas Fairbanks had had shoes made there, and Tom Mix once hitched his white horse outside while he was being fitted with boots. Sir Winston Churchill once sent a 30-year-old pair of shoes back to have them resoled.

    "We just cannot get good apprentices," Mr. Peal said. "The youth of today wants to make good money immediately on leaving school."

    The pinch is being felt by Maxwell's, a venerable firm of custom bootmakers that was established originally in 1750 as spur-makers in Soho.

    "If we had the apprentices, we couldn't take the time now to train them," said Maxwell Dalson, who represents the family's sixth generation in the business.

    Make Boots for Queen

    It is not that Maxwell's is in need of customers with the ability to pay. They make riding boots for Queen Elizabeth II, as they did for King George VI before her and King George V before him.

    Among the 10,000 wooden shoe lasts hanging on the walls of the shop on Dover Street are indscribed such names as Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Bernard Baruch, and Paul Mellon. Old lasts are removed about once in 20 years.

    They would now pay the equivalent of at least $70 for a pair of shoes, plus tax, and plus extras for broguing or any fancy work. Boots cost upwards of $115.

    "We have a couple of craftsmen on the premises, and they're getting on," Mr. Dalston said. "Altogether we have a dozen left, but the others are journeymen working in their own homes, mostly holding 'other jobs.'"

    "At the utmost limit, a good shoemaker can produce three and a half pairs a week," he added. "It's not much, and training an apprentice would merely reduce a man's output. It's a vicious circle, really."
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  12. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    Looking at the bold sections of the Times 1965 article, we can explain why the cost of Lobb shoes has increased ten-fold in inflation adjusted dollars since the late 50s.

    Mr. Peal points to the problem of aging craftsmen. In earlier years, it was much easier to attract young people for training. But what had changed since then? Young people are now expected to be paid more upon entering the workforce. So the real issue is that after World War II, wages for bootmakers fell behind workers in other jobs. When the wages were similar, it was easy to attract apprentices, but now prospective bootmakers had other options that would pay more.

    The other jobs paid more because they were in industries that were greatly increasing their productivity after the war. New machinery and technology meant that each worker could produce more, and thus be paid more for his or her work. But hand-made bootmaking saw no increase in productivity. The limit as Peal said has always been 3.5 hand-made pairs per worker a week.

    For bootmakers to stay in business, they had to either switch to machine-made shoes like Peal, or increase their prices to pay workers more like Lobb. The price of the hand-made shoes increased more than inflation, because the greater pay for workers could not be offset by increases in productivity, in the absence of machinery. This is an example of Baumol's cost disease: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumol's_cost_disease The prices of goods and services rise faster than inflation in busineses that cannot improve their productivity because of the limits of handwork (like bootmaking) or in person performance (like ochestral music, medicine, or education).
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  13. CrimsonSox

    CrimsonSox Senior member

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    Samuel Harris was a famous New York tailor who made clothes for President Kennedy, until he revealed to Life Magazine JFK's size and wardrobe in 1961, becoming Kennedy's ex-tailor. It turns out that it was not the first time Harris was indiscreet. In a New Yorker article in 1948, he talked even more candidly about another client, Governor Dewey, who was running against Truman.

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    The Merchant Tailors and Designers Association of America chose Governor Dewey as one of the ten best-dressed men in the country a few years ago, and this somewhat astonished Mr. Samuel Harris, his tailor, who rates him high, as a man who knows what he wants, but not that high. For one thing, there is -- with the exception of a small, non-visible feature -- nothing unusual about the Governor's suits and topcoats, and as for quantity he's hardly what you'd call a clotheshorse. We have had a talk with Mr. Harris, whose shop is on the second floor of 43 East Fifty-ninth Street, about his distinguished customer. He told us that the business was founded by his grandfather in 1859 and that Dewey has been a customer since 1927, when he came in on the recommendation of a friend, whose name Harris doesn't recall. At that time, Dewey was practicing law at 120 Broadway and was strictly a single-breasted man. Six or seven years ago, Harris got him to switch to double-breasted suits, and, except in summer, Dewey has stuck to double-breasted ever since. Save for this change, Harris said, the Governor has stood pat, except that he went along with the herd when wider trouser bottoms came in. "The Governor is what I call a clothes conscious man," Harris said, and paused to allow the observation time to sink in. "He knows exactly what he wants and what to wear at the right time, with my advice. He is a conservative dresser -- not ultra, but some style. He likes the darker clothes -- blues, grays, and an occasional brown. He likes to wear tails."

    Harris told us that Dewey's shoulders are exactly the same distance from the ground, and that his hips are, too, and that this is true of only one man in ten. His chest has expanded from thirty-eight inches, in 1927, to a current forty-one inches, and his waist from twenty-nine inches to thirty-five and a half. Harris considers this normal development. "When he first came in to me, he was in fine condition," he said. "A wonderful squash player. He is still in fine condition." There's little or no padding in Dewey's suits, which are of a two-button design with extended lapels. The minor oddity that we spoke about earlier is that the Governor has his jackets made with three inside pockets -- or that Harris makes them that way. There's one on the right, where an inside pocket always is; one on the left, directly opposite; and a third just below this left one. Such an arrangement is common in England, and Harris recommends it to important customers, who presumably carry around a lot of papers. He calls the lower left-hand pocket a ticket pocket, but we're told by someone close to the Governor that he uses for a thin notebook and that he doesn't use the upper left pocket at all. Dewey has a particular pocket for everything he carries.

    As nearly as Mr. Harris could figure out, the Governor has seventeen business suits (twelve for winter and five for summer), two sets of tails, two regular dinner jackets, a cutaway, a morning suit, three sports coats, numerous flannel slacks, two topcoats, and two chesterfields. He wears the chesterfields only in extremely cold weather. Mrs. Dewey, who often accompanies the Governor to Harris's and helps him pick out materials, keeps his clothes in excellent shape and sees to it that he changes his suit every day. He orders four suits a year and gives them away as soon as they begin to show wear. "Last week," Harris told us, "he gave an old worsted to a man at the Roosevelt. He's good about that. He'll give a suit to anybody with a hard-luck story, or who he thinks needs it." Harris had two orders of the Governor's in the works at the time of our call -- a double-breasted blue-gray sharkskin suit with a half-inch blue stripe, and an oxford-gray cheviot topcoat. As to price, these were in what Mr. Harris calls the medium field -- $110 to $150 [$1,060 to $1,450 in 2013 dollars]. "I happen to make clothes for the Honorable Anthony Biddle, John Davis, Winthrop Aldrich, and a lot of other people who dress for dinner," Harris said. "I must say the Governor doesn't dress for dinner, but he never makes a mistake. Saw a picture in the papers a while back of him and some other dignitaries greeting a cardinal. Forrestal, who's also one of my customers, was wearing a tuxedo. All wrong. The Governor was wearing tails. Proper."
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
  14. carpu65

    carpu65 Senior member

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    I can help in this thread thanks at November 1932 issue of "Fortune magazine".
    In 1932 the most important New York bespoke tailors were in the fifth avenue,and were:[​IMG]


    Patterson & Twyeffort
    Wetzel
    Schanz
    Duranr,Piqual & Cozy
    Gray & Lampel
    Bell
    Stadler
    Weatherill
    Withaker
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  15. carpu65

    carpu65 Senior member

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    $1,060 to $1,450 for bespoke from a one of finest tailors of New York !!!
     

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