Now that I have made a start on the task of creating a capsule wardrobe, I realize how random some of my clothes purchases have been over a number of years. I love clothes, particularly vintage classics, and have a penchant for lovely fabrics and beautiful stitching. As I am in the business of selling vintage clothes and accessories, I am often tempted to hang on to pieces….knowing full well that I am never going to loose those extra inches!
Received wisdom dictates to make three piles of clothes, those lovely unwearable vintage things that someone else can enjoy can go to my shop….where they were always destined to be, non vintage unwanted items in good condition can be donated to a charity shop and the worn out or hideous mistakes can be binned. Anything that’s left should be considered as a keeper.
In the last week I have put several pieces in to stock, donated three bags to charity shops and binned two bags.
What I want to do next is create some outfits with key pieces, and see what looks I can create with a mixture of vintage and modern clothes. I want to enjoy wearing my clothes, but I want them to suit my lifestyle. There is no point in me creating looks to wear at the office, for example, as I work from home, and live in a wooded rural hamlet in West Wales. On the other hand, there is no reason to look like a hay seed all of the time, and it will be great to have a selection of outfits that will work for me, and make me feel great!
The Capsule wardrobe project is temporarily on hold! No apologies, I have been working on other things whilst enjoying the unprecedented heat wave! Apart from my garden and vegetable plot, I have been busy taking photographs of new stock for Coolclobber and Floslingerie. We have now had weeks and weeks of hot sunshine, and I have had to eat my words about shorts! It has been too hot to wear much else!
So, here are some of my latest stock items for Coolclobber ⬆ Tap on any photo to enlarge it.
I think that it may have been back in the 1970s that I first heard of “The Capsule Wardrobe”as a fashion concept. “The Capsule Wardrobe”, “Wardrobe Basics” or “Wardrobe Essentials” have been the subject of articles and books on and off for at least fifty years….and probably before that too!
It is true that fashionable looks in clothes are often re-cycled or re-worked from previous eras, and it is often said that if you keep your old and no longer fashionable clothes, they will eventually come back into vogue. It is also true that some clothes are regarded as “Classics” that never really go out of fashion, and can be worn stylishly year on year.
As a collector of Vintage clothes, my view is that Vintage pieces work well as key items in the “capsule”approach to dressing well, adding a large helping of creativity and originality to a “look”.
Personally, I like to mix eras rather than adhering to a head to toe style from a specific decade. Mixing it up a bit also allows you to choose styles, cuts and colours that work best with your particular body shape, skin tone and life style, allowing you to create a unique personal look using pieces that are versatile and to some point, interchangeable.
So, most articles that you come across will suggest some Wardrobe “essentials” that can be worn in a number of combinations to create different outfits.
These usually include:-
A plain and well cut white T shirt
A plain and well cut long sleeved crisp white shirt
A well cut knee length or over black pencil skirt
A knee length navy or plaid pleated skirt
Straight cut blue denim jeans
Straight cut black trousers
Well cut black blazer
Well cut overcoat
Little black dress
Flat black pumps
High heel court shoes
Coloured scarves and jewellery to accessorize
With these basics you can create different looks to suit occasions and mood….
e.g T shirt, jeans, leather belt, ankle boots, black blazer
White shirt, plaid skirt, overcoat, pumps
White shirt, black blazer, black trousers, ankle boots, bag
LBD, high heels, coat
Mix and match. Add in flashes of colour and bling with accessories……
So far, so good. Some lists are more specific, and more prescriptive, some suggesting that your “Capsule Wardrobe” should consist of 12 items or 20 items or 30 items……some are more inventive and more adventurous, showing fabulous clothes with eye watering price tags!!!!! And some are so “tasteful” that they create a kind of uniform…..wearable but dull!!!!
Looking at my own wardrobe (literally) I see that what I own and what I wear are two different things. I like the idea of organising my clothes and wearing more of the items I love, rather than always seeing them on hangers and hardly wearing them at all. I think that I need to sort through my collection, discard those clothes that are never going to fit me again, or that I bought on a misguided whim, and create my own version of “The Capsule Wardrobe” to include my favourite Vintage pieces along with new items, creating outfits that Will express my style and personality, and that I will enjoy wearing!
This may take me some time……I seem to have Uber-numerous coats, jackets, dresses and separates to sort through…..plus plenty of items I shouldn’t really admit to…….a stack of cotton summer shorts….Why?????
Over the next few weeks I intend to have a sort through my clothes and put together my own version of a Capsule Collection.
Re-imagining the Shirt in the 1960s.
Men’s shirts through history have been fairly functional. They would keep a chap warm and well covered up, and particularly throughout the nineteenth century they would have been fairly voluminous with a wide straight cut, maybe with a generous shirt tail to tuck in to trousers, sometimes with detachable starched collars and cuffs. The collarless shirt, sometimes made of wool flannel, would be worn mainly by manual workers, a white or pale coloured shirt would be worn by office workers.
In the 1950s and into the 1960s, Rael-Brook was one of Britain’s largest manufacturers of men’s shirts. Their advertisements, featuring dancing shirts, were shown on the television, accompanied by the catchy musical jingo, ”Rael-Brook, Rael-Brook, the shirt for men”. Real-Brook introduced subtle stripes and soft colours, including primrose and pink to their range, to attract younger men to buy their products. In the early years of the 60s, millions of white shirts were imported from Hong Kong to Great Britain, but the younger market demanded something different. Arrow and Tootal were popular brands with the younger buyers, offering new and brighter patterns, with an emphasis on a new slimmer silhouette and innovations to the collar. Tab collars and button down collars became popular, as did pointed collars and rounded collars.
In 1963, Ben Sherman brand was born. Ben Sherman (neé Sugarman) came from the USA and started up a company making an iconic 1960s shirt. It was immediately adopted by the Mods of 1963, and later by Two-Tone and Ska followers. Like an Italian profile, the Ben Sherman shirt was a very slim fit with a square cut hem ( no bulky shirt tail!), it had a box pleat at the back, a back button and button down collar. It came in many colours and patterns. The Ben Sherman shirt was the epitome of mod fashion for British men.
In the USA, Arnold Palmer, probably the best known and best loved golfers of the 1960s, won the US Open in 1960, and created his own brand, Arnold Palmer Enterprises, a year later. From those early years, shirts were part of the Arnold Palmer range, and bore both his name and his own logo, a golfing umbrella. The Arnold Palmer shirt of the 1960s comes in a variety of colours and patterns, plains and abstract, has a sharp collar, is a slim cut, and reflects the tastes of young American Pop Culture.
Colour and pattern remained a feature of men’s shirts throughout the 1960s and into the 70s, when collars and cuffs became more exaggerated, sometimes with the addition of frills. 1960s shirt fashions remain infinitely sharp and wearable, making them highly sought after pieces of vintage clothing.
Today I visited some of my favourite haunts, searching for vintage pieces that will fit in my shops. Late in the day, I came across this amazing 1970s Ronald Joyce “After Six” evening dress…..certainly today’s best find!
These are my preview photographs, taken for my Instagram feed….as I couldn’t wait to show off my latest find. Although I haven’t taken measurements yet, I can safely say that it is Small, no more than a U.K. size 8, and it is in amazing condition. Later this week I will photograph it for the shop listings, and taking a full set of measurements to add to the description.
Sometimes a piece of clothing just grabs my attention and I like to find out a bit more about its provenance. And so it was with a bright red blazer that came in to my possession just last week.
It has an interesting pocket badge, embroidered with metal thread lettering, reading “Ford Wales Amateur Golf Tournament 1982, Home Internationals”, clearly a team blazer and of interest to Amateur Golfers and anyone interested in the history of Ford Motors. In 1982, Ford would have been in production at Bridgend, South Wales, I believe it was producing engines or engine parts, possibly for the Ford Focus. I find it interesting that even in the 1980s, the company would have supported its workers recreational pursuits, such as here, Golf. My understanding is that the Home Internationals, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England, had their own knock out leagues, and that Ford’s sponsorship included Small prizes for the regional tournaments, and presumably a larger prize for the final, which I understand would have been played on one of the more prestigious courses. Although I have not been able to unearth any further information, it is enough to capture my imagination, and has made me think how a piece of clothing can archive social and regional history.
Historically, hats were always an essential element of any man’s wardrobe. Worn to denote occupation, worn to denote class, to keep the elements at bay, to protect the wearer from missiles and blows, and to make a statement about culture, taste and style….hats were worn with pride and with dignity. In the liberal 1960s and 70s, men’s wear in general became more casual and individualised, and the classic hats of former eras fell from grace, or were worn for more limited occasions as a part of formal dress.
With the renewed interest in styles of the past, lovers of vintage, watchers of costume dramas etc., have discovered a new love of classic hats, and their many forms. A man can create a particular vintage look more effectively by including a hat in his ensemble. There are many styles to choose from, but I am particularly fond of those classic styles that can be worn by Everyman, looking stylish without looking as if in fancy dress!
The British Bowler.
I love the bowler hat, as it is quintessentially British in origin and in nature. I always associate the bowler hat with suave Patrick MacNee…Steed in The Avengers (1960s). He was the epitome of London cool sophistication in his sharp suit, with rolled umbrella and bowler hat. The bowler is a classic, created by the eponymous Bowler Brothers, William and Thomas. They were commissioned by the 19th century hat retailer Lock & Co. To create a sturdy low crowned hat for their aristocratic client Mr.Edward Coke. This was in the mid 1800s, and for the next 100 years it was a popular style with city gents and politicians. In general, the bowler hat is no longer worn by the man in the street but is still a popular choice for high society occasions. For an authentic look, the bowler should be worn with a classic suit or with a well cut overcoat, smart shoes and gloves.
The Trilby and the Fedora
These classic styles are similar, and are perhaps the most commonly worn and popular of hats, particularly in the first half of the 20th century. They were both invented in the early 1890s.
Generally made from wool felt, the Trilby has a narrow brim and an indented crown, and is usually tightly turned up at the back ( and less so at the sides). The Fedora has a wider brim, and also has an indented or pinched crown. Both usually have a hat band, often of ribbon, and may either be stiffened or soft. Right up to the 1960s these were everyman’s hats, but the Fedora in particular is associated with glamour….often worn by film stars of the era….and by gangsters!
The Trilby and the Fedora are having a revival, and in my shop there is always a lot of interest in both styles. For a touch of glamour, 1930s to 1960s style…..wear with a classic trench coat ( incidentally, it’s a style that looks great on men and equally good on women!)
The Panama and the Boater
The Panama hat and the Boater are both men’s lightweight Summer hats, originating in the 1800s. The Boater is a flat crowned, stiff brimmed straw hat, with a ribbon band, often worn by tradesmen, barbers shop quartets, and particularly by butchers. It is also the classic hat for wearing when messing about on the river…..punting or rowing. Wear it with a good striped blazer and white bags for an authentic vintage look.
The Panama hat is finely woven from palm fronds and is as flexible as the Boater is rigid. The Panama usually has a pleated or dimpled crown and a ribbon band. It is an elegant hat popularised in the movies and beloved of both screen stars and public notables. Wear it best with a lightweight linen suit.
The name Aquascutum is synonymous with quality tailoring, with elegance and tradition.
The company was set up by John Emary in 1851, the same year as the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, and started as a tailors shop in London’s Mayfair. Emary took out a patent on the first water resistant fabric, and the name Aquascutum, it’s brand name, is Latin for water shield.
Aquascutum moved premises in 1895, to Regent Street, and in 1897 received its first Royal Warrant, from the Prince of Wales. Thereafter, Aquascutum enjoyed the long and prestigious patronage of the British Royal Family, receiving six Royal Warrants in total, the last in 1952 from Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
During the Crimean war and in both World Wars, Aquascutum Made military trench coats, and was respected for both its military as well as its civil tailoring. Throughout its long history, Aquascutum dressed royalty, the military, stars of stage and screen, politicians, Everest climbers and even the 1996 British Olympic team.
Producing high quality men’s and women’s tailored coats, suits and uniforms, Aquascutum has a long history of innovation, fabric innovation and brand development that has earned it a particular place in British fashion and social history. Aquascutum was sold to YGM Holdings, a Chinese Company in 2012 after floundering in the early part of the 21st century.
During the 1940s 50s and 60s, a well dressed man would complete his outfit with a good quality woollen overcoat. This would be a capacious garment, cut to fit over the jacket of a suit. It was generally a well tailored garment and ideally would be made to measure, although “off the peg” became more commonplace, with gents outfitters able to make alterations where needed to a ready made garment. Overcoats from the first half of the twentieth century often have weatherproof finishes, satin or silk linings, and generous pockets. They may be double breasted, echoing the style of the war time trench coat, or single breasted, which generally sits better over a suit. They may have set in sleeves or raglan sleeves. Fabrics would usually be thick and dense wool weaves, in tweeds, checks or plaids, with colours and styles suitable for both town and country.
Buying a vintage overcoat is a great investment, as a quality new overcoat bought from a tailor today will set you back the upwards side of £600, whilst a good vintage coat may be picked up for under £200. Check the label, as it will give you information about the maker and the fabric composition. Some labels will instantly indicate a high quality garment, e.g Aquascutum, Gieves & Hawkes, Jaeger, Mackintosh, Austin Reed. Other labels may offer a local connection, e.g.made for a particular gentleman’s outfitter in a certain town.
Make a note of your own measurements, and compare them with the vintage item. The overcoat is designed to wear over a jacket, so it will be quite roomy. You may need to add a few inches to your own chest measurement for ease. Check both the sleeve length and the width across the shoulders. Nape of neck to hem will give you the length, which may be well below the knee, just below the knee, or a ¾ “car coat” length, which can be worn quite casually. The width from armpit to armpit , when doubled, gives you the chest measurement plus an allowance for ease of wear over your other clothes. Look at the overall condition of the coat. In particular, look for signs of wear at the cuffs, and pocket tops, which can become thin, check inside pocket linings for any tears or rips, and the lining, particularly under the arms and along the back seam, as this is where you will seem most signs of wear and tear. Any small defects can be repaired, such as missing stitching on a lining seam, or an odd missing button. If you are buying on-line, don’t be reluctant to ask for extra measurements or details from the seller. If you are a careful buyer, you will be able to add a high quality coat to your wardrobe, and will be able to wear it proudly for many years to come.