I am no minimalist. My aim is to create a “capsule wardrobe” of assorted pieces that I can combine in a variety of ways and enjoy wearing. I think it is a given that I should have more than one pair of jeans and more than one T, but key pieces have to versatile.
In the little collection above, I have combined some favourite Vintage pieces with new items.
Firstly, I have included my favourite coat, a black wool, single breasted collarless straight cut garment by Corner Shop that I bought in 1990 from a Paul Sartori charity shop in Haverfordwest. I think that it had been made to measure for someone, but fitted me perfectly, and still does! It cost me £7. When I put this coat on, I feel instantly smart, and it works with dresses, skirts, trousers and jeans. As it is collarless, I often add a scarf. The scarf in the photos is one that I made myself. It is black wool with woven border deep pockets and a light grey suiting lining. ( One of the photos also shows this scarf worn with a black dress.)
I am a great fan of traditional Welsh Wool, and collect blankets and “carthen”, mostly brightly coloured ones from the 1960s. The 1960s was a great era for the Woollen mills of West Wales, as fashion designers such as Mary Quant, used Welsh woollen cloth to create funky clothes and accessories. The two skirts included in this collection are both Welsh wool cloth from the 1960s. Both the red cloth and the green cloth are traditional woven patterns. In one outfit, I have combined the sixties skirt with an early 90s black zip top by Workers for Freedom, and a white T. I would wear this zip top with either skirt, and love the white “surprise” detail on the back.
The grey merino wool cardigan with red and maroon yoke is a recent purchase from TK Maxx. It is the perfect length to wear with the red skirt, but will also combine well with jeans.
The classic denim jeans jacket is also a recent High Steeet purchase, and already a favourite of mine. I have shown it here with one of the 60s skirts ( I could wear it with either), with my black straight cut Per Una jeans (bought second hand), with a Vintage Orvis button-through below the knee black cotton dress, and with a stretchy knee length tie-dye patterned T shirt dress by Apricot, bought a few years ago on the High St. ( cheap and cheerful!)
One of my favourite items is a glorious reversible Vintage embroidered silk jacket from the Orient. Depending upon my mood and upon the occasion, I can wear it black with a red lining or red with a black lining. I can dress it up or dress it down. I wear it with the black jeans or over the black dress.
The last item in this little collection is a Vintage Hyphen silk lined knee length frock coat, that has been in my wardrobe for about twenty years. It has a single button in the front and is fitted. It looks great over black jeans, but also looks great over the stretchy Apricot dress. It’s the type of garment that looks pretty sharp!
So, I think that is about a dozen items of clothing that form the basis of my wardrobe, and about 50% of its volume. The remainder is mainly seasonal or party clothes that I can happily put into storage, but also include a couple of shirts that I love and wear, an oversized sweater, ditto, and a classic trench coat.
Add ons include: underwear, footwear, accessories, bags, scarves, belts etc.
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!
So, more to come soon…….
UK customers, Postage & Packaging is free on all orders over £35 throughout June, at Coolclobber.
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.
Vintage classics, the gentleman’s hat.
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.
Of course, there are many other styles of classic hats to explore and enjoy, and it’s good to see men using these vintage styles to add a touch of individualism to their outfits.
N.B. The archive Photographs of Patrick MacNee and of Maurice Chevalier are not my ©
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.
Please note the Aquascutum illustration and 1950s advert are not my own ©️
One of the easiest and most stylish ways to add a touch of vintage to an outfit is to add a frame handbag. Here are four just added to the shop. Former film star, Grace Kelly, Princess Grace of Monaco, often carried a Hermès bag with top straps, and that style of bag evolved into the eponymous “Kelly”bag, which is essentially a metal frame bag, boxy in style, with a top clasp and top handles. This style is synonymous with the 1950s, the Grace Kelly era, but has remained a popular style which we think of as a classic and elegant accessory.
The classic frame handbag comes in many variations, from classic leather to pvc, shiny patent leather to pony skin!