Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

How to Be Lovely: A Few Quick Links And Thoughts

Penned upon the 27th of October, 2007

I’m up to the top parts of my ears (do those have a name?) in research at the moment, but I thought I’d sit down, pen in hand, at my typewriter (thanks to Phil Ochs for that line) and dash out something to keep us all entertained. I’ve just been reading Whimy’s announcement that Duchess Clothier is visiting New York. Not having tried the Duchess’s work, nor living in New York, I can’t hope to outdo his recommendation, but I will mention a few tailors and retailors who, in addition to my usual favourites, I’ve had pleasant experiences with lately, or otherwise simply admired.

First, I’ve mentioned them before, but these Bicycle Fixation cycling knickers have seated themselves in my brain and won’t leave. Cycling suits are near the epitome of practical chic, and anything that encourages me to get out and about is probably a fine thing. Also, I find human-powered machinery simply elegant and poetic – which is why I was delighted with a present of a wind-up watch from Lady Tanah’s father recently, too, as well as some beautiful cufflinks. Thank you, sir!

I can personally vouch for Miller Hats – I picked up one of their homburgs and it’s become the pride of my collection. I admire their commitment to a diverse range of styles and materials. I’ll also mention one of the Grand Old Names of Anglo menswear, Lock & Co Hatters; I haven’t dealt with them at all, but their smoking caps look marvellous. I can’t vouch at all for another English company, Pakeman, Catto & Carter, but I can gaze longingly at the pictures of their coats, their stockings, their eveningwear… yes, all of it, really.

Bustledress is a great idea – a market of women’s vintage and reproduction finery from 1800 to 1930. It’s plainly done with love, and they clearly do a brisk trade. They have shoes, corsets, everything. For something new, have a look at Hot Patterns – if you can’t sew, you can always find someone who can, and it’s still better value because you’re paying nothing for the label – and it always fits you just right. Oh, and the Met store has wonderful Belle Époque-style jewellery and accessories. I’ve a few of their pieces and I’m always ready for more.

Old Town Clothing have an admirable way of looking at things – their designs are the products of such imaginative accidents as the loss of a pair of high-waisted trousers behind a railway office radiator, and they’re obviously on to something because their clothes look marvellous. They’re strictly a local operation, but just knowing that such a project exists reminds us that they have existed and likely will exist for as long as they’re needed; perhaps until imagination and industry are so closely married that we wonder at it ever having been any other way.

Finally, a notion for anyone who wears a necktie, for fun or for profit: a tie is a three-dimensional thing. A tie is a brightly-coloured length of silk, looped around the throat and finished with an elaborate knot. Let it have shape. Let it fly and bob and flow. Don’t just flatten it down to a dark triangle pointing at your underpanty region. Ties are inherently fun; if you’re not going to treat them that way, why wear them?


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