October 31, 2012

Favorite Finds: More Colored Chinos


I am always on the lookout for nice chinos in fun colors and I’ve been seeing these Machine Gun Stretch Trousers from French Connection for the last few seasons and was always intrigued by the array of colors that they come in (which is currently over a dozen).

They only come in even sizes (but do go down to a 28), so I tried on the 34. The waist was a good fit, similar to the AllSaints chinos that I reviewed previously, and I really liked the legline. It was a little looser than what I was looking for, but slim enough to not look bulky.


The unfortunate part of the fit is everything between the waistband and about mid-thigh. The crotch is a little saggy and no matter where I adjusted the pants on my waist, nothing seemed to help. But if the crotch is only a small problem, the rear is a much bigger one. It is incredibly saggy and shapeless and definitely not a good look. It doesn’t even fit particularly well on the mannequin, which is always a warning sign.


They are only available in a 34” inseam, but as I have said before, I like to cuff colored chinos. I think colored chinos lend themselves to that look (and I’m partial to cuffing in general). If the pants fit better, I would buy them in a heartbeat. The hand is great, it feels like a very gently brushed twill and the side slit pockets and button fly make it feel a little dressier than some other chinos on the market.


The back pockets are the now standard setup of one welt-one flap, which is nice for people who keep their wallet in their back pocket but a little annoying for those of us who keep a handkerchief there.


The care instructions are pretty standard - machine wash cold, tumble dry low.  They are 98% cotton, 2% Elastane and the stretch that they provide is nice for comfort and $88 is not at all an unreasonable price.

Maybe the fit was just off on me. I think they are worth a few minutes to try on, I even went back and tried them on a second time because I like everything except the crotch and rear so much, but to no avail. I was, however, talking to one of the employees who said that he does see a lot of them getting returned, so maybe it is a larger problem.

The colors are the big draw here, because not a lot of places offer the same variety year-round at such a great price. That said, the fit was so bad on me that I would probably just head to Paige, Gant, or AllSaints and pay more for a better fit, even if I’m more restricted in my color choice.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 17, 2012

Quick Tip: Shopping Vintage


There is a lot of stigma that surrounds vintage shopping, but when done well it can be an incredibly rewarding challenge. It isn’t as easy as walking into a department store and going through multiple sized racks of clothing, but the amazing pieces you can find, generally at prices that are a major deal, make the extra work worthwhile. I’ve gotten a lot of emails about the vintage pieces I’ve featured, so I decided to compile a brief vintage shopping cheat sheet – a list of tips to help make shopping vintage as easy and successful as possible.

Sizing

Vintage sizes are generally not the same as modern sizing for a variety of reasons. With the rapid popularity in recent years of vanity sizing, particularly in pants, you can no longer rely on the size listed as the actual size a piece measures. In contemporary clothing, the most common upsizing is about 2”, though this varies from brand to brand. This means that a 34” pair of pants generally actually measures 36” give or take. To complicate this even more, the inseam is not vanity sized, so the 32” inseam actually measures as such. With vintage sizes, pants will usually measure what they list on the size label, assuming that they haven’t already been altered. Other measurements, such as the rise, may be very different than modern cuts because the height that people wear their pants has changed dramatically over the years.

This also extends to more than just pants, so be sure to try everything on because fit and trends have changed repeatedly since the ‘30s. A modern medium can be very different from a vintage one, and unlike contemporary clothing, vintage fabrics rarely have the same stretch contents and are thus less forgiving than the ones you will find in stores now. Just like any time you buy clothes, but particularly when you are shopping vintage it is important to try things on before you purchase them, especially given that most vintage or thrift shops do not accept returns.

Prior Alterations

Whenever I speak to someone about vintage shopping, my biggest recommendation, other than trying something on, is to bring a tape measure. Any time I am considering buying something, I always double check that a garment’s measurements actually match its size label, if it even has one, before I take the time to try it on. Pants are the most common item to be altered, so you’ll want to double-check both the waist measurement and the inseam. I also will often also measure the outseam on pants before I consider trying them on, as the rise on vintage pants can vary wildly. I’ve seen some pants with a rise as long as 18” (think the SNL skits about Clint Eastwood). For shirts, alterations are less common, however shrinkage is not, so make sure the neck, chest, and sleeves measure properly.

Condition

As with all second hand clothing, it is also important to look over a garment carefully for any stains or discolorations, particularly under the arms of shirts or at the bottom cuffs of pants. Inside the necks of dress shirts also often see a lot of staining and the seat and crotch of pants can sometimes wear down, so check both these areas too.

The other condition issue to be aware of that people often overlook is dry rot. It sounds grosser than it is, but basically it means that a fiber is too old and poorly cared for, usually due to the way it has been stored, and has begun to degrade. This is most common with clothes that are pre-1960s and becomes more frequent the older you go back, so though you should always check the condition of the fabric and thread, I would be especially vigilant when looking at pieces from older eras. With both the fabric and threads, test their strength by giving a tug to them. With dry rotted fibers, the fabric will pull right out of the seams or the threads will tear easily. I’m not suggesting you try to rip them apart, just give a tug hard enough to ascertain that they still hold. In some especially bad cases, you can put a fingernail right through the fabric.

There are as many benefits to shopping vintage as there are drawbacks, but if you have the time to invest you can come away with some truly unique pieces. One thing you will quickly learn is that with vintage clothes, more so than anything else, a tailor will be your best friend (but I’ll cover that in a future post).

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 7, 2012

Quick Tip: Knotting Your Scarf Pt 1


As regular readers know, I am a big fan of scarves and a proponent of their use as both a practical and stylish accessory. The beauty of a scarf is that you can take the same single piece and wear it in dozens of different ways so that it can always best suit your style. In this first post I’m starting with the simple basics, some of which you may already do, and hopefully you’ll find a few options you may not have considered before to try out this fall.

1. The Simple Drape


The name literally says it all. Drape the scarf around your neck and let it hang freely. It is one of the most versatile and classic ways you can wear a scarf. I like this with my extra-long scarves for a casual look and with my short scarves under a jacket to dress things up.

2. The Single Wrap


This one is also pretty self-explanatory. Drape the scarf around your shoulders so that one end is longer than the other, then wrap the longer end once around your neck and let the ends hang free. 


A variation on this that I like, particularly on a windy day, is to tuck the ends into the loop. This will help secure the ends and keep them from blowing over your shoulder when a gust comes along.

3. The Double Wrap


Again, this is pretty straightforward. Follow the same instructions as the single wrap, but wrap it a second time. This is going to be one of the warmest as it will really keep your neck protected from the elements.

4. The French Loop


Also called the Parisian Loop, the European Knot, and the Slip Knot, this is my default way to wear a scarf. It is simple to execute and always looks stylish (provided you have a long enough scarf to make it happen). Double the scarf in your hands so that you are holding the loop in one and the two ends in the other. Drape this over your shoulder, then pull the two ends through the loop, and adjust to your desired tightness.

5. The Ascot Knot


This is another beginner knot, also called the overhand knot. You probably already know how to do it but just don’t think about it. With your scarf draped over your shoulders, cross the two ends to form an ‘x’. Then wrap one end around the back of the ‘x’ and up through the center. Let the end fall over and cover the knot. This is a simple and clean knot, well suited for business and casual alike.

6. The Fake Knot

Scarf by Gant; Shirt by Uniqlo; Denim by 7 For All Mankind;
Sneakers by AllSaints Spitalfields

This knot is the trickiest of the ones featured in this post and that is only because it takes some practice to get the knot in the right spot to keep the ends even. I like this one because it isn’t something that is commonly seen. To tie this knot, drape the scarf around your neck so that one end is slightly longer than the other. Tie a loose knot in the longer end, then slip the shorter end through the knot, tighten, and adjust.

These are just a few of the dozens of ways to wear a scarf, but there will be more to come. Remember though, that no matter how you choose to wear your scarf, make sure that you feel comfortable doing so. The most important part of being stylish is being confident in your style because if you don’t think you look good, how can anyone else?

Stay stylish,
- JJ