01 March 2010

Keeping History Alive

This post was supposed to be about the mundane task of fixing up an old suit. Instead, it is something of a history lesson.


Some of you may remember, I used to work for the long gone Simon's Copley Square, the kind of men's shop where all the products bore only the name of the store itself. I have a high regard of the clothing that I find from such long gone places, and when posting about it, I always do my best to research the old shop. Finding great stuff for short money is half the fun of thrift shopping. The other half is learning the provenance (if you can) of the stuff you find. Often, I come up with nothing, so it is when researching an old place that lived and died before the Internet.On rare occasions, if I'm lucky, a reader will remember the place and offer some insight. In even rarer case, I manage to find something out about the place.

Let's start with the garment itself; medium grey, lightweight for Spring, probably wool blend, in a snappy Prince of Wales check. This suit is something of a hybrid, combining American traditional details with British touches. For instance, it's 3/2(American), but it's darted(British).

It has plain front, cuffed pants with a narrow leg, and a two button cuff (American),


It has hacking pockets and a ticket pocket (British).

Here's where the history lesson comes into it. It's from a shop called Weber and Heilbroner. In their hey-day, Weber and Heilbroner operated nine stores in Manhattan alone. I have a feeling this was the place to shop for the man of style and class who didn't graduate from an Ivy League school, and didn't shop at Brooks Brothers or J.Press, but had very similar taste. Sure, the Brothers and Press may be with us still today, but if these guys had nine shops back then, they must have been doing something right, too. For extra cool points, see this old painted ad on a brick wall for "Stein Block Clothes in the New York Manner".

Amalgamated Garment Workers Union, June 13 1970.
And now on to the original intent of my post. I like to make my own repairs to things, if I can. It's definitely a skill worth cultivating. This suit has a few holes in the lining. No big deal, I'll just come up with some creative way of patching them. It's a trifecta, really: It's "green" ( note: that term drives me insane), it's "punk" (note: that term dives me insane), and it even bears homage to the old WASP tradition of conspicuously ragged cheapness (note: the term WASP is as silly and outdated as "punk" already is, and "green" will be soon enough).

All well and good. But then: What am I going to do about this weird pleat that serves as a vent? I'll try to fashion a normal vent out of it. I can already hear some of you crying out "take it to the tailor!" My tailor is a close ally, and I'd trust him to sew up a wound in my own children any day, but if I can avoid paying him, and learn something about the construction of my clothes in the process, I will.

Did I mention that this suit cost $1.00?

Two outcomes are possible here: I fix the suit, and wear it with pride. Or I wreck the thing, and wind up recycling the fabric into some cool throw pillows, or a bow tie or something. Either way, it's a dollar well spent, don't you think?

Stay tuned for updates.

15 comments:

Richard said...

I absolutely love PoW check. I've been on the hunt for one similar to yours for months.
Great find, and I love the idea of turning them into throw pillows if you can't fix it.

Scott Alexander said...

Whatever becomes of the suit, good luck with your efforts!

http://thecableknitcollegian.blogspot.com

James said...

I followed your tip and ordered a waxed cotton driving cap from The Village Hat Shop. I'm very happy with the hat. Fit is great,quality is good for the price. It will make a good rainy day cap. Thanks!

James said...

Actually, I'm not sure what's wrong with the pleated vent. It's unusual, yes, but it gives the suit character.

Alternately, it strikes me that the simplest solution -- and the one least likely to damage the suit -- is to sew it shut, turning it into a ventless suit. Cary Grant wore them, after all.

Young Fogey said...

I've neither seen nor heard of a pleated "vent" before--fascinating!

Looking forward to seeing what you do with this. May I suggest trying the vent surgery before patching the lining? I only mention it because I'd probably do it in the reverse order, then ruin the suit, and would end up wasting the lining repair.

If you ruin the suit, can I have enough material for a bow tie, too, please?

Anonymous said...

If you screw up the vent, all may not be lost: Take it to the tailor at that point, confess bashfully, and ask for his help.

Sean said...

You should think of becoming a wardrobe consultant. Not to help people to dress, but to convince wives that all these clothes are necessary! I would hire you

Pigtown-Design said...

i swan... ever since i bought my sewing machine, everything looks like a potential pillow cover to me! i just found some sari fabric and scooped it up. the colours and patterns and embroidery are fabulous.

David V said...

Leave the vent as is. It is unusual and cool.

Andrew said...

I would keep the pleated vent, it is an interesting feature. Does anyone know the origin or purpose of this kind of vent?

Ebenezer Howard, Jr. said...

Leave the vent alone.

mgb said...

first off, to _truly_ understand the lineage of an object in our modern life is to attain some knowledge of the modern world. that must be worth more than half - for if money were so important you wouldn't spend the time (which is worth much more).

second, to james, david v, andrew, ebenezer: i agree, the pleated vent does yield something - but i'd argue it's more personality than character. what self-respecting men's suit would dream of pleated vents? and yes, cary wore beautiful ventless suits (or at least a famous one). but giuseppe is not cary. a great lesson of ambition is that it be restrained by ability.

not to insult the man - to be honest, i can't express my envy at many of his finds. the man is amazing. in fact, i'll volunteer...

giuseppe, i don't know if you've got a sewing machine, but i've got one. i've been losing and gaining weight with the regularity of S&P indices. i hoped a sewing machine could fix the waists of my ebay incotex's (incotices?). but i've realized, 1. they are way more complicated than you'd guess and 2. scotch doesn't help. well scotch does help... but i digress. i hereby volunteer my costco Brother 2600-something for this effort.

if you accept, i only ask that whatever fabric we cut (btw. can't we dart a bit more? - that's a fucking sack) goes to young fogey.
but first, post a higher res pic, i honestly can't tell if that's a pow or glen check...

Anonymous said...

That pleated vent is sweet (as is the rest of thes suit). Please don't mess with it...

Chico said...

I've actually been dissecting a Simon Copley Square suit that I found at a thrift shop here in Virginia. I want to know more about canvas construction and this suit was a 38Long and I'm a 38short. Anyway, did you want the label? I could throw it in an envelope and send it to you if you want it.

Anonymous said...

I've been toying with the idea of learning how to do some alterations myself. I have long arms, and everything I touch needs to have the sleeves lenghtened. Did you go somewhere or use a book or video to learn how to do repairs or alterations?