12 November 2012


The "Continental" cut, broad shouldered with a full chest and low button stance, rendered in rich blue wool serge. An excellent example of the style, circa 1956.
Three open patch pockets, sewn on by hand, and old fashioned creased sleeves.

Roped shoulders, an Italian touch. This is, after all, Continental.

A ventless back, in keeping with the style, a skeleton lining and beautiful finish work on the seams.

The trousers are deeply pleated, with full cut legs that taper to large cuffs at the hems. Note the low set of the belt loops and exterior brace buttons.

From Jack Lipton of Boston.

A little while back, I received a phone call from a peppy octogenarian named Ina. She had seen me in the Boston Globe and wanted to know if I might be interested in looking at some menswear she was cleaning out of the attic. I scheduled a meeting and drove to her house a few days later.

As it turned out, my little girl was in tow for this particle "hunting trip". I prefer to do these things alone, but this time it just didn't work out. As we rang the bell and waited, my daughter clung to my leg in shyness. The door opened, and we were met by a sweet old lady in a dress, nylons, heels and pearls, fully made up at home. She melted at the sight of my girl, and the feeling was reciprocated. Young and old, fast friends at first sight.

Ina had dragged a bunch of her husbands things down from the attic. Having been ten years since his passing, her daughter had urged Ina that it might be time to let some of his things go. She was ready to clean out the house, but I could tell it had taken her some time to prepare. As my daughter enjoyed a cookie and milk in Ina's fantastically cute 1970s kitchen, I had a look at the clothes. There were a couple of good tweeds, some flannel pants, and this blue suit. Ina told me that this suit was the one her late husband Sydney wore at their wedding in 1956. Jack Lipton, as she recalls, was the place to go when you wanted something really special with a bit of European flair. For normal clothes, they shopped at Filene's. This suit was worn only a handful of times, and well kept. Sydney was an electrician, she explained, and rarely wore dress clothes. She was the one with the clothes madness, it seems. She picked out all of these duds for him, but old Sydney was game, and not afraid to wear her picks, not even the pink flannels.

We agreed on a price/consignment plan, but as I got ready to take the clothes out to my car, I could see her hesitate a bit. "You know, Ina", I said, "you don't have to sell me any of this stuff. If you're not comfortable with this, we don't have to do it. If I leave here empty handed, it's no difference to me. I don't want you to be unhappy about this."

She paused for a minute, looked up and said "It's o.k. I know his things will be in good hands with you."

"I promise to do what I can to find Sydney's clothes good new homes."

When we left, Ina gave my girl a hug, and my girl said "I love you, Ina." I swear to god, its a wonder we didn't all burst into tears on the spot.

In this line of work, I come across things in all sorts of random and crazy ways. But it's times like these, the people I meet and the stories they tell about the provenance of the clothes I handle, that really make this worthwhile. I often talk about the meaning that clothes have beyond the simple physical fact of what they are, and if this story doesn't illustrate that I don't know what will.

So, if you happen to wear a 42 short and have the confidence to carry off a sharply tailored mid-century Continental look in a well made garment that is in like new condition, consider this suit. Help me keep my promise to Ina.


Pigtown*Design said...

Lovely story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

F.M. said...

Just one more reason to love this blog.

Young Fogey said...

Great story. Thank you for sharing it. Who'd've ever thought that your blog would have taken you to Ina's house?

The wrinkles at the shoulder head are, as you know, a trademark of the drape style so beloved from the 1930s through the 1950s. There seem to be some vertical folds in the chest, also a sign of the drape cut.

I have a suit with a similar lapel and button stance. However, mine seems to be from the 80s. What's old is new... I hope this beautiful suit finds a good home.

Christopher Redgate said...

Five star post. I hope the suit finds its way to someone who will truly appreciate it.

jnifferjuniper said...

I hope it finds a wonderful new life. Wonderful story.

Anonymous said...

Are you trying to make us cry? What a fine gent you are. Its interesting how attached we get to our clothes. Much like our cars. I always feel I must find "a good home" for any of my castaways.

JC said...

I'm a long time admirer of your prose and wit, [for sure over 2 years a lurker, always checking daily] yet this is the first time I muster up the courage to step on the soapbox and speak, so please forgive my clumsy expressions. Your approach to life via this clothing blog is refreshing. I believe this masterpiece you wrote would be pulitzer prize material. The beauty of it lies within the fact that it's not fiction, it is real people, real lives and real emotions. Women like Ina are special people to be revisited and I hope you and your daughter will do so, yet there is something in this story that permeates even louder with me than the lovely clothes you will find a home for and meeting someone like Ina. I speak of the values you are bestowing on your little one. Showing honor and respect to older folk. Certainly, even if your daughter did not comprehend the chivalry you conveyed toward Ina by lovingly asking her once again that if she didn't feel right parting ways with Sydney's clothes, it was ok, the fact that your little one expressed these words that many find difficult to express to others, "I love you Ina", shows what a wonderful job you are doing as a parent. I'm just a tad over 40 years of age and just became a father. My daughter is 16 months old and after reading this beautiful true life experience, reminds me that just like vintage clothes are taken cared of and appreciated, we must also take care and appreciate our older ones and prepare our new generation to appreciate the "older" things in life, be it clothes...or even better...people.

Well done my good sir. I salute you and my derby is off to you.