27 December 2013

Rules of Thrifting : Cosmetic Surgery

There are a lot of tricks to thrift shopping well, and though I may have a tendency to repeat myself here from time to time, it's simply because these things can't be overstated. One of them is that it is essential to develop an eye for potential, to know what can and can't be repaired or altered, and to see past a bit of additional time and trouble that may be involved to see a final outcome down the road. It's not that different from understanding that a new suit is best worn altered and not straight off the hanger the day you buy it. Following is an extreme case in point.
On a recent trip to the thrift shop, I found an excellent old Chesterfield coat, very heavyweight, the kind of cloth you don't see too often anymore. It was, of course, shoved into a rack brimming with mostly crappy parkas and ugly, dated overcoats from the late 80s and early 90s. Single breasted with peaked lapels, and clearly quite old from a distance, it was of such better quality than the things surrounding it that it was practically glowing. 
Velvet piping at the cuffs and breast pocket, a detail I haven't encountered often. Clearly this is old, and likely worn over morning clothes (striped trousers, cutaway coat, top hat, etc.) by it's original owner. Fits me like a glove, so it looks like I'll be keeping this one, though I will more likely wear it over a grey or navy suit, on a very cold day. True, I do already have an excellent lighter weight Chesterfield, but how could I pass this up? What do you take me for, a sensible normal person?
Produced in a tailor shop in Boston, a long gone place I've never heard of until now. Internet homework turns up nothing about this shop, though it will point you to plenty of great footage of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, also not a bad thing.
Made in 1935 no less. Now we've got something that has value as an antique as well as just a fine piece of clothing. 
$10, as-is. If a thrift shop is marking goods "as-is" look them over carefully. Chances are there's something majorly wrong. This is charity after all, not ebay. "As-is" means different things in different settings. So what's wrong with this coat?

One button has been badly replaced, but I actually found the missing original button in one of the pockets. No, that ain;t it.
The velvet collar is completely destroyed. Not just worn, fully wrecked. Things like this are a deal breaker for most people, which really is too bad. I'll go to a fabric store and get a piece of good velvet, take it to my tailor, and have him replace the whole collar. Purely cosmetic surgery. Even after I pay him, I'll have a stunning garment for less than $50. What new coat can you get for that? Besides, I'll have rescued an antique thing from the garbage dump, and effectively restored it for many years continued use, an act I find rewarding in itself. The way this coat is made, it's likely I'll wear it through it's 100th Winter, and that's kind of priceless.

Look for part two of this post in a couple of weeks when it comes home from the hospital.

p.s. If you're looking for a Chesterfield coat and are a 38 regular, I have another excellent one made by H. Huntsman and Sons of Savile Row.currently listed on ebay. Auction ends Friday 3 January.


WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

What a find! And you're right, Oscar Peterson ain't too shabby whether you are talking about this particular coat, or the pianist. Enjoy the coat!

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

lairddouglas said...

Holy Moly ... That is beyond gorgeous. No that is most definitely beyond classic. That is Adolph Menjou territory. Craftsmanship like that has not been seen in many a long year. I look forward to the new velvet collar and properly lined up buttons being shown in a later posting I hope ;) wink wink nudge nudge.

NCJack said...

This is where a little recon and study really comes in handy.

I'll bet several guys passed up that coat assuming it couldn't be repaired, or that it would cost a ton.

That is a true beauty

Joe said...

Menjou indeed. I need to get a good black hat now

Unknown said...

Good god!
Excellent, may you wear it for many a great year!

Anonymous said...

Someone passed on that coat before you did, because of the condition. But that person almost bought it because of the year. See http://www.styleforum.net/t/9006/the-official-thrift-discount-store-bragging-thread/89010

Drew said...

Well done! Look forward to seeing it again.

Beau said...

Wish I could find coats like that in 52. Thrifting isn't easy for us larger size people, :)