Mister Jalopy’s quest for a patchwork hunting jacket is stymied at every turn. Even when he tries to buy a ladies’ version that’s too small for him.
New Watch Alert!
A simple, inexpensive manual for breezy summer wear. Feeling very good about it. Note that this is pre-teenybopper Abercrombie & Fitch, from their days as the world’s premiere adventure outfitter.
My mother is a part-time antiques dealer, and one of her specialties is textiles. That usually means dress fabric, but she happened upon some beautiful woolens in an estate sale and was thoughtful enough to buy them for me. She bought four lengths, and gave them to me the last time I was visiting her in San Francisco.
Of course, the question was: what to do with them?
The reality is that even when you have the fabric, the CMT (cut, measure, tailoring) cost is quite high for a suit. Most of the cost comes not from the fabric but from the labor-intensive process of actually putting that jacket together. Things like creating chestpieces and setting sleeves are difficult, time-consuming and thus expensive. Even an affordable Hong Kong tailor like say Peter Lee will generally charge around a thousand dollars.
That wasn’t really in the cards for me, but I did have a little bit of wardrobe budget from my television program, so I decided to have some pants made. My tailor, Mr. Yoo at Pro Tailor in Los Angeles is primarily an alterationist, but I knew he was capable of making clothes, so I asked him how much he would charge. He gave me what I think was a bit of a friends-and-family rate, $125, and I decided to go for it.
I had Mr. Yoo base the pants on a pair of old Oxxford for Abercombie & Fitch pants I had on hand. I like Oxxford’s half-waistband (which you can see in the photos). He did some of the work Oxxford does by hand by machine (though he gave me the option of doing it by hand if I wanted him to), but the result is wonderful. Nice to have a high-waisted pant with a narrower leg.
I figured that as long as I was buying bespoke trousers, I might as well leave off the belt loops. Mr. Yoo didn’t have any waist adjusters on hand, so I made a trip to B. Black & Sons in downtown LA to buy some for him.
I’m absolutely delighted with the three pairs I had made, and I’m going to see if I’ve got the scratch to have a fourth put together, in a light gray flannel. Mr. Yoo was delighted to have the opportunity to work on the pants, and I was excited I could support a local craftsman. (Not to mention excited about my new trousers.)
It’s On eBay
Vintage Von Lengerke & Antoine Sweater
VL&A was a Detroit sporting goods store that was owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, operating under its own name until the mid-20th century. I wasn’t going to share this with you, because I was going to bid, but then I remembered that I live in Los Angeles and I already have an unrealistic volume of sweaters. Plus, I’ve gotta bid on that other sweater.
A Trip to the Tailor
I found my tailor the old fashioned way: by passing by while I was walking my dog. Having a relationship with a tailor is an immense help to any man who wants to dress well — whether he’s a fancy-pants fella making bespoke suiting on Saville Row, or, like mine, a friendly Korean immigrant and his wife whose main work seems to be making Nancy Reagan-like suits for middle-aged Korean ladies who lunch.
I just got back from picking up an order, and I thought you might be interested in what a guy who doesn’t get his suits made at Norton & Sons does there. So in that spirit, here’s what I got done:
- I recently scored a pair of Incotex corduroys in a golden wheat color from Loehmann’s for $29. They needed to be finished, so my tailor marked their length and finished them without cuffs.
- I purchased two pairs of pants from Ebay recently. The first was a lovely black watch plaid wool pair, which was probably from the 60s or 70s, but had never been worn or even hemmed. I had him put some big (1.75”) cuffs on them for me. Ten bucks or so.
- The second pair was a beautiful part of black and gray houndstooth checked pants from the old Abercrombie & Fitch. It turned out when they showed up that they were made by Oxxford Clothes in Chicago, probably the highest-quality American ready-to-wear clothier. They needed to be shortened a bit, so we took care of that. About $10.
- I bought a pair of J. Crew cords when I was a bit wider at the waist. They’re not the world’s finest pair of pants, but who doesn’t love chocolate brown corduroy in the fall, so rather than give them to Goodwill, I figured they were worth the $10 and had the waist taken in an inch or two. About $10.
- A lovely Facconable sportcoat I’d bought at a thrift store had been just a bit short for me in the sleeves, so I had them taken down a little. I misjudged how the buttons would look, and they were about one button’s-width too high. I wanted to move the top button down below the bottom, but my tailor told me he couldn’t move just one button down without moving all the buttons - his hand-stitched buttonhole wouldn’t match the machine-stitched ones that were already there. Buttonholes aren’t too expensive, but 8 of them adds up to about $40. I compromised - I had him stitch the new buttonhole in a contrasting color. Cheaper for me, and a little bit of flair. I was happy with the result. About $10.
- I had a piece of patterned wool that my mother had found at an estate sale - about 3 or 4 yards. I’ve been holding on to it forever, and I finally got it together to make it into something: a pair of pants. I love Oxxford’s half-waistband style, and the A&F pants fit me wonderfully, so I had my tailor copy them, with big cuffs to finish them off. It may be the first real item of clothing I’ve commissioned, besides a tie for my wedding and pajamas from my mom when I was little, and I’m very happy with what I got. This was (obviously) the most expensive, but still only cost me $120 (my mom payed a couple dollars for the fabric).
It all cost me less than $200 out the door, and I got five pairs of pants and a sportcoat that fit me perfectly, and look just how I’d like them to.
Tailors are not just for rich guys!
(horrible photos courtesy of my iPhone; Australia-themed tablecloth courtesy of someone who went to Australia, bought a tablecloth, never used it, then died and left it to someone who sold it to me for a dollar)