>

Dress The Part

Artiphax

Yes. It will get that bad...
Joined
Dec 16, 2015
Messages
2
Location
Portland, OR
#1
So I'm curious to know if anyone has suggestions as to any good sites for really getting into the wardrobe that goes with Lovecraft's stories. Places to get old P.I. outfits and other such accouterments. I can find some stuff, but it seems like I'm just not coming up with a lot.

Much appreciated.
Artiphax
 

Curt Chiarelli

Yog-Sothothery on the Fly
Joined
Mar 27, 2006
Messages
1,025
Location
None of Your Damned Business
#2
So I'm curious to know if anyone has suggestions as to any good sites for really getting into the wardrobe that goes with Lovecraft's stories. Places to get old P.I. outfits and other such accouterments. I can find some stuff, but it seems like I'm just not coming up with a lot.

Much appreciated.
Artiphax
Thanks to my receptive young brain being permanently warped by watching too many old black-and-white movies on television as a kid, I fell in love with the classic era of gentleman's clothing at a very young age. Or perhaps it was just in my DNA, as my grandfather on the Sicilian side was a tailor in Chicago from 1918 to the late 1950s during the golden era of men's fashion. Forty years later, I choose to wear nothing but vintage-styled clothing from the 1920s and 1930s, so I believe I'm in a unique position to help you on your quest.

The first thing you need to assess is your seriousness, because to do this right is not some cheap-'n'-quick, one-stop shopping convenience lark. There's a lot of information to absorb and the devil is truly in the details. Those details coalesce and converge to either nail the look or miss it by a wide margin. Do it right and compliments will be coming your way. Do it wrong and you'll look like a clown. Here are the reasons why:

Complacency and general ignorance by vendors serving this niche market about what constitutes a vintage cut is the first and largest obstacle you'll encounter. Say "Roaring Twenties" to any costumer and you'll shuffle away in a garish, double-breasted chalk-stripe parody of an Italian mobster. So, narrowing the field down to avoid costumers altogether, we'll focus on genuine clothiers. There are approximately two or three websites that sell authentically styled clothing from the Teens, Twenties and Thirties, the era covered in Lovecraft's stories. These online, made-to-measure clothiers claim to specialize in this niche specialty and will charge you an arm and a leg (or a tentacle or two) for it, but ultimately will deliver some ill-fitting togs with a modern cut in off-the-rack, made in China quality. The mark-up is ten times the vendor's original cost and none of the value is passed on to a knowledgeable consumer. As an example, one such vendor charges about $3,800.00 USD for a three-piece suit, but the armholes are low, the material doesn't have the correct drape because it is too lightweight and the shoulder pads are like a linebacker's, thus the jacket hangs poorly and is uncomfortable to move around in. The very antithesis of golden era styling.

If you just wanted something non-era specific, generally tweedy and professorial to wear, you might do better spending $100.00 at a consignment shop. The likelihood of you scoring a vintage suit in your size (men were considerably shorter and thinner on average 80 years ago than they are now) isn't very high. You'd think that consignment shops like Goodwill would be the charm, but such is not the case. Vintage clothes hounds typically pay a kickback to Goodwill employees to alert them to newly-acquired items, so it gets snapped up quickly and the really classy stuff quickest of all.

The Bay Which is Evil (i.e. eBay) is another option to seek your heart's desire, but many vendors misrepresent their goods and the last thing you want to be drawn into is a bidding war with a rich vintage clothing hound.

There's a lot more information I could share with you, but I think this will do for a starter.
 

Artiphax

Yes. It will get that bad...
Joined
Dec 16, 2015
Messages
2
Location
Portland, OR
#3
Thanks for that heads up. It draws to mind a specific question. Do you have any recommended reading suggestions to help me tailor that look? I read the piece about the "roaring twenties" and I cringe. I definitely don't want to end up like some reject from a Al Capone casting call. I know that the the tubes (internet) could provide me with a laundry list of Google sites, but given your proclivity for the style I thought posing the question here would be a better choice.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
5,294
#5
Artiphax, Portland's enough of a hipster city that I suppose there's a demand for vintage clothing, but I wonder if you might possibly connect with some good sources if you advertised in newspapers in some of the other cities, e.g. Salem, Medford, etc. Just a thought....

I wonder if some communities might have had local theaters that saved vintage clothing for a time for revivals of old plays etc. but might now be inactive and responsive to a query such as this. Dunno.
 

Curt Chiarelli

Yog-Sothothery on the Fly
Joined
Mar 27, 2006
Messages
1,025
Location
None of Your Damned Business
#6
Thanks for that heads up. It draws to mind a specific question. Do you have any recommended reading suggestions to help me tailor that look? I read the piece about the "roaring twenties" and I cringe. I definitely don't want to end up like some reject from a Al Capone casting call. I know that the the tubes (internet) could provide me with a laundry list of Google sites, but given your proclivity for the style I thought posing the question here would be a better choice.
You're quite welcome and I'm glad to help a fellow Chronic member.

There's tons of different resources available in a multitude of formats that can help you survey the look (and specific era) you wish to capture - everything from vintage ads reproduced on the internet to heavily illustrated historical monographs to volumes focused on gentlemen's fashion of a particular decade.

But before I give some recommendations on books, I'd like to suggest seeing Ken Burn's wonderful documentary titled, Prohibition. (You can see it free on PBS's website here: Watch Full Episodes Online of Prohibition on PBS | Episode Three: A Nation of Hypocrites ). Amongst many other qualities, this documentary is a treasure trove of vintage stills and movie footage of what people wore during the first third of the 20th century. More than just historically informative, it is also an extremely entertaining window into American society as Lovecraft knew and experienced it during his adult life. (If this sounds superfluous or entirely outside the scope of the subject matter at hand, it isn't: in many ways, clothing fashion reflects the values and social attitudes of the people who wore them.)

So, yes, Ray McCarthy is spot on regarding the value of contemporary films and newspapers. It's a great resource that shouldn't be overlooked. In the film footage, please note how easily men were able to move and raise their arms in jackets that were likely purchased off-the-rack from Sears Roebuck & Co. or other department stores. Nowadays, if you want that same quality in a suit you most likely will have to shell out serious bucks for a Saville Row bespoke job. (I've personally examined a few examples of vintage off-the-rack suits from Montgomery Wards and Sears - the stuff an average middle-class guy used to buy and wear. The fit, craftsmanship and style are truly far superior to today's suits. The wool was denser, heavier and, correspondingly, drapes better - but is much hotter - than comparable fabrics made for the clothing industry in the 21st century. Accordingly, you got at least a good decade's worth of use out of them before they were relegated to a consignment shop. A man used to get a good bang for his buck for a mere $39.99 back in 1935.)

Okay, onward.

Let's start with the fundamentals. As a basic guide to sartorial style, the bible is Alan Flusser's Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. It is not era-specific, but the principles found in it are old, solid ones that are fully applicable to vintage style and will hold you in good stead as you build the wardrobe you want. Next up is an excellent recent addition to the growing list of heavily illustrated books on men's vintage fashion, Vintage Showroom: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom by Josh Sims, Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett. Another good resource is A Dandy Guide to Dating Vintage Menswear: World War I to Through to the 1960s by Sue Nightingale. Tons of high quality, high-resolution photographs of real people in everyday dress from the era (typical of a book from Schiffer Publishing). These books will constitute a good foundation as you delve deeper into vintage fashion and develop the look you seek.
 
Last edited:

Denise Tanaka

Denise RobargeTanaka
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
358
Location
San Jose, CA
#7
Wow, yeah, everything Curt said. My hobby is costuming (sewing) across a broad range of historic time periods and fantasy creations as the mood takes me.

I'm also a HUGE fan of silent film star Rudolph Valentino who had a nuclear impact on American men's fashion in the 1920s. He brought a European sensibility of style that conflicted with the rugged macho-type ideal American man (e.g. Douglas Fairbanks or the cowboy film stars.) Reading Valentino's biography or some of the contemporary newspaper articles has good information on that score, how wrist watches were originally designed for women and men only carried pocket watches until Valentino started wearing watches too. Chaplin's films are also very informative of how a tramp is trying to achieve the look of a gentleman when he can't afford any better than shabby hand me downs. You can also read contemporary literature like GATSBY and there are preserved copies of the Sears Roebuck clothing catalogs.

Are you looking to buy suits or hire a tailor/costumer? Do you have sewing skills? There are the historic reproduction clothing patterns sold online - I don't mean the commercial pattern makers. I'm a member of my local costumers club so if you're interested in sewing patterns I can refer you. I agree that your odds of finding something at a thrift shop or an estate sale are very slim.
 

Similar threads

Top