Menswear Monday – Tuxedo Talk

Buying a tuxedo is a major investment. There is a process involved in finding the perfect tux, getting it tailored appropriately and then matching the right accessories for the perfectly polished look. When it comes down to it, the fact of the matter is that the tuxedo is just a suit on steroids. And just like suit wearing, there are a few simple rules that, if followed, will guarantee a successful execution of a dapper tuxedo ensemble:

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10 Commandments of the Tuxedo

I. Honor Thy Body Type

The slim fitted tuxedo has gained a lot of traction recently, but it isn’t a look that can be pulled off by everyone. Be true to your body type and dress accordingly. For slim, and slender frames, opt for the one- or two-button coat preferably with a narrow peak lapel. For heavier-set physiques, experts suggest a box style one-button tux with wide lapels and a deep V-cut down the center of the body. This creates a vertical focal point and elongates the appearance of the torso, creating a slimming effect.

For Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of Barneys, New York, shoulder fit is an essential part of the proper tux fit. He recommends a snug and high armhole. Even though this may feel a bit restricting, the sacrifice in arm movement will pay off in appearance.

2. Thou Shall Wear a Bow tie

Bow ties with tuxedos are an absolute must, this a universal agreement amongst luxury designers across the board. As the legendary designer, creative mind, and menswear enthusiast Tom Ford proclaims, the everyday four-in-hand necktie is plain inappropriate for a tuxedo, in his words, it is, “just wrong.”

Invest in a high quality bow tie, preferable a self-tie. Something just doesn’t feel right topping off a formal tuxedo ensemble with a clip on. Tying a bow tie knot isn’t as hard as it seems, it just takes a little practice. With the plethora of YouTube tutorials available, there is no excuse!

 3. Thou Shall Stay Proportional

The type and size of bow tie worn with the tuxedo should be based on the kind of shirt collar and lapels it will be paired with. It isn’t rocket science; wide lapels call for wider collars such as the spread collar, and should be matched with larger bow ties, usually the typical butterfly style. For narrow lapels, pair with a slim collar such as the cut diamond collar and opt for the narrower bow ties in the diamond point or bat wing style.

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Tom Ford and Justine Timberlake in Butterfly Bow Ties

4. Remember Thy Grooming Habits

If donning a tuxedo, odds are, the event you are attending is kind of a big deal, don’t offend by showing up scruffy and unkempt. Clean-shaven is the best look for tuxedo wearers, but if facial hair is your signature, then make sure every hair is in place.

5. Love thy Tailor

“Your tailor is your best friend,” says Michael Hainey, deputy editor of GQ magazine, “What’s weird is that guys spend all this time within the culture of the gym, getting toned, fit bodies, and then they wear suit coats that are two sizes too big.” Never underestimate the power of the perfect fit, as menswear guru Alan Flusser says, “The custom made tuxedo represents the highest expression of tailoring art and sartorial know-how.”

6. Thou Shall Not Disregard the Details

Don’t be afraid to show a little cuff, as it is customary to do so, “the half-inch rule for the cuff reveal has always been inflexible,” Michael Hainey decrees. Tuxedo trousers should have a length that maintains a modest break at the top of the shoe, and should have no cuffs. For footwear, Tom Ford proclaims pumps as preferential. In a standard two-button suit, “the closure defines an anatomical equator,” says Alan Flusser, noting that the closure should be lined up with the bellybutton.

7. Know Thy Suit Coat Options

Notched-lapel blazers are usually reserved for the business/corporate realm, so go for the peaked lapel tuxedo coat. Another, less conventional, option that has become popular in the celebrity scene lately is the shawl collar. The rounded, narrow lapels are reminiscent of the smoking jacket and exude the elegance of old Hollywood glamour.

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Shawl Collar

8. Thou Shall Not Be Afraid of Navy

Even though the term is “Black Tie,” that doesn’t mean you can’t venture out of the black and white category. A dark navy tuxedo is a stylish yet sensible take on the look, giving the tux a modern edge. Navy looks especially great in a slim fitted tux. If venturing into the navy realm, be sure to keep all other aspects of the ensemble simple and classic.

 9. Thou Shall Always Be Elegant

“It’s about elegance,” says prominent menswear designer John Varvatos about wearing tuxedo, proclaiming that there is nothing elegant about yards of cotton bunched up under your coat. He suggests wearing a tapered shirt – you will be more comfortable, and with clean, straight lines will look thinner and much more put together.

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And finally,

10. Thou Shall Not Rent

As Michael Hainey says, renting a tuxedo is, “the equivalent of wearing a bowling shoe.” If within your means, buy, don’t rent.

Various designer quotes from:

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Everyone’s a Fashion Writer

Fashion and style blogs are a dime a dozen and everyone’s a critic. When “fashion writers” try to describe, contextualize, and critique collections, sometimes their sartorial lexicon falls short and clothing jargon gets, literaly, lost in translation.

Here are just a few terms whose meanings have become muddled as of late, often taking on a more macro-meaning than originally intended.

Appliqué: An additive process of attaching design components in layers onto the surface of an object, such as quilts or garments.

Brocade: Commonly used to describe many types of patterned fabrics, however, the term actually denotes a specific type of textile weave. A brocade is a fabric in which woven design is created with supplementary pattern wefts that are discontinuous (the pattern wefts do not pass across the whole width of the woven cloth).

Brocade

Brocade

Chambray:  A smooth, light fabric of cotton, linen, etc, of a plain weave with a colored warp (usually blue) and white weft, appearing like denim. Usually used in warm weather attire because of it’s light weight.

Gaberdine: A woven, warp-faced steep or regular twill fabric with a prominent diagonal rib on the face and smooth surface on the back. Garbardine always has many more warp than weft yarns. Usually made of wool and used to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, windbreakers, and other garments.

Gabardine

Gauze: Popularly known as any sheer, lightweight fabric, however true gauze is a weave structure in which individual warp yarns across over adjacent warp yarns and then cross back into their original positions, held in place by weft yarns. The areas of crossed warps result in small, visible openings in the cloth, and these openings form the design areas.

Ikat: A resist-dyeing technique in which yarns are tie-dyed before they are woven into cloth. The term derives from Indonesian mengikat, meaning, “to tie”.

Ikat

Ikat

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Learning from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

“The Triangle Shirtwaist incident is remembered for its shocking brutality: On March 25, 1911, a ferocious fire broke out at a factory on the ninth floor of a building in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Some of the exits and stairwells had been locked to prevent workers from taking breaks or stealing, leaving many unable to get out. As a result, 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, died within 20 minutes. They were burned alive, asphyxiated by smoke or died trying to escape out of the windows and balcony.” -Huffington Post

triangle shirtwaist factory

The anniversary of this tradegy reminds us how important it is to protect the fair labor of factory workers. Even though we are not even close to where we should be when it comes to fair labor practices (especially 103 years post Triangle Shirtwaist Fire incident), there are a few commendable organizations who fight to promote fair labor in the fashion industry:

The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is an independent labor rights monitoring organization, conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Our purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products.

The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their workplace rights. The WRC is proud to have the support of over 175 college and university affiliates and our primary focus is the labor practices of factories that make university-related apparel.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)* to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.

Labour Behind the Label supports garment workers’ efforts worldwide to improve their working conditions, through awareness raising, information provision and encouraging international solidarity between workers and consumers.

Members include trade unions and their local branches, consumer organisations, campaign groups, and charities.

These organisations work together, through Labour Behind the Label, to achieve four aims:

1. Raise public awareness and mobilise consumers.
2. Pressure companies to take responsibility for workers’ rights in the entirety of their supply chains.
3. Support workers in their struggles for decent working conditions, including speaker tours and urgent appeals.
4. Lobby governments and policy makers to bring about change.

Eco Fashion World’s GUIDE is your essential resource to sustainable designer brands and online eco fashion stores. Click on any search button above to help you find what you’re looking for. Being a green shopper and a sustainable fashionista has never been so easy.

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The Sewer and the Machine

“The methodical and precise sound of a sewing machine is oddly calming.

It is one of those steps that looks as if it can be done in an auto-pilot state of mind. But it is actually a job requiring incredibly skill and a deep knowledge of the machine and its relationship to the person. In order to perfectly sew a bag, one must know the machine’s personality – its strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.

Perhaps it is this level of intimacy – a result of such precision and perfection along with the constant uniformity of the sound – that makes it so calming.” – Lotuff Leather #MadeInUSA

Original post on Lotuff Leather Website

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Remembering L’Wren

L’Wren Scott, acclaimed costume designer and celebrity stylist has taken her own life, her body was found by her assistant the morning of March 17th. It has emerged that the A-list socialite was massively in debt, “Accounts for her business LS Fashion LTD show it had a deficit of $5,899,548 (4,237,164 Euros) and the designer owed creditors $7.641 million (euros 5,488,125)” (The Mirror).

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The discourse surrounding L’Wren’s death has revolved around her connections with the celebrity elite (I.e. being Mick Jagger’s long-time girlfriend and being best friends with Nicole Kidman, Ellen Barkin, Daphne Guinness, and Rachel Feinstein), but Ms. Scott had many accomplishments besides being an A-list socialist.

DaphneGuinness

L’Wren began her career in the fashion world as a model in the 1980s for Thierry Mugler. At a height of 6 feet 3 inches, Scott became known as the model with “The Longest Legs in Britain.”

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Her modeling career was short-lived, as she moved to the business-side of the fashion industry with a knack for styling and an address book full of celebrity high society members like Madonna, Julia Roberts, and Angelina Jolie. In 2000, L’Wren was actually named the “official” stylist of the Oscars.

L'Wren and Karl

Expanding into costume design was the next logical step for the highly connected fashionista. Her costume design repertoire includes Ocean’s Thirteen, Eyes Wide Shut and Martin Scorsese’s documentary about The Rolling Stones. In 2006, L’Wren launched her own collection and became a favorite among the London Fashion Week scene, always showing at the end of the week in an intimate setting with a small but ultra-posh audience and the finest of catering (that always matched the collection).

L'Wren Scott

 

It is sad to see such a talent succumb to the pressures that go along with being a high-profile fashion designer (which brings to mind the late Alexander McQueen, R.I.P.). Just goes to show that the glitz and glamour of the fashion scene is sometimes just smoke and mirrors and when the illusion dissipates, the harsh realities of maintaining a successful fashion business is sometimes too much for creative minds to cope with.

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Who Wears the Pants?

Dockers          Dockers

In order to understand the world and the endless amount of information we take in every second, the human brain has developed the use of ‘schemata’ or categories which are used as frameworks so that information can be easily and quickly filed away to help us interact appropriately in different situations. Everyone has their own set of schemata influenced by background, upbringing, experiences and relationships. Yet, there is no doubt that everyone uses them. They have to, as some scholars say, or else there would be information overloads and no interaction would be able to take place. Some schemata are shared by the general populous, such as gender schemata. The female schema contains characteristics such as nurturing, facilitating, polite, dependent, and unaggressive. The male schema says men are dominant, aggressive, stoic, successful, independent, and the breadwinners. There are also other schemata that go along with race/ethnicity, class, religion, occupation, national identity, and sexuality.

These universally accepted schemata can be easily discovered by simply looking at the media and advertisement portrayals in how the represent their markets. It seems that Dockers has very different schemata traits when it comes to gay and straight men which we can see in their most recent advertising campaign. This campaign began a in early December of 2009 which called for men to go back to their roots, to act more manly, and to ‘Wear the Pants’.

Most of the ad’s have the same general format; a man standing in front of a plain background, the top half of him is a saying and he is wearing Dockers pants. What is interesting is the difference in the word choice given the context the ad will be seen. Can you guess which one of the above ads I found in Out magazine, the national gay fashion and lifestyle magazine for the US? Without getting into the phrases used, you could probably tell just by the style and fit of the pants. The ones on the left are an orange/pink and the fit is much tighter than the khaki’s on the right which are looser, wrinklier, and a dull tan. Even the stance of the two are remarkably different. We have one who is almost posing sexually, looking to the side, or behind him as if looking for someone to make a connection with, versus the other man who seems to have no interest in what is going on around him, rather he is looking out with his hands on his hips as if he just accomplished a trying task or is contemplating the meaning of life. Getting down to the more obvious of differences, we see what the Dockers advertising campaign sees as the difference in priorities between gay men and straight men through the phrases they chose to make up the body (in both sense of the word) of their ad. ‘Behold the Second Dawn of Man’ goes along with the main theme of the Dockers new ad campaign which, in summary, claims that our society has become genderless, and is therefore crumbling.  It calls for men to drop their non-fat lattes, put on their pants, be men and help little old ladies cross the street, discipline misbehaving children, and of course, buy Docker’s pants. It is easy to see the sexism in this campaign, but further drudging of the advertisements brings to light more prejudice ideals. First of all, the ad I found in Out is much harder to track down in other outlets. In fact, it doesn’t even appear in a Google search. Does Dockers not want to be identified with the gay community,? if so, why advertise in a gay magazine?

The phrase used for the advertisement placed in a gay context states, ‘Attract the touches of friends, boyfriends, and even the occasional stranger’. So, straight men wear their pants to maintain order in society, gay men wear pants to be promiscuous and attract attention from occasional strangers. Though it seems trite to take such a critical view of these two seemingly unimportant advertising images, it does bring light to how mainstream corporations view different subcultures and instill representations and reinforce stereotypes. As the introduction to Erving Goffman’s book Gender Advertisements says, “Advertisements depict for us not necessarily how we actually behave as men and women but how we think men and women behave. This depiction serves the social purpose of convincing us that this is how men and women are, or want to be, or should be not only in relation to themselves but in relation to each other” (Gornick, 1979).

It is important to understand the implications and affects these representations have on our culture. From creating unfair homogenous stereotypes of a group to instilling an unattainable body and lifestyle ideal people try to live up to.

*Re-post from last year in honor of #ThrowBackThursday

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Way Back Wednesday – Diane von Furstenberg

Way Back Wednesday - Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg in her warehouse – 1977. A dress that without any changes would fit perfectly in the zeitgeist of today.

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Missing the Target – 3 Recent Fashion Industry Fails

From a graphic design nightmare to a potential trademark lawsuit, the fashion industry has seen some major epic fails over the past couple weeks. I.F. comments on three major mishaps the fashion industry would rather we didn’t talk about.

1. Target’s Photoshop Mishap

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At least, one would hope it was a mishap. It’s painful to think that a graphic designer would blatantly remove a section of the model’s crotch (perhaps in a seriously failed attempt at taking the “thigh-gap” to another level – as some people outraged in response to the image). The image went viral and Target removed it from the site, but not without a serious backlash from the internet community.

Learn to proof, Target.

2. Recipe for Disaster: Fast Fashion Meets Fast Food

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Jeremy Scott, recently appointed creative director of Moschino, presented his debut collection at Milan Fashion week; “an ode to the 1980s, 1990s and American brand iconography, referencing Cheetos, Hershey’s, Froot Loops, SpongeBob SquarePants, Run-DMC and, notably, McDonald’s.” The day after the show, a ten-piece capsule collection appropriately named, “Fast Fashion – Next Day After The Runway,” became available for purchase in Moschino boutiques and online at moschino.com.

Seven of the ten pieces in the collection featured a heart-shaped motif that looks exactly like a pigeon-toed version of the McDonald’s Golden Arches, mustard and ketchup colors and all. It has been discovered that Moschino did not approach McDonald’s for permission to use the Golden Arches logo, and it is inconclusive as to whether McDonald’s has grounds for legal action as the law related to trademark “dilution” is tenuous. (For a more detailed explanation of the legal side to this matter visit this great article by The Business of Fashion)

However, the most interesting discourse surrounding this issue deals with the interplay of fast fashion with fast food; “McDonald’s could argue that Moschino uses the heart-shaped motif in fashion designs to draw an unflattering comparison between fast food and fast fashion. Naming the capsule collection ‘Fast Fashion — Next Day After The Runway’ and retailing it on the day following the show both skewers the high street chains creating fast fashion and beats them at their own game, but at the expense of McDonald’s Golden Arches. In 2001, McDonald’s was the primary target in Eric Schlosser’s bestseller Fast Food Nation. In 2012, fast fashion came under similar scrutiny in Elizabeth L. Cline’s book Overdressed. Katha Pollitt of The Nation praised the book, saying ‘Overdressed does for t-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.'” (Anjli Patel of BOF)

3. More Flaws in Bangladesh Factories

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It’s been almost a full year since the epic Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh, resulting in over 1,000 deaths – and it appears history is destined to repeat itself. In a recent inspection, Bangladesh factories were found to have “cracked support beams, substandard building materials and exposed electrical cables chewed by rats.” The group leading the inspections is comprised of mostly European Fashion Brands who got together after the Rana Plaza tragedy shed light on the disastrous working conditions of many Bangladesh garment workers (of which there are over 4 million) who work in the factories who produce their products. It seems a bit distressing that it has taken this long to START the inspections stage… never mind the fact that there is no evidence that the inspection has any clout (a bad rating from this group does not mean other brands will not still use their services). It is yet to be explained how the group is actually helping the workers, there seems to be no suggestion that they plan to provide solutions to even simple problems they could themselves implement (like providing lunch for workers), never mind solve architectural issues.

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The Better Cotton Initiative

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The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to make global production of cotton more sustainable not only for the environment, but for the future and for the people who produce it, from farmers to textile mills to retailers. Working with a “diverse range” of members along the entire cotton supply chain, BCI collaborates with and provides solutions for better cotton production practices, promoting improvements for the environment, farming communities and the economies of cotton-producing areas.

“Cotton is one of the world’s most important natural fibres. It’s used by nearly everyone on Earth every day, and supports 300 million people’s livelihoods. It’s a renewable natural resource, but only if we manage it responsibly. In 2005, a group of visionary organisations came together to figure out what could be done to safeguard the future of cotton. ‘There has to be a better way’, they said. It turns out there is. It’s called Better Cotton.” (www.bettercotton.org)

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Fashion companies associated with this initiative include Adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex (Zara), Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and VF Corp. (Parent company of 7 for all mankind, Nautica, Jansport, The North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, Vans). The Better Cotton website explains why so many big names have become members of BCI,

“One of the reasons that leading retailers and brands support the Better Cotton Initiative is that they realise that if famers do not earn enough money growing cotton, they will switch to some other crop, and this could eventually lead to increased costs for the brands or other supply scarcity issues. It is very much in the brands’ own best interest that farmers benefit from any margin improvement their efforts result in.”  (www.bettercotton.org)

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What is particularly commending about this not-for-profit organization is it’s inclusive attitude towards varying farming methods. It does not push an organic-agenda on farmers, rather, BCI collaborates with farmers to create a more sustainable system for whatever production methodology is being used.

Working together for positive change – I.F. commends the brands who are members of this admirable initiative (momentarily setting aside some of these companies not-so-commendable business practices in other areas).

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*All photos from the Better Cotton website: http://www.bettercotton.org

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