Millennial Fogey: Gilding The Lilly

Wed 22 Apr 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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Launched Sunday, Lilly Pulitzer for Target has already come and gone —quite quickly, as a matter of fact. It was a masterful act of marketing for Lilly’s parent company, Oxford Industries, whose stock leapt 7 percent. Target itself comes away with slightly less to brag about, with thousands of irate customers walking away with empty hands and thwarted aspirational dreams. Whether the disappointed budget-preps shell out for Lilly directly from the source is yet to be seen, but no matter how you slice it this is a huge win for the brand.

Some of you are probably shaking your heads in dismay. Lilly Pulitzer is no doubt a divisive brand among the buttondown set. Some have never been fans, some were fans of the old stuff, some love the old and new alike. I was interested in the overlap of clientele during and after the heyday, and recently asked Richard Press to expand a bit on the connection between J. Press and Lilly Pulitzer, which he’s alluded to in the past. “In 1970 Don Leas visited me,” he said. “He was the Lilly men’s rep as well as a Palm Beach and Philadelphia socialite. We agreed to carry a Lilly line of Ivy League caricatures (Princeton tigers, Yale bulldogs), and a group of Lilly pants, sport jackets, and half-sleeved men’s sport shirts, as long as he confined the items to J. Press in areas contiguous to our stores. Donald was a handsome bon vivant, and after receiving our orders we would head over to the Yale Club, where we closed the bar. We enjoyed great success with the line which lasted perhaps four or five years before it died a natural death.”

It may give some a coronary, but to me a J. Press sack jacket in a Lilly print sounds fantastic. It turns out that I actually quite like Lilly Pulitzer, despite what others have called my otherwise conservative sensibility. I have several vintage Lilly Pulitzer ties that were gifts to my father from James Bradbeer, one of the Philadelphia investors who revived the brand (with Ms. Pulitzer’s guidance and design expertise) in the 1990s.

While in Florida this winter, I wore one for dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab (with a Press blazer) and was seated immediately, while the slovenly tourists in front of us were told there was an hour wait.

During that same trip to the Sunshine State I spent some time in Palm Beach looking for Lilly “men’s stuff,” as it was once called, but to my great disappointment there was precious little to be found in vintage stores, and none whatsoever in the retail location at the Breakers. Worse still, many of the ladies on Worth Avenue were wearing pricy yoga pants instead of printed shifts, and seemed not to be heading to Ta-Boo for lunch, but rather Starbucks between training sessions. I saw one or two gents in traditional Palm Beach wear — bright pants, blazer, straw hat — but, outside of a few drinking establishments, the people I met in Palm Beach dressed basically the same as any other prosperous leisure community.

That Lilly for Target was a highly profitable maneuver can’t be argued. As for Lilly’s cachet, that remains to be seen. I’m not convinced it will hurt the prestige of the brand among dedicated followers. After all, if Ralph Lauren can appeal to both aspirational and luxury customers, Lilly Pulitzer should be able to as well. It’s my hope that perhaps in the near future Lilly Pulitzer will expand the higher end of its offerings, manufacture more in America, and maybe even partner again with a company such as J. Press or Brooks Brothers to recreate some of the more stylish offerings from the late ’60s and early ’70s.

In the meantime, I’ll wear the ties I have. I may even put one on for brunch with my lady next weekend to cheer her up. She slept until 9 AM last Sunday, when most Target stores had already been sold out of the Lilly Pulitzer collection for an hour. Then again, perhaps wearing one of the ties would just be rubbing it in. — DANIEL C. GREENWOOD

Southern Exposure: A Visit To Eljo’s

Tue 14 Apr 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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photo tie

In Charlottesville, VA, resides the legendary menswear shop Eljo’s, whose wares are succintly described on the store’s front sign: “traditional clothes.” (Continue)


The Polo Flagship’s New Haberdashery Section

Thu 26 Mar 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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Two weeks ago, the Polo flagship on Fifth Avenue, which opened last fall, created a new section in the store called the Haberdashery. It’s where you’ll find all the ties, dress shirts and cashmere sweaters — and all in the spring colors you’re anxious to wear.

There are also plenty of sportcoats in spring fabrics, such as wool/silk/linen blends, with patch pockets and three-button stances.

Like other clothiers (Brooks Brothers, for example), Polo has adopted names for its various fits. A clerk gave me an employee “product knowledge” handbook (which he probably shouldn’t have), which describes the Morgan as the slimmest fit, though it is also supposed to have the softest shoulder. The Polo 1 Custom is the middle fit, and the most generous cut — which is also supposed to have a bit more shoulder — is called the Bedford.

Within those three fit categories are various jacket models, three of which are named for Ivy schools. The primary difference seems to be the pockets, though they may have different linings as well. The Harvard model is a three button with patch-and-flap pockets, while the Yale has patch pockets but no flaps. The Princeton has patch-and-flap and also a patch chest pocket. The Yale seems to come with partial, butterfly-back lining.

Here are some snapshots. — CC (Continue)


Fashion Police: Ivy Style Reader Is A Top Cop

Wed 18 Mar 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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topcopThis week a member of Ivy Style’s Facebook group shared a pic of himself doing his best version of Ivy-inspired-on-a-budget, while noting that he is a police officer. I thought it very interesting and asked how he came to the style, why it appeals to him, and how others view him. Here’s what he had to say. — CC

* * *

Like many people who work in Washington DC, I am a transplant. However, I don’t work for a congressman or a law firm. I walk a foot beat in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods as a member of the Metropolitan Police Department.

I grew up on the South Shore of Massachusetts and credit my personal style largely to my late grandfather, who himself worked a blue-collar job for 25 years with the Bay State Gas Company. But in his personal life he dressed like a Kennedy. In high school, when many people my age were wearing American Eagle graphic tees and basketball sneakers to school, I was wearing LL Bean OCBDs and Sperry Top-Siders. Even my own mother seemed a little perplexed by it when she took me shopping for my Confirmation outfit when I was a sophomore in high school. I picked out a blue blazer and gray flannel trousers instead of a garish four-button ventless suit that was in fashion at the time.

I graduated from the police academy in April, 2012 and am presently assigned to a very busy district with a high rate of violent crime. As a result, I end up in DC Superior Court for trials and other matters at least once a week. In the beginning I wore my police uniform for most of my court appearances. However, after being flagged down one too many times for various nonsense, I decided quickly to wear professional attire to court to blend in a little more easily.

It didn’t take long for word of my buttondown collar shirts and Weejuns to spread among my fellow officers and the attorneys. I am now affectionately known as “Penny Loafer” or “The Professor.” Jokes aside, my style does elicit many compliments from people, and I actually think it may help me when appearing before a jury, as they can see me as a person like they are and not just a cop.

Of course, as a civil servant I have to buy on a budget. But I keep an eye on thrift shops, eBay, outlet stores, and online stores such as Lands’ End and LL Bean. But I’m hoping to make detective later this year ,and I’m told investigators get a healthy clothing allowance.

While my style is referred to by many as Ivy or preppy, I personally think of it more as simply New England or Yankee. When people ask me  why I dress the way I do, I often quip, “Where I come from, this is how people dress.” People from all over the world come to Washington, bringing their cultures and traditions, and my manner of dress is just my little thing that tells people where I’m from. I think I also do it to honor my late grandfather. Sadly, he didn’t live to see me become a police officer, but I think he’d be very proud that I dedicated myself to this honorable profession.

It’s a tough time to work in law enforcement right now, but I do my best to use my position to remind people that police work is all about helping people. That’s what I set out to do every day when slip off my boat shoes and lace up my boots to start another shift. — DC COP


The Young Man’s Guide To Tennis Sweaters

Fri 13 Mar 2015 - Filed under: Clothes,Sport — Christian
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In the market for a tennis sweater, even though you don’t play tennis, or even cricket? Here’s some of what’s out there. (Continue)


Love All, Play: The Tennis Sweater Mounts A Comeback

Wed 11 Mar 2015 - Filed under: Clothes,Sport — Christian
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art-13_blassAccording to a post on Monday, the tennis sweater is making a comeback. The post is about women’s fashion, however, and what’s more the evidence supplied is rather scant. That didn’t stop us from revisiting the topic, which we last looked at in July of 2013. Christopher Sharp to serve.

* * *

Late fall and winter evenings in 1989-1990 would find me lingering over a cup of coffee in the gothic dining hall that was a couple of paces from my dormitory. A large window overlooked a snow-covered hockey field that was barren and cold. The dining hall itself was intimate, with glowing ancient walnut paneling that had been harvested from the campus property earlier that century. You could hear the clink of dirty china as it was placed in the vertical metal tray keepers by departing students. The manager would come out and stand in the middle of the floor surveying his surroundings like a sea captain. He would light his pipe, check his pocket watch and on cue the doors would lock barring access from the outside and the vacuum cleaners would be dispatched. Those inside were allowed to remain.

To this day I can still see myself there. I am wearing LL Bean hunting shoes, Donegal tweed trousers that appeared fawn at a distance, but in reality were an artful mélange of flecked colors that only Ralph Lauren could render successfully. A Brooks Brothers buttondown was topped off with a wool tennis sweater trimmed in burgundy and navy. One might imagine for one moment that I had stepped off a Jazz Age ice pond. But I became enamored with the tennis sweater after it was appeared in the July 1987 issue of GQ, where it was featured in the “Elements Of Style” column.

A classmate of mine actually wore a sleeveless tennis sweater to play in, but it was the original cream-colored, cable-knit, long-sleeve jumper that I desired. The GQ article by Debra Wise stated that the sweater had been part of cricket dress since 1840, when Foster & Co. of London began selling them. The sweater pictured in the article was by Alan Paine. William Paine opened a tailoring shop in 1907 in Godalming. The Paine shop morphed into a sweater making enterprise when, Wise writes, “They found some old hand-frame knitting machines in the shops back room.” Nigel Paine credited the Duke of Windsor with popularizing the sweater, saying “The Duke would commission cricket sweaters in all his regimental colors.” On the American front, Bill Tilden contributed to its popularity. From the 1920s through the 1950s the sweater carried country club cachet.

This cachet may have led to cliché. Which is why I am thankful for not coming of age in the Internet world. We were sheltered from British voices telling us that the most beloved parts of their native kit were “twee,” or that “our jumpers should not trespass on another man’s colors.”  We were also safe from fellow American voices insisting that you had to have a superlative backhand and only wear it around the club. It was enough at the time that a handful of campus souls wore them. Some were born to wear them, others secretly picked it up from “The Official Preppy Handbook.” Mature men are allowed some self-indulgence when viewing their younger selves, so maybe I wore the sweater as a subconscious homage to an age of faded glory, and thereby reflecting back a romanticized vision of self. (Continue)

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