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Posts from the ‘Personal Style’ Category

Zero Collar Gap: The Third Signal of a (good) Handmade Suit

A screaming collar gap ... such a pity for a promising look

Collar Gap Offender


It’s surprising to notice that so many people with exquisite taste fail to notice the importance of a good collar fit with no “collar gap”. In my own experience, I have been slow to pay attention to collar gaps on suits, especially when mesmerized by an otherwise incredible look of an ensemble.

Compared to many readers, I am fairly new to the world of tailoring, with only about two years of suit-making self-study. Yet I have noticed, after spending many years in surgical wear and fabric design (with patents on a major surgical fabric product) that I have gained a real fascination with the dynamics of garment appearance, fit and function. Out of all the components of suit making that I’ve learned to date, it is particularly interesting to watch how collar fit affects the front and back fit of a coat.

Collar fit is such a strong component to the overall look of the suit, and if we start paying attention to different collar presentations, then we can quickly spot examples of a properly sewn suit collar and a poorly constructed suit collar. Here is a prime example of a poorly constructed suit collar that may be “fault elusive” to many. It is a pinterest sensation that is hard not to like, with a real problem–a shouting collar gap:


Even our dear Prince Charles, in his earlier years, made the mistake of wearing a suit with the dreaded collar gap in one of his portraits. Here we see a photo of the Prince years ago, with a text book example of how a collar gap contributes to the front V-Tug of the suit coat. But, not to worry since in the years that followed, prominent Savile Row houses such as Anderson & Sheppard promptly corrected the problem with technical precision. Take a look at the Prince’s before and after photos.


In this photo, we see:

1. an obvious coat collar gap with the jacket pulling away from the shirt,

2. the shirt collar is showing fully underneath the coat collar on the back of the neck, instead of less than 3/4″ (or less than 2 cm) of shirt collar fabric that should extend from the coat collar.

3. the classic front panel V-tug, and “fabric collapsing” in the chest area,

4. a secondary collapsing gap created between one of the lapels on the coat and the shirt itself, causing the lapel to lose its intended straight line.

Of course, the prince does have his hand in his pocket, which can affect the overall look, but since he is doing so carefully while choreographing his pose, we can conclude that his pose probably has minimal affect on the front drape of his coat.

And now, notice the corrections in this suit:


In this photo, we see the following corrections:

1. the suit collar follows the shirt collar closely, with what appears to be around less than 3/4″ (less than 2 cm) of shirt collar showing,

2. there is the correct amount of tugging of fabric around the chest and waist area of the coat, and

3. the overlapping lapel does not rise and curve against the shirt, but lies flat at a straight angle.

THE PHYSICS OF A SUIT COLLAR


To understand the physics of fabric draping that occurs when there is a collar gap, perform a simple exercise:

First, take hold of the back of the collar of the shirt or coat that you are wearing now and pull the collar backwards. You will notice two things that happen:

1.The front panel of your shirt or coat will pull up upwards, creating a “V-Tug” appearance with some fabric collapsing around the chest area.

2. The back of your shirt or coat will “bunch”, creating fabric folds.

When the collar is working in the opposite direction of the neck, an opposing upward pull occurs on the front of the jacket, and fabric is pulled up and “bunches” around the upper back.

Yet, when the collar is sewn properly and hugs the neck, these problems are eliminated.


To illustrate the point, pull your collar downwards, towards your neck, and notice the dynamics that occur in correcting the chest and upper back fit.

In this situation, the fabric on the back of the jacket is secured flush against the body and the fabric in front works with gravity to create a nice drape with the correct amount of tugging around the chest and the waist of a well-sewn suit.

Compare the different upper back results in the following two suits:


Upper back “Bunching”


Smooth upper back

Here, the close fit of the collar is vital in helping the fabric across the upper back lie smoothly against the body.

HOW UNEVEN SHOULDERS CAN CAUSE A COLLAR GAP

Most of us are not exactly evenly proportioned. And, it’s not unusual for one shoulder to be lower than the other shoulder. When wearing a ready-to-wear suit, the person with uneven shoulders can see a few problems occur:

If the left shoulder is higher, as seen below, in a ready-to-wear suit that is uniformly sewn,

* a collar gap will form, usually around the shoulder that is set lower, and

* fabric bunching will occur that moves in the direction the higher shoulder (as seen above)


In the photos of Prince Charles above, his right shoulder appears lower than his left shoulder, and the collar gap is showing against his weaker shoulder. In the photo that follows, it appears that his tailor has made the corrections necessary to even out the appearance of his shoulders.

Other than slightly adjusting the coat button positions (moving the buttons a fraction higher or lower) on these problem-suits which are pulling either to the left of the right, or a valiant attempt to slightly pad the lower shoulder, there is little that one can do to correct this type collar gap problem on a ready-to-wear suit. A person with offset shoulders should whenever possible, have his or her suits handmade.

IT’S ABOUT AWARENESS

As we take notice of how the collar fits around the neck, we develop an eye for fine tailoring.

Here are some contrasting examples of the bad and the good:


Collar gap with classic V-Tug with collapsing fabric and a curved (instead of straight) left lapel.


And now for the good:


PG Director Greg Jacomet in Cifonelli (who worked with an uneven shoulder). Here there is no collar-gap, around 2 cm of shirt collar showing in back, a straight lapel angle, and the correct amount of front tugging.


Stefan Bernard in a Zegna jacket. Notice the close collar fit on both sides of the neck, and the correct front panel tugging. The lapel angle is intentionally curved instead of straight, with both lapels curved and angled evenly.


Pal Zileri. A nice RTW specimen on all counts.

There are a few things you can do to improve the situation of dealing with a collar gap, ranging from wearing wide-spread shirt collars to mitigate the appearance of the collar opening to looking at having a tailor build up a weak shoulder on the coat, to making a subtle shift in button placement to improve a pull of the coat to the left or to the right (again, usually indicted by uneven shoulders). But, of course, having the collar correctly made to form to your neck from the beginning will save a lot of trouble in the end.

Any fool can know, the point is to understand- Albert Einstein

Sonya Glyn Nicholson

sources:

Dress Like a Grown Up

The Garment Doctor: The Collar Gap

Garment Doctor Series

Bespoke Suits in Singapore: Kevin Seah

Kempt: How a Spread Collar Can Improve a Collar Gap

How the Necktie Conquered the World

The necktie is a powerful gesture and sometimes we may underestimate its effect.  After being commissioned by Parisian Gentleman to write about this complex “strip of fabric” that can say so much with so little, I found the necktie’s story to be more captivating than expected.

Brioni, The Regiment Tie, Purple. The Regiment Tie communicates respect for convention, seriousness, straight-talk, and perhaps a little “frat boy” churned into the mix. Serious or relaxed…a perfect choice; but, be careful not to infringe upon a regiment or club and wear a regiment tie that has been designed to represent a specific organization.

Consider the power of a rather small piece of apparel such as the necktie.  This slice of fabric can make or break a job interview, determine admittance or rejection into a fine restaurant and be a key factor in whether a man is to be taken seriously, or not.  And it is fascinating to consider that a man’s choice of a necktie may give insight into his personality.

Stefano Ricci, Lavender Gray Paisley. A nice paisley conveys boldness and when well chosen, displays a strong flair for style (and perhaps even a slight penchant for the flower power era).

The vintage Sulka Tie is now an ultra rare deadstock item that the most every tie aficionado may seek to own.

From Drakes, London: “There’s a touch of sartorial audacity in a silk knitted tie that’s oddly liberating and we’re proud that our knits continue to set the standard. Starting with the finest quality spun raw silk they’re knitted on hundred year old looms that produce the distinctive crunchy ‘cri de la soie’ hand, the true mark of quality and authenticity in knitted silk ties. Spots are sewn on by hand. Made in Germany, 100% silk, 7cm width”

AN UNLIKELY BEGINNING

The first known version of the necktie is located in the massive mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti (buried in 210 B.C and whose tomb was unearthed in 1974 near the ancient capital city of Xian).

Inordinately afraid of death, the emperor wanted to slaughter his entire army to accompany him into the next world. Persuaded by his advisors to take life-size replicas of the soldiers instead, astonishingly, his tomb contains 7,500 life-size terracotta replicas of Shih Huang Ti’s regal fighting force. Reproduced in painstaking detail are their armor, uniforms, hair, and even facial expressions of the soldiers. Each figure is different – except in one respect: all wear neck cloths.

Other records indicate the Chinese did not wear ties, so why the emperor’s guards wore carefully wrapped silk cloths around their necks is unknown.  With silk looked upon as a great luxury, the neck cloths were likely a symbol of high honor and prestige.

THANK YOU, CROATIA

Hats off (or on) to Croatia for the contribution of introducing the necktie globally. As early as the mid-1600s, during the European Thirty Year War, from around 1618-1648, Croatian soldiers fought in various regions of Europe. The traditional Croatian military dress included a noteworthy scarf tied around the neck, which is very similar to the style in which the necktie is worn today.

The setting is now in Prague; the year, 1618.  Some Prague agents of the Holy Roman Emperor were in a state of dissent when a group of citizens threw the agents out of a window. The agents landed on a dunghill and happened to survive. Being foul tempered because of this angst with Prague, it is said that the 30 Year War ensued soon after. which gave way to an immediate need for Croatian mercenaries. Although these Croations were rough-and-ready fellows, they held fast to making a style statement by displaying notable neckwear.

The word “‘cravat” is a derivative of the word “Croat”. It is an enigma as to why the Croatians exacted such imitation.  Still, as these Croatian soldiers were stationed in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV, the Croatians’ overall style greatly impressed their French counterparts and French men rather quickly borrowed from their sense of fashion–most notably when it came to neckwear. “.

The tie gained entry into the bourgeois style circle of that era as a sign of elegance and the cultivated elitism, and soon after the rest of Europe fell at the cravate’s feet. Of course today we witness the power of the necktie in practically every culture, with 85 different tie methods and a wide array of materials and colors.

A SIGN OF OUR TIMES: OLD IS NEW

After a few generations of aiming towards exaggerated convenience in most every area of life, recently we have witnessed a hunger for handcrafted items. We have grown fatigued with all of the computer and machine generated merchandise.  Herbs and natural remedies often are favored in place of chemically produced drugs.  Handwritten notes are more valued than the common email.  And, a taste for meticulous custom-clothing has caused a case of amnesia when trying to remember the need for a shopping trip to the mall.

Today, the celebrated necktie has seen a specific revival in the house of Passaggio Cravatte, founded in 2010 by Gianni Cerutti and Marta Step. The shop is located in Robbio, Italy (near Milan and the Malpensa airport) and uses the rare practice of hand-cutting the entire necktie from a single piece of fabric, then the tie is carefully hand-stitched and meticulously hand-folded using a seven-fold method form the early 1900s to produce a newly made vintage piece.  Even the fabric is taken from 90 percent real vintage cloth and is hand printed with patterns that are hard to find and virtually unobtainable.

Passagio Cravatte seven fold passaggiocravatte.com

The result?  Nothing short of magnificent.  While a Sulka tie can be an amazing find, now there is a chance to take the pursuit of a “magical tie” a step further by experiencing firsthand the traditional necktie original construction–simply because of a dream transposed into reality by two determined Italians to return to the tried and true method of producing a work of art that can be selected, cut and sewn on demand.

THE NECKTIE: NOT TO BE FEARED

And so, whether you resent having to dress for an occasion or find pleasure in doing so, we must admit that the necktie is a wondrous opportunity for a man to express himself in a way that makes people take notice.  The necktie can give a man the chance to portray power or humility, seriousness or humor, status or convention.  If more men looked at the tie as a tool (and we know how the male species loves tools), then maybe we will accelerate even further this era of a a return to style.

An Accidental Street Shot–Amsterdam, Summer, 2012

Man on a bicycle. An accidental street shot, Amsterdam, July, 2012.

I didn’t intend to take a street shot.

I was only trying to capture the beauty of this amazing city of Amsterdam with a quick iPhone  photo, a few weeks ago.

And yesterday, I looked at my photos and guess what had suddenly appeared in the frame?

A fairly well-dressed gentleman, biking to his destination (as most people do in Amsterdam). And, I’m pretty sure that this pocket square fold would have been quite nice if it were a little more in focus.

Writing Methods: Writer’s Block Combat

Handpainted Cabinet cards (1870s-1920s) by Alex Gross.

It takes sheer effort to create thoughts and ideas.  In fact, the attempt to be creative and original can be exhausting and result in things like “writer’s block”, frustration and “hitting a wall”.

Some would say that many of us work too hard to be creative, and we need to stop thinking so much, and let what is already in our minds flow out in our writing, words, creativity and actions.

The practice of simply observing and reporting what is already in the mind is not new (but sometimes forgotten).  In fact, many great artists have developed their art in exactly this way.

For example, the Expressive Theory of Art simply means communicating the current inner emotional, psychological, or intellectual state of being.  The artist is not trying to “think of” new ideas, he is simply expressing the ideas that are already there.  Consider Tolstoy’s view:

Young Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s definition of art was very much out of the Expressive mould.

Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one person consciously, by certain external signs, conveys to others feelings he’s experienced, and other people are affected by these feelings and live them over in themselves. (Leo Tolstoy)

If we quit trying (expending effort) to develop the words, concepts, and ideas in our minds, and instead observe and relay what is already in our minds, what happens?

Since effort to create takes enormous energy, using this energy to release what is in our minds instead of trying to create what is not in our minds could be a transformational experience.

In the field of psychology, introspection is the method of observing and reporting the workings of the mind.  Iconic figures like Plato and Paramahansa Yogananda were proponents of the practice of introspection:

Plato (427-347 BC), Ancient Greek philosopher. Plato’s spirit of rational inquiry led to today’s scientific method. His writings shaped and continue to have a profound influence on Western thought. He was a pupil of Socrates, founded the Academy in Athens, and taught Aristotle. Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Caption:

Plato may have referenced introspection when he asked, “…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are.

Paramahansa Yogananda

“Introspection is a mirror in which to see recesses of your mind that otherwise would remain hidden from you. –Paramahansa Yogananda

In regard to the art of writing, a key method that produces writing without forced thought is referred to as “stream of consciousness” writing.  Basically, the idea is to write whatever pops into your head, without altering these thoughts in any way with conscious thinking.  It is an amazing exercise to try to write a story by observing the story that is already playing in your head, without even trying to create new material.  As I practice stream of consciousness writing, I find it beautifully but at the same time frightfully rewarding.

By Zapper3095, Deviant Art

 If you try to write a story by just observing what is in your mind and putting your thoughts to paper, then you will most likely know the exact feeling that I am trying to describe when experiencing stream of consciousness writing.

I remember listening once to a screenwriter accepting an academy award.  I recall the screenwriter once saying that he didn’t really try to come up with concepts and stories , but simply noticed what was in his head and spilled out the information on paper, worked with staff, and helped transpose his thoughts onto film.  Remembering his acceptance speech prompted me to start studying this method (it’s strange how an abstract experience like this can stay with you).

And then it hit me. Maybe this is a method that many successful people use to accomplish a great deal of success in their lives. And perhaps trying too hard is at times a fault.  Maybe “try, try again” is not perfect advice; and, instead a better mantra is to stop your effort, take notice of what’s in your head and then act on what’s already there (just waiting to be noticed).

“It’s a funny state,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler, You’re dreamstorming, inviting the images of moment-to-moment experience through your unconscious. It’s very much like an intensive daydream, but a daydream that you are and are not controlling.”

It’s not that hard to grasp this concept, right?  Just look at what’s right there in your head, express it and do it.  It’s so simple–but sometimes there is conflict within a person against this way of being, because there is the belief that an idea has to be conjured up or created out of thin air.

Here are some examples that are possibly familiar to you, where the author used stream of consciousness writing to complete some of the greatest literary works of all time (source:  Stream of Consciousness, Narrative Mode, Wikipedia):

T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was done in Stream of Consciousness (SOC) Style of Writing. Prufrock sheds light on his self -doubting thoughts in lines (37-48) of the poem…
And indeed there will be time            To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”] Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

IF by Rudyard Kipling (SOC Style of Writing)

Photo of Virginia Woolf, Stream of Consciousness is a literary technique which was pioneered by Dorthy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. Stream of consciousness is characterized by a flow of thoughts and images, which may not always appear to have a coherent structure or cohesion.

Of course, I don’t know all of the answers in regard to how to free the mind, but it makes me stop in my tracks when I consider how I may improve my methods of thought.  And I’d like to try embracing the Expressive Theory of Art, the practice of Introspection, and Stream of Consciousness methods in pursuit of living an unbridled life full of truth and authenticity.

Iconically Rare — Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, self-portrait. In an interview during this year (1979), he said “You can do anything you want, anytime”.

The Prince of Pop Art, an avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats.

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol by Jack Mitchell

It’s a little off the beaten path, but I felt like writing about Andy Warhol today.

Born in 1928, he was a sick child and was diagnosed with something called St. Vitus’ Dance disease in third grade which affects the nervous system causing involuntary movements (perhaps a complication of scarlet fever). He was painfully shy, but loved to practice drawing and to experiment with photography. Andy was the only member of his family to go college and in 1945 he went to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, declaring a major in pictorial design.

Later, he moved to New York, where he coined a hyper-exaggerated style of drawing and painting, based on the belief that everything is beautiful.  He expanded his creative genius into the areas of printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music.  Throughout the 1950s, he became a greatly successful illustrator, winning numerous awards for his work from the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Andy’s clients included Tiffany & Co., The New York Times, I. Miller Shoes, Bonwit Teller, Columbia Records, Harper’s BazaarVogue, Fleming-Joffe, NBC, and others. A bulk of his commercial work was based on photographs and other source images, a process he would use for the rest of his life. He often employed the delightfully quirky handwriting of his mother Julia in many of his works in this period.

Andy as a child with his mother and brother. Pittsburgh photographer unknown.

Andy with his beloved mother, Julia. His mother has been said to be the single most influential person in his life.

Andy had an intellectual brilliance with the ability to communicate the workings of his mind distinctly.  An example:

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” -Warhol

In 1962, Warhol was criticized for being a commercial “sell-out”,  But, the criticism barely fazed Warhol as he seemed to seize opportunities to interject his talent into mainstream media.  Later, he became respected for his rigorous commitment towards his own preferences and disregard for others who wanted to dictate his direction in life.  (This is inspiring to me).  But alas, Andy recognized what he considered the error of his ways as he grew tired of the whole commercial scene.  He was noted as saying:

I’ve decided something: Commercial things really do stink. As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market it really stinks.
-Andy Warhol 

Perhaps my recent interest in Andy stems from my slight fetish for The Velvet Underground.  Andy became The Velvet Underground’s manager in 1965 and suggested they feature the German-born singer, Nico, on several songs. Warhol’s reputation gave The Velvets a higher profile and Warhol helped the band secure a major record contract with MGM’s Verve Records. As manager, he gave The Velvets free rein over the sound they created.  With the band providing the music, Andy became part of a multimedia roadshow called Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

During 1965 and 1966, Andy became enamored with Edie Sedgwick, an American actress, socialite, fashion model and heiress. Sedgwick became known as “The Girl of the Year” in 1965 after starring in several of Warhol’s short films in the 1960s.

Ciao! Manhattan is a 1972 American avant garde film which centers around Sedgwick’s character and deals with the pain of addiction and the lure of fame.  Warhol is featured in the film at times.  Here is a clip of the offbeat semi-biographical tale:

It appears that Edie may have inspired Warhol to step up his focus on style during the years of 1965 and 1966, as he suddenly had a new energy in his appearance and selection of clothing and spent many outings with Sedgwick, in the public eye.

Although during this phase of Andy’s life, Andy could have considered Edie to be his muse,  Warhol was known to be a homosexual.  In the Warhol Diaries, he writes about his relationships with several men, although he implied to the press he had girlfriend, including one possibly fictitious girl he called “Taxi” who allegedly went for long periods without bathing.

Warhol was gay in an era when America was much less informed about homosexual culture and gay themes in Warhol’s work were often overlooked by a public oblivious to the symbolism of drag queens, cowboys and the other icons and clichés of gay culture.  He claimed to have little libido, and those who knew him have said that being hugged or touched excessively made him uncomfortable.

Warhol’s original New York City studio, The Factory, was in operation from 1962 to 1968 (subsequent studios were also named The Factory).  The original Factory, which no longer exists, was located on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan and rent was only about $100 a year.

The Factory

In 1968, Valerie Solanas, a marginal Factory employee, attempted to murder Warhol with a gun.  She said she felt Andy had too much control over her life.  She fired a bullet that entered his right side and exited from behind.  Apparently, Solanas’ excuse for the shooting was that Warhol did not return a script  she authored because he had lost it.

Andy’s life was never the same after the shooting partly because of physical problems and also because his perception of daily life shifted to a place where he felt he was watching himself live as though he was viewing his life on television.

In the 1970s, Warhol rounded up new rich and famous patrons for portrait commissions — including the Shah of Iran Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, John Lennon, Diana Ross, Brigitte Bardot and of course, his famous portrait of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1973.

‘Silver Liz,’ 1963 using the mass-media technique of screen-printing, Warhol created 13 portraits of Liz during the height of her fame.

” Mao “

Marilyn

Throughout the ’80s, Warhol was again criticized for being a commercial sell-out, but in retrospective, as author Michal Lando put it, Warhol’s superficiality and commerciality could actually be “the most brilliant mirror of our times,” contending that “Warhol had captured something irresistible about the zeitgeist of American culture in the 1970s.”

Warhol’s Campbells Soup, 1968

Warhol adored American glamour and once said: “I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re so beautiful. Everything’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

Although not a lot is known about the friendship between John Lennon, Yoko and Andy, apparently the three maintained a closeness over the years, and Yoko spoke at Andy’s funeral in 1987.   These photos are some of the best known, with one mocking touching each other inappropriately with playful debauchery.

Perhaps surprising to many, especially later in his life, Warhol was a practicing Ruthenian Rite Catholic, and grew up attending a Byzantine style orthodox church. He attended mass at times almost daily in the 1980s. He regularly volunteered at homeless shelters in New York and described himself as religious, although he was secretive about his faith and said he was self-conscious about being seen in a Latin rite church, crossing himself in an orthodox way.

Perhaps Andy had a premonition of his untimely death, as he had a deep-seated fear of hospitals and did not like to see doctors.  Warhol died in New York City at 6:32 a.m. on February 22, 1987. According to news reports, he had been making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital before dying in his sleep from a sudden post-operative cardiac arrhythmia.

Warhol dictated that practically his entire estate would go to create a foundation dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”.  The NY Times reported on July 21, 1993 that Warhol’s estate was valued at $220 million, much of which goes to the quite spectacular Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

On Ease and Fortitude

The art of being concise, well-demonstrated

Let’s be blunt…being too precise can ruin an honest attempt at emanating style.  And, being too precise is tiring for others to see, as well as for the person who is attempting to express him or herself.  On the flip side, being concise opens the heavens of self-expression and leads to an effortless “feel” of communicating style.

When precision and concision have a face-off, concision will win every time.  And so, I use this writing as an excuse to think back on one of my favorite films, “A Room with a View”.  If you examine the characters in the film, I think that precision looks like this:
while concision (at the same time ignoring the oversized jacket) looks like this. 

Just by a glance of some period films, it seems obvious to know which of these characters have a true ease of style and which of the characters are putting an almost painful effort into trying to present themselves as practically pompously perfect.

Wikipedia describes Concision as referring generally to brevity, or the practice of using no more words or effort than necessary to describe an idea.  Concision is perhaps an attitude as well.

Playing on period films a bit more, I am inspired by how these examples present themselves as being concise, and how the characters that follow, bring an ease of their persona to us (drawing us to them and making us want to know them more as we perceive a presence of personal magic that gives off a magnetic quality that is difficult to resist).

Faye-Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, 1967, costume design by Theadora Van Runkle

The Age of Innocence, costume design by Gabriella Pescucci

Fumbling with clothes, expressing discomfort, and constantly checking for correctness communicates precision issues. And, on a more humorous note, oddball tactics like popping collars or overdoing fashion logos can signal “precision gone haywire.”  But on a less obvious level, being too precise can result in looking overdone.

It seems to be a basic concept that if the clothes and accessories trump the person him or herself, then precision has won out over concision.

The effort for concision doesn’t have to limit creativity and scope in regard to appearance, as conciseness can be achieved with grandeur as well.  Here is a great example of creative self-expression done right.

Ozwald Boateng, Former Creative Director of Menswear at Givenchy, learned the tailoring trade on Savile Row, the fount of London’s leading tailors. Boateng opened his first shop on Savile Row at the age of 23. In 2008. Ozwald’s new flagship store and headquarters was launched at No. 30 Savile Row.  He is now known as one of the “Savile Row new establishment leaders” alongside Richard Anderson and Richard James.

And, speaking of effortless…

–Maggie Gyllenhaal making a vest look like a natural extension of herself.

Is it even possible to communicate the concept of conciseness as a practice?  I think the concept of conciseness is elusive but it is something that is worthy to be examined; and, if the philosophy of conciseness can be communicated, then it can be learned, even if it is not naturally present.

Instead of looking at the industry word concision, I prefer the term ease with fortitude.  I find the term ease with fortitude motivating when attempting to stay steady in character and dress.

The combination of ease, (absence of unseemly difficulty and effort) with fortitude (courage in the face of a challenge) is what I see in certain people which I admire.  I see shining examples of ease and fortitude in not just outward appearance, but also in kind behaviors, great resolve, or even a subtle expression in the eyes.

And so this concept of style is of course much more than thread count, design and colors.   It is strange to realize that communicating style is not even a choice. Unkept or overdone, concisely put together, or just rolled out of bed…we communicate style nonverbally the moment we make contact with another human being.  Even so, it should not be a point of stress to show our style to others, but rather a simple system or process of presenting ourselves, that brings pleasure to us and whomever else we happen to meet along the way.

Style – Visual Shorthand

Maybe Jean Cocteau had it right by summarizing, “Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”  I believe that style could mean something as simple as visually and non-visually expressing the truth of who we are, without any filters.  And, wonder if style and freedom are more closely related than we realize.  As I search for my personal definition of style, I’m drawn to this:  style is expressing the truth of who you are (outwardly and inwardly), with freedom from boundaries.

If someone is not oppressed (by government, organizations, or personal situations), then he or she is free to truly express his or herself by outward appearance, words and actions.

It is fascinating to me to realize that people who are not oppressed by outside forces, and are free to express themselves, so often place self-imposed boundaries, which prohibit them from communicating their true personal style.

If we have confidence in our ourselves and our personal decisions, then it is possible to release self-imposed boundaries like worrying about judgement from others and experiencing guilt for self-indulging.  On the flip side, a narcissist or completely self-focused person cannot successfully express personal style, because true style must factor in bringing pleasure to other people as well as ourselves.

And really, how is a being a painter of true art much different from someone who spends real effort on self-expression through presenting his or her body and mind in the best way at the highest level?

Self-expression is an art, which in turn becomes a pattern of personal style.  Monet and van Gogh painted a certain way, which of course, rendered a definitive style–so much so, that we recognize the artist by simply viewing the painting itself.  So we too, may develop a style specific to ourselves…to the level  that we could be recognized by others even before they see our faces.  This is an incredible thought.

Perhaps you recognize these people without the benefit of seeing their faces?

Answers: Jackie O, Oscar Wilde, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, James Dean, Brigitte Bardot, Ryan Gosling, Princess Di, Steve McQueen.

Posturing

A picture is worth an entire article!  Notice Grace Kelly’s posture and compare it to Audrey Hepburn’s posture.

Burn the image of these two iconic women into your mind…and hold yourself like Grace Kelly.  Of course, no offense Audrey–we will always adore you.

Two best actress winners, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, wait to present at the Academy Awards. The fact that Allan Grant managed to photograph these two stylish icons together in a moment may have been a stroke of luck or sheer brilliance, since Hepburn and Kelly never worked together!

A Signature Piece

Call me odd, but I’ve never liked the word “jewelry”, perhaps because even plastic bangals at the dime store are in the jewelry department.   And so, at the risk of sounding pretentious, instead of using the word “jewelry”, I will use the term “a signature piece” or specifically a ring, a necklace, earrings, and so on.

As a perfect example of a signature item, most likely you recall Carrie Bradshaw’s nameplate necklace that reached iconic proportions, as she was almost never seen without it.

This is the type of signature piece that works.

Let’s take a look at one specific piece, the sterling silver-plated bracelet (or gold-plated, if you prefer).  I love the elegant, yet strongly original statement that such a bracelet gives to its owner.

Here are three silver-plated bracelets that I adore, including a final photo of a sterling silver-plated bracelet that I own and wear almost daily.

Sunglasses–Vital for Self-Expression

Apart from the obvious point of protecting the eyes and delicate skin around the eyes from sun damage, sunglasses are the in your face statement of style.

I confess to neglecting this obvious factor of the “statement power” of a good pair of shades.  But, no more!  Although Victoria isn’t my favorite style icon because of her “prissiness” factor, which takes away from a “coolness vibe” in my opinion; still, she does sunglasses completely right.

So, hats off to you Victoria for shedding the light on just how to don a pair of stunning sunglasses.

And…how many times can I say Cutler & Gross??  These, my friend, are the Sunglasses brand to invest in, that will pay dividends for years.

But, if you like variety, Victoria offers several other options sure to please even the pickiest of shade shoppers.

Victoria’s Lunettes de Soleil – Shining examples of elegant sunglasses

A Lesson in Style – Ryan Gosling

Mr. Gosling seems to be able to restrain himself and go all out, no holds barred, at the same time.  He is a true virtuoso when it comes to fine tailoring, and he is able to pull off drainpipe pant legs brilliantly.  Further, Ryan’s demeanor personifies “cool”, with one of the best examples of an “effortless look” that you may ever find.

 

A more in-depth examination of Ryan’s style

 

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