Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in lingo (78)

Monday
Aug052019

The Cuffed Sleeve

One of the most basic sleeve styles is the cuffed sleeve. The cuff can take many forms, from the familiar ‘man’s shirt’ sleeve cuff, to simple band or piping cuffs.

This first cuff (above) is a band cuff that fastens with a single button in a narrower variation on the standard shirt cuff. It has pleats on either side of the button and a short placket opening that enables the hand to slide through.

Band cuffs without fastenings at the wrist are of course loose enough to allow the hand to slip through – piping cuffs are a very narrow type of cuff in this style – while band cuffs on the upper arm (such as on short puffed sleeves) often don’t have fastenings.

Another variation in the man’s shirt cuff is the French cuff, which is doubled in length and folded back. On a man’s shirt, cufflinks are used to fasten the two ends together. This is a more formal shirt worn with a suit by groomsmen or high-powered businessmen for a very debonair look. My silk gingham shirt has French cuffs that are simply folded back with the ends left loose – a contrast with the informal sash tie at the waist.

A more interesting type of cuff is the multi-buttoned style. These cuffs are usually quite fitted. I am wearing a silk blouse with four-button cuffs, but two-button cuffs are more common to see. In the Victorian era, very long, fitted, buttoned cuffs up to the elbow were a popular style, and were usually topped with a blouson shoulder. This type of sleeve is called a gigot – French for the back leg of an animal, a prettier name than ‘leg of mutton’ – or even Gibson Girl sleeves after the Victorian era archetype, who wore gigot sleeves on the classic pigeon-breasted blouses – we’ll visit those as soon as I find one to add to my wardrobe!

Refresh your sleeve knowledge by visiting the gallery for the whole set so far.

Saturday
Jul062019

The Luxury Hat

Felt is an ancient fabric, and perhaps the first made by man: it is made rather easily as it is not woven and does not require a loom. According to legend, in the Middle Ages a wandering monk named St Clement – destined to become the fourth bishop of Rome – happened upon the process of felt-making quite by accident. It is said that to make his shoes more comfortable, he stuffed them with tow (short flax or linen fibres). Walking in them on damp ground, he discovered that his own weight and sweaty feet had matted the tow fibres together into a kind of cloth. After being made bishop (with the power to indulge his whimsy), he set up a workshop to develop felting production … and thus he became the patron saint for hatmakers, who of course use felt to this day.

Parisian costume, 1826Men and women’s beaver top hats, Gentleman’s Magazine of Fashion, 1876Today most felt is made of wool, but in the past, animal fur was used to make a high-quality felt. Animal fur has tiny, microscopic spines which lock together much like Velcro when heat and moisture are applied. Beaver was the superior fur because its spines were prominent and helped produce a high-quality felt; hats made from it date back to at least the sixteenth century, and they were a staggeringly expensive luxury item. Naturally, to reduce the cost of fur felt, other furs were used such as rabbit or hare, camel, and angora (mohair).

Men wearing beaver hats, 1886But it was another type of hat altogether that toppled the beaver from its luxury perch at last: the silk top hat. First invented in 1797 and scandalising the general public with its fearsome appearance, by the mid nineteenth century, the silk top hat cost half the price of beaver, and overtook it in popularity owing to changes in lifestyle which meant the hardy fur felt hats were not needed.

50s hat of angora fur felt; authorised reproduction of a Claude Saint-Cyr designI was initially attracted to this red 1950s pixie hat because of its dramatic shape, and the pearls (which I love) sewn all over it. It is made with Melusine, a felt made from rabbit fur. Melusine has long, fine fibres that are brushed to create a silky long-haired finish. In the past I had presumed ‘fur felt’ was a misnomer, and that such fabric was actually made from wool to look like fur. I was a bit sad when I realised this hat was real rabbit fur; however, at least it is vintage and recycled.

An amazing pink fur felt reproduction Regency hat, by Jane Walton, 2019I have a few other vintage hats also made from melusine, all from the 50s and 60s. While wool felt is certainly more common these days, you can still buy new fur felt hats (some sources nebulously state the fur is a ‘by-product’) – even top hats made from beaver that are worn by top cats at Ascot – and they are still quite expensive.

Photo: June 2019

Thursday
Jun132019

The Straight Sleeve

The most common or ordinary type of sleeve is what I define the ‘straight’ sleeve – most other sources simply define them by the length – short, three-quarter or long. The other defining characteristic is that they are ‘set-in’, which is to say they are set into the armscye of the bodice where the sleeve is joined. The sleeve head is curved and adjusted to the roundness of the shoulder. They can be fitted to the arm, or slightly looser.

The armscye is simply the technical term for the armhole opening of the bodice, to which the sleeve is joined. On an interesting sidenote, the origin of the word is Scottish, in folk etymology literally as it is pronounced: ‘arm’s eye’. [dictionary.com]

The other main type of sleeve is constructed in one piece with the bodice, such as kimono, dolman and batwing – very popular during the 1980s. There are also raglan sleeves, which join the bodice with a curved seam – they are most familiar in casual, sporty types of tops; often the sleeve will be of a different colour to the bodice, to accentuate the cut.

Straight sleeves can seem boring compared to the plethora of other imaginative cuts, but they can be saved from severity or plainness with the addition of interesting details or fabrics, such as in these three examples here.

My short sleeves here are made more decorative with the scalloped hem, just enough to offset the decorative front of the vintage silk blouse (probably 1950s). The three-quarter sleeves nod to warmer weather, if the spring-like floral pattern does not imply it enough; the blouse is by Zara. The long-sleeved All Saints blouse made of striped silk chiffon is of a very unusual design, a backwards wrap top! I’ve never seen this before. I bought the blouse in a thrift store, and was flummoxed for a while as to how it was worn, as the wrap at the back is quite low and gaping when worn reversed.

Keep up to date with sleeve lingo or for a quick refresher, visit the Sleeves Style gallery, which I will update as I go.

Wednesday
Jun052019

The Cup Sleeve

I am totally making up this name for this sleeve. It’s not like any other sleeve lurking in my closet, and nothing like I have been able to identify elsewhere. I have discovered an amazing pictorial Japanese fashion lexicon via Pinterest, which has all manner of sleeve designs in it (some that more closely resemble alien appendages than anything you would slip your arm into) – but even that does not seem to have anything similar to this sleeve.

It is like half a straight sleeve; unlike a cap sleeve which is cut diagonally from under the armpit, this sleeve covers the shoulder entirely, and is cut straight across. It cups the shoulder, like a mushroom cup, or an umbrella.

This silk blouse is designed by Cue, an Australian label that has been around for a few decades. I own quite a few garments by its sister label Veronika Maine, which favours unusual and complicated cuts (making ironing extremely difficult and laborious at times!), and this looks like it has borrowed from the VM approach.

Visit the full gallery here.

Saturday
Jun012019

The Split-Cap Sleeve

Here is a variation on the cap sleeve, featuring a split at the top; the effect is similar to a split flutter sleeve. Another variation is called the hanging sleeve: exactly the same cut on a long sleeve – it is the length that creates drama.

The body of this tee is made from silk jersey, with sleeves and neckline with tie made from silk satin. The label is Country Road, an Australian high street brand. I loved it so much I bought it in three colourways: black, charcoal and cream, and I wore them all to death. (The dark grey is pictured, although the picture effects make it look brown. You can see me wearing it in my gallery A Few Things I Heart.) The black lasted the longest, because I wore it the least. Sadly, I have never seen t-shirts made from silk jersey since, and I have regularly scoured stores and on- and offline. They’re on my Holy Grail list now.

Click to view the full Sleeve Styles gallery.