Vintage Suitings: Discussions of, and sourcing modern equivalents, etc.

Discussion in 'Suits' started by Guttersnipe, Aug 20, 2012.

  1. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,942
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I thought it might be useful to have a separate thread dedicated to discussing the technical specifics of vintage suitings (e.g., weights, weaves, contents, etc.). This topic frequently comes up in other threads, but there is no dedicated discussion thread that I've found.

    I think such discussions would be useful for those seeking to learn more about vintage, looking to source cloth for vintage inspired garments, and general vintage interest.

    I will kick off the discussion . . .
     
  2. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,942
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    In the linked thread there are some good discussion about the challenges of finding modern suitings that are the equivalent of vintage ones:

    http://www.thefedoralounge.com/showthread.php?63402-Vintage-Suits-Reproductions

    That vintage suits are made of heavier weight wool than modern ones is taken as a given by vintage enthusiasts. Recently, I began wondering exactly how heavy vintage suiting tended to be. Convention seems to be that vintage suitings were quite heavy, however, after recently looking through a book of modern English coatings and comparing those weights (16 - 20 oz) to my own vintage collection, I began wondering exactly how heavy vintage cloths really were.

    Here is a guide from 1948 (note: 12 oz is set as the baseline for medium weight; this is much lighter than I would've expected):

    [​IMG]

    I find it interesting that this suggests that vintage mid-weights were 12 oz, which is significantly lighter than conventionally assumed in vintage circles. Good non-super 12 - 14 oz suitings can be easily had today.

    Does anyone else have any info on suiting weights from the period? I'd love to learn more!
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  3. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,942
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    The following is from the same source Buying Men's Suits, which was put out by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 1948 and 1949.

    Note for summer suits, Mohair is suggested. I find this interesting because 1) mohair is note commonly used today and 2) I don't usually think of it as a summary fabric, although, I believe it was contained in Palm Beach cloth:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. herringbonekid

    herringbonekid I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,022
    Location:
    East Sussex, England
    you have to keep in mind the difference between U.S. and U.K. fabrics. so while i've often said that vintage suits are typically 18oz weight that is a typical U.K. (or other northern European country) weight.

    U.S. fabrics are generally more like 14oz and often lighter as you've noted, but you do get some that are up to the same weight as U.K ones.
     
  5. Qirrel

    Qirrel Practically Family

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    The suburbs of Oslo, Norway
    I have the same experience. I have yet to find a pre 1950s suit here in Norway which was lighter than ca. 15-14 oz. in weight. I have a few american suits that are around that mark, or slightly lower, and they are only good for wear from may to september.
     
  6. Undertow

    Undertow My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,127
    Location:
    Des Moines, IA, US
    Although not exactly related to the topic, I thought this might be useful for gauging the actual "feel" of a certain weight during a particular year. Or perhaps, how practical a certain weight would have worn, so to speak. Unfortunately, as far as I know the following link is only useful for calculating US temps. Sorry! :(

    National Climatic Data Center: U.S. Climate at a Glance

    Example:
    1. Mean Temp F 1935 June in Iowa was 78.7
    2. Click on Statewide, select [x state] (used IA), Selected 1925 as First Year to Display and 1945 as Last Year to Display, chose 1925-1945 as Base Period and selected July as my Period. Data shows the average temperature was about 75F for those two decades, with 11 years below that average and only 1 year over 80F. When I change the data to show 1992-2012, we see the average temp dropped to 73F with 10 years below average and again, only 1 year over 80. The trends are quite different however, showing an increase in average temps the closer you are to 2012.

    The data would suggest things were actually getting cooler - at least if I compared averages between the two 20yr periods. The trends, however, appear to suggest that the averages are somehow increasing from one to the next. In any case, if you would like to see how a 12oz medium weight from 1935 would "feel" compared to one worn today, at least you can see the temps to make an informed guess. :)
     
  7. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,942
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah, I bet suits tend towards heavier weight wools in Norway. . . Since it's August you guy probably just had your first spring thaw, right? ;)

    Oh, I Qirrel, I just checked out you Etsy store. I like what you're doing. I might just drop you a line!

    I tend to agree with this. Most every vintage European suits I've ever seen has been fairly heavy. It also seems like coarser weaves were heavily favored in Europe (coarse serges, unfinished worsteds, coverts, etc.).

    One thing worth noting is the weights cited above are based on calculating ounces per-yard of vintage double widths (54" - 56"). Considering modern double widths are usually 58" - 60", those vintage suiting weight are significantly denser than moderen equivalents.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  8. Qirrel

    Qirrel Practically Family

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    The suburbs of Oslo, Norway
    Luckily I live in the South of Norway, and things aren't quite that bad. Summer was spread thin this year, but last week we had sun every day and temperatures at the 25 C mark. Further north the story is different though. I went salmon fishing two weeks ago about 8 hrs. north of Oslo. Temperatures there were pushing 2 Celsius at night.


    There are a few places where one can get fabrics in good vintage weights. On ebay for example, small lengths of vintage fabrics come up every now and then. I have got some very good deals on etsy, too. I also have a small list of suppliers which carry vintage-appropriate fabrics. (I'm sure there are many I don't know about.)

    A clarification about the calculation of fabric weight: I don't know what system was used in the past, but I believe the standard today is oz. per sq. yard or gram per sq. metre. (The ISO standard is "gsm", g/m^2) In older sources I see weights referred to in oz or gram per running metre (i.e. one yard of double width fabric.)

    Many tweeds are still easy to get in vintage weights, for example:

    Islay woolen mill: http://www.islaywoollenmillshop.com/

    Weights range from 400 gsm (12 oz.) to 750 gsm (22 oz.), prices from £32 to £48 per metre.

    Laxey woolen mills: http://www.laxeywoollenmills.com/cat_Fabrics_and_Tweeds.htm

    I don't remember exactly what weight their tweeds are. but if I remember correctly they are in the 14-16 oz. range. They have lots of interesting patterns, both in single and double widths. Prices are £11 for single widths and £22 for double width.

    Dugdale bros. : http://www.huddersfieldcloth.com/index.asp

    They recently set up an online shop to deal in cut lengths to the public. Prices are around the £30 mark. Many lightweights on offer, but their English & Town Classics range is vintage enough at 14 oz. (No. 9408, see it here: http://www.cutterandtailor.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=549&st=0, is exactly like the fabric of one of my American suits from the 1930s.

    Their "Tweeds and Twills" range has nice herringbones and twills ranging from 13 oz. to 21 oz. (£40 for 21 oz. twills).
    They also have many other ranges, such as formal wear (13-16 oz.), royal classics (12 oz.), coatings (16-25 oz., could be used as suiting instead), and some corduroys and moleskins.

    Kochan & Phillips Historical Textiles: http://historicaltextiles.com/

    Mostly cater to the reenactment market, but carry some fabrics which could be made up into nice overcoats. In particular, their offering of "bearskin" cloth is interesting. (Bearskin has a long, fur-like nap, hence the name.)

    Harrisons Burley: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Quality-English-Fabric-by-Harrisons

    Mostly makes lightweights, but have some vintage lengths on offer, and also have a small range of vintage weight fabrics, 400/430 gsm. This fabric is offered at £70 per 3.5 metres.

    "British fabrics" on ebay: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/BRITISH-FABRICS

    Deals in out of production fabrics and end of runs from many different mills. Usually has some fabrics in decent weights.

    H.E. Box: http://www.hebox.co.uk/

    Do not have an online store, but can be contacted by e-mail or by phone. They have many heavy fabrics in stock, such as corduroys, cavalry twills and "british warm"-type fabrics.

    Hainsworth: http://hainsworth.co.uk/

    Does lots of business with the reenactment crowd and costumers. Specializes in melton-finished cloths, but also carry worsteds.

    Fox Brothers: http://www.foxflannel.com/

    Top quality flannels in a wide range of weights. The folks at the London Lounge recently had a custom order of vintage weight/style fabrics made.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  9. If you're looking for Scottish checks, these guys in my part of the world will weave pretty much whatever you want.

    D. C. Dalgliesh Ltd. http://www.dcdalgliesh.co.uk/
     
  10. Rudie

    Rudie Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,042
    Location:
    Berlin
  11. Qirrel

    Qirrel Practically Family

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    The suburbs of Oslo, Norway
    As far as I know they do not deal in cut lengths to the public, which is a sad thing.
     
  12. Rudie

    Rudie Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,042
    Location:
    Berlin
    I thought so, too. But apparently they changed their policy. At least that's what Mario just told me.
     
  13. Mario

    Mario I'll Lock Up

    When I was looking for fabric to use for my custom trousers I contacted Harrison's and asked for a sample of two different flannels. I told them right from the start that I'd only need two meters for a pair of trousers. They asked for my address and provided me with the swatches, including the price of €98.60 per meter and expressed their hope that I'd place my order with them. And that was that.
     
  14. Qirrel

    Qirrel Practically Family

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    The suburbs of Oslo, Norway
    Well that is good news. They will certainly get some orders from me in the near future.
     
  15. normanpitkin

    normanpitkin One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    171
    Location:
    London,England
    In my business the minimum order is 3000mts! The profit on 98.60 a mt would be quite nice!
     
  16. Mario

    Mario I'll Lock Up

    Keep us informed.

    I didn't place a order with Harrisons then because the fabric was a little too expensive. I went with some nice Donegal tweed instead.
     
  17. Mario

    Mario I'll Lock Up

    John Molloy from Donegal, Ireland offers some nice medium-weight tweeds (10.9 oz/yrd - 14 oz/yrd):

    http://www.johnmolloy.com/department.php?category=296

    That's where I ordered the fabric for my trousers (01-03-158, see below).

    I have scanned the swatches they sent me:

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Chasseur

    Chasseur Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,495
    Location:
    Hawaii
    Wonderful thread guys!

    Anyone have any options for a cream/white flannel? I've wanted to get a set of tennis/cricket trousers made up but I've not found many options. Last time I was at my tailor there was a H&S in about 16z but it would have been about $500-600 for a pair of trousers in that fabric...

    Thank you in advance.
     
  19. Qirrel

    Qirrel Practically Family

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    The suburbs of Oslo, Norway
    Fox bros. has white flannel in different weights. If I remember correctly it is £50 per metre.
     
  20. Chasseur

    Chasseur Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,495
    Location:
    Hawaii
    I've dropped them a line, many thanks Qirrel!
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.