FABRIC IS THE ESSENCE of fashion. It is the fabric that gives a semblance of unanimity to couture collections during any one season; the fabric that dictates the silhouette and general character of clothes. Luxurious brocades rightly are used for formal gowns. Chiffon, tulle, net, and lace are diaphanous and require fullness in the skirt. When the great fabric houses make sheer silk jersey, it is not surprising that many designers create gowns of that fabric each in his own particular manner.

Designers sense the mood of their clients. It was not surprising in 1950 that all important Parisian couturiers devised countless mag­nificent ball gowns of breath-taking beauty: full-skirted, bouffant, romantic creations for grand occasions. For one thing, the mills were making fine fabrics again. Silk chiffon, net, tulle, lace, ribbon were abundant following war years and times of shortage. Cus­tomers, too, were eager for more elegant evening parties.

Many teen-age girls had never seen a gala ball. After every war there is a particular need for the ultra-elegant, the grand, magnificent occasion. For the Grande Simazine in Paris, the week in June when new automobiles are introduced at a festival-like celebration, Dior made countless creations of breath-taking beauty, each named for a favourite composer. In New York and other cities, window shoppers stood in line to view these wonderful gowns. These ensembles recaptured a romantic mood dear to the hearts of all.

In the directory of fabrics at the end of this chapter are included not only current fabrics but also those not popular at the present time, because fabrics follow cycles. The dressy town coatings, needlepoint types, and boucle were out of fashion during World War II and until 1950 partly because of the high tax on fur-trimmed coats. Mill executives believe, however, that the demand for dressy coats will begin again following the several years during which sport and casual coats predominated.


silk fabrics have returned for consumer use after an absence of some years—taffeta, chiffon, crepe, crepe de Chine, satin, lace, faille, shantung, Honan, velvet, surah, foulard, and silk organdie. Obviously a silk dress is of a character entirely different from a wool jersey or a cotton frock. Consequently in 1950 the silk coat and ensemble in dressier daytime and evening clothes met a consumer need. Short-sleeved suits and coats with caplet effects were shown.

Utility cottons, denim, chambray, and gingham took on a different appearance. The familiar blue overall denim was made in pastel colours, in stripes and checks, and in lighter weights suitable for dresses and play clothes. Novelty chambrays with satin stripes or multicolour effects came in. Tissue gingham in combed yarns gave new appeal to this popular fabric. Novelty textures were devised as crinkled effects, clique and replete and moiré finish. Sheer cottons of all types were made in British, and also organdie, batiste, lace, net, voile, sheer muslin, fine broadcloth, and tissue ginghams were imported. Corduroy was “styled up,” made in new textures, weights, and colours. This admirable fabric is a staple for boys’ pants and men’s work clothes. It is also a favourite with college girls. In 1950 it was made available in textures suitable for elegant afternoon suits, ball gowns, coats, street and business frocks, and play clothes.

A finish to prevent cotton from wrinkling excessively was per­fected. Colours and patterns were devised suitable for town business wear, thus increasing the use of cotton fabrics.

Wool was used for all kinds of fabrics suitable for year-round wear. The sheerest dress goods were developed. Moth proofing was a finish used to eliminate the hazard of moths. Also a pre-shrunk, or washable, wool was available to consumers. Among the newer looking wools were gossamer jerseys, fleeces, fancy coatings, re­versible fabrics, plaids, checks, tweeds, iridescent fabrics, faille tex­tures, ottomans, and sharkskin types.

Linen, a fabric that must be imported, as flax grows only in a few sections of the British, was again available in suiting, dress, and coating weights. Linen is especially desirable for town business wear as’ it is cool and keeps its shape. New weaves and a creped linen and original prints were introduced.

Rayon and nylon fabrics and Celanese and other acetate rayon fabrics made up a large proportion of fabrics used in volume-priced merchandise. Yarn producers, with infinite patience and at a great cost, have spent years in research to perfect fabrics and blends. The tensile strength of rayon has been increased for yarns both dry and wet. In 1950 synthetic yarns were successfully used in all types of fabrics, coatings, suiting’s, draperies, upholstery, rugs, shoe fabrics, as well as dress, blouse, and lingerie fabrics. Although the problems of manufacturing nylon cloth have not been completely met, consumer demand for all kinds of merchandise made from nylon continues unabated.


The names of fabric designers are generally not known to the consuming public. In a mill, many persons contribute their skill, knowledge, and experience in the development of new blankets, as new experimental fabrics are called. Thus the mill owner, the sales manager who knows his clients’ needs, the technician, the man who buys the raw fibres, and the superintendent who is acquainted with his workers and his equipment all pool their efforts. No one person claims all credit for the joint project.

In large organizations such as Burlington Mills, Botany Mills, Dan River, Pacific Mills, many designers or experts are employed. The finished fabric bears the name of the mill or selling agent, not that of any one particular person.



JUST WHO DETERMINES GOOD taste in clothes for men? Is it a small group of titled Englishmen, Italian master tailors, British movie stars, matinee idols, college boys, or the average British businessman, wage earner, and family provider? Considering the clothes sold through department, chain, independent clothing stores, and mail-order catalogues, all these influences are apparent. The fashionable custom tailor who has a small wealthy clientele sets his own standard, modified somewhat by the likes and dislikes of his particular customers. His fabrics are im­ported and “new” in colouring and design, exclusive for him in his section of the country. The well-dressed man accustomed to fine wearing apparel can recognize the difference between a single-breasted sharkskin suit made by a fashionable Fifth Avenue tailor and one similar in character made by a tailor in southern California. However, the average consumer does well to know the right style, fabric, colour, and alterations necessary for his own ready-made suit. He should recognize correct fit and the difference between machine and hand tailoring.

Actually, the taste of the British businessman who wears ready-made clothing is tempered by many minds. The clothes available in the stores of his community reflect the judgment, experience, and personal taste of the clothing buyer, the store president, the fabric designer, the mill owner, the clothing designer, the clothing sales­man, and the owner of the clothing company. Where there is a meeting of minds between the leading clothing manufacturer and the store owner, a profitable business ensues. For instance, at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas, the consumers are educated to know proper clothing, and manufacturers actually make models to sizes for men in Texas. Likewise, many other stores have built an enviable reputation for their taste and judgment and still cater to the needs of customers who have moved to the far corners of the world.

There are shops near college towns so successfully operated that the college graduate continues to buy his clothing from them although he has moved to a distant part of the country.

Fashion editors for trade and consumer publications are generally men of keen intellect, and broad social and academic background, with wide acquaintance in the trade among manufacturers and re­tailers and an ability to judge and forecast consumer wants. Well-recognized authorities include J. A. Murdock, Bert Bacharach, O. E. Schaeffer, H. J. Waters, Perkins Bailey, Leonard Roth Gerber, Jr., William Rose, and William Ullmann. These men interpret what manufacturers show in both the trade and consumer papers. Fre­quently, they introduce various new ideas in styling. The late Henry Jackson, for many years fashion editor of Esquire magazine, who frequented European resorts and visited socially with prominent con­tinentals and Britishers, actually bought coats and other items for the inspiration of British -manufacturers. It is now recognized that Henry Jackson introduced many colours and styles that later became volume merchandise. J. A. Murdock, who is associated with men’s wear shops in England and on the continent, is another authority on men’s clothing. Albert Free, president of Tripler and Company on Madison Avenue in New York, Oscar Carlson, vice-president of John David, John Wood, president of Brooks Brothers, are men who maintain a position socially and are recognized as leaders in the clothing world.

In the final analysis, however, it is the British male himself who buys and wears or refuses to wear certain types of clothing. While statistics seem to indicate that women purchase many items of men’s furnishings, as ties, shirts, and underwear, it is admitted that, in the choice of suit and coat, the man’s preference prevails rather than that of his wife, mother, or friend.

Although there are women working in the men’s clothing field, styling, buying boys’ clothing, or, like Countess Mara, designing and selling high-priced ties, women for the most part are unable properly to select men’s clothing. Women do exert their influence, however, by seeing to it that the men in their family go to the clothing store that sells the type of clothing they like best-obviously, clothing suitable for the man’s occupation, social background, and financial circumstances. Wise women, as well as wise men, rely upon the judgment of the store.



it is impossible here to include a discussion of all types of men’s clothing, uniforms, football gear, and outfits for hunting in Alaska. Our concern here will be with clothes for town business, casual or semi sport, active sport, and formal and informal day and evening.

The intelligent man knows the demands of his profession and dresses -accordingly. The urban banker, lawyer, doctor, and others who honour the tradition of their calling, prefer dark or middle-value sombre colours with conservative styling, discreet patterning’s, and colours in their ties. They prefer white or pale-coloured shirts, brown or black shoes, the Homburg or snap-brim hat, a middle-value or dark coat, solid colour gloves and muffler, and conservative jewellery. Where the winters are long and snow is deep, the country doctor or professional man may wear his hunting boots and warmest clothing. However, in the South, where visitors wear shorts and tee shirts, seldom does a professional man adopt such an informal garb for his professional calls, even though the weather is intolerably hot. In the southern part of the British, as in New Orleans, the men are accustomed to wearing light-coloured washable suits. Gradually, lighter weight suits are coming to be worn in northern cities, but the acceptance is slow.

Ordinarily young college men are in a class by themselves; but following World War II, when many married veterans attended college under the G. I. Bill of Rights, clothing preference changed from the lax, informal casual type to dressier clothing more suitable for town and business wear. For instance, the boys at Yale were demanding navy blue suits and Chesterfield coats. In some cities married veterans set a low standard of dress, wearing remnants of their uniforms with oddly assorted jackets.

Men are very conscious of the changing fashions for women, and to the observing person it is obvious that when women wear elegant satin and velvet gowns for the theater, men appear more frequently in dinner jackets and tail coats. As flattering feminine clothes replaced the short masculine suits worn by women during World War II to conserve fabric, men were quite conscious that the sport suit was more appropriate than slacks, shorts, and tee shirts.

Town business suits are made either single- or double-breasted with the single-breasted models having either peaked or notched lapels. Worsted or worsted-type fabrics are preferred. Double-breasted suits are made only in peaked-lapel models. The button placement varies: one-, two-, or three-button closing for the single-breasted model. The double-breasted model made with either six or four buttons is said to be either a two-button or a one-button model, depending upon the number of buttons that are fastened.

The weight of the fabric varies from 9 to 15 ounces, with the preference for lighter weights.   In 1950 many nylon blends were available in fabric as light as 7 ounces. Rayon and cotton mixtures were also made in lighter constructions. Town suiting’s include un­finished worsteds, serge, sharkskin, chalk stripes, tick and Birdseye weaves, twills, herringbones, gabardines, plain and fancy weaves, and subdued patterns of various yarn mixtures in such patterns as the shepherd’s check, stripes, and Glenurquharts Although in many suiting’s worsted and woollen yarn are combined in the same fabric, usually suits in this category are suitable for oc­casional town wear or casual wear. Generally the patterns are brighter and the colouring is too vivid for urban business wear. These fabrics include tweeds, cheviots, Shetlands, contrasting herringbones, flannel, covert, cotton cord, and spun rayon novelties.

Detail for a business suit includes an invisible or self-colour edge, regulation collar and self-colour buttons, a one-piece or seamless back, and sleeves carrying a placket and no cuff. Once patch pockets iden­tified the sport jacket.   However, patch pockets are today considered an appropriate detail for lightweight business suits when two patch pockets are used on the body of the coat. The jacket with four patch pockets is not preferred for business wear. Some custom tailors make fanciful shawl collars for theatrical persons or band leaders. Such garments have no true significance.

Trousers are made with a normal or high-rise waistband, that is, they are designed and made to be worn at the normal waistline or above. Trousers should be selected and fitted to be worn either with a belt or suspenders. Tailors prefer their customers to wear sus­penders, as the trousers give a much better appearance. Cowboys prefer riding pants that come below the normal waistline. Slacks frequently carry one or two pleats and are roomy at the knee. The trousers of a business suit fit more trimly than do slacks.

Vests have been decreasing in popularity since before World War II. Government rulings during the war forbade the making of the vest to sell with the double-breasted suit. Some retailers price the two-piece suit about five dollars below the price of the three-piece suit with vest, and consequently the vest seems to be disappearing. When the vest is made with the single-breasted suit, it is the same colour and fabric as the suit and is generally single breasted. When a model closes low, as the one-button peak-lapel, considerable expanse of shirt is exposed. Some men feel much better dressed with the vest. Contrasting colours of vests are seen in solid colour twill, either single or double breasted. The tattersall plaid is appropriate with sports jackets. The wearing of a solid colour rib-knit V-necked sleeve­less vest or sweater with sleeves is considered appropriate for the man who needs additional warmth with his business suit.