Men stopped wearing lace after 1800, which was a relief to everybody. The natural affinity of lace is with woman, and the combination of these two mysteries, woman and lace, should be enough to occupy any man. Mystery Blouse (No. 1985). Pure cotton with non-fragile English cotton-blend lace collar, cuffs, and hem. Eight rows of lace insets down the front, arcs of lace over upper front and yoke. Hidden stays to keep collar erect, plus princess seams in back. Self-covered buttons.
The J. Peterman Company
It does exist! The J. Peterman Company that is. Yesterday I complimented one of my co-workers on the color of her dress . . . her response: “I got it from the J. Peterman catalog.” I instinctively ran a search on the Web — perhaps because Icouldn’t stand to be out-of-the-loop or maybe because I have been watching Seinfeld re-runs from 11 p.m.-12 a.m. on Fox 25. Either way, Google pointed me right to it: The J. Peterman Company, “People want things that are hard to find.” Yes, that’s true! I do want high-waist jeans with a 70s-style blue rinse for less than $100. Can you help me J. Peterman? While they did not sell the jeans of my dreams, I found their colorful narratives on the origin of the pieces and their hand-drawn renderings reminiscent of the now archaic mail-order catalog. And just to prove that you can find fashionable pieces just about anywhere, I have thoughtfully hand-picked a few choice items:
Paris Gaucho Pants*Women on the Riviera in the early 1920s are among the first to wear pants, striding along the promenades in wide palazzos.The style is noted out in far Hollywood, where no trend goes unexploited; Harlow and other stars are soon seen wearing really, really wide pants. Parisian designers look on in alarm; if they let themselves be trumped on the wide-pants issue, it could undermine entirely their authority. The most fashionable Parisiennes promptly appear on the Champs-Élysées in back viewpants that are not merely wide, not merely extra-wide, but of a width that makes jaws universally drop. Paris Gaucho Pants (No. 1939), as free and sassy as pants can be; they go back to the falda pantalón (“skirt-pants”) worn by Andalusian horsemen and horsewomen alike.
The Mystery Blouse
Lace, like woman, is a mystery. Lace fixes attention for no logical reason whatsoever. Lace is delicate but can be surprisingly strong. (Some fragments have survived over 4,500 years.) Lace is there, but it is also not there. It says yes at the same time that it says no. Lace used to be so rare and valuable that men as well as women wore it to show how much better off than you they were. Kings wore enough lace to intimidate foreign ambassadors with their wealth.
Aye-Aye Ma’am Navy Coat
In the beginning Britannia ruled the waves, dressing Navy men in romantic, dashing uniforms. Then 1920s haute-couture appropriated everything for women. Sailor shirts became boatnecked blouses, bellbottoms evolved into palazzo pants; as for the officer’s jacket, well, you can see here where that ended up. Wonderful stuff. Still has romance and dash, but on a woman, there’s also a certain sauciness.
Essential equipment for the 1920s flapper, whose image Zelda etched into the public imagination. Presents a woman’s hair and eyelids and face beautifully, makes a man want to see more — the part of the neck behind the ear would be nice.
(Premise: To conceal builds intensity better than to reveal. To reveal comes later, or should.)
Heirloom Gladstone Bag
Try looking in the attic first. You don’t have one? Then it’s time maybe to go to the secret barn. Somewhere there is one. And it’s filled with everything.
Look . . . there under that huge pile of saddles and hats . . . it seems to be the hood of a car. Oh no. It’s the Packard. It’s the 12-cylinder Packard convertible somebody (Emily?) once drove across the country. The doors are locked . . . but inside the car seems to be stuffed with old clocks, framed oil paintings, a leopard skin, books, boots, brass fishing reels, stamp albums.. . You can’t take it all in. At the other end of the barn you notice a marble table, a beautiful slim-wheeled two-seat carriage, a stack of a dozen carved chairs, a leather trunk . . . it’s all too much at once . . .You trip on something. What is it? A leather suitcase of some kind. You lift it by its handles. It has old European hotel stickers on it. You grab it and practically run . . . you’ll come back to the barn some other time . . .In broad daylight you examine it. A beautiful, mellow old leather Gladstone. (That’s what they used to call them.) Rather defiantly and ruggedly old-fashioned looking. Strong enough to go down the Nile, across the Alps, through the Canal, over the oceans, but still small enough to carry aboard a plane. A thing like this would cost a fortune these days . . .This ends my foray with The J. Peterman Company, my virtual credit card is now $1,003.00 in the hole. No wonder J. Peterman could afford to buy a piece of King Edward the VII’s wedding cake.
*All product description are courtesy of http://jpeterman.com.