Real Girls Don’t Wear Trousers

Cover of a Topper annual

There is no date on this Topper annual, but I suspect it was published in the early '60s.
A Nancy strip near the end of the Topper annual. See the description below.


Sluggo is walking through town, past a few houses, leafy gardens, and shops. In the first frame, he is glancing at a woman carrying parcels. She is wearing trousers. He is annoyed. An exclamation mark appears in a speech bubble above his head.

In the second frame, Sluggo sees another two women in trousers, his face scrunched up in irritation. In the third, yet another. He says, "I hate women in slacks." In the fourth frame, he sees two more women in front of a shop window, and he continues, "That's all you see these days."

Most of the women seem to be shopping. In the fifth frame, Sluggo passes two more carrying parcels and says, "Phooey!" In the sixth, there's a group of three gathered on the pavement, one showing a package to the other two. Sluggo remarks, "Why do they want to dress like men?"

The seventh frame shows Nancy in a yellow coat and red trousers, standing proudly with hands on hips. Sluggo shouts "YOU TOO?" and stomps off.

And in the final frame, Nancy is on the right of an open space near a tree. Sluggo walks to the left leading his dog. The dog is wearing Sluggo's trousers on its hind legs, and Sluggo a short print skirt. Astonished, Nancy stares.

The Power of Colour

Cover of 'Talking Fashion'.

The pieces from your collections that are motley-coloured probably don't sell as well as the more toned down, plain or pastel coloured ones?

Quite the contrary. You could even say: the stronger, the better. Customers who come to me want colour. People who prefer something discreet or black, well, they can go to other designers — Rick Owens or Damir Doma for example. In any case, if I do something black — which happens from time to time — it's hardly sold. But of course, it can be difficult to be taken seriously if you dress very colourfully, at least in Western societies. I think that's very stupid, because actually it's a sign of strength if you wear a bright red suit or a bright orange suit instead of a black one. You're making a statement. People will look at you differently, and that's a powerful moment, because you're forcing them to position yourself in relation to you.

From an interview with Walter Van Beirendonck, in Talking Fashion by Jan Kedves, Prestel Verlag, 2013.

Pavement Pleasure

Badges with the words 'Pavement Pleasure' on.

Pavement pleasure means dressing so as to please other people on the pavement. Today, I got three pavement-pleasure compliments. The first was from a member of staff in my local Costa, who told me she always admired my fashion sense, and particularly liked what I was wearing now. The second happened a few minutes later, when I was sitting in the foyer of the Tesco next door. A group of Americans came past, and one touched the sleeve of my coat, and said "Very nice!". And the third was a few minutes later than that, in the same Tesco, when another man came past and told me he loved my colourfulness and that it had brightened up his whole day. So to people who say "I can't carry it off", my reply is, "Experience proves that you can."

What I was wearing: purple full-length sarouel; brilliant blue wool jersey; purple velvet coat; green silk scarf; green Jaeger hat.
Purple velvet coat, green hat, green scarf, blue jersey, and purple sarouel.

Vaisto High-Waisted Sarouel

Moving back up the map from Greece to very northern Europe, here's a high-waisted sarouel from Paul Tieman, an artist from Maastricht now living in France. I've mentioned him before; in the preamble to his blog Saaibestrijding, he says:

Some first steps toward the re-introduction of colourful and creative men's clothing, after two centuries dominated by black, grey, boring mass clothing. That is what Saaibestrijding is about. Often in cooperation with creative designers, makers, photographers and other enthusiastic people I try to trace new paths in male clothing. I am not a fashion designer. Not at all. My mother considered it necessary for her son that he learned how to use a sewing machine, but it was the central theme of my artwork that made me curious about, for example, the question why millions of western men are wearing day after day a tie around their neck. An extremely weird habit if you think further about it.

The Saaibestrijding project wants to inspire, to encourage everybody to leave the rude dictatorship of the fashion industry and its commercial power behind.

The trousers shown today are from Paul's post "Zeven-en-veertig" (19 November 2009) Wayback. They were made specially for Paul by Vaisto Design of Finland. The waistband is unusual. A rough measurement suggests it's eight to nine inches high; in fact, it comes up as far as the bottom of the sleeves on Paul's short-sleeved shirt. It's laced on each side with two interlocking zigzags of cord, and bicoloured, decorated in front with broad chevrons.

I don't know whether it's the fault of my terminal, but Paul's photos look quite dark, and I find it hard to see the different regions of colour. There used to be another photo in Vaisto's catalogue, which I remember as showing the patterning more clearly, but I think that's gone. So below are copies of the photos which I've lightened and made the colours more distinct in.
Front view of Paul Tieman wearing this sarouel.
Side view of Paul Tieman wearing this sarouel.

Also in Paul's post is a rather elegant stylised drawing of the trousers seen from the front. This clearly shows the high waist and lacing, as well as what I now know — from the historical-costume book of my previous post — are called the canions. But again, I don't see the colours as very distinct, so I've tweaked that too. The version below now has very inaccurate colours, but does reveal the patterning.

Greek Costume at the Benaki

Nicholas Sperling, I said in "Vraka", was a painter who was commissioned to paint Greek costumes for the Benaki Museum in Athens. The Benaki has several subsidiary museums, but the main one, very easily findable if you know Athens, is near the junction of Koumpari Street with Avenue Vas. Sofias, and is devoted to Greek culture. Including costume.

I found some lovely photos in a blog post by "Joy": "Costumes at the Benaki" in her blog Of Stranger Sensibilities (30 June 2012) Wayback. Joy writes:

One can definitely tell that a whole assortment of foreign influences that were introduced and worked into the costumes, such as some Turkish elements for example seen here and there.

However what really drew me in were the rich details and intricacy of the embroidery. The sumptuous fabric and jewel tones of the different pieces are absolutely beautiful. I can't imagine scarcely imagine just how much time and energy it would have taken to craft each individual article of clothing, and the incredible amount taken to don the many layers. Of course, I highly doubt ordinary folk were dress as such on an everyday basis; these were likely the clothing of the elite who could all the handmaiden and servants to assist them each morning. While this makes me appreciate all the conveniences of modern sportswear and the like, there is a part of me that wonders what would have it been like to actually see people dressed as such on the streets. I guess the modern answer to this would be couture.

Do take a look at Joy's post. Even in photographs, the costumes are stunning.

One costume, less elaborate than the others, stuck in my mind because I've been writing about vraka. It has vraka with vertical blue and yellow stripes, and a purple-velvet cropped jacket with flared sleeves and gold edging over a blue waistcoat. Here's a thumbnail to entice you to look at one of the original photos linked from my post.
Mannequin wearing vraka with vertical blue and yellow stripes, and a purple-velvet cropped jacket with flared sleeves and gold edging over a blue waistcoat.
[ Image: thumbnailed from the post below, "Η Ελληνική ενδυμασία στην Αιολίδα" ]

I realised that I've seen these vraka and that jacket before. It was in another blog post: "Η Ελληνική ενδυμασία στην Αιολίδα" ("Greek costume in Aeolis") by Athanasia Stavropoulou in Ο Ελληνισμός στη Μικρασία – Küçük Asya'da Helenizm (Hellenism in Asia Minor) Wayback. It's in Greek, but Google does a surprisingly good job of translating: click here to read it in English. It's a short account of men's and women's costume in Asia Minor, mainly on Lesbos and Ayvalık on the Turkish coast, east from the northern end of Lesbos. As I said, it includes the photo from which I made the thumbnail.

Hose, With Doublet: 17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630

A friend this week bought a copy of a book published jointly by Thames and Hudson and the V&A. It's 17th-Century Men's Dress Patterns 1600-1630, by Melanie Braun, Luca Costigliolo, Susan North, Claire Thornton, and Jenny Tiramani, 2016. Since I've just blogged about one kind of baggy trouser (vraka) and this describes how to make another (hose), I decided to mention it it here.

The blurb on the back cover reads as follows:

This book presents full step-by-step instructions for the making of early 17th-century men's clothes and accessories in a technically accurate, visually exciting and easy-to-follow format. Twelve garments — all historical pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum's collections — are featured: a suit, three doublets and a cloak, as well as a felt hat, an embroidered nightcap and a plain nightcap liner, a pasteboard picadil, a sword girdle and hangers, a pair of mittens and a linen stocking. They have been analysed so that every aspect of the pattern is exact. Scale patterns and precise construction diagrams are accompanied by colour photography of the whole garment as well as an abundance of informative details and X-ray photographs that reveal the hidden structure of each piece, showing the precise number of layers and the types of stitches used inside. The methods and techniques of historical tailoring and plain sewing are shown in detail.

The authors have some of the best historical tailoring skills in the world and have worked with world-renowned institutions such as the Globe Theatre in London, creating award-winning costumes for film, stage and television. This book is a unique resource for costume and fashion designers, fashion historians and students.

I gave the authors' names, but it seems only fair to name the photographers as well: Henrietta Clare, Pip Barnard, and Paul Robins. That's because the book has over 1,300 meticulously created illustrations, many of which are photos of the V&A exhibits listed above.

To appreciate the care taken, look at section 6, "Embroidered silk damask cloak". It begins with front, side and back views of a three-quarter circle Spanish cloak: red damask embroidered with metal and silk thread, and implied to be mid-16th century. For comparison, there's a shot of another Spanish cloak from the V&A's collection, c. 1580-90, red velvet with yellow satin decoration.
Page 134 of the book, showing three photos of the red Spanish cloak, and one
of another cloak from the collection.

The facing page continues with a detail of the embroidery, and a painting of Philip IV of Spain, shown wearing a cloak of similar length, and presumably of similar shape.

The next two pages show details of the right and wrong sides. The 11 photographs here illustrate, for example, what the cloak looks like when laid flat; how seams are constructed; and the embroidered motifs. The next two pages give a pattern for the cloak, including a list of materials. At the end is a cutting layout, showing the authors' best conjecture for how the pieces were cut from a rectangle of damask. This was worked out by matching the weaves of the pieces. And on the final two pages, there are 13 illustrations and six photographs showing the construction sequence, and the embroidery technique.

By comparison with doublet and hose, the cloak is a simple garment. The doublets and hose are much more complicated, being made of many layers. And here, the authors used a different kind of photography — X-ray — to reconstruct how these were put together. If you're interested, look at the V&A's page "X-radiography as a tool to examine the making and remaking of historic quilts" by Joanne Hackett, V&A Online Journal (Issue 3 Spring 2011) Wayback. This demonstrates, with photos, what X-rays can tell us about how clothes and other objects were made, and even how they were altered afterwards.

You can get a good idea of the type of content in 17th-Century Men's Dress Patterns from photos in a review of another book in the series. The review, "17th Century Women’s Dress Patterns — Book Review", by Mary Corbet in her blog Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread (July 18 2011) Wayback. Mary's review shows one invaluable feature of the book: an introduction to the tailoring techniques of the time, including detailed illustrations of sewing and embroidery stitches.

There's a review of 17th-Century Men's Dress Patterns 1600-1630 itself in "17th Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630 — book review", by Pat Poppy in the Costume Historian blog (18 January 20) Wayback.

I learnt a lot from the book, and not just about costume-making. Other things include:

"Canion". I didn't see this word explained, but it appears to mean the short cylinder at the bottom of each leg of a pair of hose. It is a word that I, unlike most people, have a use for, as it probably also can be used of the end-of-leg cylinders on my qandrissi.

Violence. Most of the portraits in the book show their sitters with their cloak draped over the left shoulder. The authors explain that this leaves the right arm free to draw a sword if need be. However distasteful I find Brexit, I guess, it having divided the country into two mutually antagonistic factions, that I'm lucky it's happening now rather than 400 years ago when these factions would have been armed.

Inconvenience. The authors also say that from at least the 14th century, a man's hose were tied to his doublet with "points", or lengths of ribbon. These did eventually become decorative only, but at the time the book is about, it seems that they were still functional. Surely tying and untying them must have been terribly inconvenient, if, say, you needed to go to the toilet?

Discomfort. The authors say that:

By 1600, doublets were quite snug-fitting with armholes cut high in the armpit and with the top of the undersleeve cut very high to enable maximum movement of the arms. Even for those men who did not favour the tightest fit, it was essential that the doublet was tight around the waistline to support the sword girdle and weapons. In his autobiography, Thomas Raymond records that James Hay, 2nd Earl of Carlisle (1612-60) was chastised by his father when he complained that the doublet of his masking suit was too straight: 'Fye, boye', said the Earl, 'are you not ashamed to complayne of that? Whie, when I was a masker and the mode was to appeare very small in the wast, I remember I was drawne up from the grounde by both hands, whilst the taylor with all his strength buttoned on my doublet.'

Perhaps such things are why Bill Bryson, in his book At Home: A Short History of Private Life says that until the 18th century, no word existed for the idea of having comfort at home.

Box Pleats for Warmth

In my post about vraka, I showed pairs from various parts of Greece. Some are highly pleated, the most so being this very smart pair from Crete:
Costume from Crete, showing vraka. [ Image: via Wikimedia, uploaded by user Pycckhcoz, attributed to E. A. Cavaliero ]

This interests me because most of my sarouels — baggy trousers or harem pants — are in light fabrics, so not ideal for British winters. I caught a glimpse of the Daily Star this morning, screaming about Icebox Britain; and though this may not be entirely reliable (the paper also claims that a "Secret space programme base" has been spotted in a crater on the moon), the Beast From The East could yet revisit.

This brings me back to a remark I made in "Citizen of Nowhere on a Brexit Farewell Tour". The Wikipedia article on the fustanella or Greek kilt cites the paper "Akritan Ikonography on Byzantine Pottery" by J. A. Notopoulos, which says that the fustanella evolved from the Roman toga, and that in cold climates, pleats were added for extra warmth. I was puzzled about how this works, but it makes perfect sense when you look at the diagrams in "'Military' Box Pleats" in the blog Matthew A. C. Newsome KiltmakerWayback.

These are the diagrams, which show how the pleats bend and overlap as the kilt is made wider:
Box pleat in a four-yard kilt.
Box pleat in a five-yard kilt.
Box pleat in a seven-yard kilt. [ Images: by Matthew A. C. Newsome, in his blog post "'Military' Box Pleats" ]

To see photos of the effect in kilts, visit Matthew Newsome's blog post. I've never seen harem pants designed this way: if they have pleats at all, these are for decoration and to allow the fabric to gather. But it seems an excellent idea, and makes me think I should commission a kiltmaker to design my next pair.


Here are some more pictures of vraka, the baggy Greek trousers that I mentioned in passing on Friday. I obtained them by an image search for images of "vraka" labelled for reuse. They all turn out to be from Wikimedia, which isn't surprising because that must be one of the main public-domain sources. Below, I've captioned each with its title or region, linking this back to the original, and with attribution to its author and the user who uploaded it to Wikimedia.

The first two don't have a region given. One of them is of a soldier, Ιωαυ. Πολυξιγκης. Presumably, his first name is Ioannis. I like to think that, whatever he may have achieved militarily, he's now just famous for his trousers. The other is labelled merely as Greek costume.

Greek costume, showing vraka.
Greek costume
Unknown , Ketsocruz

Then there are a lot of pictures from Crete:

Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Perakis, Fortzakis & Cie, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Unknown, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
E. A. Cavaliero. La Canée, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Behaeddin, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
E.Athanasiades, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin

And then there are costumes from other parts of Greece. These are all, like the final two above, attributed to Nicholas Sperling. According to The American College of Greece, Sperling was a miniaturist who was commissioned to paint Greek costumes for the Benaki Museum. Some of his watercolours are visible on the American College of Greece's Sperling page. By the way, this page shows the picture of the Cypriot as being of a woman from the Dodecanese. I'm not convinced: "he" doesn't look female, and his costume is very different from that of the women shown.

Greek costume from Corfu, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Cyprus, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Epirus, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Northern Epirus, showing vraka.
Northern Epirus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Lefkas, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Skyros, showing vraka.
Sperling, Nepuzedin

In everyday use, "βράκα" in Greece appears to refer to harem pants: an image search turns up mainly pictures of trousers for sale that may be baggy, but certainly don't look as well tailored as the traditional variety above. When I'm next in Greece, I'll have to visit some vintage shops.

Use the Wayback Machine!

In "Citizen of Nowhere on a Brexit Farewell Tour", I pointed at the blog entry "'Military' Box Pleats" by Matthew A. C. Newsome. Near the top of this post, Matthew writes that for fourteen years he worked at the Scottish Tartans Museum, educating the public about the kilt both historical and modern. In view of such experience, Matthew's diagrams showing how pleats change and overlap as you add cloth ought to interest anyone making a pleated garment. Especially if the pleats are being used to add warmth as well as for show.

Matthew's blog is on Blogger, a blogging system owned by Google. Unfortunately, Google seems to have a habit of closing projects. There are users who were extremely annoyed when it closed down its newsreader, Google Reader. So, just in case Blogger eventually goes the same way, I've archived Matthew's post in the Wayback Machine. I urge you to do the same with any web pages you value. Including mine.