Last week I brought home a very special souvenir of Jack’s and my visit to Portland, Oregon: a vintage jacket with a mysterious past. It came from a lovely little shop, Living Threads Vintage, on Taylor Street opposite the Multnomah County central library.
I was actually on my way to the Button Emporium next door, which an antique dealer had recommended to me, but I couldn’t resist stopping to examine the dress hanging on a mannequin outside Living Threads.
In short order I was telling myself there would be no harm in trying on this very interesting jacket made from Pendleton wool.This jacket intrigued me–and Christine, too–and we both wondered who made it, when, and for whom. It was beautifully made and in perfect condition.
Was this jacket custom-made by a dressmaker or tailor for a specific customer?
We wondered when this jacket was made. Could it have been the late ’50s, when more patterns were appearing without the cinched waist?
The fabric suggested 1940s or 1950s to me. This Pendleton wool was the color–no, colors–of stone-ground cornmeal, with beautiful variegations of grays or browns.
Christine liked this intriguing Pendleton jacket on me, too. Still, I wanted another opinion, and I knew where to find it: at the Heathman Hotel, just a few minutes’ walk away. That’s where most of Jack’s fellow Peace Corps members and their wives were staying for our biannual reunion.
I told Christine I’d be back shortly with my friend Rosa to make a final decision. At the hotel, I managed to snag not one but three judges–Rosa, Dora, and Kathryn–who eagerly returned with me to see the shop and the mystery jacket.
Even though I modeled the jacket for my review community over a summery white t-shirt and seersucker pants, the vote was a unanimous and enthusiastic YES. Okay, so there was a little extra room in the shoulders; I could live with that, we agreed.
Back home, I pondered what garments I could pair with this jacket to create outfits. Tops, skirts and pants should be simple, I thought, to support this jacket in its starring role.
I scooped up some hats, gloves, and an alligator bag and made the two-minute journey to my sister’s photo studio, where I experimented in front of the camera.
First, with a beret in a hard-to-pin-down mushroom brown color that went with the shading in the fabric:
The sleeves are longer than three-quarters length, but short enough to call for longer gloves. I wouldn’t mind laying in a supply of long vintage gloves. It’s interesting to me that although the collar points down, I perceive the collar as bringing the eye up, which is a big plus. I can’t explain why, but the shape and color of the beret look right to me as part of this ensemble.
Next, a kind of Loden green felt hat, maybe a cousin of a Homburg. (I bought this Eric Javits hat in 1990, I think.)
The color of the hat is nice with the jacket, but the shape is not. There’s no relationship with the jacket.
How about with this burgundy rabbit-felt hat by Ignatius Creegan? I love this hat.
The combo is promising and worth pursuing. I see burgundy gloves in my future.
Next up: a Harris tweed hat I bought at a vintage stall in East London on a chilly, drizzly Sunday a few years ago. Quite the workhorse, this hat, keeping me warm, dry and moderately fashionable through several winters.
That I could wear a plain neutral beret; a luxurious, plush, rich-colored felt cloche; or a rough-textured plaid tweed fedora with this style and color of jacket was quite exciting.
Lastly, I tried a whimsical beret in an eye-popping orange-red.
Both items had plenty of personality but seemed willing to work together.
A jacket that can deliver on whimsicality, practicality, and beauty, too? That’s something worth celebrating!
After spending decades in storage, it’s time this jacket started doing its job in the world, don’t you think? I certainly do.
Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for studio photography.