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Gary Cooper

Unfinished Business: The Cooper Shirt

So, once upon a time, I wanted to make a shirt out of wool challis fabric for the DH (who certainly deserves all the nice shirts I can crank out, frankly, since he’s usually the one who finds the pins in the rug and rather painfully at that). And I had a couple of posts up about that.

Coop shirt 1
Coop Shirt 2
The Collar Stay Bit
Sleeves Saved by a Selvege

And finally, goodness knows, I got around to finishing it up. And what was standing in my way?

Buttonholes. I hate making them. I know there are sewists out there who have sewing machines that are particularly good at that (old Singers, for example), which they have all set up to do nothing but buttonholes and frankly, I don’t think that is a bad idea. If I lived or worked in New York City, I would go to one of the services in the Garment District and have THEM put in all my buttonholes. I went with a slightly larger button for this – ones that look like horn, since this shirt has a bit of a Western feel to it with the reindeer on it.

I think the DH looks rather fetching, don’t you (well, given that we have protected the identity of the innocent DH so that you don’t get to see his face)? The sleeves worked out splendidly, as did the collar. He’s so pleased that he was rummaging around in his closet figuring out which sportcoats he can wear this with (and came up with a brown and blue tweed, a dark blue one and a brown corduroy one. But, sadly, no plain navy tie (what man does not have a plain dark blue tie in his collection? The DH, that’s who), so that goes on the list.

Bon Appetit..

Saved by a selvege

At this point, I’m sure that there are a few readers who are saying, “Oooooo-kay…. so what happened to the Gary Cooper shirt for the DH? By this time, he’s given up, right?”

Well, here’s the story (you knew there would have to be a story, right?). There are times, and I think other sewers have these too (at least I hope I’m not the only person who’s done this), where you’re going along — perhaps you’ve made this particular item before — and you are on auto-pilot and you get distracted and it becomes like that time you locked the car door with the keys in the ignition and the engine is running and you just put in a full tank of gas. Crud. (more…)

(Collar) Stay…just a little bit longer….

(WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY) In the DH’s closet, there are two basic types of shirts: button-down shirts and what he refers to as ‘dress shirts’. Now, I only learned this recently, but the ‘button-down’ shirt (which really refers to there being a collar whose points are secured to the shirt itself with buttons) is actually not a US invention. One of the members of the Brooks Brothers family, on a European trip in the late 1800s, saw how polo players there did this to prevent their shirt collars from flying up into their faces during play; he obviously thought it was a neat idea because he brought it back and convinced the family company to start producing what they called ‘polo(tm) button-down’ dress shirts in 1896. These shirts were always seen as something rather sporty and casual until college boys started wearing them in the 1950s, (more…)

Shirt a la Coop Meets the Gigantic Neckband

One of the things about making men’s shirts is that generally speaking, you must count on observers seeing only about 25% of the shirt unless the shirt is being worn alone, without a jacket or a vest or a sweater. Then, all of it except for the portion tucked into the person’s slacks can be seen. But generally, with a shirt such as this one, it would be worn with a sweater or a sport coat, so at the most, the center 5-6″ of the front, the collar, and the cuffs are going to be seen. (more…)

Making a Man’s Shirt – a la Coop

Once upon a time, I saw a PR photo of Gary Cooper (“Coop”) which struck me strongly in terms of how a) fashionable he was for the period and b) how soft the collar on his shirt looked in comparison to what we are used to today. Now, for the time, unless an actor was being photographed in movie costume as a ‘movie still’ shot for magazines, newspapers and advertising or for the movie posters, that actor was being photographed in street or evening clothing as part of the studio PR campaigns (as you recall, they were under contract to movie studios and were seen as assets to be used to promote the studio itself as well as promote themselves to build a fan base). As a matter of fact, many actors (Cooper included) were used in magazine editorial and in photo advertisements (I think Cooper did advertising not only for Knox Hats but also for a high end men’s shirt company as well). So, the ‘formality’ of the dress (which as I recall was a tweed sport coat, gingham shirt and knit tie, an outfit that would have been seen as ‘high end country house’ clothing at the time. He was probably also wearing wool flannel slacks and suede shoes as well) was really part and parcel of the shot. (more…)

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