I know, right? First of all, you need to know that Summer Leaves was in pristine, probably never-worn condition, which means that I have been a little scared to wear it for fear that I will somehow ruin it. The cut is not fitted, but it's still a little snug in the shoulders. One thing that you find a lot with vintage clothes is that women—at least the women who were buying these beautiful clothes—were overall smaller back then. (Digression: the fascinating Prochronism blog analyzes scripts from period tv shows such as Mad Men and Downton Abbey, and one anachronism it found from Mad Men is that back then, people almost never said "back then." Who would have guessed?) It's not just because of sedentary lifestyles and high-fructose corn syrup, either.
We're just... bigger. We're more muscular through the shoulders, and our hands are bigger. Have you ever tried on a pair of 50-year-old gloves? They'll make you feel like a smashing giant, "smashing" here being a straight-up present participle (you are a giant who is smashing things) and not an adjective (you are a giant who looks smashing, darling!)
They also wore mad girdles, so remember that the next time you're trying on a piece that won't close around the waist.
Summer Leaves has a few amazing details, some of which can actually get a little annoying.
The neckline is gathered all the way around, which is 100% cool and 0% annoying.
The sleeves are also gathered at the cuffs, and they have a little hook-and-eye closure in case you want to go for the full pirate-y puffy sleeve effect. It's way more comfortable, however, to not do this. Also, have I already mentioned how the phrase "hook and eye" freaks me out a little? The sleeves are 95% amazing, 5% annoying. I want to look like a fabulous pirate and be comfy at the same time—is that too much to ask?
"Look at that Jolly Roger! Can't we add a little more pizzazz?"
I know you're been wondering when I would get around to the shoulder. I can see you shiver with antici...pation!
You probably know how I feel about fabric-covered buttons. If you don't, I'll tell you: very positively. And these fabric-covered buttons slide into fabric-covered loops! Be still my heart.
Here is where Summer Leaves's intricate construction comes in (it's way more complicated than it looks). The fabric doesn't have a lot of give, and remember how I told you it's tight across the shoulders? It's impossible to slip it on over your head, and a zipper up the back would ruin the effect of the neckline.
So in order to actually get Summer Leaves on, you have to undo all the buttons and navigate a complicated system of snaps, plus find the hidden zipper under the right sleeve.
It's a two-person job, making the right shoulder 20% annoying and 80% amazing. The amazement, obviously, still outweighs the annoyance.
There is just one more way Summer Leaves could be slightly improved.
Wrinkle-free fabric! This fabric is positively linen-esque in its insistence on creasing. I made the mistake of wearing it right before I scanned the material, and ended up with this:
With a wrinkle-free fabric and comfy pirate sleeves, I could conquer the world.
All photos by Claire Loeb!