Archive for the ‘Clothing’ Category


How to thread a needle.

Up to now the received wisdom was that you moistened (okay, licked) the thread and thrust it through the eye of the needle. Right?

Wrong. You should lick the needle, then slide the thread through the eye. Works perfectly every time.

I cant even FIND the needle, let alone lick it.

But how about the needle in your sewing machine? Eh? How do you work that? Imagine being seen as you are bending over your sewing machine, your head pressed against the fabric you were working on, apparently sucking your machine’s needle. Try to explain that, especially to people who already think you’re a bit of a nut.

The illustration is of the first sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe in 1845. Can you see this in your sewing room?


Illustration from  Frank Puterbaugh Bachman (1918) Great Inventors and their Inventions, American Book Co., New York.


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The other day I saw a skateboarder pushing along the sidewalk. He was wearing a protective helmet. First example I’d seen. I think the run-of-the-mill skateboarders still maintain a distance from helmets as being a knock to their image, whatever image they have of themselves. Is it that a helmet carries a wimpy image? Do they, like the hockey players of a few decades ago, feel it’s unmanly to need protection? But there it is: Protective helmets for skateboarders. What next? I mean, it’s not as if skateboarding was an obviously deadly sport. But the juggernaught of Protective Health levels us all. Every activity can be dangerous; people will be wearing helmets at night in case they fall out of bed.

Newer models simply have two wheels, one front and back, similar to roller blades, allowing the user to weave down the street like a snake.*

How about protective helmets for pedestrians? I’ve been knocked down twice by cyclists racing along sidewalks. There are little kids driving electric-powered cars along the sidewalk; cars perhaps a quarter of the size of a standard compact. Certainly big enough to make a dent in your standard pedestrian. The kids are maybe four or five years old. Hardly walking, and already they’re the Sterling Moss of the sidewalk.

How about the people who are handicapped and use these motorized walkers? Have you seen these people on the sidewalk? Those machines travel faster than ten miles an hour. Just wait till you’re hit by one of those. Here again, why is it always the pedestrian that seems to get the dirty end of the stick in all these “protective” deals?

Hockey helmet **

How about helmets for diners? And not just in restaurants. Even at home, I know I wave a knife around. I’m a dangerous man when I’m talking. Actually what I need is not a helmet, but rather a face guard. Jacques Plante, where are you when we need you? But stop and think: Aren’t these protective devices getting out of hand?

Everywhere we go we seem to be protected from ourselves or external dangers. I mean, where is it going to end? Free choice of any kind is becoming a dream. We’ll all be obliged by law to wear a helmet when we’re mowing the lawn. Police will keep an eye open for guys reading a newspaper on the patio without a helmet.

But skateboarders, cyclists, mini-Indy 500 drivers, motorized walkers — they’re all climbing onto the sidewalk, to the peril of the pedestrian. Still, let’s be frank and consider the youngsters. I think many of the kids need helmets. But you’ve seen them: Some of the helmets are about half the size of the kid himself. Makes the kid look like an extra at Cape Canaveral. In many instances their helmet prevents the child from seeing where the hell he’s going. The kid needs a supplementary protective device to protect him from the helmet he’s wearing.


* Photo: Ncapamaggio

* * Photo: Dan4th Nicholas

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Fashion Rampant

The other day, while idly eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation (What else? Can you eavesdrop on your own conversation?), I heard the expression “unmentionables.” (You have to be my age to even understand what it means!) And I thought: How can they be “unmentionable” when every newspaper and magazine carries full-page ads displaying them?

How about “pinafores”? Did you ever wear a pinafore? These days the only pinafore around goes under the brand name of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Then there is “plus fours” (or knickerbockers). Or should that be “there are” plus fours? (In a haberdashery one day I heard someone ask for “plus fives.” I guess he planned to play one of the longer golf courses). For your info, they’re called plus fours because an extra 4 inches of material is required to give the overhang. (Why the overhang, you ask? Good question. I’ll leave you to think about it). Golfers wear jeans and runners now, to the outrage and despair of the St Andrew’s set. There was a time when you were not allowed on the golf course unless you wore proper clothing. Nowadays, the golf courses are after more profits just like any other business.

All these items — now the dinosaurs of the fashion world — were once the sine qua non of the day, days now gone and laughably passé.

Today, especially in the Big City, the fashion gurus speak and the cosmopolitans listen, smirking knowledgeably:

The city engenders, in fashion spenders,

an urge to splurge that’s naïve.

It’s “Ralph” (Lauren), and “Calvin” then,

and their friend St Laurent is just “Yves.”


"KENORA MINK." See more of Carhartt’s wide range of examples at http://www.Carhartt.com

The small town is not far behind, though with a somewhat different set of values: There, instead of Fashion rearing its dictatorial head, it seems rather to be ducking down and maintaining a low profile. But even in a small town, due consideration is given to the image one projects:



To the theater, I think, it’s Kenora mink,*

and runners, white socks, and blue jeans.

They’ll say I’m obsessed, that I’m over-dressed,

but they don’t know what fashion means!


It’s often a strain when I try to maintain

the style on which small towns rely.

But sweat pants are there, and with white socks to wear…

somehow, I’m sure I’ll get by.


Kenora Mink, to the best of my knowledge, refers to the thigh-length plaid jacket or heavy plaid shirt worn in many logging camps and mining towns. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I am told the term was coined by a radio broadcaster as a light knock to the fashion sense (or its absence) in the inhabitants of northern Canadian rural towns. It was, he implied, Hicksville’s idea of “dressing up” — you buttoned up the top button. Black tie for the boondocks.

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It’s surprising to learn that I seem to be the only one who doesn’t use 100-dollar bills as daily currency. I mean, I haven’t seen a 100-dollar bill for at least 5 years, and even then I was looking over someone’s shoulder at the bank. Goes to show you the financial circles I move in.

A friend of mine was telling me he’d just bought a second-hand car. “Only cost me $1000, (shrug) but it gets me where I’m going—to the poorhouse.” Just to show you how au courant I am, money-wise, my first thought was, “Gee, that’s a lot to pay for a car.”

Of course, you have to realize I’m the fellow who still thinks $3.00 is a lot to pay for a man’s tie, and a $5.00 dress shirt is top of the line.

I told a friend of mine the other day that I was thinking of buying a suit. I felt I needed one, it’s been so long. Actually, I already have a suit (who needs more than one? I mean, you can only wear one at a time, right? Unless you’re smuggling suits). It’s an Eaton’s suit. Bought it back in the early 1980s. I think it cost a hundred-odd dollars. Good suit. But this time I wanted a really good suit, price no object, $200, even $250 if necessary, for good quality. My friend is still rolling around on the floor, laughing his head off.

Men’s shirt, suit, and tie from the 1980s, still remarkably up-to-date, illustrating the durability of men’s “taste” in clothing. Or perhaps I should say the designers’ idea of what men should be wearing.

But it makes me apprehensive, thinking about that rare hundred-dollar bill, and knowing that I’d get no change at all from it after buying even a marked-down shirt. And ties? (Sneer) Thirty dollars will only get you a cravat you’d use to wash the floor, and a $2000 suit is virtually off-the-rack.

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My wife was a member of The Costume Society of Ontario, and as such she received their quarterly Journal. At one time the publication carried an article on hand-knitted gloves (is there a veiled pun in there somewhere …?). These were not ordinary mittens like kids wear on a winter day, with the cord going up the sleeves from one mitt to the other to prevent loss. No, these gloves were dress gloves; there’s no other word for them. Not for royal receptions, perhaps, but very definitely “dressed to the nines” gloves. Even I — who never touches a knitting needle except to punch holes in paper when I’m too lazy to look for the 3-hole punch — even I found the article fascinating, as the author traced the arcane designs back to some isolated hovel in the Orkney Islands of 150 years ago.

Catchers’ mitts for Girls’ Softball Leagues

I wonder sometimes, when I have absolutely nothing to do, about the origin of gloves. For warmth? In the colder latitudes, when you lost a hand to advanced frostbite, you quickly saw the beauty and utility of gloves. Wise people, considering warmth, subsequently rejected the five-finger variety and developed the mitten of the mid-1300s.

Warriors would have recognized the benefit of heavy gloves garnished by metal greave-like plates across the upper parts of the fingers. The Middle Ages saw greaves protecting the shin, and even a moderately smart warrior would have taken the idea a step further to protect his fingers, after seeing Charlie, subject of a vicious enemy sword-thrust, lose his fingers (and not incidentally his life, and the battle).

When buying, insist on a 20% discount (only half the fingers)

The whole idea of gloves spread quickly from one creative mind to another: The Regency fop adopted intricately embroidered gloves to keep his delicate hands clean; today’s medical profession uses latex gloves to protect themselves against us and our germs (though an uncharitable person might suggest that the reverse is quite as valid); and just try taking those broken branches and brambles out to the curb for the chipper using your bare hands. Fashionable ladies even introduced what might be called a “reverse-engineered” glove by removing the fingers altogether for dexterity and (for manipulative women) greater manipulation. Even unfashionable women have adopted the same type of fingerless glove so they can enjoy their cigarette while standing outside the office freezing to death on a cold winter day. And to suggest to a six-foot-three 250-pound baseball catcher with a lot of attitude that his glove should rightfully be called a “mitten” … well, if you want to tell him, go ahead. Better you than me.

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