Retro Leather Jackets – Recreating Automotive Fashion History

Spending the better part of 40+ years with a variety of major fashion retailers, I have learned some certain truths. Along with the inevitability of death and taxes is the truth that , in fashion, what had gone around comes around again. The cycle is usually generational. For some reason, every 40 years the essence of the hot fashion of the time is revived and given the title “Retro”. It was only natural, that with the upsurge in Vintage Automobile collecting and racing, some of the hot fashion associated with with the era of the 1960’s / 1970’s would start showing up about now – and also inevitable that there would be a large appeal to a younger, non automotive related audience.

First comes the fabric. Leather jackets have always been cool, but when worn by Marlon Brando and his motorcycle gang, Jimmy Dean in his Porsche 550, Steve McQueen “The King of Cool” in the Great Escape – “cool” had a new meaning. Leather in jackets relating to automobiles, modern and vintage, is back with a vengeance. Next comes the style. When I was buying jackets back in the late 60’s / early 70’s there was one style designed for “cool ” drivers and its generic name was the descriptive name of the company – “Style Auto”. Literally thousands of dozens of this style in a variety of fabric were made. It’s baaaack.

Tony “a2z racer” Adamowicz, working from his original 1970 collection of jackets has produced and is marketing an improved retro Top Grain Leather Jacket that captures the essence of the original. Perfect for both the new and old Porsche, Corvette, BMW, Shelby Mustang GT500, etc. Tony, who just had a podium finish at Infineon Raceway in his 40 year old 1969 F5000 Championship car, said that he will also be designing this Satin Lined, Leather Jacket in other fabrics including Corduroy and Nylon Cire. Tony plans to be styling in his vintage Datsun 240Z. I plan to follow suit in my 65 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. Niche market to mainstream continues to be the mantra for retro design.

Fashion History – Clothing of the Middle Ages in Western Europe

The Middle Ages encompasses the time from the Fall of the Roman Empire in 400 CE until the beginning of the Renaissance, around 1500 CE.

Clothing of the Early Middle Ages, or Dark Ages, was basically a tunic and under tunic, both sewn from a cross shaped piece of fabric that was folded and hand stitched. Later, the tunic was cut in two pieces, then four piece for a better fit.

Peasants and serfs made their clothes at home of wool and hemp. The shearing, and cleaning of the wool; the spinning, and weaving was a long drawn out chore before the invention of the spinning wheel and the horizontal loom. But the garment were durable and long lasting. One garment could last a life time.

While the upper classes and aristocracy wore basically the same type of clothing, their under tunics were made of linen which was made for them by workers. Upper class women sewed tunics at home and some were made by professional tailors.

Due to the loss of trade that followed the end of the Roman Empire, trade was minimal, so the importation of fine fabrics was expensive and rare. But finer weaves, borders, and embellishments made for better clothing for the elite.

After the invention of the horizontal loom and spinning wheel, the manufacture of clothing became easier. These technological improvements made finer clothing more available and affordable. The Crusades introduced silk, damask, and other luxurious fabrics and designs into Europe. And when Marco Polo’s adventures heralded a new interest in the Far East, trade increased, creating greater availability of textiles, design ideas, and new patterned fabric to Europe.

Clothing worn by the nobility and merchants began to change, introducing the concept of fashion. While the Church dictated certain aspects of dress for modesty, such as veils for women, alterations in the in the types of fabrics used varied the styles that became popular. Women wore veils made of sheer muslin, interwoven with golden threads. Gowns became more ornate with variations in the neckline, sleeves, and hem lengths.

The establishment of guilds and improvements in the manufacture of clothing created an upwardly mobile middle class able to emulate the clothing styles of the upper class. New styles emerged including the elaborate head dresses of the later Middle Ages. The head dresses that looked like horns were wildly popular for a generation, as was the classic fairy tale princess style of hat called a hennin. A hennin was a tall, conical hat worn with a veil, a style much identified with the Middle Ages.

The later Middle Ages saw women’s gowns grow trains, and sleeves elongated so that long flaps reached the ground.

The changing of style and middle class interest in emulating the clothing styles of the elite created what we think of today as fashion.

Costume and Fashion History of Jewelry

In the ancient times, gold was in great demand for making jewelry. Gold was rare, it would not get dull and the best part was that it was flexible; therefore it was quite easy to make various designs out of it. Fantastic necklaces, diadems, bracelets, earrings, pendants, armlets, head ornaments, rings, pectoral ornaments and collars created out of gold were all manufactured in ancient Egypt.

You must be aware that ancient Egypt was the land of the Pharaohs. In the year 1922, Howard Carter in one of his excavations stumbled upon the grand discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb along with a lot of gold funerary relics; each and every piece depicted the work of art that was prevalent in ancient Egypt. Then comes the Gold and Gems that was available in Greece in the 1400 BC era.

During the ancient times in Greece, beads that were in the shape of natural forms such as beetles, flowers and shells were created on a huge scale. Gorgeous and fragile earrings and necklaces were discovered in burial locations in parts of Northern Greece. By 300 BC, the Greeks were busy manufacturing multi colored jewelry and they made use of pearls, emeralds, amethysts and garnets.

In addition, they made use of materials like enamel, colored stones and glass. They also created carved cameos of Indian Sardonyx together with filigree gold work. Indian Sardonyx basically is a brown pink and cream agate stone with stripes. Beads were manufactured in a method by sticking two flat pieces of gold together and packing them up with sand. Now let us know about the magnificent Italian Gold and striking Roman Coinage.

During the Eight century BC, the Italian Etruscans in the Tuscany region manufactured gold work that had a texture of granules. They manufactured huge earrings, necklaces, bracelets and fibulae or clasps. In addition to all this they manufactured pendants that were unique. These pendants were created to be hollow so that perfume could be filled in it. To this day and age the Italians are well known for their excellent quality as well as stylish fashion of manufacturing gorgeous designs in gold.

The Romans used to make use of 18 and 24 carat gold in coinage. The coinage happened to be the craftsman’s raw material for ornamental jewel work, as it was quite easily accessible. Some 2000 years back, the Romans used to make use of sapphires brought in from Sri Lanka, amber, cloudy emeralds, Indian diamond crystals and garnets. When England was ruled by the Romans, fossilized wood known as jet from the North of England was shaped into remarkable pieces. Then there was the Pearls and Gems Authentic and Artificial Jewelry.

Jewels at all times have been made use of as symbols of love. Excellent quality gems and precious metals were used to make good quality artificial jewelry in order to trick people into buying them instead of the authentic ones. Authentic pearls and gemstones were brought in from the east and the Italians were the ones who mainly purchased them. The Italian traders after that went on to sell the merchandise in Europe.