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The Art of Pattern Mixing

The good news is to dress well anyone with polite awareness, common sense and some effort can escape fashion scorn.  The bad news, dressing well is to go beyond, and does require much familiarity with sartorial influences.  But not difficult, dressing well is an acquired skill honed with practice.  Foundational,  understanding design elements and their unique relationships to each other; color at least an elementary understanding for most of us, texture a bit esoteric, understanding pattern mixing, a must. Style sophistication is inherently no more appealing with multiple patterns than dress of a simple elegance, but dressing would become rather boring without no pattern introduction.      

So, here we go, first, the history.  As with most enduring styles of today the Prince of Wales introduced America to a casual elegance identified mostly by his affinity for mixing an array of checks, stripes plaids and royal prints.  Having acquired his fashion aplomb as relief from the stiff, formal fastidious dress of royal attire.  And, preferring to spend considerable time with the English aristocracy on their country estates.  The dress of the day reflecting an outdoor lifestyle.  Royal hunting lodges and estates introducing a culture of fabrics, tartans, tweeds, plaids, argyles, and district checks worn by the hosts and guest in an affected but deliberately casual elegance.

First, articles of clothing we will harmonize by the mixing of patterns.  Our canvas begins with our jacket (the trouser, with few exceptions is subordinated to a silent complimentary roll), then the furnishings and accessories we choose to compliment the jacket thereafter.  The most common composition in the mixing of pattern apparel has always been the suit, dress shirt and necktie.  And for the enthusiast a pocket square and socks should not be forgotten in the ensemble.  Today with the necktie reduced in its prominence, the odd jacket, sport shirt composition, with the enthusiast never without the natty  detail of a pocket square, most common.

You may have noted, the trouser seems to be an afterthought. No, only in need of some clarity. The trouser, should it be the patterned mate of a suit jacket, would have a roll in our composition, and the pattern sock applicable to the rules of design to follow.  Similarly, an odd trouser of a pattern design and the pairing of pattern socks.  Or an odd trouser with no pattern paired with a sock in a bolder either color, pattern, or both.  Mindful of all the design rules to follow, most pattern mistakes are made with socks and easily corrupt all your efforts.  Finally, not an absolute, but may I suggest no pattern mixing for the trouser and shirt.     

To simplify the art of pattern mixing let us begin with the most forgiving, other than solids of course, the easiest patterns to understand, mixing two stripes.  Always vary the scale of the patterns…one being noticeably different from the other.  An example, the suit Jacket a wider space, the dress shirt a narrower space, and if you choose a stripe for the necktie, bolder.  Of the three never similar spacing or design.

Next, mixing checks and plaids each requiring a bit more understanding and thought.  While stripes are designs naturally compatible , checks paired together and plaids paired together, well, let us just not risk.  However, checks paired with plaids, a sartorial favorite.  And, a reminder of scale mentioned above, perhaps even more important in this mix.  We should also introduce at this time the importance of color compatibility.  While contrasting color (two different colors together) can be appealing and most interesting, rather than harmony, please know, the possibility of discord as well.  Again, the risk exceeds the reward…a more conservative tonal color choice wins the day when mixing checks and plaids.

Further, exceptions and contradictions are both found when mixing two different patterns (stripes, checks, plaids etc.).  While varying scale differentiates two like patterns, similar scale must be used to harmonize unlike patterns.  Considering our canvas, a bold design paired with an unlike pattern should be paired with a bold design of equal scale.  Also, helpful to the harmony are the colors chosen, preferably reflecting a color continuity.  However, a contradiction, two unlike small patterns paired, are once again in need of varying scale, and the colors chosen also to reflect a color continuity.

Finally, the challenge of mixing three patterns.  Truly a risk reward proposition…successful, and your best dressed in the room.  Essential to your success, is all three patterns must differ.  To harmonize, the scale should be similar for each pattern, complimented with a color continuity.

Enjoy some time in study.  Develop a working knowledge of fashion, practice, it is fun, it is rewarding.  Dress well.

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Never underestimate the power of what you wear

Suits, in the beginning thought to originate from the seventeenth century.  A costume nightmare of long coats, waistcoats, cravats, breeches, stockings and of course wigs.  Legend or fact, before re-ascending the throne, King Charles while exiled to European travels was impressed by the various Courts of Europe, particularly the Parisian’s and their dressing splendor.  By decree King Charles is said to have set executive standards of dress.  Thus, assumed either by the decree or influence of the Kings dress, also the British Court’s fashion of the day.

Beau Brummell, a nineteenth century cosmopolitan fellow by nature, rejected the fuss of dressing in favor of a simpler elegance, designing a fitted two-piece ensemble, jacket and trousers of matching fabrics (todays suit).  Absent nobility, yet an original dandy, and somehow a mover and shaker of nineteenth century English court life,  could not help, but  to be noticed by society’s elite.  His appealing style, befriended by the Prince (who would become King George 1V), understood the look as an understated statement of confidence and standing.  A statement in which resonates as well today.

From these prehistory beginnings American colonist certainly aware of the fashion, continued to be influenced by a more evolved European society.  As such the Beau Brummell creation of what was known as a lounge suit, a casual garment for the elite and dressed-up for the working class soon became a symbol of American establishment.  Easy to wear, the suit offered a polished and professional appearance to all.  The suit today, generally consider worn as an expression of more serious intentions and respect for one’s workplace or host.  An elevated level of dress, second only to evening formal (Tuxedo) or State Affairs (Tails). 

However, changes in the form of the suit have been many.  To be sure the fashion industry, has on occasion made mistakes in suit design (we will address this another time), but more often changes in suit design represent the cultural sensibilities of the day: the industrial age, the roaring twenties, the golden age of cinema, the war years, 50’s conformity, the last impactful design changes 80’s materialism, the dressing down plague, and the costumed new millennium…super skinny 60’s rocker style, Thom Browne’s Pee-Wee Herman tribute, Mad Men cloning, the introduction of the elegance of Northern Italy (thank goodness), and the overzealous personal style extending  competition to off the floor.  Changes today, more subtle…the current prevailing trend, like it or not a tighter fitting suit.  That too will likely change.

But rest assured despite the threats from fashion and a continuing dressing down plague, the strength and commanding presence of this iconic fashion endures.  Welcome to the social contract by which we all should understand, not obligated, but unwritten rules for dress that quite simply offer a bit more joy to life.  Never underestimate the power of what you wear.  It pays to dress well.

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Our Thoughts, History of the Navy Blazer

Debate if you will the origin of one of our most enduring styles, the navy blazer… whether the romantic story of Queen Victory reviewing the crew of the  HMS Blazer; so inspired by the dapper nature of the crew in their dark navy tailored woolen jackets with shiny brass buttons…declared on the spot, henceforth the jacket style be known as a blazer.  Ultimately this standardized dress worn by Officers in the British Royal Navy is credited to have evolved from something of a style competition between crews of the HMS Blazer and Harlequin Navy ships out of frustration by the Captains with the otherwise sloppy dress of their crew.

Or, you may ascribe the origin to the more generally accepted historically accurate account tracing the name to the bright (blazing) red jackets worn by members of the rowing club at St. Johns College, Cambridge, England.  Worn for warmth, but moreover to identify rowers of a team competing in regattas.  Call it fast fashion of the day, the jackets blazing of color so nicknamed “blazers” are soon worn daily as a status symbol of membership and accomplishment.  Some believe the predecessor to the Letterman’s jacket…hence an historical debate.  A Naval origin or sporting, nevertheless, can we agree, both come from water.

Without debate, American style at the turn of the century is heavily influenced by our British allies, the blazer too was no exception.  Most prominently influenced, an American aristocracy, and thus those who aspired to such standing also influenced.  First appearing on American shores during the great depression the blazer was embraced by only those who could, the pre-eminent Brooks Brothers and the unspoken training ground for future American elite, the Ivy League.  The blazer rapidly became “de rigueur” fashion for the privileged of the day and for those outside this elite group, a symbol of perhaps belonging.

So, here we are today…the blazer a renaissance of attire, true classicism surely endures.  We would suggest, preferably a deep rich navy, fabrics for each season or for all seasons, distinctive, purposeful button choices, and always well-tailored.  Wear with a jean should you feel creative, a knit tie, if so influenced by Italian artisans, or a timeless expression, grey flannels, dress shirt and appropriate blazer striped neckwear for more serious intentions.

Again, debate if you will the origin, the pretense, the conformity and move beyond.  Be wise, a blazer always should hang in your wardrobe, ready to ease you gracefully through society’s travels.  If absent, welcome back for one simple reason:  nothing looks better.    

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Let Them Wear Scarves

Scarves have been worn since ancient times. evidence found in writings, images and statues. historians tell us.  Historical research determined (the Sudarium, Latin for sweat cloth) worn around the neck, or tied on the belt served to towel perspiration for hygiene through cleanliness, maintaining health and preventing disease.

Much later historians believed the scarf was utilized as a uniform accessory to identify officers rank.  (Cravats) the precursor to the present-day necktie a more formal design of the scarf and prominent in military uniforms around the world share the same purpose as well as a detail in formal military dress in the US.  It is this very identification purpose which Britain adopted similarly as traditional sporting wear as a show of support to the local athletic team.  And by extension could be argued has led to a billion-dollar sports apparel industry.   

Many more uses have surfaced over the years.  Most notably the use of scarves (also known as mufflers) in cold weather climates.  Generally, a thick yarned knitted scarf made of heavy wool tied around the neck and or wrapped around the face and ears for cover from the cold.

Drier, dustier climates where many airborne contaminants exist, a kerchief or bandana is often worn as protection for the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as a protector from harmful rays of the sun and heat.  

Religion also plays a defining role.  Christian denominations include a scarf known as a stole, part of the Liturgical vestments. And, earlier social customs preferred the wearing of head scarves as a modest symbol as well as determining marital status.  Many Western religions today although varied, as a matter of law, require headscarves for both men and women as part of a religious service, prayer and a prevailing social culture expecting a display of modesty by wearing the headscarf.

It is these customs that overtime, scarves evolved into fashionable accessory as a choice for dress rather than a cultural demand.  And, by the twentieth century have become an essential accessory detail for the well dressed, both men and women.

Scarves are varied in size from just long and wide enough to wrap around the neck, to cover both neck face, ears and head, to small blanket sized for stoles and shawls.  Fabrics are solids and patterns, plain or jacquard knitted and woven by machine or hand, made of the most common fabrics to the most luxurious cottons, linens, silks and wools and generally found in three shapes triangle, square or rectangle.  These fabrics, rather than only a knitted or woven design, are also printed.  Prints, a more expensive process, are most often found in women’s couture silks.

As antiquity speaks to the intent and usefulness of the scarf, could there be any better use than for today’s health challenge?  Rather than leaving the house, uncomfortable with the surgical mask, please donate and opt for a more fashionable choice; grab your favorite scarf.  Whether sartorial choices, uniformed expectations, religious and social symbolism or healthy practices…” let them wear scarves”.   

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Health, Happiness, Goodwill, & Prosperity

A lifestyle change to be sure. Mindful, most importantly of health protocols, the health of our loved ones and our friends, we are also mindful of the importance in daily familiarity, joy and happiness in our routine.

Our routine, is to be available to you. Store hours or beyond, should you have a clothing need or just to say hello, please know, we’re here for your convenience.

We all will overcome. Wishing you the best.

Steve

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Nonesuch

Written by: Greg Elwell

Stylish Eats reviews are brought to you by Steven Giles Clothing, the menswear store for those with discerning taste. Style extends well beyond the confines of clothing, so Steven Giles is teaming up with I Ate Oklahoma to bring you reviews of eateries with a refined palate across the state.

During my most recent meal at Nonesuch, I turned to my dinner date and said, “I’m not sure if this is a restaurant.”

It is, of course. There are seats and there’s a long, U-shaped table, and there are chefs and plates and silverware and food and wine and you have to pay. 

It’s a restaurant, but it’s also not the usual the kind of restaurant. Nonesuch isn’t a place you go on a whim. With ticket prices at $110 each (add $60 or $80 per person for wine pairings), most of us cannot pop in at the spur of the moment. And even if we could, there’s the small matter of getting seats. While Nonesuch doesn’t sell out months beforehand like it used to, there are still a limited number of seats per night and you must purchase your tickets in advance—the preparation and quality of the food demand it. 

I also feel weird calling the dishes at Nonesuch a “meal.” It is edible, nutritious food, certainly, and it is filling—but don’t expect leftovers. And it’s not as if you order anything other than another glass of wine, if you so choose, because everything is planned out for you by the staff before you arrive. 

Brassica with vegetable demi glace

While you may crave certain bites after the fact, you can’t go back and order them, because you don’t order anything. You buy a ticket and you take the ride.

It is ultimately futile to try to classify Nonesuch, because it is its own, beautiful, weird, wonderful little slice of Oklahoma. It’s not for everybody. It’s probably not for most people. But it’s for me. Boy howdy, is it directly up my culinary alley. And while we’ll talk a little about specific dishes, this isn’t going to be that kind of review, because Nonesuch isn’t that kind of restaurant. 

Instead, I want to tell you about what it’s like to sit on those stools and why it’s an experience I try to relive as often as possible.

The Experience

First things first, you head to exploretock.com/nonesuch on your Internet device and you figure out when you’d like to go. Nonesuch is open Wednesday through Saturday each week with seatings starting at 5:30 p.m. all the way through 9 p.m. Once you’ve found your day and time, you can add a wine pairing if you want, or a non-alcoholic drink pairing, spring water, or nothing. A wine pairing adds a lot to the experience, but it’s still amazing without the wine—I’m not going to pretend $60 or $80 added onto the price isn’t a lot for me, but your mileage may vary. 

Cauliflower and leek tart

Once it’s booked…you wait. I found myself glancing at my calendar again and again in the days leading up to it, eager to make sure I didn’t somehow screw up the time or whatever. 

When the big day finally arrives, you can dress just about however you want. Nonesuch is there to impress you with food, not be impressed by your outfit. Walk in, check in with whoever is working the door, and they’ll take you to your seats. 

As the courses are prepared, whichever chef made it will serve it to you and tell you about the dish. Other than the eating, this is my favorite part. This is what Nonesuch is about. They could stay back in the kitchen, sending out increasing esoteric dishes with hard-to-follow instructions for eating—“Gently rub the emulsified carrot marshmallow against your back teeth without chewing while sniffing the pine-infused tea, which you should not drink.”—but they don’t. They explain everything to you. All the ingredients, including where they come from. How they prepared it and why. Sometimes there are eating instructions, but they’re not very weird. They just want to make sure you enjoy everything to the fullest.

Tea-smoked root vegetable with pecan cream

I think I would have a nervous breakdown working at Nonesuch. I think the pressure of being “The Best New Restaurant in America” is insane in a normal restaurant, but in a tasting menu joint in Oklahoma City, where they’ve dedicated themselves to hyper-local, hyper-seasonal foods with a menu that changes regularly…I don’t know how they do it. But more than that, I don’t know how they’ve kept their sense of whimsy.

Because that is something that’s lost in the all the hubbub: Nonesuch is fun. When the first course came out, with lots of tiny plates and lots of tiny bites, it was introduced as the “Snack Attack.” And it lived up to the name, with five types of insanely intricate foods to be eaten in one or two bites. Haute cuisine snacking. It’s…moving.

I straight up ate one of these sugar cubes

One of the last times I’d eaten at Nonesuch, it was with an old friend who had just returned from a decade in Europe. She cried as she ate. Tears of joy. A well of emotion so full at what had become of her old home while she was abroad that she couldn’t help but let the tears flow. 

This time (and, frankly, every time), I giggled. I was giddy with the prospect of tasting bison tartare with sweet potato crisp. I snickered over the beet cake with seasoned toma. The skill they put into making these snacks, the evident joy sitting in front of you as the chef gleefully explains what they’ve made—how can you not let that feeling wash over you?

Barbecued quail with grilled greens

Here are a few other notes from the night: 

The tomato with bison broth was light and sweet and I wish it came by the bucket. 

The brassica with vegetable demi glace was gorgeous and the demi glace gravy was ridiculously beefy for something that has no meat in it at all. 

I never showed him a weapon, but I basically held Jeremy Wolfe up at butterknifepoint to get an extra sweet potato roll. If only I was more menacing, so I could get more toasted wheatberry butter.

When they served the warm spicy melon tea, they gave us cups with just homemade spicy sugar cubes and we ate those before they came back to pour the tea. I am not sure who was more embarrassed, but I think it was me. 

Tea-smoked root vegetables with pecan cream convinced me that everything needs to be smoked with tea. 

Barbecued quail > barbecued chicken and it’s not even close.

Bison tartare sweet potato crisp

I told you this wasn’t going to be a typical review, but Nonesuch isn’t a typical restaurant and I don’t know that there’s any “typical” experience there. But if you love food and you love challenging your palate and you love being surprised and delighted, then a trip to Nonesuch should be in your future. I’m planning my next visit now.

Stylish Eats are sponsored by Steven Giles Clothing, a high-end men’s fashion store in Classen Curve providing expertly tailored suits, timeless casual wear and everything in between. Visit them online at stevengilesclothing.com to schedule a fitting or stop in at 5850 N. Classen Blvd. to browse their selection in person.