Dandy & Rose

Bespoke Western Shirts, Handmade in England


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Happy New Year!

Around the world, 2016 has been in many ways a strange, sad and alarming year  .

But looking back on my own year brings many good memories and moments of achievement. I survived the grilling that came with passing the halfway point of my PhD and had a productive – and fun- research trip to Nashville. A definite high point was having a Dandy & Rose shirt put on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s ‘Featured Western Wear Designer’ exhibit. It’s such an honour: I don’t think I’ll get my head around it until I see it in person, which I hope to do in 2017.

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I wrote a lot of words and made a lot of shirts in 2016.

Now for 2017!

Wishing followers of this blog a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!


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Two Berry Classics

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Jim Lauderdale’s shirt in Liberty’s print ‘Wiltshire Berry’

Last week I was in something of a panic because this shirt had dropped off the postal radar: last recorded as leaving Heathrow, the US postal service had no record of it. But in a minor Christmas miracle, it reappeared on its way from New York to Nashville on Monday and arrived just in time for Jim Lauderdale to wear it on the festive edition of Music City Roots, the weekly live radio show he hosts, a couple of days ago.

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I always think this red colourway of Liberty’s classic print ‘Wiltshire Berry’, shouts ‘CHRISTMAS’. I have given it green piping and a celebratory mix of green and red snaps.

At the end of the show, Jim led the jam session that closes Music City Roots in the Chuck Berry classic ‘Johnny B. Goode’. I’m sure the pun was unintended but – well, a classic berry fabric and a classic Berry tune: what could be more pleasing?

Click here to watch a video clip of the jam.

 


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I’m a Shirt

I’ve been home from Nashville for just over a week now. It was my longest visit yet – almost a month, ending with the week of the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference  – and I have so many memories. I’ll be writing about the music I heard in the November issue of Country Music People, but I have also been reflecting on some Dandy & Rose highlights.

This year’s AMA week was extra-special for my best customer, the singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. As usual he was everywhere – sharing wisdom on conference panels, performing his songs solo and with a fabulous band, and playing the genial host at the Honors and Award Show at the Ryman Auditorium; he was also presented with the Wagonmaster Award for Lifetime Achievement by the country star George Strait, who has recorded 14 of Jim’s songs. It was quite a moment and I was thrilled to be able to witness it.

One of my own favourite moments of the week came the next day, when I attended a conference panel on songwriting given by Jim, Lori McKenna and Radney Foster.

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I was surprised, when Jim took his seat, to see that he was wearing one of the first Dandy & Rose shirts he ever bought, back at the end of 2012.

It’s made from a Liberty print called ‘Dragonista’, a kind of psychedelic oriental vision, with men in traditional Chinese dress riding dragons, interspersed with random antique pots. I am specially fond of it; I feel it was the shirt that kicked Dandy & Rose into life, starting when Paste Magazine tweeted that Jim and Buddy Miller were “the two best-dressed men in Austin” during SXSW 2013. Jim told me that he got a big reaction to the shirt whenever he wore it. Later in the year, he wore it for his appearance on ABC’s ‘Nashville’. You can see that appearance here

YouTube – Nashville: Scarlett’s Opry debut

If I made the shirt today, it would probably look a little different, but I love it and am proud of it just the same.

But my favourite thing about this shirt is that it was the subject of my only ever press review. Well, to be fair, it was Jim’s review. My work was only reviewed by association. But it still counts!

In 2014, Ann Powers opened her review of Jim’s ‘I’m A Song’ like this:

“I recently ran into Jim Lauderdale at a party in Nashville, and I couldn’t tell if his shirt was made of silk or cotton. Covered in fiery little dragons that seemed to flit around inside its piped seams, it was a beauty. Lauderdale told me it was made of breathable material and that it came from London. Its cheerfully theatrical boldness exemplified the style of the Grand Ole Opry, too, with a cosmopolitan and slightly ironic twist.

Lauderdale’s music is like that shirt: immediately charming, with flashy touches that complement smoothly executed subtleties.”

For a start, it was a brilliant piece of journalism and I wished I had written it. And then, I loved that Ann had compared my work with Jim’s music, which I have loved for so long, and even more what she had said about it. I have always admired his ability to take his vocal, musical and imaginative gifts, polish them, add a lot of technical skill, then do something wacky with them. I once heard him described as a ‘creative technician’ and the phrase immediately chimed. That’s what I, in my much less impressive way, would like to be, too. I loved Ann’s idea of flashy subtlety, as well: my shirts may be brightly coloured and boldly patterned but I aim for a refinement of taste and skill, enough to complement the detailed work of the brilliant textile designers whose work I rely on. I was so touched and amazed to read that she had seen that in the shirt I had made, that she had ‘got’ what it was about, and articulated it better than I could have myself.

So on that day in Nashville a few weeks ago, when I realised that the reason for the ‘Dragonista’ shirt’s reappearance was that the panel was to be chaired by Ann Powers, I was delighted. I made sure to go and speak with her afterwards and thank her for her words. I told her that because they meant so much to me, I had made them into a poster that I keep on the wall in the Dandy & Rose workroom.

PowerPoint Presentation

There  were three new additions to Jim’s Dandy & Rose wardrobe this year.

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He was out and about in these, and in some other favourites during the week. I specially loved seeing him wear his new passion flower shirt for his 125th appearance on The Grand Ole Opry.

And of course, I took the opportunity to pose alongside him whenever I could!

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Tulip Mania

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London's art nouveau Tulip print 'Ten Six' 7

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London’s art nouveau Tulip print ‘Ten Six’ back yoke

I was a little sad to see the tulips pass from my garden a couple of weeks ago. They are so exotic, with their  vibrant, polished petals and encompassing shape. No wonder that, when they were first introduced to Europe from the Islamic world in the sixteenth century, they were considered  precious objects of status. In the 1630s their value boomed so high that a phenomenon known as ‘tulipmania’ happened, with frenzied trading making many Dutch merchants enormously rich; when the ‘Tulip Bubble’ burst, they lost everything.

But anyway, never mind the history lesson. Here’s a shirt. It is made from an art nouveau style Liberty print representing tulips. It comes from last year’s Spring/Summer range, but it’s based on a furnishing design from the 1890s. So elegant.

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London's art nouveau Tulip print 'Ten Six' 6

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London’s art nouveau Tulip print ‘Ten Six’

It’s always difficult to decide what to do with a favourite print in a favourite colourway. Some red piping might have been nice, but I really wanted to see those tulips bending in the breeze, so I have gone with my first instinct – to cut the yokes on the bias.

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London's art nouveau Tulip print 'Ten Six' (2)

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London’s art nouveau Tulip print ‘Ten Six’

The shirt has short sleeves, which I have faced with plain pale blue fabric to match the leaves in the print. The pocket flaps are faced in the same fabric, but that will be the wearer’s secret till he lifts them to put something in his pocket. The topstitching is in the same pale blue colour. The pearl snaps are grey.

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London's art nouveau Tulip print 'Ten Six'

Short Sleeved shirt in Liberty London’s art nouveau Tulip print ‘Ten Six’

It has turned out so sharp and snappy, I just had to photograph it with that top pearl snap done up!


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On angels’ wings

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This print by Liberty of London, Eben, was inspired by the wings of angels depicted in fifteenth century manuscripts, like this one in the margin of Les Grandes Heures de Rohan.

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Angel, Grandes Heures de Rohan, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Circa 1430.

All power to the monk who painted the angel above, he did a great job and everything, but I think he forgot to colour in the wings.

Still, we’ve put that right now.

I think this might be the most colourful shirt I have ever made. It’s winging its way to Nashville and its new owner, Jim Lauderdale.


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Twinkle, twinkle….

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

For the first show of Music City Roots’ Fall season, host Jim Lauderdale showed off both a new bluegrass song and a new Dandy & Rose shirt.

The song, a sprightly number, is called Don’t Count Me Out and he opened the show with it – the video is here:

http://new.livestream.com/MusicCityRoots/live/videos/64354366

The print is new too, from Liberty’s Autumn/Winter 2014 range. It’s called  ‘Midnight’.

It’s one of my favourites ever, with its dazzling details and darkly beautiful colouring. I finished the shirt with a fancy stitch and sneaked in a burgundy collar stand – we all need a little warmth next to our face at this time of year!

Liberty say that the design was ‘hand drawn in ink on tracing paper’ then shaded with graphic pens; it was inspired by the night sky over the Isle of Bute in Scotland – hence the twinkling, exploding, shooting stars in amongst the paisleys.

There are four colourways. Liberty printed them on denim as well as on the tana lawn that I used for Jim’s shirt. A few days ago I was in Liberty’s Regent Street store and couldn’t resist buying a metre of denim in that hot orange and pink colourway – I plan to make myself a skirt as soon as I’ve got a couple of hours to spare!


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How very Gram

It’s Americana Music Association week in Nashville, and although I haven’t made it over this year, I have sent a few shirts out there to represent Dandy & Rose. And I’ve just seen one of them make its debut live on Music City Roots’ livestream.

Music City Roots on Livestream

http://new.livestream.com/MusicCityRoots/live

Host Jim Lauderdale’s shirt is  in ‘Poppyseed Dreams’ from the Liberty Autumn/Winter 2014 fabric collection. It seemed to call his name – the poppies made me think of Jim’s musical hero Gram Parsons’ famous ‘Sin City’ Nudie suit

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I love that warm orange in the Liberty print,  mixed in with the vibrant purple. Liberty say that the design incorporates the Indian spices  ‘pepper, cardamom and vanilla’ along with the poppies and is inspired by Indian textiles and by The British Museum’s recent exhibition ‘The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur’.

 

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati


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Willows and Roses

O how I love floral prints!

So I’m chuffed that I got to use this Liberty classic, Willow Rose, in two completely different ways recently.

At the beginning of the summer, the singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale asked me to keep my eyes peeled for suitable prints in blue, his favourite colour for the festival season. I came up with a few ideas, but a week or so later I was shopping in Shaukat, a Liberty print specialist in West London, and spotted this beauty. I knew it was the one! It’s a giant version of the classic ‘Willow Rose’.

I love that greeny-yellow flower in amongst the dark blues and bought some pearl snaps to match it. But as the shirt came together, it took on an altogether more subtle identity. I followed Jim’s usual ‘no piping’ instruction, but I sneaked in a little decorative stitch in a dusty aqua thread that perfectly matched one of the greens in the print. I think I got away with it, because he’s been wearing it!

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Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

 

And so then the snaps too chose to be green. I love the shirt and think he looks the cat’s pyjamas in it.

Here’s Jim wearing his ‘Willow Rose’ and doing an acoustic version of Let’s Have A Good Thing Together, from his new album I’m a Song. 

 

I think the couplet in that song, ‘The magistrate of fate has spoken/ Laws of attraction can’t be broken’ are some of my favourite ever Lauderdale lines.

While I was making Jim’s shirt  I received an email from Jane De Vekey, who, along with her partner Darren Smith, is in the Bournemouth based band Thin Wire Fence.  She knew that Darren loved Dandy & Rose shirts and wanted to surprise him by ordering one for him. It’s always so nice to be a part of these special gifts. Jane had been taking secret notes on which shirts Darren admired the most. She had trawled the Liberty website and, by coincidence, picked out a blue and red colourway of Willow Rose, this time in the more usual smaller scale. We put together a blue shirt with contrast yokes. I was lucky enough to find fabric the exact shade of lilac-y blue in my stash, and used it to make piping. Then I put a red jewel snap right where it could be seen from the stage.

Darren looks great in the shirt, as you can see from the photos of him performing with Thin Wire Fence at The Smokin’ Aces in Bournemouth.


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Home from Nashville

It’s been a while since my last post!

I guess I must have been in recovery mode after my very exciting trip to the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference in Nashville back in September. And I’ve been catching up with shirt orders (photographs to follow!) as well as working on some features for Country Music People magazine.

It was my fourth AMA week and as always, it was jam-packed with goodies! It’s always a brilliant, inspiring musical week and though I come back exhausted, the memories make up for it. My report on the event will be in November’s Country Music People magazine.

http://www.countrymusicpeople.co.uk/

Quite apart from my journalistic duties, I got to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum to see their wonderful Bakersfield exhibition, where amongst many other things, the cream of their collection of clothes made by the great western tailor Nathan Turk were on display. Turk is a little neglected – sidelined by his more flamboyant contemporary, Nudie – but his work is truly beautiful.

Here’s the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ suit he made for Fred Maddox of The Maddox Family Band – known in their day as ‘The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band in America.’

fred grapes of wrath

With my Dandy & Rose hat on (what does my Dandy & Rose hat look like? I must work on that) I got to make some new friends,  and to see my very special customer Jim Lauderdale host the AMA Honors and Awards Show at The Ryman Auditorium while wearing one of my shirts. From the collection I had taken along, he chose this one in the Liberty fans-and-ribbons print, ‘Wendy Woo’:

Just between you and me, I was hoping ruffles would be involved, but when I saw Jim onstage wearing his choice of shirt under a beautiful blue embroidered Manuel suit, I was not disappointed at all. He looked great. Not sure what makes that suit fabric so lustrous, but I am guessing maybe a touch of silk in the weave.

He was kind enough to pose for this picture after the show, too:

Photo by Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Photo by Rick Diamond, Getty Images

The Awards show is held in The Ryman Auditorium – the building known as ‘The Mother Church of Country Music’ – which was the home of the iconic radio show The Grand Ole Opry from 1943 until 1974. Many a western tailored suit has graced that stage, most of them festooned with embroidery and glittering with rhinestones. And yes, that means that Hank Williams stood there when he made his Opry debut in 1949 singing the hit ‘Lovesick Blues’. Did he really  have to reprise it six times at the demand of the crowd, or is that just an ole country music myth? Who cares? It may not be a literal truth, but it says it all about Hank’s famous charisma.

So just sitting in the audience at The Ryman is an experience full of resonance for any fan of country music. And to see something I made in my little workroom in Lewes up there, being worn by one of my favourite artists – well, I think my face says it all.


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What people really wore in the 80s. Well, some people.

According to the anthropologist Igor Kopytoff, we can learn a lot about culture by studying the lives of objects. How they change hands, and what we swap for them; the emotional, sometimes magical values that we place on them; the uses we put them to – all these things tell us a lot about the societies where the things we make and own live. As all good students of Design History know, Kopytoff calls this the ‘cultural biography’ of objects.
Igor Kopytoff: it always strikes me as the sort of name that a bloke with a very big brain might have. And I have always reserved my contemplations of Kopytoff’s theory for the big brain activities, like essay writing. It never really occurred to me that that there might be an object with a ‘cultural biography’ in my loft.
That’s where, after a bit of a search earlier today, I found my purple suede fringed jacket.
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Yesterday, out shopping with my daughter in Nuneaton TKMaxx – an activity low in cultural capital if ever there was one – I tried on a fake leather fringed jacket. I would have bought it, if not for the overwhelming smell of vinyl it exuded.

But it did remind me that I owned a fringed jacket already – this purple suede number which I think I acquired in 1989.

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Professor Kopytoff would be interested to note that, as an item of western wear, it’s entirely fake. It came from one of those discount leather shops you used to see at the tacky end of Oxford Street and the label, to my surprise, says ‘Handmade in England’.
As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it: at the time, all shades of purple were a signature colour for me. I had read the 80s fashion self-help classic ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ and identified myself as a ‘summer’ – since when, I had acquired a wardrobe almost entirely made up of lilac, magenta, lavender, violet… you name the shade of purple, I wore it. All my jewellery was amethyst. Occasionally I broke the monotony with a splash of those other 80s favourites, fuschia or electric blue, but I mostly stuck to purple. The lilac chelsea boots in the photo, bought in a sale at the Covent Garden branch of Hobbs, were a particularly prized possession. I found them in the loft too and they still fit.

I wore this combo to lots of gigs. This was the era when cool country singers nailed their traditionalist colours to the mast by wearing jackets by the great hillbilly tailor, Manuel. Manuel liked purple too – look at this jacket and shirt he made for Jim Lauderdale, who still wears his clothes onstage today. And if Jim, and Dwight Yoakam and Marty Stuart thought western wear was cool, that was good enough for me.

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The older generation of British country fans didn’t agree. They thought that dressing western gave country music a bad name and was responsible for its reputation for naffness. And I do remember seeing, at my first ever Tammy Wynette gig in 1987, a middle aged lady dressed as a squaw. So I completely understand why the then-editor of Country Music People magazine greeted me, as I arrived in this jacket, at the Royal Albert Hall to cover a 1990 gig for him, with the immortal words, ‘What the f*** are you wearing?’

You see what I’m getting at here, Kopytoff-style? Just as a Manuel jacket was a signifier of authenticity for my favourite artists, this purple suede jacket had a meaning for me. It showed the kind of country fan I was: my discovery of country music might have been fresh, but I liked my country to sound old. And even now that I’ve read all that I have about country music history and I understand about different types of authenticity and even acknowledge that a softer style of country was the way the music started, still in my heart I know that, when I hear the searing fiddle and wailing steel guitar of a great honky tonk band – well, that’s the real thing.

Even so, the next statement that this jacket, with its huge shoulder pads, brash colour and unforgiving nipped-in waist, might have made could well have been one about the cruel whims of fashion. It could so easily have gone, long ago, to a charity shop, had it not become a piece of personal memorabilia for me. I think it must have been in 1991 that I wore it to interview the Queen of Country Music Authenticity, Emmylou Harris, in London. It’s the only time I’ve ever met her and she was so bright, so interesting and so gracious that I’ll never forget it. And as I came into the room she complimented me on my jacket. To be fair, I had teamed it that day with a fuschia skirt, so maybe she just felt she had to say something; I mean, she could hardly pretend she hadn’t noticed my outfit, could she?

The jacket’s fate was sealed: I was never going to be able to part with it, ever, after Emmylou had said she liked it. That’s how it came to spend twenty years in a loft – and to survive into a world where your mum’s old clothes are no longer laughably unfashionable, the subject of ridicule. They are vintage. I wonder how much longer I’ll be allowed to own it?

And one more thing: after I had accepted Emmylou’s compliment, she gave me a piece of fashion advice. She told me only ever to wear one piece of western wear at a time – so the boots, the jacket or the shirt, but not all or even any two of them at once.

Now. I have the greatest respect for Emmylou and I knew, even then, what a privilege it is to receive fashion tips from her. I nodded and agreed.

Then I took absolutely no notice. Put it all on, I say! Fringes, piping, rhinestones, pointed toes and Cuban heels. Kick ‘em up, cowgirl – however real or fake they, or you, are!