Dandy & Rose

Bespoke Western Shirts, Handmade in England


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Dale Watson: Ruffles, Rhinestones and a Honky-Tonk Hero

i'm in this one

When it comes to transcribing interviews, I’m a terrible procrastinator.

So it wasn’t until Spring 2011 that I sat down to relive the interview I’d done with the great Texan honky-tonker Dale Watson the previous September for my MA dissertation about ‘Male Dress and The Performance of Country Music’. A gift of a subject if ever there was one!

This time, I laughed all through the transcription. Although I’ve interviewed lots of musicians about their work over the years, I was slightly daunted when it came to asking them about their clothes. After all, a lot of guys, in whatever profession, prefer to give the impression they don’t pay much attention to what they wear.

But in Dale’s case, I needn’t have worried – a passing enquiry about where he had bought the patent leather boots I’d often noticed him wear onstage resulted in a hilarious story, told with faultless comic timing, involving an ‘overwhelming feeling’ of longing for a pair of patent, pointed-toe boots and a visit to an ancient Australian shoemaker, who happened to have a pair in exactly the right size that had been commissioned in the 1960s by a customer who never collected them . It’s the only tale of fate and destiny involving patent leather Beatle boots I have ever heard, and I was thoroughly entertained by it. As well as being a lot of fun, the interview was full of insights – there were a few priceless quotes in there that I’ve used in everything I’ve written on the subject since.

Now, I thought myself pretty cool to be sitting aboard Dale Watson’s tour bus in the car park of The Mercy Lounge, Nashville, asking him questions about his clothes, but another level of self-satisfaction was added when I discovered that this was a vintage bus that had once belonged to Ray Price. To prove it, there was a mirror right behind Dale’s head, etched with a camp fire scene that illustrated ol’ Ray’s band’s name, ‘The Cherokee Cowboys’.

Ray Price, The Cherokee Cowboy

Ray Price, The Cherokee Cowboy

I love Ray Price’s voice even more than I love his Cherokee-themed Nudie suits, so it was a thrill to be sitting opposite the bench where he’d slept when out on tour, drinking my very first bottle of Lone Star and listening to Dale Watson talk. Incidentally, here’s a link to a great live version of the love song to Lone Star beer that Dale had just recorded back in 2010.
Hey Brown Bottle: Dale Watson & His Lone Stars
During the interview, Dale told me that for some time he’d been looking for a vintage ruffled shirt with white edges to the ruffles. I made up my mind there and then to make him one and hand it over next time he came to the UK. I wanted to say thanks for his help – making a good job of that MA project meant the world to me and I’ll always be grateful to the musicians who gave up their time – Dale, Marty Stuart and Jim Lauderdale.

And besides – I’m such a fangirl when it comes to Dale! I knew what a thrill it would be to see him in one of my shirts.

The shirt’s not in the usual Dandy & Rose style and presented a bit of what they call in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ a ‘technical challenge’, but I had fun making it and when he made this face as he took it out of the box…

Is that what you wanted?

Is that what you wanted?

…I knew it had been worthwhile!

It was a perfect fit. And he looked very handsome in it!swagger

And of course, it was very special to see him wear it during in his great set at the Ace Cafe, London later that evening. Thanks, Dale!

patent boots

Patent boots and a ruffled shirt! Now that’s what I call a dandy!


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Ruffles and Rhinestones

After a couple of ruffle-obsessed weekends, I have finally produced a ruffled shirt. Here is is:

outside front

 

 

 

I won’t pretend that there was no struggle involved. I used this favourite pattern from the 1970s, so as to get a proper fitted 70s shape and collar:

authentic 278

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first I was cock-a-hoop to think I was only dealing with ruffles and not fiddly-diddly piping and impossible smile pockets and embroidered arrowheads. But pretty soon I realised that opting for a laid-on front band had made life very difficult – it was so hard to get the ruffles flat enough to tuck under the edge of the band neatly. 20 miles of thread later I decided it was time to invest in a ruffler attachment for the sewing machine and I bought this Janome ‘Ultimate Ruffler’:

ruffler

 

It’s quite a contraption isn’t it? It didn’t help that, after quite detailed instructions about how to make sure the needle didn’t hit the foot, it was as if they’d given up. No word at all about how to make ruffles. But I found an instruction video online and once I got stuck in, it was easy. The attachment fits over the needle screw though and it wasn’t until the needle had dropped out twice that I realised that after a bout of heavy ruffling, the screw gets loose and needs a twist.

I know now, though.

I was determined to use rhinestone snaps – on the grounds that less is never more – but they wouldn’t behave and kept wobbling in the press so I wasted loads. Got them on in the end, though.                                                                                                               

 

ruffles and rhinestones

It was such fun to make and I’ve got lots more ruffly ideas in my head.

Now… does anyone know a matador who needs a shirt? I can do white as well, you know…

 

 

 


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Ruffles On My Mind

This weekend, there was snow on the ground and ruffles on my mind.

I love to see a man in ruffles, don’t you?

Whether they are crisp ruffles like the ones on the great Texan honky-tonker Dale Watson’s Seventies prom shirts:

carryinonjpg

Dale buys his shirts from the vintage website, RustyZipper.com. Now who else could have told you that?

And then I like foppish, floppy ruffles like the ones Gram Parsons favoured:

gram ruffles

Wait – is that even a man’s shirt? A suit order in the Nudie’s The Rodeo Tailor, now at the Autry National Center in LA, notes that Gram had a ‘small chest’ – so maybe not.

But my favourite ruffles are the ones on matadors’ shirts. Nursery-starched, white on white, pristine amongst all the sand, blood and spangles, they are my favourite element of matador attire, which is one of my favourite things of all. Here is Enrique Ponce, on whom I admit I developed a little crush when I was researching matadors’ suits of lights for a paper for the Design History Society’s conference last year:

enrique

So for a while, I have been planning to make a ruffled shirt for the Dandy & Rose collection, in honour of all these influences. And being snowed in was the perfect excuse. I decided on black, with white edging to the ruffles. I used the narrow hem stitch on my trusty Elna overlocker to make a neat, decorative edge and gathered up the ruffles with two rows of long stitches, like my mum taught me.

It’s quite good, but not good enough. Like all new projects, it turned out to have unexpected challenges, and I have learned a lot. So this week I’m going to be unpicking and re-doing those ruffles. And I’ve bought a gadget.

Now, I would like to be one of those hard-core seamstresses that resist gadgets and boast of using their granny’s sewing machine (some of whom regularly pop round to use my automatic buttonhole attachment) but I’m not. I love gadgets. You name it, I’ve got it. Magnetic needlecases with magnets so strong you have to wrestle the needles away from them; the magnificently-named ‘jean-a-ma-jig’, designed for helping the machine foot over lumpy bits. I specially love that one, even though a folded piece of card used to do the job. But not as well, I promise.

So now I have invested (and at £40 it was an investment, believe me) in Janome’s Ultimate Ruffler foot. Not just any old ruffler. Ultimate Ruffler. How could I resist? I hope it will be here for the weekend! Seamsters and seamstresses – stand by for a review! And pictures of the finished shirt!