Antique/vintage menswear… Age? Cleaning? Help! (lots of photos)

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion Q & A' started by The Vintage Vendeuse, Mar 10, 2017.

  1. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    I picked up quite a few pieces yesterday from the estate sale of a former antiques dealer who had a complete turn-of-the-century general store set up in his basement. What a sight!
    I will use this thread to post questions about the pieces as I'm able to photograph them. Sorry for the less-than-professional photos but my iPhone doesn't do very well in the dim light of my home.

    This first suit definitely stumps me. Work wear? It is a heavy fabric, would it be called a twill? Some of the metal buttons say "NE COUPANT PAS LE FILS" ("don't cut the thread") and a couple say "FOR GENTLEMEN". I have found references for these from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Same with the pronged buckle at the back of the pants which has the words "PARIS" and "SOLIDE".
    I find the construction of the seat of the pants very interesting. The inside of the jacket has two silk patch pockets. What looks like lower patch pockets inside the jacket are just the cotton linings of the flap pockets which are only accessible from the outside of the jacket. I believe the twill to be possibly silk... or possibly a heavy linen/cotton? (My burn test skills are horrible.)
    The construction on the inside of both pieces is fairly crude and some pencil marks can be seen.
    Dare I try soaking this in Oxyclean or Biz? It is seriously discolored to a deep yellow-brown ivory color. Everything I acquired was dirt cheap and mostly discolored so I wouldn't be losing out if things don't make it through a cleaning process.
    Thank you, I would appreciate any help!


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
    Metro Retro Vintage likes this.
  2. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Trade Member

    Wonderful mens summer sack suit, I think. Not twill. I wouldn't wash it. These are hard to come by. I need to dig some books out, but off the top of my head, 1880s, maybe 1870s? Can you take a shot of the sleeve from the side so I can see the curve and shape?

    So everything is in French?
    poppysvintageclothing likes this.
  3. cmpollack

    cmpollack Trade Member

    What a fabulous find! I didn't think it looked like workwear--especially with those silk pockets inside it. Glad Hollis has been able to ID and date for you!

    I can imagine this in a seaside scene like this 1884 one:


    I look forward to learning more, and to seeing the rest of your haul!
  4. northstarvintage

    northstarvintage Administrator Staff Member

    Donna - are you on FB? I belong to some menswear groups over there and some of the members would be VERY interested in this.

    What a great find!
  5. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Trade Member

    It is a find indeed! And Carrie's painting is perfect.
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  6. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    Wow, I had no idea it was so old!
    No, everything is not in French. A couple of the buttons say, "FOR GENTLEMEN". My rudimentary research has shown both types of buttons and the pronged buckle seem to have been available in both Europe and the USA.
    Here is a shot of the sleeve from the side:

    Last edited: Mar 10, 2017
  7. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    I've added a FB link to my siggie. :)
  8. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    Any ideas on what the fabric would be called?
    Hmmm, don't wash it... cleaning should be left to the future owner?
  9. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Trade Member

    Thanks for the sleeve - I still think it's in the time range. Jonathan might be able to confirm a better date.
    The fabric could be a blend of silk/linen/wool/cotton - hard to say. Who knows what water would do to it. So definitely sell this as found. It almost looks like rep - anybody else have thoughts?
    The Vintage Vendeuse likes this.
  10. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

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  11. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix Trade Member

    Fantastic find! Long ago I bought a large lot of antique men's linen summer suits at auction. No one wanted them since they were aged as yours is, very yellowed, brown spotted, really looked a mess. I washed one and it came out nicely, still discolored, so I washed it again with a 1/4 cup of regular bleach (horrors!). Air and sun dried, then ironed. It looked great. So I repeated the process with the suits in the lot. All came out much nicer. My suits were unconstructed, no padding or linings. And yours has silk pocket linings so that is a care concern.

    Of course since I do not know what your suit is made of ( I suspect linen) I cannot make that recommendation. I really would not dare to say whether or not you should wash it.

    I love it. You should do very well with it.
    The Vintage Vendeuse likes this.
  12. Linn

    Linn Trade Member

    The fabric looks like a fine repp or faille to me. Probably has some linen or is linen if it's not a blend. Great find!
    The Vintage Vendeuse likes this.
  13. poppysvintageclothing

    poppysvintageclothing Administrator Staff Member

    Fabulous find! You had mentioned "Some of the metal buttons say "NE COUPANT PAS LE FILS" ("don't cut the wire")"
    fils also translates to the word "thread".

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of the clothes, certainly sounds like this was a very interesting sale!
  14. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    I've edited my original post to reflect "don't cut the thread" instead of "wire". Thanks for that!
    There's several vests, a couple of shirts, and another jacket which I thank I will post in separate threads instead of adding them to this one.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
  15. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    Thank you for the replies and encouragement!
    Here is a shot of the jacket laying flat so one can get a better idea of the cut.


    And the inside of the trousers:


    The inside of the trouser hem ( looks to be backed in the same silk as the inside upper chest pockets):

  16. amandainvermont

    amandainvermont Trade Member

    Actually, "ne coupant pas le fils" translates to "Not cutting the thread" I asked the Matthew why they would put that on a button. His answer -

    Cheap buttons that weren't properly finished (I know this applied to pearl buttons, but I can imagine that it was probably also true of horn, bone etc. which would have been more likely to be used on trousers like these) had the reputation of having sharp edges inside the holes that with wear and use would cut the thread that the button was sewn on with, so that the button would eventually fall off and be lost.

    I have, somewhere in my vast archives, a game that a button company put out as advertising that involved sliding the buttons along thread to prove that they wouldn't cut it. If I can find it, I'll send you a photo.
    Rue_de_la_Paix likes this.
  17. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    Thank you so much for this information, I love it!
  18. The Vintage Vendeuse

    The Vintage Vendeuse Trade Member

    Well, cleaning this suit was a success!
    The solid cream-color cotton vests/waistcoats I posted about in another thread were soaking in a bucket of warm water with a half-scoop of Oxiclean and a quarter-scoop of powdered laundry detergent so I threw in a swatch cut from an inner (unfinished) seam of the trousers, just to see how the fabric would get through the process. It was fine so I took a deep breath and soaked the entire suit in the same way. Gosh, the water turned dark yellow and smelled of old wet cigars. I soaked it twice, then rinsed well on the delicate cycle in the washing machine. Hung it to dry and voila: a clean and fresher smelling suit! (And the vests are much better, too, of course!)

    I'm having a lot of trouble capturing the color... I'd call it a light-ish natural wheat. It has a slight sheen in certain lighting, too.


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