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James Dean overcoat - HELP!

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by JamesDean78, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Hi all,

    New here and I am working with a tailor to recreate the double breasted coat worn by James Dean in the mid 50's, I can't seem to figure out exactly what it was, specifically, material. Some photos look like wool, some look like a gabardine or something thinner. Not quite sure, and I am in no way, shape or form an expert. But I know you guys are :) Maybe someone can help me identify it, and even tell me what it was made out of (or a recommendation for what to make it out of)?

    Thanks! Photos below.

    936full-james-dean.jpg jamesdean15g3nl977mav1024x768.jpg tumblr_ks7arjubaI1qa70ey.jpg
  2. I have one which I will be listing in the near future, hopefully, that is so similar. Mine is dated on the inside, August 19, 1942. It is a beautiful lightweight wool and even has a zip out lining which is lightweight wool. I am so glad you posted this

    great photo of James Dean....I had forgotten that he wore this style of coat.
    Pinkcoke likes this.
  3. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Hi Bonnie! Sent you a note via "conversation" on here...would love to chat further about the coat :)
  4. Not to be rude, but I don't really chat via conversation, just reply on threads. My coat, as stated, is made from lightweight wool....possibly gabardine. I haven't done a thing with it(measured it) since I purchased it and, in fact, it's currently on my male mannequiin, Chad, waiting for me to get busy! And, that will not be until next mid week. I can post some photos then and you can see how much it looks like the coat in your photos. It's navy blue and very nice quality and came from Chicago. I will be happy to post to this thread so you can see as soon as I can. Thank you for your interest.
  5. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    That sounds great! Thanks Bonnie!
  6. cotmyey

    cotmyey VFG Member

    Found this on fedoralounge: "It is a navy officers overcoat, a heavy gaberdine or twill. It is the same fabric as a typical rain coat type overcoat of the era, but in black. It is double breated with eight buttons, belted, and has a two inch wide tab on the sleeve that has two button holes. There are four buttons on the cuff so that it can be normal, or cinched tight."
    JamesDean78 likes this.
  7. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Thanks Gayle! I did see that as well, but wasn't sure if it was the coat or not, since I didn't see any photos, but the description does sound like it could be.
    cotmyey likes this.
  8. I photo'd some items on Thursday and will be able to post one of the coat that I mentioned earlier in this thread in the next few days. Sorry for the delay.
    cotmyey likes this.
  9. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Sounds great. Thanks!
  10. Fabulous coat James - as mentioned on the Fedora Lounge it's styled on a '40s military trench coat. Great details from the FL: they really know their stuff over there.

    You could be right on the fabric with wool but not gabardine: wool is the fabric content (I can guarantee you it's wool) and gabardine is the weave. You can get gabardine from other materials too, like cotton but your coat is reading like a worsted wool flannel on my monitor. Gabardine has a strong diagonal twill line - if there are any close ups you'll see it. Here's the VFG entry on Gabardine. You can see some gabardine trenches here: you can see how the fabric is lighter than yours.

    Also, it seems too light for black: I would have gone with navy but there may be colour photos somewhere confirming the black (like I said, the FL people know their stuff!).

    I have a ladies version of this coat in bottle green in my book "Love Vintage" - I gave it an English friend who now wears it in her Surrey winters.

  11. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Hi Nicole! Thanks for the post. Based on the style of coat, in terms of the cuffs having the tab on the sleeves for tightening, I am in the camp of it being a trench, but not a weighty wool. I would have thought maybe a twill or gabardine because that was typical of the trench coat styles of the era, especially military ones like this appears to be...and would be thin enough to wear over a suit etc. One of the photos above is from an angle and the collar and everything looks thinner than a melton or heavier wool. But I could be WAY off based. I do agree, I think it was a navy coat. No way really to tell, other than one account I read where someone from his hometown said he used to see him on visit wear a long navy coat, trench style. But there are no color photos truly identifying it. I thin because the pictures are all in B&W, people's minds assume it was black...it just fits naturally.

    I am having one of these made for me, and my seamstress/tailor found a great deep navy wool-cashmere blend. Thin enough to wear for multiple seasons I think.
    tickeryboo and EndlessAlley like this.
  12. Wool/cashmere blend is an excellent choice: it will be lighter and very nice to wear. Made to fit you by a professional it's sure to look good too! Your tailor will recognise the weight of the material so she can reproduce the look, I'm sure she knows how important it is to you.

    Black coats were rare in the '50s - black was the colour of formalwear so most chose other colours. If this was a black coat, you just couldn't see the detail as well as you do.

    Once you have your coat, please post pics of you wearing it! I'm sure we'd all love to see.
    tickeryboo and JamesDean78 like this.
  13. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Absolutely will do! I provided her with all of the photos above, so she has a good view of the details, look and such. Hope to have something in about 3 weeks or so. On a side note, any recommendations of online shops for buttons and such? I am wondering whether I should go with the traditional US Navy anchor buttons (like the attached image), or just do plain solid navy buttons. Would love an opinion! 31XBOQdG0rL.jpg
  14. 1942blackwoolcoat09.jpg 1942blackwoolcoat07.jpg 1942blackwoolcoat01.jpg
    Interestingly enough, the label says Burton Baskin, Abbott Hall Shop, 700 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago....and, yes he was the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream. He apparently had a shop in the Palmer Hotel in Chicago that sold men's clothing. This coat has the person's name that purchased it and the date in the inner pocket. My photos do not show the coat to be as nice as it really is....sorry!
  15. sewingmachinegirl

    sewingmachinegirl VFG Member

    Bonnie that coat is fantastic- even the double button detail on the cuff looks the same :clapping:
  16. And, when I took the photos, I forgot I had the backlight on, so it does look even better than these photos! It's in beautiful condition with the exception of one of the big buttons on the front is broken and only half of it is there and one of the small buttons on one cuff is broken in half, but both halves are there! The wool gabardine is very fine and there is a zip out wool lining. I was so happy to see this one dated.....wish all 'em had the date! Sure would make life a lot easier.
    tickeryboo and Vlk94 like this.
  17. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    Looks amazing Bonnie! Any idea on size, and do you have a price in mind for selling?
  18. My husband tried it on as I have not done measurements because I haven't listed it on Ruby Lane yet and we think it's a 44 Regular. He wears a 44 Long and it actually fits him quite well. The sleeves and length were not short on him. I can't give prices here, but will be listing it soon in my shop, My Vintage Clothes Line, and may post it on the Fresh Vintage Thread here on Vintage Fashion Guild, too.
  19. JamesDean78

    JamesDean78 Registered Guest

    I would love to have the opportunity to purchase it from you, since I have been on the search for one for quite some time.
    Would hate to miss out on it if you list it, and I happen to not be at a computer at the time, and someone else swoops in.
    So however we can make it work, please keep me in mind Bonnie :)
  20. EndlessAlley

    EndlessAlley Alumni

    Bonnie, that truly is a gorgeous coat.

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