Thursday, April 23, 2009

Been There, Done That

Earlier this week I talked about the marching band/military jackets from Balmain that have become the Fashionista uniform lately.

(It's okay if you hate the jeans. I hate them, too. I'm very attracted to the shoes, however.)

These things are all the rage right now, but I would like to point out that Marc Jacobs did this look quite a while back. Fall of 2002, to be specific.

I would also like to point out that I did it long before Marc Jacobs...

This is an actual band uniform from Southwest Texas State University. (This school has undergone several changes in name, so based on that and the materials I can date the jacket to probably sometime in the early 70's.) I found this in a vintage shop eons ago and have been wearing it ever since. This? Is definitely one of the pieces in my wardrobe that raises a few eyebrows, but I never cared. I love this thing. And when Jacobs showed his version a couple of years after I got mine, I was the Very Definition of Smug.

To start with, it's beautifully made of a really heavy wool twill -- it's a great coat for cool weather. The silhouette is very sharp, and it is nothing if not eye-catching. You may have already seen this jacket if your read the fabulous Wendy B's blog, but I don't think I've featured it here before.

When I bought this, it had the original pants that came with the uniform, which have since disappeared goodness knows where, and it also had a huge rope of gold braid that looped through one of the epaulets. Dunno where that is, either. Which is fine. The gold braid is a wee bit overkill.

Of course, some folks think the entire thing is a wee bit overkill to begin with and to them I say, "Ppppppffffttttt!" I love this jacket and I always have. Yes, of course, people call me "Sgt. Pepper" when I wear it and no, I don't care other than to pity them for being unable to come up with anything more original to say.

I'd say I bought this jacket more than ten years ago, but here's one I've had even longer than that:

This is a Naval Academy mess jacket that I inherited from the costume shop of the theater where I went to college.

It is a beautiful thing made of heavy, sleek black wool and I have had it for a very long time -- I acquired this while I was in graduate school, so it's been with me since roughly 1987 or so. The head of our costume department figured it was unlikely she'd ever need to use it -- it's pretty small -- and when she saw how much I loved it she very generously handed it over. (A note to aspiring actors: being able to sew is a very useful skill in this field. It makes it possible for you to occasionally pop your head into the chronically understaffed costume shop and nonchalantly ask if there's anything you can help with. This will result in two things: 1) your costumes will always be finished before final dress, when all the other actors are still safety-pinning themselves into their corsets and 2) the odd fantastic piece of vintage or custom clothing will trickle down to you because you are such a nice, helpful, and available person.)

Only the most churlish among you will not admit this is a fantastic-looking little item. Look at the seaming on the back:

Gorgeous. I've been wearing it all these years with the sleeves rolled, but I think it's time to take it in to the tailor and get them properly shortened. It deserves no less.

And so, while Fashionistas around the globe are swooning for those Balmain jackets, I'm feeling very blasé about the whole thing. Been there, done that. And for waaaaaaaay less than $11,000.

One more thing. These jackets are further proof, if you needed it, that if you see a garment that speaks to you, that makes your heart leap, you should get it. Whether or not it's on trend or in style or all that jazz -- if you love it, get it & wear it & keep wearing it. I had no idea 20 years ago that some shaggy French guy was going to create versions of my jackets that would drop magazine editors to their knees in worship, and it wasn't like I hung them in my closet thinking, "One day these will be in style." I just loved 'em. I still do. And when those Balmains are popping up in re-sale boutiques all over New York, I still will.

Photos:, Style Spy

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Deja Pseu said...

I love both of your jackets because they are authentic and timeless. It's the "of the moment Fashion" versions that leave me cold. That Naval Academy jacket especially is fabulous!

Rhiannon said...

oh how well I know that smugness. When I saw those butterfly hats at McQueen, which I did five years earlier, I was beyond smug.

Love those jackets, and the one from Annapolis gave me a jolt because it reminded me of Home Sweet Home.

dana said...

Gorgeous! And I love real Navy dress blues. Those sailor pants really are designed to fit women. And not men, as one of my male Navy vet friends tells me. Man, why didn't I keep that set my ex let me wear for Halloween in 1998?

Elaine said...

I was in the band when I was in high school but didn't think to steal one of the jackets. They were quite sharp-- double breasted and very fitted in burgundy with a nice matte gold trim. Great hats too, wide brimmed, turned up on one side with a really smashing ostrich plume. I should've swiped one of those too. I would've had to take someone else's since I was in the baton corp and wore sequins and a tiara. Good times.

Somewhere in my closet I have a very nice military-style jacket. It's not the real McCoy and has very little braid on it. I'd dig it out and wear it but people with think I'm doing it because it's on-trend and we can't have that.

Toby Wollin said...

My son loved his high school band uniform so much that he had his senior picture taken in it, drumsticks in hand.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

Wow this makes me wish I had more musical talent once upon a time. I love that black jacket.

P.S. Sadly, there are no Neiman Marcus stores here in NYC. I'd have to travel to Jersey, and that RARELY happens. So sad indeed.

StyleSpy said...

Deja -- authentic they certainly are. The band jacket may be a bit too authentic for some...

Rhiannon -- I love your butterflies.

Dana -- let that be a lesson to you -- uniform theft pays off!

Elaine -- you had me at "ostrich plume." If you like the jacket wear it. On trend, schmon trend, wear what makes you happy!

Toby -- that is so sweet. Does he regret it now? Or does he still wave his drumsticks high?

Thumbie -- oh, I have no musical talent whatsoever. My role in any given band would no doubt be limited to "chick who goes on beer runs."

WendyB said...

I was so psyched to feature your jacket!

Anonymous said...

Please watch yourself in your red jacket in Canada , you will start a riot with the Mountie look ! LOVE the next jacket , pull it out this year and do not get cuffs hemmed Wink* it is very french or casual with out hemming. Katie

StyleSpy said...

Wendy -- And I was thrilled that you did!

Katie -- Heeeeere I come to save the daaaaaaaaay!!!!!!