Favorites: Felt

Felt has to be one of my perennial favorites, and I’ve been noticing it popping up in all kinds of interesting applications lately. Awhile back, I spotted this nice-looking laptop sleeve on Coolhunting. Made by Byrd and Belle, this is another fine example of small-run, handmade products that really give an individual feel to the necessary trappings of day-to-day life.

Byrd and Belle currently offer the sleeves in sizes appropriate for the unibody MacBook line, but offer that they are willing to customize them for other sizes and needs. I’m thinking of contacting them for a custom job for my soon-to-arrive Hackintoshed netbook, a bit of a travesty in its own right, really…

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The better to see with: SALT.Optics

As the years continue to wreak their havoc, erm, magic on my ever-evolving eyesight, I continue in the search for frames that reflect my own personality as well as sense of style. My vision worsened after less than one year of working with awful CRT monitors, and I’ve been wearing spectacles ever since, for the past 15 years or so.  While the news of needing to wear them was bad, at first, I’ve taken it as an opportunity to find those frames that I can really relate to.  As such, I’ve often chosen classic looks, or those that play on them; I love innovative styles but cringe at those frames, usually titanium and in garish colors, that make one look like an escapee from a first-year industrial design project gone amok, or a hopelessly insecure architecture grade student, or similar.  Over the years, I’ve sported frames from a variety of manufacturers, including Lafont, ProDesign|Denmark, Oliver Peoples, and others I can’t remember at the moment.

Most recently, an unfortunate auto collision that resulted in the loss of my venerable but impractical English vehicle also meant that I was forced to replace my frames.  The ones I chose were from a line new to me:  SALT.Optics, an American maker of handmade, sturdy and elegant frames (although, curiously, my frames do say “Handcrafted in Japan”).  After perusing many options, I went with the Adler, a 50s/60s-inspired look that can be worn by men and women alike.  The tortoise shell is a rich, deep colorway and the frames themselves are pleasantly and just slightly oversized, in following with current trend.

The "Adler" is one of many offerings from SALT that echo a classic form and colorways, paired with sturdy construction, and suitable for men, women and others.

I encourage you to check out SALT.Optics if these appeal to you.  The models are their own employees, and it is very easy to get a sense for how their looks are suitable and flattering for many face shapes and gender expressions in a classic and appealing way.

Fjällraven: Classic Swedish Outdoor Gear

Anyone who has ever spent considerable time in Europe, or at least passing through European airports and train stations, invariably has come across a passel of tow-headed teens sporting Fjällraven rucksacks – distinctive for their classic and enduring logo of the arctic fox in a highly visible round patch.

After a few years of carrying around a messenger bag to the detriment of my shoulder, I dropped into Context recently and was excited to see that this classic Swedish brand was now being carried by the boutique shop.  In stock was a wonderful and stylishly utilitarian laptop backpack, complete with padded sleeve able to fit a MacBook Pro perfectly, along with tons of other books, cables and papers.  I made the decision to swap my pain-inducing messenger bag for the Fjällraven rucksack then and there, and I’m thrilled by the results.

The Fjällraven laptop rucksack, from Context.

Context is also carrying the full size range of Fjällraven bags, from the mini to the retro military-inspired green or khaki packs, as well as clothing and outerwear items.  You can see what Context has in stock from Fjällraven at this link.

The Trouble with Shoes

Shoes are one of the most problematic items to try to repurpose from men’s fashion to  women’s, in my experience, for no amount of recofiguring and jerry-rigging can make a too-big shoe fit a smaller-sized foot.  So many men’s shoes go no lower than EU size 41 – a US ladies’ size 9 on a good day, thus putting many lovely styles out of reach.

Despite knowing that my foot is a far sight smaller than 41, I foolishly decided to chance fate recently and so ordered a pair of H by Hudson’s Rafferty brogues in distressed tan from UK online shopping site asos.com.  The shopping experience in and of itself was terrific, but when my shoes arrived a week after I ordered them, they were, as predicted, far too large.  It was a pity, too, because the shoes were lovely, and just the kind of brogues I have been searching for and unable to find in a women’s-specific model.

The H by Hudson "Rafferty."

After boxing up the too-big “Rafferty” pair and sending them back to the UK, I looked around for the closest thing Hudson had going, the H by Hudson “Charlie.”  While they are nice-looking, too, they’re nowhere near the “Rafferty” in terms of attention to detail, and the color of the leather is not as rich.  These minor complaints have seemed to be a moot point, however, as no stockists anywhere that I can find have them in anything but a UK 3.  Now I have the opposite problem; these shoes are too small!

The H by Hudson "Charlie."

Who else is doing good footwear things?  Well, following along with the trend of the classic brogue being in, I’m now anxiously awaiting Rachel Comey‘s new fall line.  While many of her women’s shoes have a playful dandy-esque repurposed menswear flair, I’m actually most interested in the preview shot I saw of a pair of her shoes for men.  Again, I expect them to run too large for me, but a gal can dream:

Rachel Comey's Fall 2010.

Finally, for something of a different look, I’ve had my eye on Billykirk’s forthcoming collaboration with Sebago; the former’s sales rep tells me that production has been pushed back on these sturdy-looking dock shoes until July, and also told me that they will be going as small as 41.  I’ll probably try to make those work for me, although I should know better after my experience with the “Rafferty” brogues.  Here’s the Billykirk/Sebago coupling:

Billykirk's update on Sebago's classic deck/dock shoe.

Who is making shoes in this vein in sizes for women?

What’s it all about?

Like so many creative endeavors in life, this one, too, is borne of frustration.  I routinely peruse websites highlighting new bespoke fashion with an eye toward classic looks, going back as far as the 40s, the 20s and prior.  I love the look of handmade, finely crafted items made in small production runs by artisans.  I favor patterns and fabrics that have endured through the ages: wools, twill, tweeds, vintage or selvage denim, distressed and well-loved leather.  Yet as I discover these items, time and again I find myself without access to them for the simple fact that they are made for men.

In many cases, this fact is not enough to dissuade me; I don’t mind wearing clothes made for and marketed to men, except for the problem of fit.  This is particularly troubling when it comes to shoes, for it seems that unless I want ballet flats or heels, I am relegated to trying to find shoes originally made for men that invariably do not run small enough.  There simply are very few options created for women in the style and look to which I aspire.

Alessandra Colombo is "The Sartorialist"'s go-to Female Dandy It Girl, and it's easy to see why.

I’ve started this blog as a sort of combination stylebook/wishlist, to track those things that catch my eye, to suggest to creatives that they might have a market for their products among women, and to give like-minded people a place to contribute to the dialog.  “The Female Dandy” as a name is a placeholder in that it may be mutable and evolve over time, as I hone my eye and attempt to develop my style and wishlist into something more cohesive.

"Annie Hall' is certainly an inspiration, although in need of a modern update.

Am I just simply talking about women doing men’s drag?  Of course not; it’s not that simple, and of course while there may be some inherent gender play involved, on the whole, and more so for some people, in particular, in my case it’s actually the opposite: I’m interested in repurposing clothing that was initially designed for men in such a way that allows me maximum flexibility to create my own look and still retain my femininity (as I see it) in my own image. Simply put, I want to wear the clothes I want to wear.  Now I just need to find them.

Colombo again, in the classic academic style I favor. Photo credit: The Sartorialist.

Are you with me?