Archives: Dress Tips

Interview with Florence Müller of the Denver Art Museum

I recently sat down with Florence Müller, Textile and Fashion Curator at the Denver Art Museum. Müller has an impressive background. She is quite literally a world-renowned fashion and art historian. Take a quick peek at this article and you’ll see what I mean. So, not only did I feel incredibly privileged when she accepted my request for an interview, but I really feel that Denver is incredibly lucky to have her at the DAM. She was in charge of the fashion museum called UFAC – inside the Musée des Arts Décoratifs/Louvre, and has contributed to more than one hundred exhibitions worldwide, including the 2012 exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent : The Retrospective.

Müller has been with the museum for a little over a year now and her current exhibit is on display until the end of May 2017. It’s a celebration of select Japanese designers in the 1980s and the 1990s.

So, why did I reach out to her?

Well, aside from being a regular patron at the museum and art lover, I wanted to pick her brain on the menswear scene here in Denver. Having relocated from France, and being French, I figured she could provide a unique perspective on us Denverites.

I told her that I can imagine that one of the many culture shocks was seeing how much more casual we dress in Denver. I was curious in what ways she had recognized men dressing down. Müller said that in terms of costume, she has noticed two types of men’s attitudes.

Firstly, that there are the hipsters and that they are bringing a more international flair to the area. This makes sense since there are so many new people living here and they are coming from all over. They are bringing their styles and attitudes with them. Müller told me about the young guys she regularly sees in LoDo and RiNo who have a knack for finding creative things in the consignment stores. In this regard, she said that Denver reminded her of what she sees in LA or San Francisco. And that the young guys are oftentimes being more creative with their style than the girls!

Secondly, there’s a men’s style that Müller has seen regularly at DAM events. She explained that on a number of occasions, she sees men dressed in dark tailored suits paired with Western accessories like cowboy boots and even the very western addition, the bolo tie. The latter really surprised me because personally, I very seldom run across the bolo tie. It has always felt like something more of an Arizona or maybe a New Mexico look, not Colorado.

It was this juxtaposition of the traditional and elegant being paired with something noticeably frontier in attitude. Think: A sleek tailored tuxedo or dark suit and dressy cowboy boots. This, Müller explained to me, was very much a Denver style, a touch of tradition that she finds so unique to the area. “It’s very charming and very beautiful. To mix [a western accessory] with something that is very well cut. It’s so chic, so elegant. It’s attractive because it’s specific.”.

bolo-tie

It’s difficult to talk about the American frontier and Manifest Destiny without some talk of the Old World. Müller said that a lot of Europeans are inspired by the American frontier and our western attitudes. Outside of menswear and style, this really resonated with me. Throughout my own travels, when I have conversed with Europeans, or even Canadians, they are often very fascinated with the American interior – the Grand Canyon, cowboys, Native Americans, etc. The concept of wide open space and with it, the simple act of hoping in a car and taking a road trip throughout the open country.

And so I understand why Müller was able to pick up on the cowboy boots and the bolo neck ties, but I was curious about something else now. I asked her, within the context of menswear, what time period in American history was her favorite? She answered with the 1950s and the 1960s, that mid-century America was unequivocally the most fascinating period in the US for men’s attire. It was the architecture and the lifestyle that she found so appealing.

“The American cars, and everything really, was so full of style. It was a time that was a symbol of the new world – a world that was rebuilding with a lot of hope for the future.”

Müller reminded me that there were garments for every situation, for every moment. “It was still a world with rules in terms of how the social life was happening. There was the suit for the office, the suit for dinner, the suit for the opera house, and so on. Specifically, there were seersucker jackets and cotton jackets with very pale blue or pale pink tones worn with polo shirts and trousers with sneakers.” It was this prevailing idea that some clothes were just specific to the weekend. What I found interesting was that there had not been a mentality like this in France. That this mid-century attitude towards menswear was very unique to America. “It was a cool attitude,” Müller said.

Aside from menswear, I wanted to know what period of textile and fashion history she found the most interesting, be it in the United States or elsewhere. “I very much like the end of the eighteenth century,” she told me. “This moment of change after the French Revolution…The fashion had to be light and the young woman wanted to be dressed in cotton and linen.” She went on to explain that this period was really inspired by the classical Roman and Greek periods. “I like the moment of changes, the body being liberated and seen, not hidden by hoops or other things.”

Once again, here’s an example of nostalgia really influencing fashion and style. Today, we are returning to our mid-century design roots in many ways. And even in the eighteenth century, the French were looking to the ancient Greeks for their own design inspiration.

As my time with Müller started to wind down, she gave me some insight into the fashion community. That those in fashion and style always seem to be waiting for something new to happen, for “some new way of looking at the body and expressing it.” I think this makes a lot of sense. Like so many things in life, it’s the inflection points that are the most interesting.

But what lingered with me after our call was a yearning to go out and purchase a sharp looking pair of cowboy boots that I could wear with my favorite peaked lapel suit – the accented words of a French fashion curator in the back of my mind, “it’s a look that is so chic, so elegant!”

By Ryan Wagner

A special thank you to Florence Müller for taking the time to speak with BE, such a great honor!

For more information on Müller and her work:

See this Denver Art Museum press release

Where is her work now? You’ll find Müller’s work housed in the Textile Art Gallery on level six of the museum’s North Building.

You know the fabric, but what exactly is flannel?

We all own some flannel clothing. Whether it’s a comfy shirt, flannel lined pants, sheets maybe – flannel is that super comfortable fabric that makes us think of mountain adventures and cozy evenings at home. But what exactly is flannel? What makes it different from “ordinary” fabrics?

Flannel has an impressive ability to hold in heat and insulate and yet it can still be breathable enough to wick moisture away. But what most people don’t understand is that flannel is a fabric, not a pattern. For instance, it’s very common to think that all plaid shirts are flannel shirts. Or that a flannel bedsheet in a solid hue isn’t a real flannel.

Here’s a little history: A fabric very similar in nature to today’s flannel dates back to sometime around the sixteenth century in Wales. The sturdy and warm fabric grew in popularity in subsequent centuries and with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, it really took off. It crossed the pond sometime in 1869 when flannel long johns were introduced in America. Similar to the story of denim, the fabric gained in popularity among blue collar workers as they worked to build the railroads and industry that came to define the twentieth century.

what exactly is flannel

Now, the flannel that your grandfather wore was made from either carded wool or worsted yarn, but modern versions can be manufactured from wool, cotton, or even synthetic fiber. This really surprised me when I learned it because I had always believed that flannel had to be cotton. But regardless of the fiber, the fabric is then napped or brushed to give it that level of softness that we all like. What happens during brushing is that a fine metal brush gently rubs the fabric to raise fine fibres from the loosely spun yarns, this creates what we call a nap.

what exactly is flannel

Practically speaking, there are some things you’ll want to bear in mind if you’re shopping for flannel clothes. Because it’s a loose weave, it can shrink in the wash. Most fabrics (and certainly ours) are pre-washed so this is nothing to worry about, but if you’re shopping anywhere else, be sure to ask. Also, flannels come in a range of different weights, from about 5 oz./sq yd for medium quality cotton fabrics to upwards of 10 – 20 oz./sq yd for the heavier wool weights. Your intended use will dictate the weight. And you can tell a lot about the fabric by holding it up to the light and seeing how transparent it is.

The takeaway here is that flannel fabrics are napped to create that soft texture that we love so much. Beyond that, flannel can be wool, cotton, synthetic, or even a vegetable fibre.

By Ryan Wagner

Further reading

Seamwork: The secret life of flannel

Gear Patrol: The history of flannel

Our BE Learn article: All about flannel

The 4 most common style mistakes men make – fall edition

common style mistakes men make

Here in Colorado we have had an incredibly warm fall. Typically, we do have warm days in October and November, but this year feels completely different. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are some cold days that will be arriving in a couple weeks. So, we want you to be prepared. Here are four practical nuggets of wisdom to help you look your best this fall. I think these are some of the most common style mistakes men make, but fortunately, they are easy to fix.

Not knowing when it’s time to get a new coat

I know, I know. We all have our favorite coats and jackets and it can be difficult to part with them sometimes. In anticipation of the cooler weather, I took a quick peek into my coat closet the other day and discovered that my go-to jacket has seen better days. It’s now pilling pretty badly and the once black fabric has faded a bit. In fact, I didn’t really recognize to the extent that it had faded until I took a look at some peacoats in a store. These new jackets were pitch black, whereas mine was off-black. So, take a look in your coat closet this week and see if you need to make some hard decisions.

Layer up, the right way

Here’s a general rule of thumb: The thicker the fabric, the farther away from your body it should be. For instance, a T-shirt or button up dress shirt should be worn nearest your body, then a sweater, and then your sport jacket or coat. And ideally, the latter is something thicker like a tweed or corduroy.

You can play around a bit and carefully bend this rule, but just don’t take things too far like trying to compress a thick sweater under your sleekest modern suit.

Buttoning the bottom button of your jacket

In the fall, we are easily reminded that the clothes we wear serve a functional purpose. The blazer is a great example. We can fight off that cool breeze by flipping up our jacket collar and remembering that our blazers are still jackets first and foremost. However, it’s still a dress jacket and that means that you should never button the bottom button.

common style mistakes men make

No matter what you wear, keep it clean

We’re all guilty of wearing a slightly dirty coat or dull pair of shoes. But the simple act of using a lint roller on your winter dress coat or regularly shining your shoes can make a huge difference.

And don’t forget to wash those dress shirts.

Wrap up

Adopt just one of these fixes and you’ll be well on your way to correcting some of the common style mistakes for men.

By Ryan Wagner

The right way to roll up your sleeves

As a kid, I would roll up my sleeves sometimes to signify that “I was getting down to business.” As I grew older, the simple act of rolling my shirt sleeves up became more functional and even stylish. And of course, there are many times throughout the day when you get too warm, need to get your hands dirty, or you simply want to roll up your sleeves.

Today, I consider myself a bit of a shirt roll aficionado. While there is no one right way to roll up your sleeves, I do believe there are methods that not only look better, but work best in specific situations. So, with this article, I have outlined three simple methods which will help you to roll up your sleeves properly and with some style!

Let’s get started.

Method #1: Casual Roll

This is the most common roll and most likely what you have been doing already. This type of roll is best for casual dress, when you get warm and need to quickly and simply roll up your sleeves. This roll also involves very few folds which will cut down on wrinkles.

  1. Unbutton both the cuff button and the gauntlet button (the button midway up the forearm) and flip the cuff back evenly so that it is inside out.
  2. Using the cuff as a measuring point, fold the cuff back so that it is neatly tucked behind a band of shirt fabric.
  3. That’s it! Now neatly tuck the corners of the cuff and make sure that each roll is even for a uniform look and feel.

step 1 casual sleeve roll casual2

Method #2: Basic Roll

This is your standard military roll. It is clean, simple and great for physical labor.

  1. Unbutton both the cuff button and the gauntlet button and flip the cuff back evenly so that it is inside out.
  2. Using the cuff as a measuring point, fold the cuff back so that it is neatly tucked behind the a band of shirt fabric just like in the Casual Roll.
  3. Repeat this until you roll it past your elbow. (If you have a narrow fitting sleeve, performing this roll before you put the shirt on will help). Be sure that the roll is even and uniform.

Basic Roll basic2

Method #3: Master Roll

This roll takes a little more work to figure out, but it is great for showing off the inner contrast of your cuff and for those looking for added style.

  1. Unbutton both the cuff button and the gauntlet button and flip the cuff back evenly so that it is inside out.
  2. Pull the flipped cuff (don’t roll) up your arm until the sleeve is about an inch beyond your elbow.
  3. Now, roll the sleeve upward to cover the cuff. (Double check that this step is done evenly to avoid pinching).
  4. Cover or reveal as much of the cuff as you like. To undo the fold, simply pull the cuff down.

master1Master Roll

Wrap up

While there is certainly no right or wrong way to roll up your sleeves, it is fun to play around with different styles and do something different. Give each of these methods a try sometime and let us know how it goes when you see us next!

By Brett Wagner