Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

how to button your suit. October 15, 2012

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:57 am
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I didn’t believe it when my husband told me, years ago, that this was the way it is done. However, I’ve just read J. J. Lee’s memoir, and as a tailor’s apprentice and fashion journalist, I bow to his expertise.  Lee says that on a two button suit the rule is,

  • top button ALWAYS buttoned
  • bottom button NEVER buttoned

On a three button suit, the top one is a wild card, dependant on the lie of the lapels and the fit of the man wearing it,

  • top button  SOMETIMES buttoned
  • middle button ALWAYS buttoned
  • bottom button NEVER buttoned

I mentioned this to a student wearing a beautiful pin striped double breasted suit on “Dress up like a gangster” day at school.  He said, “I’m not traditional.”  >>sigh<<  There’s traditional, and then there is just ‘wrong.’  2 plus 2 is traditionally 4, and if you claim it’s 5, you’re just wrong.  I decided to look for some photographic evidence to support this button rule, and I looked back to the days of cool suit wearing, studying photos of the Rat Pack.  They follow the rule.  See?


What’s the point of fashion, anyway? October 13, 2012

Fashion matters because every day people get up in the morning and, with the palette of clothes they find in their closets and dressers, they attempt to create a visual poem about a part of themselves they wish to share with the world. 

J.J. Lee.  Measure of a Man. p. 53

I was raised by a mother who loved fashion and filled her basement with fabric, patterns and notions.  She crafted beautiful garments, and rarely threw anything out.  Which meant when we moved her from Kelowna here to Salmon Arm, we moved eight closets full of her clothes, and a hundred or so pairs of shoes.  It also meant that Vogue magazine was a staple in our house, and that I grew up with a keen eye on clothes.

J. J. Lee wrote his biography of his father within the context of his time as an apprentice tailor.  His father’s suit provided an exploration of the suit as symbol and metaphor in his own life, but also in the life of all men.  Clothing makes the man, and he was trying to figure out the man the clothing made.

I love his expression of fashion as a visual poem.  It’s very accurate.  Our clothes give the message we wish to send to the world on any particular day.  Whether it’s laid back casual with jeans and a Tshirt or cute and quirky with a hat, bright tunic and leggings, we say something about ourselves.  But we don’t wear the same thing every day, just as we wouldn’t write the same poem every day.

Every day we adorn ourselves to be a visual poem.

I like that.


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