Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's in a Name?

Everything in fashion has a specific name; nothing is ever just a pant or a shirt. Fabrics, handbags, even silhouettes are steeped in history.
Here's a look at three of fashion's best known items:

Charles Macintosh and the Mackintosh

In 1817 James Syne discovered a coal tar extract that had the property of dissolving India rubber. He passed the formula to the Glaswegian firm of Charles Macintosh. It took Macintosh until 1823 and further trials to patent a method of layering naphtha softened rubber between a sandwich of woven woolen cloth. Factory works in Manchester carried out the invention and in 1830 Thomas Hancock, who was a competitor in waterproofed goods, became a partner. Hancock patented his vulcanization process in 1843. It made a more malleable single layer of rubber and cloth which did not go hard in cold weather and did not grow sticky in warm weather. Tailors hadn't liked working with the rubber layered materials so the partners manufactured their own garments called mackintoshes using a different spelling of the word. Early mackintoshes were drab green neck to floor affairs and quite voluminous and unwieldy. Because they were non porous the wearer became drenched in sweat in warm weather. Mackintoshes gave off an odour that could be smelt way across the street in stormy times. Although odour free variations were launched after an improvement by Joseph Mandleberg it took many years to produce a truly low odour fabric with a really good handle. Despite all the problems mackintoshes were quite popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today the mackintosh has adapted and moved with the times developing into the trenchcoat and the raincoat.

Thomas Burberry and the Burberry

Starting his business in Hampshire in 1856, Thomas Burberry considered the problem of waterproofing, from an agricultural point-of-view. Most of his clients were farmers and planters normally wore closely woven smocks tightly packed gathered material with a double yoke that kept the wearer surprisingly dry. Burberry grasped that keeping out drizzling rain depended on a close weave and voluminous fashioning. He began experiments on fabric with a cotton mill owner, producing long staple Egyptian cotton, proofed in the yarn before weaving. The resultant woven gabardine twill cloth used no rubber. The closely woven twill construction contributed to its waterproof nature as the diagonal twill wales aided the facility of surface tension. Water droplets first rested on the surface of the compact twill weave gabardine forming tight drops. Then the drops ran off rather than spreading between the interstices of the fibres as they might on a basic plain weave fabric. The weatherproof material he produced relied in part on the surface tension properties of the twilled surface. Burberry fabric was initially untearable and it didn't obstruct air. Burberry patented this cloth called gabardine in 1879. He then began making all types of gabardine clothes for field sports and items that are today country classics. He opened a shop in London in 1891 and then the firm spread to Paris, Berlin and New York. It has had the royal seal of approval for over a century and Princes, Princesses, Kings and Queens, cult film stars and celebrities, have all owned Burberrys. In its original form the trench coat was part of First World War airmen's military uniform. Today it is a classic garment. Throughout the 1990s the House Of Burberry has employed various well known international designers to update its image globally.

Lord Raglan and the Raglan Sleeve

Lord Raglan lost an arm in the Crimean War. To make dressing easier, his tailor made a short coat with a simple diagonal sleeve seam setting that extended from the neck to the underarm. It allowed much more mobility for Lord Raglan and so was called after him.
With its relaxed fit, it is a favourite sleeve for the less able bodied and those with fuller chests or busts. The easy to shrug-on sleeve style is used frequently on sportswear, jersey wear, knit cardigans and full length coats. Used on baby garments, stretch babygros and vests makes it easier to dress a small baby.


  1. Great post. You've got a really nice blog. I like it. Enjoy your weekend. Cheers!

  2. kool!!! It is good that on a fashion blog site I can actually learn something...(wink). Interesting read as usual!

  3. thank you Keith and Marcus :)