Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Not Very Wild and Wooly


It’s going to be warmer today, but yesterday…. Fall fell with temperatures in the mid 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect weather for what may be the perfect fabric. At least in my swatch book. Wool flannel. I’m in that suit at the end of a very long day made more bearable by the fact (in this case) that the combination of Italian tailoring and flannel makes a suit feel as comfy as a pair of pyjamas.

Flannel is “lofty” in tailor’s speak, meaning that it thick and resilient to creasing. In fact, unless the flannel is worsted, it might not take a crease at all.

Look up “lofty” in an online dictionary and you’ll find this:
2. exalted in rank, dignity, or character; eminent.
3. elevated in style, tone, or sentiment, as writings or speech.

I’ll agree that both definitions apply to this delightful fabric. It is at once exalted in dignity and character and elevated in style. Funny for stuff that began life as the material for undergarments and moved into sportswear. Cricketeers were supposed to be the first to wear flannel on the pitch, the bowler in a white flannel jacket with three patch pockets, the batsman in white flannel trousers and open necked shirt.

That athletic past may be why Fred Astaire preferred his suits to be made of the good stuff. That was a man who knew how to move in a suit, and how a suit has to be made to move with him. He became so associated with the fabric that Audrey Hepburn wrapped his picture frame in grey flannel. I wonder if it was chalk-striped?

There’s another great thing about this fabric whose earliest mention in literature may be in Chaucer. You can dress it up, or dress it down. Wear a suit with a cashmere turtleneck and suede shoes (Astaire in one of his earliest film appearances did.) Or give it the full British treatment of black captoes, spread collar, polka dot tie and white linen square. Wear flannel trousers with a cardigan or tweed jacket. Yes, the woolen fabric known as flannel is a safe bet for the boardroom, ballroom and bedroom (they make pyjamas and robes out of the stuff, too. Usually in cotton flannel though.)

Have at least one flannel suit and a pair of flannel trousers to your name.

(Above: Barbera windowpane blue grey flannel suit. Black and white pencil stripe shirt by Creery. Knit tie by J. Crew. Silk navy polka dot square. Unseen: chestnut Allen Edmonds Sanford bluchers.)

5 thoughts on “Not Very Wild and Wooly

  1. Fantastic look. Unfortunately, the combination of Southern California weather and central heating give me little opportunity for flannel. My wife is currently completing her Master’s to become a librarian. I’m trying to sway her to one of the fine establishments back east, solely so I can expand my wardrobe. Flannels will top the list.

  2. I adore all winter fabrics, cashmere, merinos, worsteds, heavier silk knits, flannels. Even when I lived in San Diego I kept my winter wardrobe for trips back to KC during the Holidays.

  3. You are so right–grey flannel trousers are the perfect article of clothing for both men and women–with a doeskin navy blazer coming in second (holds up better than cashmere) . . . great photograph and thanks for the fine tutorial!

  4. Flannel saves the environment too! Heating an office is ridiculous. If you were to wear flannel during winter (including vests and wool socks) you wouldn’t need to heat a lot of places…

    Unfortunately, in really cold places like St. Paul, Mn wear a flannel suit and you could risk heat stroke in a board room meeting! Well, only you. the others would be wearing khaki’s and short sleeve polo shirts…barbarians!

    Love the stuff. Add a touch of cashmere into the weave and it’s another world.

  5. Flannel is the best – and lately I’ve fallen for anything in a windowpane pattern. I just beg for some cool weather.

    Yesterday as I got in my car to drive home from work, the outside temp reading was 106 – we are expecting a cold wave this weekend to brings it down to mid 80s! My swimming pool is liken to a bathtub (minus the bubbles) and I haven’t moved from vodka/tonic/lime yet.

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