When I was a girl growing up in Northern Michigan, my family were big Pendleton people: plaid skirts for my sister and me, sturdy shirts for my brother and Dad, bright Navajo blankets on our cottage beds. But I forgot about Pendleton once I hit the city.
Now I'm back for another look. Outdoor clothing companies like Pendleton, Woolrich and Filson are getting attention from fashion writers and stylists, and my brother mentioned that he's still wearing Dad's Pendleton shirts.
I found a number of tempting items on Pendleton's site. My only gripe is that they won't ship the clothes outside the US, but I'm counting on my New York friend Jim to receive my boxes.
Some of the styles are unbearably staid, and the Western wear is best left to my family in the Oregon countryside. But a patient browse yielded some gems, and I liked the wide selection of sizes.
The Checkmate Duffle Coat, $98, provides plenty of graphic punch in a perfect transitional piece. The length means you're enlivened, not overwhelmed, by that blanket check.
A jaunty Plush Wool Cape, $228 with stand-up collar and bias-cut packets is functional yet cool. Single-button sides add wind protection.
Anticipating another blustery winter, I appreciated seeing fur's warmth married to the classic toggle coat, $228. I've worn some version of this coat for over 25 years, as did Yves St. Laurent. For this price, not real horn toggles, but if you want those, order from M&J Trimming.
The Toggle Coat's frosting of fox on snuggly Italian fabric (virgin wool/nylon/cashmere), comes in black only, in Misses, Petite and Plus sizes, $228.
There were some surprises, too. I would never have figured Pendleton for this washable silk Turnaround Shell, with its lower and higher neck cuts, depending on which side is worn to the front, $68 in rose, port and wild honey.
And whoa, leopard cowboy boots? Pull on your jeans and the handsewn $375 Leoparditos and say hey, handsome, let's two-step.
The '49er Jacket
One iconic item stands above the rest, and ever since I saw Julia Roberts in 2003's Mona Lisa Smile, I've been thinking of wearing one.
I fell in love all over again with the classic '49er Jacket, the essence of enduring American style with its pearl buttons, flanged shoulders, patch pockets, back yoke with gathers falling from the side, and palette of appealing plaids.
(Shown: Top of post, Ultralight '49er in Royal Purple/Gray Plaid; left, Classic '49er in Autumn Chic Plaid; bottom, Classic '49er in Seattle Skyline Plaid.)
The original is a vintage store trophy; Pendleton's reissued tartans stay faithful to their retro charms. Price, $178.
They also offer an unfortunate "updated" '09er Jacket, which proves you shouldn't mess with a good thing.
I'd like one for casual days, to wear just the way my sister and Julia did, belted over pants.
Cold-climate reader alert
Have you ever tried to find a lined pair of wool pants? You can cheat with silk long johns, but often tailoring suffers.
Pendleton call the fabric in their Worsted Flannel City Trousers "absolutely exquisite, with a smooth hand and the slightest nap", and they are fully lined. Sized for Petite, Misses, Plus and Tall for $158; shown here, glacier blue, a welcome respite from the usual darks, also available.
Those of you living in warm climes should take a look at the site's summer clearance section, now 60-80% off.
This is a company rooted in its hundred-year-old tradition, still operating its Portland, Oregon mills. They never set out to be hip. Some of the items, like a handsome line of washable merino sweaters, suffer from ho-hum photos, but I can see them elevated by a scarf, a la Deja Pseu.
Pendleton do produce beautiful fabrics, and their Ultraweave Circle Pleat Skirt, in an 8 oz. superstretch merino wool ($168) answers my quest for quality without designer brand tax. Add a cardi, crisp shirt or nipped jacket- here's a skirt one could wear every day.
Someone in Portland is paying attention, piquing my interest with some appealing American sportswear.