I want to dress like Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham's signature French "bleu de travail" (workwear) jacket is everywhere for spring, and once again I see the genius in his unassuming spruceness.

Cunningham made the street-labourer's garment his own; I read that he bought them from French uniform suppliers, in stacks, for less than $30 each. But as spring nears, I have seen so many versions cut specifically for women that I'm guessing that, like Levi's jean jackets, they will now be worn by both sexes.

I have long bought clean, somewhat androgynous styles like v-neck tees and marinières, and the promise of an item "looking better as it ages" appeals.

I also like clothes you can do things in, especially jackets with easy-access, exterior pockets.

Oh, I miss Bill's photos; there are other talented street photographers but he had such enthusiasm for fashion and affection for his subjects.

The straight-cut body particularly suits women who don't like a belted jacket (that's me, I'm always losing or trailing the belt) or a cinched waist. They layer well and are now made in colours other than Bill Blue.

Let's look in the windows:

Left to right:
Seasalt cotton canvas Gwithian jacket, shown in "Waterfront", £69.95; sizes up to UK 26. Quite close to the Cunningham classic, but a gentler blue.

Everlane chore jacket, 100% cotton, shown in "Clay", $US 68; sizes up to US XL. Also comes in ivory, and black.

Patagonia women's Four-Season unlined chore coat; hemp canvas/poly/organic cotton; about $US $150; sizes up to US XL.

It's obvious to wear them with jeans, but I think they would be interesting with trousers or a skirt, a nod to the masculine/feminine look.

A little more shape, sweetie?

If  the classic cut is a bit boxy, you can find the same attitude, but with a pinch more shape. We're now in the territory of the jacket called the field, fatigue, barn or utility jacket. Look for that substantial cotton fabric, but with princess seams or darts, or a defined waist.

Left to right:
Toast Cotton/Linen Patch Pocket jacket, shown in Artichoke, $US 280; sizes up to UK 18. This is a hybrid between the workwear jacket and a blazer—the seams place it closer to the body. Toast also make a classic blue workwear jacket.

LL Bean: Rain-resistant waxed cotton utility jackets like this and Barbour's have fans who post to sites that show they've kept them going for decades. Price for the Signature Waxed Adirondack jacket shown in Fire Brick is about $US 140. Sizes to Large.

J. Crew's Downtown Field version needs no introduction, but what's new is the quilted cotton jacket in a Liberty of London print. Price, about $US 220 (but there are often discounts.) More news: sizes up to US 3X.

A reader commented awhile ago that she has multiple field jackets, all bought at thrifts. I've often seen them there, but you might not enjoy the hunt, or prefer an uncommon colour.

With ever more bouncy springs and chill autumns, a cozy, just-heavy-enough cotton jacket belongs in all closets—and unlike woolens, they are washable. A swoosh of silicone waterproofing spray (such as Scotchguard) will make a cotton piece water-resistant (not waterproof.)

Put one on and... be out standing in your field.


LauraH said…
These jackets aren't for me...but I enjoyed that last line:-)
I really like them because they have POCKETS; for a long time even many women's jeans had no pockets, and skirts with pockets were rare in precious. Looking at the Simons site, they have many pocketed skirts this year. Have you seen any workwoman's jackets in the shops here? I prefer to buy in person if possible. I prefer the Patagonia jacket among those pictured at the top, as it seems a bit more shapely.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Have not been shopping here for anything but socks. Skirts with pockets are still scarce. I'm a longtime fan of Patagonia, the whole family is. Wears very well and if not they replace.
One of my treasures is a green Patagonia over-the-shoulder bag a friend bought and never used. It folds up tiny but holds a good load of groceries. I think I've had it for 10 years and it is still perfect.

If I buy that jacket it might well outlive me! But someone would want it. I want the green one, of course.
Lee Valley tools used to have an Irish Workman’s jacket in indigo denim. Very good looking. I don’t know if they still sell them but it’s worth a gander if you’re interested in that colour and style. Very classic looking. And a reasonable price as I recall. I think they were around $80 Canadian.
Susan said…
Thank you for the links, especially to the Seasalt website. I've been looking for clothing like that without much success - why is it so hard these days to find well-made items constructed of natural fibres? It's a struggle when one reaches a certain age to stay on the right side of comfort and practicality vs. frumpiness!

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