I have been collecting men’s vintage neckties. I am really enthused about the use of men’s ties in my own wardrobe and as women’s accessories. I intend to find more ways to use them and make more things out of them! This idea is still in the experimental stages but I have decided to share some of the results here. I will be showing more nice examples from my tie collection in the near future. I am interested in exploring the use of the beautiful tie fabrics for accessories for the upcoming fall and winter seasons since they look so great with wools, tweeds, velvets, furs, knitted fabrics and silks!
I began collecting ties about year and a half ago when a friend of mine asked me to help him update his wardrobe and we went shopping for new clothes for him. He was on his way to Tokyo on business and had to update his look to meet with men in the Japanese design and advertising industry who are very style and fashion conscious. He had not bought new clothes or dressed up for business in years so this was starting from the ground up! We only had a weekend to do it because he had not told me he needed this sooner! This was a difficult assignment because we didn’t have much time to find things and we had no time at all to get anything altered! Men’s pants usually need hemming and jackets need fitting, etc.
Surprisingly we began on Saturday and actually succeeded in shopping for, buying and accessorizing a very nice hip and modern business wardrobe for him. I got his entire wardrobe for a week put together and altered ( because I was able to do this myself) and got him coordinated, styled and packed and on the plane on Monday morning! It was a big success. Everything looked great and his look was a hit. This is an important part of doing business in that environment. This endeavor was a big job because it included every bit of his clothing, a haircut, shoes, every tiny detail. Because we were in a big hurry I did not have any time to hunt down vintage clothing and accessories. We had to shop in department stores and new retail men’s shops. When it came to selecting and buying ties he went into sticker shock! He could not believe how much a new designer tie cost! He was stuck and he had to buy three of them for over $125 a piece and they were not particularly fantastic designs.
This was my chance to explain to him that vintage shopping was far superior to shopping for new things both in terms of prices and interesting selection. He wasn’t sure! He doubted me! So I set out to prove myself! ( Of course I knew this could be done! I am an expert at it!) Every few days when I went out shopping for myself or my vintage clothing clients I found him something great, a vintage treat, to add to his wardrobe. The kind of things I found were beautiful designer ties, men’s silk pocket handkerchiefs, men’s foulard silk scarves, shirts, shoes, cuff links, coats, umbrellas, hats, leather belts, gloves, winter scarves, cashmere sweaters. etc. The list goes on and on! He was shocked in a good way !
In a fairly short time I amassed a lovely selection of designer ties, historic ties, art ties, you name it! Utterly fantastic ties. The fabrics are beautiful! As a result my friend really got into ties. He wears a different one every day and he is, after a year and a half, somewhat famous for his sharp ties. His work takes him all over the US and sometimes to foreign countries. He travels a lot. A few carefully chosen ties can greatly extend his wardrobe on the road. He is having a lot of fum with ties. And yes, some men still do wear ties! He is an exception in that he likes to wear them more regularly than most. He has even taken to tying a full Windsor knot these days. Personally I like this look on men a lot! I like a man to dress in elegant clothing and I wish we would see a lot more of it!
Meanwhile, with all these beautiful ties in the house, I developed a great appreciation for the beautiful tie fabrics and the way these ties are made. I soon understood why ties are so expensive! I also could not resist finding ways to use them and wear them myself. I sometimes wear one as a necktie for a menswear look, I sometimes wear one as a belt or sash, and I sometimes use them to embellish a handbag. Now I am experimenting with wearing them as embellishments on hats, handbags and purses.
This experimentation in using men’s ties as women’s accessories for myself lead me by chance to find a lady in Edmonds WA at the Saturday’s Farmer’s Market who makes several kinds of purses and other items and makes various things out of repurposed neckties. Her name is Marlee and she also collects ties for the beautiful fabric! I bought the two evening purses and the flowers used in these photos from her. She made ties into rosettes that I can use as little corsages and made these two little evening purses entirely out of vintage silk ties. Her name is Marlee M Fowler and her company is MM Fun Purses. Marlee Fowler can be reached at Retiredfowlers@aol.com. You can find her at her booth at the Edmond’s WA Saturday market on July 28th! She sells other types of purses, table runners, pillows and other home decor items as well as silk tie roses and purses.
Each of the rosettes takes one tie to make and each small purse takes three ties to make. The tie has to be carefully taken apart so as not to damage the fabric and the item you make out of it has to carefully cut and sewn together. This takes considerable skill as handling silk fabric is tricky. It is slippery and unravels easily. I spoke to Marlee Fowler about her experience making and selling her necktie items. She said it has been tough because most people are not willing to pay enough for them to make it make economic sense for her to produce them. Ties are expensive to acquire and there is a lot of time involved in making each item. Each piece has to be custom designed because she is using different ties made of different fabrics each time she makes a new one. I asked her if she had made skirts or larger bags and she said, each time, “”I can’t do it because it requires too much tie fabric – thus too many ties, which cost too much and it takes too much time and people are not willing to pay for it.” She has been showing her items and selling them at street fairs for a long time.
I met another man, last year, who had tried making and selling items from ties also and reported the same problem. This is why you do not see accessories made of men’s ties for sale everywhere! Or anywhere for that matter! You see them hardly anywhere. For this reason you may have to make them for yourself. I have looked online and have found many tutorials on making skirts and dresses out of ties. These are big projects that require a lot of ties and have to be custom fitted to the individual for whom they are made. Another point Marlee made was that it takes a lot of ties to come up with a few ties that look good together and coordinate in color and fabric type to combine in making one purse. She has a collection of about 300 ties to work with at any given time. I asked her where she gets her ties. She said at thrift stores and rummage sales, at estate sales and yard sales and consignment shops. These are the same places I find the ties I collect. I have been buying mine in and around Seattle. She has been buying them in the same area and in Arizona where she spends her winters since she is retired.
I usually pay between $2.99 and $10 per tie myself. Sometimes as much as $14 or $16. Marlee finds them at the same price range here, but in the Southwest, where she winters, she can get them at a sale that goes on in one place for $1 a piece on one day a year. That is a lucky break, but it is not consistent! The other important thing is that you have to pick through a lot of second hand ties to find any that are nice enough to use. Then you have to check them carefully to find any flaws such as stains of tears or pulled threads that render them unusable. I would never buy a silk tie that was in need of cleaning because it costs $10 to have a tie dry cleaned and it is uncertain whether any stains or marks will actually come out. Silk ties cannot be washed! Nor can any other ones. Ever! Do not try it. It would be a disaster and ruin the tie.
I understand what is involved in hand making lovely things like these and I do not have any problem paying a skilled artisan or crafts person to make me something special. I greatly appreciate the materials and the skills involved and the fact that such a person is willing to make something like a purse from silk ties. Apparently I am in the minority because I constantly find that people just do not want to pay a fair price for something well designed and hand made. They will willingly pay a great deal for a commercially produced designer original from a luxury brand name. And they will willingly over pay for mass manufactured overpriced low end commercially produced items, but they don’t want to and won’t pay for a unique well made handmade artist designed item. Over and over again I find artisans who tell me they cannot continue to make something special and beautiful to sell it because people refuse to pay enough to make it worth their time. The people who say this either do not know how difficult it is to make something, or how much time it takes, or are not thinking about the hours it takes to make an item and the skills involved. They also do not seem to understand the cost of the raw materials the artist needs to acquire in order to make such items. In this case 3 to 5 designer silk ties. This is why you do not regularly find certain beautiful things on the market. Many things are too beautiful and too special to be sold in any big store! I urge you to buy from people who make custom items such as Marlee Fowler on a regular basis in order to support their work. This is the only way they will be able to continue to produce it to make it available for us to buy.
I have asked Marlee if she would make up some special order items I would like done to my specifications using some of the ties from my own collection. She said that she would. So I am going to be placing an order for several items I want to use myself and some to give as gifts. This should work out well for both of us since I will supply her the ties I want her to use at my expense and she will be able to charge me whatever she thinks is fair for making the items I request. Maybe special order work is the way for someone like her to go? We shall see! I am, at least happy to have found someone who is willing to make up some of the silk tie design ideas I have spinning around in my head! Because I am not finding time to do it myself ! I am looking forward to what we come up with together!
Currently I am really enthused about the use of men’s ties in my own wardrobe and as women’s accessories. I intend to make more things out of them myself – like actual clothes. This idea is still in the experimental stages but I have decided to share some of the results here. I am hoping this idea catches on! I will be showing nice examples from my own extensive tie collection in the near future. I am interested in exploring the use of beautiful tie fabrics in women’s wear and for more accessories for the upcoming fall and winter seasons since they look so great with wools, tweeds, velvets, furs, knitted fabrics and silks!
Please check back soon because I will be posting Marlee Fowler’s summer 2012 Street Fair schedule and pictures of her booth within the next few days. If you are interested in acquiring one of her Silk Tie Purses this summer you should visit her booth. She has a good selection in many colorways and styles of silk tie evening bags and cell phone purses, rosettes as you see below, and other items already made up to choose from. Marlee M Fowler and her company is MM Fun Purses. Marlee Fowler can be reached at Retiredfowlers@aol.com.
Tags: Making Art, Sewing, Sewing With Silk Neckties, Style, Textiles, The Lady Violette Handbag Collection, The Lady Violette Vintage Tie Collection, Vintage Ties, Where to Buy Purses and Handbags Made From Silk Neckties