The need for tweed
|My favourite tweed suit. The hair's |
changed, but the suit is the same!
The OED defines tweed as 'a rough surfaced woollen cloth, typically of mixed flecked colours, originally produced in Scotland'. Scotland still produces the most famous tweed, Harris tweed, hand-spun and woven on the Hebridean island of Harris and a few of its neighbours. Everything about it is local, right down to the sheep, and so it's a strictly regulated product. County Donegal in Ireland also makes a famous tweed. The fabric is made in many other places as well, though. Because it's so warm and hardwearing, it's traditionally been used to make 'country' clothes, though nowadays it's also worn 'in town'. Indeed, the famous cycling Tweed Run features dozens of wool-clad riders charging around London.
For me, there's something very between-the-wars about tweed – very 1930s, in particular. It's a fabric for being active in, perfectly suited to jazz age pursuits like golf and walking. And it's a democratic fabric, as suited to the gamekeeper as the Laird. While it's practical, one look at the official Harris Tweed website will show you how beautiful it can be, in all sorts of natural colours and woven patterns.
Cheap as tweedy chips
|Country-style tweeds. How smart for gardening!|
For women, charity shops are stuffed with nice woollen skirts, including in plus sizes. You can find tartans, dogtooth check, Prince-of-Wales check... it's all there in whatever colours you prefer. I realised a few years ago that there was no point me paying new prices for winter skirts ever again. Several of my favourites cost £1.50 each! Because below-knee, heavy skirts were popular with older women in years gone by, they're now seen as old-fashioned, making them far cheaper than newer, less hardwearing styles. I avoid skirts with elasticated waists, but even so I'm spoilt for choice. I also don't worry about buying pleated ones with dry-clean-only labels as I have a cunning technique for cleaning them (How to wash a dry-clean-only pleated skirt). My greatest tweed bargain to date is my 1970s Edinburgh Woollen Mill suit, which I got for £8. I keep looking for something similar, but haven't found anything yet. Good suits are hard to find.
If you've got a tip for finding a tweed bargain, I'd love to know about it. I get all my best ones in Age UK.
|£1.50 PoW check skirt. BARGAIN.|
Look after them
How do you keep your tweeds nice? Most importantly, protect them against moths. All that thick wool is moth heaven. I now have a 'quarantine' system where any secondhand garment entering the house gets to spend a fortnight in a plastic bag with some Zensect balls, before moving into a wardrobe. (That too contains anti-moth hangers, but I'd rather isolate a garment and treat it on its own before mixing it in with others.) Keep them dry-cleaned. If jackets need refreshing or reshaping between dry cleanings, hang them in a steamy bathroom, then WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY DRY and iron them with a DRY iron. Why dry? Because wool plus heat plus moisture plus motion equals felt, and you don't want to shrink your clothes. With a bit of care, your tweeds will last you for years.