Vintage 1950s full needlecord cherry/ruby red coat swing belted fit & flare Dior New Look inspired circle skirt rockabilly corduroy velvet
Fabulous vintage 1950s coat, with huge shawl collar very full skirt, nipped cord belt with ornate buckle. This is the coat you want for over a circle dress or skirt.
There is no label, so difficult to tell you a great deal about it, other than the ornate buckle suggests late 1940s as does the roomy underarm, or early 1950s. (Dior New Look influence there, with the sloping shoulders and shawl collar as well as the volumes or fabric flaring from the waist to mid calf.
So in absence of the maker, what I can I tell you?
What I always attempt to: to set the garment in context of the time.
Who wore such a coat?
Who made such a coat?
What did the coat experience?
Well, she is well made, probably professionally it has features such as the fully lined sleeves and inner tie belt usually absent from the home made.
So seamstress made if not professional. Not couture as there's no internal tailoring but also not mass produced. The fabric is the finest needlecord velvet I have ever come across; soft and rich colour no fading, so its been looked after but I suggest also worn a lot. While it isn't grubby and has no specific damage or marks, is not 'worn' at all no threadbare parts it is clearly of an age. Though plenty of life in it. I'd describe it as excellent vintage condition.
Needlecord, and corduroy in general is associated with the Manchester cotton industry. Poor quality weave cotton was not durable or hard-wearing so corduroy was an attempt to address that both for the hard working industrial man and the country set who needed something thorn proof and suitable for handling livestock and gathering crops. So cord is extra weave added in strips and nobody did it like Manchester: indeed parts of Europe it is still referred to as 'Manchester'. The corduroy trouser was born. In the mid 20th century the fabric was refined for use in women's garments, so needlecord was a huge innovation, as the finer fabric - and this is the finest I've seen - drapes so much better.
So I got thinking if this was seamstress made, or even factory made, it was almost certainly produced on a Singer sewing machine; with electric machines by the mid 1950s revolutionizing production.
The heir to Singer was Robert Sterling Clark, whose passions were Art and Racehorses. One in particular , would be remembered by the vast majority of 1950s British housewives for a very long time. Because that horse was ridden by a young jockey, who was setting the racing world alight and winning the hearts of women struggling to make the housekeeping go further, and single working ladies their wages so they could afford something like a holiday abroad or a fabulous coat like this. So a windfall took the pain out of scrimping & saving, and the young Lester was fearless in not respecting often long odds of horses he rode. In 1954 young Lester was on Robert's horse 'Never Say Die' , in cerise cherry & grey colours.
I can just see this vivid red coat on Epsom Downs that day against all the greenery, as when it's cold there it's very exposed even in summer, and that June afternoon it was very chilly.
Never Say Die was 33/1. Ten bob (50p) on that would have bought a coat like this or paid for a trip to Paris. So women not for afficionados fearlessly plunged on the young Lester and he obliged. He was always know as the 'Housewives Choice' and he sadly passed away aged 86 in 2022. Just think about that. This coat was around when 18 year old Lester rode is first Derby winner (he rode 9 & 21 other Classic among 4350 winners. The lady who owned this coat would most certainly have known Lester Piggott, known the beloved Singer sewing machine connection to Never Say Die, and very likely went to see him ride at some point.
This is what I mean about context. If that doesn't send pleasant shivers down your back, think she could have also gone to a Grand Prix perhaps Monte Carlo or back in the 50s another young sporting legend beloved by the ladies Strirling Moss won his first British Grand Prix 1955 at Aintree, not Silverstone. She may danced at a Paris jazz club or Birdland, jived to Rock & Roll or smooched with a handsome young man to Ella Fitzgerald. Because on thing for sure about this coat, WENT places; she is special, and would have turned heads even in those heady days of glamour. Imagine a soldier perhaps returning from the Korean war in his smart military uniform holding her at Grand Central or perhaps the (sadly demolished 1963) breathtaking Beaux Arts beauty of Pennsylvania station. What aesthetic beauty that would have been to see.
She was around, this coat, in her glory, during these times. And she is still here. She has al that heritage of experience and more we can only speculate and imagine her stories; if only she could speak; but hey...she doesn't just speak...she SHOUTS! She will make jaws drop and heads turn when you wear her with circle dress & petticoats because the movement is sublime. The weight of the needlecord while a lightweight coat just makes it bounce and move so beautifully. The only question on your mind should be where are you going to take her? She is special and so are you, and you both deserve such. Can your swing her? Things weren't made for ne season in those days and a coat like this made to last and would have been worn throughout the fifties....and indeed beyond; I can think of nothing more beautiful to wear to the right venue some 70 years on.
I am wearing a 'New Look' inspired period jacket underneath as she is large for me but with that is just fine. Remember these coats were designed to look 'full, sleeves long etc with turn back cuffs . So she can be worn with jacket underneath for a size 8-10 though she's fit up to a size UK 12 plenty of room in her.
The cord is that fine you'd think it velvet except on close inspection. And like velvet, while I shot her on a dull day, in the sunshine or ambient evening venue lighting her colour pops. She's a deep dark cherry come ruby colour, not burgundy but not scarlet.
top of page
bottom of page