What Sam Wrote: Tweed

This and all other photos taken by Andy Sawyer for the Tribune.
Click on any to bring up in a new window.

So while I was digging through my tear sheets, hoping against hope to find an old Get Out cover with Chris Powell on it, I came across one of my favorite little bits of writing. And it’s about … tweed.

In 2004, I was still covering the style and fashion beat for the Tribune — articles for the Sunday lifestyle section (I had my own entire page!), and photo shoots when I could finagle them. Every fall we got to blow out one edition with a fall fashion section, and as I look back over the tear sheets I can see the progress from year to year as our resources — or resourcefulness, actually, since we had zero budget for photo shoots — grew.

Tweed suits were back that fall, and I decided that part of the package should show how by changing pieces like shoes and tops, the same suit could be worn in completely different ways. So the tweed suit at top — it was from Mervyn’s, people, that’s how awesome I was at finding great pieces — is actually the same as the one at left below.

And the brighter suit at above right, from Nordstrom, could either be all sensible or, as we showed in the shot at right, jazzed up with a different top. (She really liked holding on to those lapels, huh?)

Some of our newspaper photographers were really hesitant when shooting fashion, I think because they were so used to capturing moments as they happened naturally. You photograph a basketball game or a police standoff, you don’t get to direct how people are positioned or make them pause while you set up lighting. Others got superexcited about the chance to do something that was so different from the daily routine, and their energy always seemed to translate into at least one or two “wow” shots.

Not every suit had a second look — these were standalone shots, in both senses of the word.

Andy Sawyer, who took all the photos that year, loved being able to tell an atmospheric story; so many of that year’s shots have a mysteriously melancholy mood about them. That picture at the top of the post as a happy accident, taken when the model was clearing her throat, but it was one of our “ooh” shots because it was so perfectly summarized Andy’s way of thinking about this shoot. The picture at above left, which ran five columns wide on the section front, also has a forlorn vibe, as if she had hoped her $4,000 Dolce & Gabbana suit and $530 Christian Dior pony hair mules would bring her happiness, and she’s just now realized it’s not going to happen. And the photo at above right always reminded me of a scene from a Hitchcock movie — the lighting, especially. Can you really trust this beautiful woman? She looks a little dangerous

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to try to anthropomorphize tweed in the text. I was obviously thinking about Maggie Smith as Cousin Charlotte in A Room With a View. …

One last prim-vs.-party pairing. (No, seriously, let go of the lapels.)

Tweed looks at you disapprovingly over her pince-nez and shushes you for laughing in the library. Tweed keeps ribbon candy in a dish in her living room, where the furniture is very musty and a little dusty and has plastic covers. Tweed likes high teas and funerals and good manners: Tweed is the spinster aunt in British period novels.

Tweed has a hidden wild side, though, just like those British spinster aunts, who always end up hopping freighters and getting caught in indiscretions that scandalize the family. Tweed musses her hair when she thinks nobody’s looking, swaps the button-up blouse for a camisole, and sneaks out the servants entrance with her shoes in her hand to meet her secret lover in the stables … or the library.

Tweed is susceptible to suggestion: Introduce her to high collars and proper shoes, and she’s ready to meet the queen. Hook her up with a camisole and some brazen boots and accessories, and she’s ready for a different kind of guest.

WHAT SAM WORE: 6-12-12
The shirt: Long-sleeved cotton button-down by Burberry, from Last Chance.
The pants: Khakis, from Banana Republic.
The shoes: Loafers by Rockport, from Nordstrom in Scottsdale.

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