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The blurry line between books & jackets

Ahh, that blessed week between Christmas and New Years. A time to read, a time to sleep, a time to clean, a time to thrift. That just about sums up my life for the past few days. In between taking down the Christmas tree, and racking up the mileage on my car from one family to another, I found the time to enjoy my new gifts, and thrift some old gifts too.

I’ve often mentioned that I thrift because it ties all my passions together. I’ve already posted on thrift-fusions pertaining to my love for art history and photography, and over the Christmas break I stepped over yet another blurry line.

Some background: I’m a graphic designer. Everyday, I pour over fonts and fuss with serifs. So, naturally, the hot item atop my wishlist was Simon Garfeild’s Just My Type: A Book About Fonts. This is a wonderful book – it’s fresh, funny, informative, and quite simply a must-own for type geeks like me. It reminds me that fonts are bits of living history. Just My Type gives us the stories behind the fonts, and tells of the masterful craftmanship that goes into every letter. And in turn, those masterfully crafted alphabets shape our histories, and provide sign posts to look back on The fonts we use, and the ways we use them, give us insights we too often overlook. This was proven especially true on Wednesday evening, after yet another trip to the Salvation Army.

Not having much luck, I was just about ready to call it a night, but not before I took one last look at the jacket aisle. There, I  plucked a bright red blazer from the hanger. Oh, what a find! This was no ordinary red blazer, this, friends, was Christian Dior. So, I put it on, put my money on the counter, and headed on home.

However, there was one little thought bugging me about the jacket. More specifically, the jacket label. It looked all wrong. The Dior logo is elegant, the font likely designed by Nicholas Cochin, the serifs (the little feet on fonts like Garamond and Times New Roman) are slight, and the D has a grand sensibility. The Christian Dior logo in the jacket wasn’t any of those things. It was a simple font, with harsh slab-serifs. Below is a basic comparison of the classic logo, and the logo on my blazer.

The jacket was just too nice to be a fake, so I went to the Google-mobile for some mystery-solving, fonty-style.

I looked through many’an ebay auction, read up on vintage labels, and nailed down trademarks for specific Dior collections. Through it all, I discovered that Dior has used at  nearly 20 variations on the logo over the years, and these variations can tell us what collection an item is from, what year it was created, where it was manufactured, and how much it’s worth.

After much sleuthing, I came across a big tip when I found another reputable vintage fashion dealer, selling a very similar red jacket (with an hilariously 80s wig). Even the sizing was in the same font and style.

I found more matching labels on additional jackets and trousers, and the history of my jacket came to light. Turns out, in the mid-eighties, Dior launched a diffusion line called Christian Dior Coordonnes. This line was an offshoot of the larger Dior brand, creating clothes for the modern working woman at department store prices (much like Lauren by Ralph Lauren or D&G by Dolce and Gabanna). Suddenly, the variation in the classic Dior logo made perfect sense – of course Dior would select a font of a more casual nature, something a little more modern, a little less stuffy, and a little more attainable for this everyday collection. Dior chose a font to convey something specific, and yesterday that font gave me the specifics I wanted to know. Full circle. Nice.

If you’ve stuck with me during this little history lesson, I applaud you! While it may seem dry to some, these sort of pleasant intersections between life, design, and fashion are what it’s all about for me. And you know what else makes me happy? Wearing something with shoulder pads so big, they could hurt somebody.

Just one more teensy fun fact: my jacket was likely made in Canada, so you know what I’ll be wearing Canada Day 2012! Except this thing is pure wool, so it’s going to be a very sweaty July 1. I must really love my country.

Update: a friendly tweet from the ever-stylish Jentine at My Edit reminded me of her most-excellent post on what to look for when thrifting blazers. She has wisdom, go absorb it!


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