Category Archives: Women’s Clothing

Spring Jackets for Women: Made in USA

Welcome the warmth of spring by switching out your heavy winter coat for a chic light jacket. There are multiple American-made choices.

Disclosure: We’ll get a small commission if you buy through the links in this post. Please do!For starters, you can see all of Nordstrom’s Made-in-USA women’s jackets  here. The list includes brands like Eileen Fisher, above…Veronica BeardThe St. John CollectionHarvey FairclothMarc Jacobs

And many more. Again, to see all Made in USA Women’s jackets, go  here.

Nature Still Produces the Best Technical Fabric, Says U.S. Manufacturer

Ralph and Debby DiMeo

Ralph and Debby DiMeo, developers of a high-tech wool fabric called WeatherWool®, cringe when they recall a comment in an online forum discussing the military’s testing of wool garments. “Are they going to give us muskets next?” a serviceman asked.

“It’s a widespread sentiment,” says Ralph. “Very few people realize that Nature’s technology is still far more advanced than anything humans have developed.”The sophistication of wool. (Image: American Sheep Institute)

Too many people have become accustomed to synthetics, according to the DiMeos. But if you really want to face Mother Nature’s harshest conditions in true comfort, they say, you have to use Mother Nature’s own best inventions. For Ralph and Debby, that means ultra-premium American Rambouillet Merino wool that is incredibly rugged, super-soft, naturally repels water, is flame retardant and keeps you exceptionally warm.
A majestic ram. (Image: PM Ranch)

It’s very clear when you sit down to talk with Ralph and Debby, which we recently did, that they are passionate about wool. Years ago, the DiMeos were distributors of outdoor apparel for another manufacturer. Ralph found himself fascinated by the untapped capabilities of wool. Using his own experience as an outdoorsman, along with feedback that was coming in from the field, he proposed a plan to try and make “the best wool garment that it was possible to make.” His idea didn’t get much traction so he decided it was time to branch out on his own.

WeatherWool: fashion and performance. Top, Heath Gunns (second from right) of Honored American Veterans Afield. Bottom, a fashion shoot with Chase Burnett at Revelation Farms

Today, Ralph, Debby and their son, Alex are the proud producers of WeatherWool, the “hardcore luxury(tm)” fabric that has become a favorite among the toughest outdoor enthusiasts and the most pampered upscale shoppers. (Click here for the almost comically intense field test conducted by a lifelong outdoorsman who later gave up his longtime favorite coat for a Weatherwool garment.) The DiMeos say they “get a kick out of” the idea that “The garments worn for performance in extreme conditions by our Military in Afghanistan are also worn for looks and style and comfort on city streets.”Debby DiMeo checks the fit on a prototype coat.

So what, exactly, is Weatherwool? Debby says it is the fulfillment of Ralph’s long-ago dream; “The best pure-American pure-woolen garments we can figure out how to make.”
– The sheep are raised on select ranches in the United States where they may be exposed -without shelter- to temperatures from below zero to well over a hundred degrees, producing a very special wool.
– Because they buy from sheep breeders -ranchers who typically sell sheep and not wool – the DiMeos have access to a quality level that few people have ever had the opportunity to wear.
– WeatherWool is rugged but so soft it can be worn directly against the skin, a combination that does not always go hand-in-hand with ordinary wool. Against-the-skin comfort eliminates the need for liner fabrics that are sewn around the neck and wrists in other woolen garments. Water turns these liners into wet rags that rapidly suck heat from the wearer.
– The wool goes to a plant in Texas to be scoured, just like lots of other wool. But Weatherwool is only processed on Monday mornings. Why? Because the machines are cleaned over the weekend and the DiMeos insist that no lower-quality fibers get into their product.
– The wool is spun into yarn by Woolrich, a company based in Pennsylvania since the 1830s.
– The fabric is woven on a jacquard loom – a machine considered by some to be the first computer. The technology dates back to the early 1800s and makes possible the production of textured fabric like tapestries. This is where Weatherwool gets its dense, three-dimensional thickness and its exceptional ability to trap body heat. According to Ralph and Debby, the Jacquard weave also makes Weatherwool comfortable in a wide range of weather conditions and activities. “One of the things that is really neat about wool is that it traps your heat when you need it to, but it does not make you hot when it is warm. A WeatherWool outfit that is perfect for 40F will also get the job done in 15F or in 70F. That’s mainly why we like wool in the first place.”
– After looming, the fabric goes back to Woolrich for finishing, after which it’s time to make the garments. American contract manufacturers cut and sew all WeatherWool garments, which include a variety of jackets, coats, pants, vests, hats, ponchos and more.

Bill McConnell of TV’s Dual Survival in WeatherWool.

The are only two negatives to Weatherwool that we could determine. First, It does not have the wind-blocking capabilities of synthetic fabric. (The only person to ever return a Weatherwool garment was a hunter who spent long hours in a windy tree stand.) And second, it is water-resistant as opposed to waterproof, though its special weave, along with the quality of the wool, means you can stay out in the rain for an extended period without getting wet and snow is easily brushed off.

“Wool can be made impervious to both wind and rain,” Ralph says. “But — and this is a big deal in the garment industry — in my opinion, [a garment that is] windproof AND breathable does not exist. And if a garment does not breathe, then sweat builds up inside, which is a very bad thing in a serious situation. So, we designed the WeatherWool to withstand about 15mph wind … which is a strong wind.”

Blaine Anthony, TV’s “The Bear Whisperer” in WeatherWool. Here, you get a closer view of the copyrighted Lynx pattern.

The DiMeos say that, at every decision point along the way, they have chosen to make their fabric and garments better rather than cut costs. An example is their ban on cotton. Many wool garments have cotton warp (the threads that run lengthwise through a bolt of fabric) as well as cotton thread. WeatherWool is pure wool and the thread is mil-spec hydrophobic nylon. “We eliminated all cotton from our fabric, which was a big expense but also a big win,” Ralph explained, because they don’t want the cotton soaking up water when the wool is doing everything it can to repel it.

Outdoors-media personality and writer Leo Grizzaffi in a WeatherWool ShirtJac.

Decisions like these mean that the DiMeos have chosen a hard road for themselves: it isn’t easy to get people to drop $425 for a shirt-jac, $575 for an Anorak or $850 for an all-around jacket, even if it is the “best that can be made” and Made-in-America.

This last point led us to an interesting discussion. Why, we pondered, do people spend so much money on their winter toys (hunting equipment, ice fishing gear, ice climbing supplies, etc.) but balk at opening their wallets to buy clothes that could allow them to fully enjoy those toys despite the temperature? None of us had a really good answer for that, though Ralph recalled an outdoor enthusiast who told him that the best way to shop was to “Buy once; cry once,” meaning that a quality item that might outlast you in this world would cause you upset just once – when you paid for it.

We took this advice to heart when purchasing an incredible hat for Kathy, who suffers jaw pain whenever her ears get cold. She says it’s “the warmest hat she’s ever owned.” Paul will have to wait for next winter’s budget to buy the Al’s Anorak, but the DiMeos let him put one through its paces. He wore it to split and stack firewood, take long walks with the dog and clear the snow drift that the city plows generously deposited in front of our home. He loved the warmth and the comfort and highly recommends it.

If Paul does get a Weatherwool garment next year, chances are it might be a little different than the one he tested. You see, the DiMeos believe in continuous improvement and their garments are in a constant state of change. They take input from the field and look to improve the form, fit and most importantly the function of the garments. In fact, on our way out the door Debby noticed the map pocket on Paul’s vintage Woolrich jacket and asked if she could snap a few photos – she might want to use a feature like that in the future, she said.

All-American Jeans for $59? Meet Dearborn Denim

 When I heard that there was an American-made pair of jeans that sells for $59, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. When I read that the material was a stretch denim from a US mill with US sourced cotton, I was downright incredulous.

So I called the founder of Dearborn Denim and Apparel, Rob McMillan, and, after an hour-long conversation, I started to think, ‘wow this guy is onto something.’The business started out as Four Star Denim  (people kept questioning Rob why it wasn’t ‘Five Star’), then evolved into Dearborn Denim and Apparel. The inspiration came from  Henry Dearborn an influential US Congressman and Secretary of War from the 1800’s.

Dearborn Denim and Apparel is based out of Chicago and employs about 10 people including Robert who is chief, cook, bottle washer and the guy who makes the leather belts by hand.Like many makers we’ve met, Robert had a prior corporate life  – he was a bond trader who felt he needed to do something else. While his home brewing hobby could have made for an interesting business, he felt that going after a high-quality, affordable pair of jeans would be something unique.

So after researching and understanding that the supply chain in the apparel industry can cause pricing to skyrocket, he decided to limit his business to online selling. This eliminates the multiple mark-ups that typically occur as your clothing makes its way to the department stores; mark-ups that would have turned his $59 item into something north of $200.The material is a US-made stretch denim loomed in Georgia from Texas cotton. Like many small manufacturers, Rob had trouble meeting the mill’s minimum order requirements, but he is making it work.He  stressed to me the importance for him to pay his workers a competitive wage. That includes a strong production manager and sewing professionals who can be hard to find due to the slow death of the apparel industry in America. His pattern-maker used to work for Levi’s and while the first pair of jeans took about 9 hours to build, production efficiency has improved significantly.The result: Women can buy a straight leg or skinny high rise that come in light, medium or dark wash.

Men options include a relaxed fit, slim and tailored in a light, medium and dark wash.

The only non-demin offering on the site today is a beautiful hand made belt. Rob explained how his leather tools were acquired through a salvage company and how he works with while Horween leather. One thing that I really appreciate is the use of a Chicago screw to fasten the belt – it also allows you to switch out your favorite buckle.

What’s coming up next? Keep a look out for tees, more leather goods and black denim in the next few weeks. If you want to keep up with the new goods you can sign up on their mailing list.

Regards,

Paul

 

 

Two New Denim Jackets on the Made-in-USA List

‘What’s New Week’ continues with an update to our post “25+ Denim Jackets for Men and Women: Made in USA,” which you can read here.The two jackets we added are from California-based RPMWest, which has been turning out new products at an incredible rate. Available in raw denim and stone-washed denim, this design features two breast pockets, hand warmer pockets, alloy hardware and a leather patch.The RPMWest Denim jacket in a stonewash finish.The denim jacket in raw denim.

If you want to learn a little bit more about RPMWest you can check out the interview we did with them 2 years ago here. They’ve come a long way since then and, having purchased a few items from PRMWest I can tell you that the materials and quality of the product they build is excellent.

Regards,

Paul

What’s New at Todd Snyder (and Made-in-USA)?

It’s New Product Week at the Americanologists and we have lots of USA-Made items to tell you about!

Disclosure: We’ll get a small commission if you buy through the links in this post. Please do!

Today, we’re checking out the “What’s New” section at the Todd Snyder store. The men’s Bomber Jackets (top) are part of Snyder’s collaboration with Champion, and they are among the few items in that collection that are Made in America. They join the previously released -and very similar – women’s varsity jackets (bottom).These Selvedge Jeans are new and Made-in-L.A.This beautiful Lotuff Backpack allows you to go hands-free in style.For the Anglophiles in our audience, here’s a British-style briefcase made by Lotuff in the USA.The Triumph Briefcase is a study in minimalist eleganceTwo new designs have been added to the selection of Thorsun Swim trunks.In addition to the newly released products shown, Todd Snyder offers a variety of other American-Made items. Check them out here.

Regards, Kathy