Let’s talk thrift stores finds, with regard to clothing again. You all have already read my piece about gabardine and whipcord (or if you haven’t, check it out here), but today I’m going to tell you all about another favorite clothing-detail of mine: chain-stitching. Chain-stitching refers to the details on certain clothing articles, like on the image seen below.


What is chain-stitching, you ask? Chain-stitching refers to a sewing technique where a series of looped stitches form a chain-like pattern. In chain-stitching done by hand, the needle doesn’t need to pass through more than one layer of fabric, so it’s a very effective surface embellishment. Chain-stitching can have the appearance of “drawing” on fabric, so it’s perfect for ornate surface designs.

You see, typically, vintage western shirts and bowling shirts were gabardine and the vintage jackets would have been whipcord - and all of them would have been customized with chain stitching. It’s a neat detail, mostly associated with the 70s, but it’s been making a comeback as of late. Personally, for me, if it looks like it’s a niche interest to someone I typically buy it.  

So - now that you know why I like it, where can you pick up some of your own? Honestly, a weird thing someone once said to me about chain stitching was that it’s a skill like tattooing, everyone can learn it but it’s very difficult to do well - and that’s stuck with me. I usually find it in (shocker!) thrift shops, garage sales - just look for embroidered old western shirts, and remember: the more garish the better. If you ever find anything made by Nudie Cohn in particular, you’ve hit the jackpot. Nudie Cohn pieces were some of the finest chain stitched and embellished garments ever produced (mainly for the country and western crowd). You can spot his label pretty easily, it’s Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors (no relation to the current high end denim manufacturer). If you want an example of top-notch Nudie, in certain hipster country circles he’s most well known for the poppy & pot leaf suits he made for The Flying Burrito Brothers to wear on the cover of their record “The Gilded Palace of Sin.”