You may know it as The Dude’s cardigan or the Big Lebowski sweater, but we debuted the Westerley cardigan in 1974 as part of our High Grade Westernwear line.
The Westerley drew inspiration from beautiful Cowichan sweaters that are hand-knit by Pacific Northwest tribes. Our version was machine-knitted by Winona Knitting Mills of Minnesota, a two-facility company owned by the Woodworth family. Winona Mills was one of the very few USA knitting mills who offered a 2gg knit, a term meaning only two knit stitches per inch. A 2gg sweater is heavy enough to work as outerwear. As the long-time leader of our menswear division expressed it, “You could wear it in a monsoon, and you’d stay warm.”
The vintage Westerley was knit in 3gg, and it was almost as impressive as the 2gg for thickness and warmth. The Westerley was one cozy sweater. We offered it in the western, outdoor and casual lines for over ten years. Over its run of production, the zip front, ring zipper pull and shawl collar stayed the same, as did the Greek key-inspired pattern. Archival visits show that the Westerley’s color variations are surprisingly wide.
The sweater went out of production in the 1980s, but found the limelight in the early 2000s, thanks to an obscure movie that didn’t stay obscure.
The Big Lebowski
This Coen brothers film was released to low to middling success in 1998, but quietly grew into a cult favorite. No one can pinpoint the exact reason why. Was it Donny’s clueless questions? Walter’s chin-strap beard? The German nihilists? The dream sequence scored by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition?
Well, it was probably a grand confluence of all of these important factors, plus the masterful turn taken by Jeff Bridges as The Dude. He staggers in and out of trouble, wearing alternately sweats, shorts, pajama pants, a bathrobe, a purple t-shirt and a battered Westerley cardigan.
Jeff Bridges wore his own clothes for this role, and though there were two sweaters hand-knitted as back-ups, he preferred wearing his personal Pendleton Westerley.
“The Big Lebowski” continues to grow as a cultural phenomenon. It’s not a movie anymore, it’s a lifestyle. Its fans, the Achievers, have conventions and their own documentary. And as the movie’s audience has grown, so has the demand for a re-creation of The Dude’s sweater.
The First Revivals
Pendleton’s first run at reproducing the “Big Lebowski sweater” came in the Fall of 2011. The Dude Cardigan was not an exact replica. It had the weight and coloration of the original Westerley, with a slightly different knit pattern and a leather zipper pull. This homage sweater generated an enormous amount of publicity, especially because the sweater worn by Jeff Bridges in the movie was going to auction that same year. The provenance of the auction sweater came into question and it was withdrawn from auction. Pendleton’s version sold out almost immediately.
In Fall 2013, we brought back the sweater in the original 3gg knit under the Westerley name. We went to the archives, and settled on two versions: a cream with red and black pattern, and a desert brown version with navy and gold pattern.
We offered the Westerley in another archival coloration in charcoal and blue early in the fall of 2014. These were all great Westerleys. They were archivally accurate, beautifully made and selling well to fans of traditional menswear. We stand behind these Westerleys!
But this was not the sweater the Achievers wanted, and the Achievers would not be denied.
The Original Westerley
Well, it’s here. We have researched the archives and studied the movie to capture the coloration as best we can for our newest version, known as The Original Westerley.
This is 100% lambswool in 3gg knit, and it’s ready to take you through your next monsoon, or maybe to your next Lebowskifest. We’ve even restored the ring zipper pull, to which we’ve attached a small bowling pin keychain. We think it really pulls the sweater together.
The Dude abides. And so does his sweater. Come see us in our stores (see Ben, the manager of our Colorado store, above), or order online before they’re gone.
At Pendleton, we have so much local lore to draw on when naming products. We all agreed that the Burnside was a perfect name for this Fall’s new cotton shirt! What else would we name it? It was a perfect name, the perfect name! But then it occurred to us that not every one lives in Portland. So here’s a little background.
Burnside Avenue runs from east to west in Portland, crossing the Willamette River with one of Portland’s original bridges. The best-known stretch on the west side of the river, where Burnside was originally known as “B Street,” is part of Northwest Portland’s Alphabet District.
In the 1800s, before the bridge was built, this was a wild part of town. B Street was home to bars, card rooms, and other nefarious businesses that made it a less-than-respectable part of town. The street name was changed to Burnside after David W. Burnside, a Portland merchant, in the late 1860s, but it took more than a new moniker to alter the neighborhood. It took traffic.
Yes, traffic! The bridge, the streetcar and then the demands of the automobile turned Burnside into one of Portland’s more heavily traveled avenues. When the 205 freeway was cut through, Burnside even got some on-ramps (one block off Burnside). Burnside served as one of the boundaries of what Portlanders called “close-in Northwest,” an industrial area adjacent to the river.
It was home to rail yards, breweries and warehouses. But by the late 1980s, the breweries had closed, and the rail yard had relocated its giant concrete turntable to SE Portland. Change was coming.
Burnside bounds the Pearl District, a prosperous mixed-use neighborhood full of lofts, studios, galleries, restaurants and shopping. But Burnside’s gritty charms remain. You can see it in Powell’s, the City of Books housed in an amalgamation of warehouses joined together to make a square city block of books. You can also see some original Burnside in Everyday Music, another vast emporium housed in converted industrial spaces. And you can see it in the work of the McMenamin brothers, Portland entrepreneurs who restored an ancient dance hall with a famous floating wooden dance floor and opened the Crystal Ballroom with Ringler’s Pub underneath.
Pendleton’s HQ sits where the Pearl District meets Portland’s Old Town, on NW Broadway, just east of the North Park Blocks. Burnside Avenue is only two blocks away. It continues to carry foot, bus, car and bike traffic through a part of Portland where the newness of the Pearl District rubs shoulders with history, and it carries it all comfortably.
What better name could we find for a 100% cotton flannel shirt, peached on both sides of the fabric for softness, bar tacked for strength, and made in the kinds of plaids that say Pendleton?
That’s right. We called it the Burnside shirt, and we hope you like it.
In the early 1960s, a group called The Pendletones adopted their name in honor of the surf uniform of the day: Pendleton shirts worn over tee shirts with khakis. The original lineup included brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine.
The Pendletones soon changed their name to the Beach Boys . Even though only one member of the group had ever been on a surfboard, they sang about the California surfing scene; waves, sunshine, cars and girls. This might have been simple subject matter, but layered instrumentation and soaring harmonies made these songs anything but simple. Under the unique artistic leadership of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys defined surf music. And though their name changed, their uniform didn’t. The band wore this blue and charcoal plaid shirt on the covers of 45s and LPs throughout the early 1960s.
The Beach Boys’ Pendleton shirts were part an existing trend. When surfing came to California in the late 1950s, surfers devised performance wear: swim trunks and plaid Pendleton shirts over a layer of Vaseline. Surfers wore the same shirts over light pants on the shore, and a fashion trend was born.
This look hit the radio airwaves courtesy of the Majorettes, whose song, “White Levis” became a number one hit in 1963. As the lyrics said, “My boyfriend’s always wearin’ white Levi’s…and his tennis shoes and his surfin’ hat and a big plaid Pendleton shirt.”
That’s a Pendleton shirt cover of that 45, even though they named the song after the pants. You can give it a listen, and don’t be surprised if you start singing along. But let’s get back to the shirt made so popular by the Beach Boys.
In 2002, Pendleton celebrated eight decades of Pendleton shirts by bringing back iconic shirts from each decade. To celebrate the 1960s, we brought back the Board Shirt in the same plaid seen on all those record covers. We officially named it the Original Surf Plaid.
The shirt has stayed in the line ever since. We’ve used it in caps, hats, bags and jackets. It’s still made in the original 100% virgin Umatilla wool as it was back then, but we’ve interpreted it in rayon for campshirts and cotton for sleepwear.
We have done a few colorations of the plaid. Whether it’s in blue, coral, rust or olive, the pattern is easily recognizable.
Because of its strong ties to surfing history and culture, this pattern was used in key collaborations with Hurley and VANS in the late 2000s.
There is a discussion now and then in Pendleton’s Menswear division about which is our most enduring men’s item of all time. Some say it’s the Topster, the shirt jacket that defined collegiate wear in the 1950s and 60s. Some say it’s the Westerley cardigan worn by the Dude in “The Big Lebowski.” Others claim the honor for the Beach Boys Board Shirt.
This shirt is almost as beloved as the band that made it famous! It’s one of our top-sellers each year, still worn by surfers, boarders, musicians, sons and fathers. The shirt is still going strong, and so are the Beach Boys. The band is currently out on tour, and they still love Pendleton.
This past fall, Zoe Fisher and Matt Johnson tied the knot under an ancient tree in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park. The bride was beautiful and the groom was handsome, but here at Pendleton, our attention was drawn to the row of attending men.
There they are, standing proud in our Dude Cardigan, Pendleton’s tribute to the Westerley worn by Jeff Bridges as The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.”
All the Details
I was able to talk to Zoe to talk about her wedding last week, and the first thing I asked her was, did her wedding have an official theme? “It was Portland,” said Zoe. “Just Portland. My husband’s family is from the East coast and this was going to be their first trip out here. So we wanted the wedding to reflect Portland as much as it could.”
Marrying in red is a bold choice. It’s a fantastic color, and Zoe’s dress has a definite Adele vibe. Was it new or vintage? “Both, kind of. I found a vintage 1950s Butterick pattern on eBay and gave it to a Portland seamstress named Skye Blue. She’s into sustainable and upcycled designs, so I knew she’d be up for an unconventional wedding dress. I gave her the pattern and fabric I found for $6.00 a yard at the Fabric Depot.”
And look what she did with it!
The dress was new and old. Zoe added something borrowed and something blue with the Chanel Nouvelle Vague nail polish, owned and applied by a friend.
Zoe was ready to get married in style. But what about the men?
Two occurrences had the bride-and-groom-to-be thinking about having the male members of the wedding party in Pendleton sweaters.
Last December, Zoe saw a feature in Portland Bride magazine that used the Pendleton Jerome cardigan. “It definitely fit in with our theme. Pendleton is the Portland brand.”
Then in May of 2011, The Oregonian ran a feature on the Dude Cardigan, a tribute version of the cardigan worn in a movie that, well, it means a lot to Matt and Zoe. “We’re basically obsessed with The Big Lebowski. So much so that we quote it almost every day.”
The stars were set to align. But a call to the downtown Portland Pendleton store was worrisome. “The ship date was really close to the wedding, and they’d pre-sold most of the stock before it even arrived. We were on the waiting list!”
Zoe decided to go to the store in person to look at other sweater options. When she arrived, associates were unpacking Dude sweaters and making calls. And once Zoe saw the cardigan in person, no other would do.
That’s where Pendleton people stepped in. Sheri Vanderpool, manager at Portland Pendleton, says, “Associate Michelle Seyer worked with Zoe personally, calling all around the country.” Michelle kept calling until she found enough for Matt’s three groomsmen, and Zoe’s best friend Jazz, who was one of her attendants. The sweaters came from every geographic region.
“We bought the sweaters and gave them as attendant gifts,” explains Zoe. “My dad was a little pouty that he didn’t get to wear one, but I said, no Dad, you’re the father of the bride. You wear a suit.” And of course, the groom Matt wanted one, too. He may or may not be getting one for Christmas. Matt will just have to wait and see on December 25th.
The event was captured on film by Heather Bayles, a Portland photographer who allowed us to use these shots. Ms. Bayles took the pre-wedding shots at the Nines Hotel and the reception photos at the Bossanova Ballroom. Y
The very Oregon flowers were provided by Quince .
A big thanks to Zoe and Matt for allowing us to share in their very Lebowski wedding, and a special thanks to Zoe for sharing all the details that went into planning an event of so much heart, soul and style.
When complimented on her bravery for planning an outdoor wedding in Portland’s fall weather, she said, “Well, we decorated our save-the-date cards with an umbrella.” Did the wedding party have umbrellas, just in case? That idea made Zoe laugh. “We’re natives! We don’t do umbrellas!”
Congratulations, Zoe and Matt Johnson, and here’s to a beautiful future together. And if the Johnsons have inspired you to investigate some creative choices for your wedding, come see us online or at one of our stores. We’d be happy to make it happen for you.
There are plenty of Right Then, Right Now garments in Pendleton’s history, but by far, our most famous sweater was immortalized in the cult classic, “The Big Lebowski.”
This Coen brothers film was released to low to middling success in 1998, but quietly grew into a cult favorite. No one can quite pinpoint why. Was it Donny’s clueless questions? The dream sequence scored by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition? Was it Walter’s chin-strap beard? Or perhaps the German nihilists?
Well, it was all of these, but most of all, we think it was…
Jeff Bridges wore his own clothes for this role, and though there were several sweaters hand-knitted as back-ups, he preferred wearing his original Pendleton. As the Dude, he staggers in and out of trouble, wearing alternately sweats, shorts, pajama pants, a bathrobe, t-shirts and…
The original Pendleton cardigan debuted in 1974 as the Westerley.
We took inspiration from the beautiful hand-knitted Cowichan sweaters of the Pacific Northwest tribes, but ours were machine-knitted by Winona Knitting Mills of Minnesota. Here’s a little U.S.A. manufacturing history for you…Winona Mills was a two-facility company, owned by the Woodworth family. They were one of the very few knitters in the US who could do a 2gg knit. A 2gg knit is basically outerwear. You could wear it in a monsoon, and you’d stay warm and cozy.
The vintage Westerley is a 3gg knit, and it is WARM. We offered the Westerley in the western, outdoor and casual lines over the years. If your tag has a white background, it was part of the Western line. The blue labels are in the outdoor and casual lines. While down in the archives researching, I counted at least eight colorations, but that was just when I stopped counting. There are probably more.
The colors went all over the place, but the zip front, ring pull and shawl color stayed the same.
Joining the Archive
We have a few versions of this sweater in our archives, but when Kyle Anderson contacted us to see if we wanted his, we were delighted to accept it. Here it is, not quite mint but then again, neither is the Dude’s.
According to Kyle, the original owner, it was worn once. It’s in beautiful shape, it’s a great coloration, and best of all, it’s an XL so it will actually fit our modern size-large forms. Eventually, we hope this garment this will go on permanent display, but until then we’ve put this sweater to work in photo shoots and fashion shows beacuse 2011 marks the year we released a tribute version of the cardigan.
We don’t call it the Westerly anymore. We call it the Dude. This is a heavyweight sweater, designed to keep you warm no matter where you’re doing your Achieving. It’s available at our stores and our website. We didn’t exactly replicate the original. We wanted to preserve the value of the vintage sweaters that sell on eBay to Achievers everywhere.
The phenomenon that is “The Big Lebowski” continues. There are books devoted to the lore of Lebowski. All over the country, Lebowskifests draw crowds of Achievers, troupes of dancing bowling pins, and character look-alikes. You can buy stuffed animals, action figures and, of course, sweaters new or sweaters old.
When an especially unique vintage Pendleton garment comes through our design areas, it can cause a stir. It’s like a new baby. People from other divisions come to visit, photos circulate in email, and everyone asks a lot of questions. What was it called? When was it made? And most importantly, what will we do with it?
A jacquard coat that came to the sewing room of the Men’s division was no exception. The Crossroads pattern was bold and dramatic, and the coloration was unique. Menswear decided to bring it back, so Fabric Design got to work redesigning and coloring the pattern. Womenswear and Home saw the possibilities…and that’s how a corporate jacquard is born.
What’s a “corporate jacquard”?
At Pendleton, a corporate jacquard is interpreted across Home, Women’s and Men’s offerings. Most items carry a hangtag that tells the pattern’s story, like this one for Crossroads:
The Crossroads design reflects First Nations teachings and the power of the four directions – the number “four” is sacred among many Native American tribes. East represents the physical body, the realm of the Warrior. West represents the heart and the path of the Visionary. North is the region of the mind and the wisdom of the Teacher. South represents the spirit, enlightenment and the realm of the Healer. Balance and harmony are achieved where the directions meet at the center of the Medicine Wheel. Crosses in this jacquard pattern symbolize the crossroads where the paths meet – the place where an individual becomes whole.
The Home offerings are done in grey and tan with dark red accents. There is furniture and more. The blanket is extraordinarily beautiful, and the centered cross element makes for a dramatic wool sham. The knit merino wool throw and oversized, feather-filled knit merino pillow are new styles for Pendleton this year.
Womenswear works the contemporary Navajo-inspired trend in a traditional duster coat in a generously sized version of Crossroads. We used the same scale and color in the Riata Vest, and the pattern explodes in the knit Wildwood Wrap Cardigan. A smaller-scale woven version in both blue/black and black/tan adds some drape and swing to the Crossroads separates; a skirt, jacket and poncho.
Menswear has the pattern throughout the line, including a shawl collar cardigan, hats, mufflers, bags (like this Weekender, coming to Pendleton-usa.com later this fall) and some outstanding outerwear.
But the true piece de resistance is the new version of the original coat . We changed the design a little, sleeked it up. It’s a piece of the past, reworked for now. This will be available at our website starting 10/01/11.
Everything Crossroads can be found here with more to come as the weather gets colder…oh, wait.
You want to see the original coat?
Well here it is. It’s at least thirty years old, maybe forty. And since it’s a Pendleton, it still looks amazing.
In the twenties, thirties and forties, movie theaters were packed with fans of America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford (on the left in a fringed Harding shawl). She was the golden child of early American cinema, though her reputation took a big hit when she scandalously cut off her trademark golden braids. She didn’t just act. She produced, wrote, directed and marketed her films, and was one of the co-founders of United Artists. Sadly, the advent of talkies ended her acting career. Apparently, hearing Mary Pickford speak was something like reading the Tweets of your favorite celebrities. Sometimes, silence is golden.
Anita Page is on the right, in a coat that will look familiar to those of you who have watched The Portland Collection video. In that, designer Rachel Turk is slipping on a coat similar to Ms. Page’s.
Nothing would make us happier than to have Anita Page’s coat in our possession, so we ventured hopefully down to the archives to have a look:
Here is one of our oldest archival coats. It’s seen better days, but it’s beautifully made and still inspirational. The length and styling are close. The buttons differ, but buttons are usually replaced on vintage garments. But…Ms. Page’s coat had patch pockets, while ours has slash pockets. The sleeves on her coat are cuffed, while ours are hemmed. Oh well…we’re glad to have our own long Harding coat among the treasures in our archives.
Where did the Harding pattern come from?
In 1923, President Warren G. Harding and his wife visited the Pacific Northwest to dedicate part of the old Oregon Trail. A presidential visit this far west (in a non-campaign year) was an occasion. The area’s tribal dignitaries, chiefs of the Cayuse and Umatilla tribes, asked Pendleton Woolen Mills to create a unique blanket as a special gift to the First Lady, Florence Harding.
The weavers modified a Chief Joseph pattern and produced a fringed shawl in shades of white, tan, yellow and red. Mrs. Harding graciously accepted the blanket, and by all accounts was delighted with her so-very-western gift.
If you know your history, you know that Mrs. Harding didn’t always have the easiest time of it. We can only hope her warm Pendleton shawl offered a little comfort as the Harding presidency was rocked by scandal.
Despite that, what came to be known as the Harding pattern has been a steady part of the Pendleton line since the 1920s. We’ve used it in menswear, womenswear, accessories and blankets.
From season to season, we dip back into Harding history for accessories and apparel. In 2009, a vintage Pendleton Westernwear ad image sparked our designer’s inspiration.
We have no idea what these gentlemen are discussing so intently, or if they called each other the night before to coordinate their outfits. But the 2009 versions of these sweaters were solid hits. If you’re not sure whether you have the old version or the new, check the label. The newer versions will have the word “Pendleton” straight across, rather than at a slant. If “Pendleton” is at a slant, your sweater is vintage. And that is a seriously nice find.
Heritage is everywhere lately, with even the newest brands trying to connect with the past. At Pendleton Woolen Mills, we don’t have to borrow heritage, because we have our own. Thanks for sharing it with us for over a hundred years.