My New Favorite Martex Design

Look familiar?  If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a month, then you’ll recognize this Martex design from a earlier post where I showed a modern dress that used a modified version of a Mid Century Martex print found on a linen towel.  I was delighted to get the same towel, but in blue in the mail the other day.

It was a gift from Mod Betty of Retro Roadmap, who had found the dress that sparked my original post.  Sometimes I think I ought to put Mod Betty (along with a few others who are always sending great leads my way) on the payroll.  But then I remember that there is no payroll, so MB ends up getting paid the same as I do.

I find the current obsession with mid 20th century design to be interesting, and a bit amusing.  Being born in 1955, I was surrounded with “modern” design.  When a generation that had not been as exposed to this design rediscovered it ten or fifteen years ago, I thought it a bit odd.  What was so commonplace to me looked fresh and exciting to their eyes.  And I can see that they were right.

I can’t see myself living in a house surrounded by the artifacts of my childhood, but I look at the Mid Century houses of so many of my online friends and I can easily see the appeal of the style.  I realize that I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by good design.  Well, except for the lamps, and I’m sorry, but the Fifties and Sixties saw the birth of some mighty ugly lamps.

I bet there is a black version of this one.

 

When  it comes to textile design, I really think that the designers of the 1940s through 60s were at the top of the game.  The simplicity of these Martex towels say “Cocktail Time” without the overly cutesy-ness of similar designs being made today.

Thanks so much, Beth!

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Goodbye to Worn Fashion Journal

For the past seven years or so I’ve looked forward to the twice-a-year delivery of the best, most insightful, and entertaining fashion magazine on the market.  Worn Fashion Journal was an independently published magazine from Canada.  Over their ten years of publication everything from buttons to fashion museums was covered, always with an eye to the cultural and historical aspects of the subject.

I had already learn of the magazine’s closing when I was contacted by writer Madeleine Cummings.  She was working on an article about how feminism figured into the evolution of the gymsuit, and she wanted to know more about my collection of the garment.  I’m always happy to talk about vintage sportswear.

The article is very good, and I’m pleased to say that the bit where I talk about my collection is exactly as the conversation with Madeleine went.  I’m always a bit wary of interviews, as the things one says are not always stated in the same way once they make it to print.  That was not the case with Worn.  After Madeleine submitted her article, I was contacted by an editor at Worn to make sure all the facts were correct.  That had never happened before, and I was impressed with the standards this publication had set for itself.

Back issues are still available on the Worn website, but the best way to get a good taste of what Worn was all about is to order the Worn Archive book.

Probably my favorite content in the final issue (not counting the gymsuit article, of course) was a feature titled “A completely Random Glossary From A to Z.”  The entry for K is “Kitty Foyle Dress, and the one for T is “Toggle.”  Completely random, but also completely engrossing.

I wish all the people at Worn Fashion Journal the best.  Thanks for making the world of fashion journalism a whole lot more interesting.

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Bowl to Stay Slim, 1958

Growing up in the 1960s, I can remember bowling being a very big deal.  The leagues that met weekly to compete were an important social function for many people in my community.  My parents didn’t bowl, but the parents of a friend were in a league so I often went with them to the lanes.  I learned to bowl (badly) and was never any good at it, but as I said, the social part of it was really the point.

In 1958 Brunswick, a maker of bowling supplies, published this booklet that was aimed to encourage women to take up the sport.

Bowling is a graceful, rhythmical sport.  A fun sport that’s not strenuous yet so good for the figure.

Marion Ladewig really was a professional bowler.  Here she is on What’s My Line? where she actually stumped the panelists.

The booklet is full of photos of attractive – and slim – women bowling, intermingled with dieting tips and how to score the game.

Here we have Mrs. Ladewig helping a young woman pick out a ball.  One thing I did not realize is that “Shoes are made for both right and left-handed bowlers…”  I’m left-handed, and I can’t ever remember being offered left-handed shoes.  Not surprising since I always considered myself lucky if they actually had the right size for me.

Of course the booklet would not be complete without an ad for Brunswick equipment.  I was especially interested in the shoes, mainly because bowling shoes can be a bit of a problem to accurately date.  I’d sure like a pair of the Princess Brunswick, in red, please.

The back cover has one last reminder, that bowling is a fun activity for the entire family.

In my bowling file I found another booklet, which is less soft-sell, more sports-minded.  I only picked it up because it is labeled “Compliments of Misty Harbor.”  I thought that was an odd sponsor considering Misty Harbor was a maker of rain coats and jackets, not something one would wear while bowling.

And once again, here is the bowling team from 1956.  I find it interesting that all the advertising booklet women are wearing skirts and dresses, but the real bowlers are outfitted in slacks.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Shoes, Winter Sports

Vintage Sewing – Vogue 6572 from the 1960s

I’ve seen thousands of vintage patterns in my time of collecting and sewing them, but sometimes I run across one that makes me stop and dream of being the woman in the illustration.  The cutting table I recently bought came with several hundred patterns, most of them not of interest.  But while flipping through them, I stopped at this one and pulled it out for the “make” pile.

The last thing I need is another dress.  I have enough to cover the occasions in life where I’ll need to wear one.  But I just loved this design so much and began to dream of fabrics.

After days of thinking about this pattern I began to realize that it was not the dress I loved, it was the neckline and upper bodice.  In the 1960s designers must have gotten tired of trying to redesign the plain sheath dress, and so they got busy cutting the bodice into pieces and reassembling them.  Look carefully at mid-1960s sewing patterns and you will see what I mean.

Or just look at this one great example.  From the princess seams that shape the bust, to the sleeve and upper bodice yoke, it’s the seaming that makes this otherwise plain design interesting.  Add a tie neckline and a keyhole and you have plenty of interest in the design.

Still, I did not need a dress.

But I can always use another white knit top.  While looking through my accumulated fabrics, I ran across a white cotton knit that I’d been meaning to use to make a tee shirt.  Instead I decided to up my knit shirt game a bit by making the bodice of my new favorite design.

The pattern was not designed for knits, especially not one this thick and stretchy, so the slash keyhole is a bit rounded.  I also decided not to press the binding of the neckline flat, as I liked it rounded, especially with the tubular ties.

This is the sleeve.  Just a tiny curve makes it lie flatter, and gives another interesting element to the design.

The back of the dress takes a zipper, but I knew I’d not need one with my knit.  I love how the yoke meets the bodice in a point.

And here is the full view of the back.

I’m sorry about the dressform photos.  I promised myself sometime ago that all sewing projects would be modeled by me.  But after battling a cold for over a week, I think the dressform looks a little less scary.

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Vintage Miscellany – December 7, 2014

Click to enlarge

I could not resist this recently found photo of three sailor girls.  It’s the oldest photo I have that shows women wearing slacks.  The photo is not dated, but there are a few clues.  First, there are those odd hair styles.  In the late teens and into the twenties when brave women were bobbing their hair, their less brave sisters were  cutting their hair short in the front and on the sides, but leaving it long in the back.   They then rolled up the long part to make it look short.

Another hint is the shoes.  The young woman on the left is wearing a 1910s boot, but the other two look as if they are wearing  Keds.  I have an ad from 1919 that shows this very style.

Finally, there is the number “23” handwritten on the back of the photo.  That might possibly be the date.  At any rate, it is a great early example of women were easing into pants.

And now for the news…

*   I’ve already posted about the Chanel Metier d’art show, and the French TV show connecting the dots between Chanel and the Nazis.  The program is on youtube, but it is in French.  If anyone finds it with English subtitles, I’d sure appreciate a link.

*   Chanel replied to this program with an arrogant “So what?” and I can almost forgive them because of all the money they have invested in saving the various little ateliers in Paris that supply Chanel and the rest of the couture.  When watching these workshops at work, I  do want to forgive Chanel for their crazy cult of Mademoiselle.

*   And do not miss the making of some very remarkable tweed.

*  If you were planning to give the gift of LL Bean boots this Christmas, I hope you have bought them already, as  there is not a waitlist of over 100,000 names.

*   The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum in Stowe, Vermont, has a great-sounding exhibition underway: Slope Style: Fashion on Snow 1930-2014.

*   There’s a new Harris Tweed that gives off the aroma of whisky.  Really.

*   The Museum Association in Great Britain has reported that one in ten museums considered selling items from their collection this past year in order to get needed revenue.

*   “When Forever 21 settles a dispute over copying — which, again, the company has done more than 50 times in its 27 years of existence — it typically includes a non-admission of guilt, financial compensation to the designer whose work was copied, and a confidentiality agreement.”  Article at Jezebel.

*   After being closed for what seems like forever, the Cooper Hewitt in New York City will reopen on December 12 with several interesting sounding exhibitions.

*   A look at the making of Brahams Mount blankets, located in Maine.

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Alpine Fashion: From the 1940s to Chanel 2015

photo copyright Chanel.com

 

Once a year Chanel takes their show on the road with what they call the metiers d’art pre-fall show.  This year’s show took place in Salzburg, Austria and was a tribute to the Alpine look.  According to Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel got the idea for her 1950s jacket from the bell boy jackets at a Salzburg hotel in which she had stayed.

I’d wondered how Karl was going to make edelweiss chic, and you can see the how of it in the photo above.  By combining the trademark Chanel quilting pattern with the flowers at each point you can see how he took his bag of Chanel tricks, threw in the Alpine clichés, and came up with a collection that was uneven but interesting.  Some of the pieces were stunningly beautiful, as one would expect from Chanel.

As with all Chanel collections, the jackets and sweaters are my favorite pieces.  It has occurred to me that to replicate the look, it would be cheaper to fly to Munich for a week during Oktoberfest and do your shopping in one of the many trachten ( folkloric clothing) stores.  Or you could visit a button seller for edelweiss buttons to replace the buttons on a jacket you already have.  Either way, for less than the cost of a Chanel jacket you and a friend can enjoy one of the biggest parties in Europe.

Last week French television aired a program about Nazi collaborators who were artists and prominent people.  Coco Chanel was the star of the show.   The House of Chanel released a statement to the effect that there was nothing new in the program.  True, as Hal Vaughan published this information over two years ago.   Still, I find it a bit odd that the new collection has such a strong Germanic bent.  Perhaps Salzburg was chosen as the venue as Berlin or Munich would have made the connection clearer.

It will be interesting to see if this collection ends up sparking a trend in the way that Alpine inspired looks were a trend in the late 1930s and into the 40s.  To look at that trend, I’ve reprinted below a post I wrote four years ago about the Alpine trend during the 1940s.   I’m sorry the photos are not up to the standards here, but you can see how I’ve improved them over the years.

In the late 1930s and all during WWII, clothes with an Alpine (or Bavarian, or Tyrolean) flavor were very popular.  This has always struck me as being a bit odd, especially after it was clear that the US was going to war with Germany, and these clothes were so reminiscent of German folk dress.

In his book Forties Fashion, Jonathan Walford explains that in the 1930s, the Nazi German leadership actively encouraged the wearing of  Germanic Folk Costume, and the dirndl-wearing blonde German ideal commonly appeared in German propaganda images.  The use of Alpine-inspired details even appeared in Paris in 1936.

In looking at American fashion magazines, I’ve seen Alpine fashions featured as early as 1935.  Most often I’ve seen clothing from the Austrian firm, Lanz of Salzburg, used. Lanz was started as a maker of traditional Austrian folk costumes  in Austria in 1922 by Josef Lanz and Fritz Mahler.  By the mid 1930s they were exporting clothing to the  US, and in 1936 Josef Lanz opened a branch of Lanz, Lanz Originals, in New York.

As  the US moved toward war with Germany, these clothes continued to be popular.  Interesting, Lanz advertised in magazines such as Vogue and Glamour throughout the war, but in their ad copy, there is never any reference to the fact that the clothes are so similar to German folk dress.  From a 1943 ad:

Lanz faithful, classic suit of long-wearing, all-wool tweed, with warm boxy coat to match.  Colorful applique adds that gay spice for which Lanz is famous.

But why did this style continue to be so popular in the US?  I  have some theories.  First, “ethnic” fashions of all kinds were gaining in favor in the late 1930s.  Magazines did features on South American clothes, and Mexican and tropical prints were popular.  The dirndl skirt was used with lots of prints, not just with Alpine embroidery.

Also, these fashions were already in women’s and girl’s closets.  It stands to reason that in a time of shortages that a garment that would “go with” what the shopper already had would be desired.

If you want a deeper explanation, then you might consider the theory that enemies tend to copy their foes in dress, a form of cultural imperialism.

Whatever the reason, Lanz and other companies produced some really cute things.  I realized that I have a sort of mini-collection of these 1930s and 1940s Germanic fashions:

This label is from the dress at the top of the post.  Mid 1940s, made in the US

Early 1940s Jacket, with its label below

Made in Austria embroidered gloves

Unlabeled Jumper with embroidered trim.  This style jumper was very popular during the war.

Embroidered and appliqued belt, late 1930s

This vest was bought in a London department store, and is labeled Swiss Style.  Love the Edelweiss!

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Currently Viewing: Advanced Style

I have to start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the blog on which this film is based.  Advanced Style was started several years ago by a young man, Ari Seth Cohen, as a street style blog featuring stylish older people.  The blog became successful, partly due to some of the characters that Cohen featured.  Somewhere along the way the emphasis turned from individual style to style eccentrics, and at that point I pretty much lost interest in Advanced Style.

Cohen and his featured ladies have gone on to become media stars, with an Advanced Style book and documentary.  I wasn’t really interested in watching the film, but I’ve had a recent unfortunate encounter with a nasty cold germ, and so Netflix has become my best friend.  After two days of Miss Fisher, Poiret, and Miss Marple, I was ready for something other than murder, so when I noticed that Netflix was now streaming Advanced Style, I decided to just watch it.  The worst that could happen was that it would put me to sleep.

I’m happy to say that I did not go to sleep and that I found the film to be very enjoyable.  Yes, it did feature older women dressed in a way that most of us would have no desire of dressing, but the point made by the women themselves was not that it was important for them to look “kooky” but it was important that they dress to satisfy themselves.

For most of us, that would not mean putting on bright red eyelashes every day, or wearing a hat that could in no way be over-looked by other people on the street.  What it means is that older women (and men too, of course) should feel free to base their clothing choices on what makes them feel happy.

For many of us I suspect that it might be that we want to be a bit more “put together” in this dress-down casual world of ours.  An Advanced Style attitude would say to wear the dress, even though everyone else at the event will be wearing slacks.  Wear the skirt and sweater though all the other women will be in capris and tee shirts.

After watching the film I decided to give the blog a new look, and was happy to see  that some of the old format has returned.  There were photos of stylish people found on the street, not just Cohen’s “superstars”.  It’s great seeing older people with all kinds of personal style again being given the Advanced Style spotlight.

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