Vintage Miscellany – November 23, 2014

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I’m pretty sure that the letters on this 1940s cheerleader’s sweater read “BMCD”.  Does anyone have a clue what the letters mean?  A search for BMCD leads to Bishop McDevitt High School, so it could be Bishop McDevitt Catholic, but what does the D mean?

This photo must be enlarged to get the full impact of the football players, and especially the young women sitting on the ground with their fantastic coats.

For those of us not interested in football, there is always the fashion news.

*   Probably the biggest news of the past two weeks was that designer Ralph Rucci has left his own label.   Such a shame, really.

*   Most of us cannot afford to have a suit custom-made on Savile Row, so why should we care about its  decline?

*   Scottish tweed maker Campbells of Beauly has changed hands for the first time in 158 years.

*   Here are fifteen things you most likely did not know about clothing during World War I.   The information comes from a new book, Dressed for War: Uniform, Civilian Clothing & Trappings, 1914 to 1918, written by Nina Edwards.  I’ve read the book, and need to do a review.  It’s about so much more than clothing, and it paints a vivid picture of the hardships both at home and in the trenches.

*   North Carolina is becoming a leader in eco-textiles.

*   Curious about the early history of the sewing machine?

*   Need an excuse to go to Paris?  Pierre Cardin has opened a fashion museum.

*   The newest weapon in the fight against fake designer goods is your smartphone.

*   The Guardian printed trying to explain why fashion keeps reviving old brands.

*   Not fashion, but completely incredible: Children of Civil War Vets still walk among us.

And finally, I have my temporary Etsy shop up and running.  I’ve been listing patterns and books, and I have much more to sell in the next month, so please check it for patterns, fabrics, linens, and a few pieces of vintage clothing.  All the money made goes to support this site and my archives.

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From Towel to Dress

Several years ago I posted this photo of a cocktail towel that is in my possession, which goes to show what a great memory my friend Mod Betty has when it comes to design.  She was doing a bit of online shopping when she happened upon a dress with a design that rung a bell with her.  She sent the link my way to see if I could find my photos of the towel so we could compare the two.

As you can see, the two prints are not identical, but the dress print was apparently based on the print of the vintage towel.  Look carefully and you will see that the martini glass with  olive and the ice cubes have been added to the original design.  The website where this dress is sold describes the print as  a “unique new Atomic Martini print.”

My towel was made by Martex, which was originally a maker of printed kitchen linens.  Today, Martex is still in business and is owned by WestPoint Home, which also owns many of the other great American home textile makers including Stevens, Pepperell, and Utica.

Does the addition of the martini glass, the olive and the ice cube make this print new?  Is there a copyright violation?  It would take a copyright expert to answer those questions, something that I am not.

I love interesting printed fabrics, and I like the dress.  However, it bothers me that the line between what is vintage and what is reproduced is so terribly smudged.  I’m glad I’m a collector now, and not twenty years down the road, because between all the retro fabrics and reproductions, it is going to be hard to tell what is what.  Add to that all the people (including me) who are sewing with vintage patterns and vintage fabrics, and there are going to be a lot of very confusing clothes at the Goodwill of the future.

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Lombard Blouses for the College Girl, 1918

Some time ago I wrote about two little catalogs that I had acquired.  They were from the Henry S. Lombard company, a maker of girls’ school and outing clothes.  I was recently pleased to add another Lombard catalog to my collection.  This one, from 1918, is the earliest that I have.

From the catalog:

“We want to again emphasize the fast that we are the original and only makers of the Genuine Lombard Middy Blouses and Suits.  We receive letters asking is our goods can be bought at other stores throughout the country.  They cannot.  We sell direct from Boston through this catalogue to the individual customer, with only one handling and one small profit.”

Lombard seems terribly eager to assure the buyer that this is the genuine article.  Surely there were not “fake” middies in 1918.

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Lombard advertised as selling yachting uniforms, and even if one’s “yacht” was only a canoe, these skirts and middy blouses were just the thing.  As you can see from the photos, they were also right for tennis, golf, and reading.

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Here we see more clothes for active sports, including breeches. “The great demand for a practical substitute for the skirt, allowing greater freedom of motion, had prompted us to design the Camp Breeches shown in the picture.”

The silk tie was available in several colors, including Wellesley Blue, Dartmouth Green and Vassar Rose and Gray.

The skirts and sweaters on this page seem to be good for classroom wear.

Coat model 212 is described as a trench coat, a term that came out of the war that was beginning to wind down in Europe.  Note how very different it is from a modern trench coat, but the wide belt and pockets do give it a bit of a military air.

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All the bathing suits on these pages were made from wool or cotton jersey knit.  Several of the models have “attached tights”, something I’ve never seen in an actual garment.  I love the variety of bathing caps they offered.  Model  83 is referred to as a “smart jockey bathing cap.”  Note the bill.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

White Stag Function-Alls for Women Workers

I recently got a message from Juliet at SixCatsFun Vintage saying that she had found a denim jacket with an interesting label.  It was “White Stag Function-Alls.”  At first I sort of shook my head in wonder, as White Stag made clothing primarily in canvas up to the middle 1960s.  But something seemed familiar.

I pulled out a WWII era White Stag catalog I have, and there it was – a full page of denim Function-Alls.  They were produced for women who were working in wartime jobs that required sturdy work clothing.

Overall Jacket to match style No. 7844 or No. 653.  Triple-stitched 8-oz. Sanforized denim.  Copper buttons. Complete with bandana Handkerchief.  Dark Blue denim only.

You can see the triple-stitching referred to in the copy.  And if you want to see the label a bit more clearly, it is printed in the catalog.

It’s a gloved hand pulling on a lever of some sort.

Due to the faded and frayed label, you can tell that this piece was used, probably by some 1940s Rosie the Riveter.  I think the documentation from the catalog makes the piece really special.  It’s hard to find WWII era women’s work clothing, though you know it must have been made by the millions.

The great condition of this piece is typical of the type of quality that White Stag turned out.  Even under wartime restrictions and shortages, they managed to produce a product that held up beautifully.  My catalog is not dated, but the references to the war and “the duration” make me think it is probably from 1943 or 1944.

Note the stag on the button.

Thanks to Juliet for sharing this great piece of history with me, and for letting me show it off here.  For anyone interested in this historic piece, she is selling it on ebay.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing, World War II

Meeting My First Fashion Love, Betsey Johnson

It’s often said that one should not try to seek out the heroes of her youth, as it usually leads to disappointment and disillusionment.  How many movies have been made about the adult who meets the idol of his youth only to find out he is a drunk and a jerk?  I’m happy to report that is not always the case.

I was taught to sew at a very early age, and by the time I was in high school I was making the majority of my clothes.  The early 1970s were a great time to be a kid who sewed because crafts were in.  Not only that, but Butterick patterns were continuing to expand their Young Designer series of patterns.  And starting in 1971 my favorites were the Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat patterns.

Betsey came to fashion prominence in the mid 1960s as a designer for Paraphernalia, but I was only ten and not exactly into fashion, so I have no memory of that famous boutique and clothing line.  But by  high school I was ready to join the crazy fashion parade of the early 70s.  I would go to the local textile factory outlets and buy the wackiest knits I could find, all destined to be made up Betsey-style.

I had plans to be in Charlotte yesterday due to the Vintage Charlotte market that is held twice a year.  When someone tweeted that Betsey Johnson was to be making an appearance at the Charlotte Belk store the same day I could not believe my luck.  I made plans to attend and to see if I could get in to meet her.

Despite a long line and a long wait, my desire to meet Betsey prevailed.  When she appeared, it was in a rain of rose petals.

Betsey then took a seat and began to meet her fans.  Before long it was my turn.  I’d had the presence of mind to bring along one of my vintage Betsey Johnson patterns for her to sign.

When I handed the pattern to her she said that she had not seen one of those in years.  She showed it around to her “entourage” telling them how she designed sewing patterns in the 70s.  Then she asked me if I was still sewing and we had a nice little conversation about home sewing and how much fun it was.  She said she wished she could get back into it herself.

Even though there was a huge crowd of people wanting to meet Betsey, she took the time to have a real conversation with me.  I’m sure that I’m not the only person who left feeling like this was a woman who genuinely cared about the people who came to see her.   She was open and enthusiastic, exactly the way I’d always known she would be.

 

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Metrolina Antiques and Collectibles Show, November 2014

On Halloween I treated myself to a visit to the big flea/show at the Charlotte Metrolina grounds.  This show is always worth a visit, and this time around there was plenty to look at – and to buy.  Above is part of the booth of my favorite seller at Metrolina.  She is always finding great things for me.  It pays to let people know what you are collecting.

Not all treasures are so well organized.  The owners of this booth had cleaned out an old store that was closed in 1965.  There was a lot of stuff, and it was cheap.  Unfortunately much of it was also stained, but that’s why I have collected magic cleaning formulas.

Most of the inventory was from the early to mid 1960s.  I found some really nice things including a harlequin patterned blouse and a matching shorts set from Glen of Michigan.

There was a great deal of underwear and stockings, much of it still in the original boxes.  I could have spent the entire day going through it all, and they did not even have it all out to display.

Another seller had piles and piles of feedsacks.

Sometimes I do get home and wonder why I did not buy a certain thing.  This drink tray fits into that category.  I did love it, but I have one tray already, and having two is getting dangerously close to a collection.

There were some terrific vintage graphic items for sale.  I loved the golfing woman on this poster for Country Club Beverages.

Dee-Light was delightful, as was their poster showing happy picnickers.

This Bruner Woolens box almost came home with me.  The price was reasonable, and the graphics were terrific with the golfing theme.  I already had a similar one from Detmer Woolens, as I gave it a pass.

This print was quite an interesting piece, mainly because of the date it was published.  Entitled Sea Bathing at Ostend (Belgium), it was printed in 1888.

I would have guessed much later, due to the skimpy swimsuit of the lady and due to her bare legs.  I’ve read that bathers in Europe were more likely to bathe bare-legged due to the prevalence of bathing machines (the little changing booth on wheels).

Here’s a basket full of display feet.  I already have some, otherwise…

Not related to the theme here, but these big plastic decorations seem to be coming on strong as a collectible.  I see a problem with storage, though.

Those looking for cowboy boots were in luck.  Many of them were in the original boxes.

And what is a good flea market without cute doggies?  This little one was showing off her new coat.

And this big sweetie was celebrating her fifth birthday by letting everyone pet her.

I’ll show off my finds in the coming weeks.

 

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Why Fashion Reality TV Needs to Be More Like The September Issue

I’m not much of one for watching television, but I’m always a sucker for anything that is related to fashion.  Project Runway is still on my list, at least until I get so frustrated by the obvious manipulations in production.  I’m still hoping that a US version of Great British Sewing Bee will appear here.

Last year designer Betsey Johnson and her daughter Lulu did eight episodes of a show called XOX Betsey Johnson.  I did not get the channel it was on so I did not see it.  According to the interviews I’ve read with the two Johnsons, the show was unscripted and they were just “living their lives.”  Somehow I don’t completely buy it, especially since the show included an “inspiration” trip to Tokyo, mother-daughter mammograms, and a retrospective fashion show complete with performance by Cyndi Lauper.

Betsey was recently on another reality show of a sort, Dancing with the Stars.  Did you recognize her in the very poor photo of my television screen, above?

Recently, two new fashion “reality programs” have hit the airways.  First up is The Fashion Fund, with is actually a showing of the proceedings behind choosing the winner of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America)/Vogue Fashion Fund.  It might be interesting except for one thing: the winner was announced before the program started.  Why would anyone care about watching a competition where the winner is already known?  It’s a mystery to me.

The other show is House of DVF, in which eight young women compete for a job as Diane von Furstenberg’s style ambassador, whatever that is.  It seems so contrived, with fake situations and anything for an excuse for Diane to walk up and down the stairway to her office.  The contestants are not likable, and they seem to be entirely clueless about what actually happens in a fashion house.

On the episode I watched the contestants were instructed to make style inspiration boards with the theme of the Côte d’Azur.  There seemed to be no instructions on what an inspiration board actually is, and several of the contestants did not even know where the Côte d’Azur is located.  I’m betting none of them gets the job.

What I really hate about this nonsense is that there is a real opportunity lost here.  Much in the way The September Issue film showed the inner workings of Vogue magazine, House of DVF should be about how a fashion house operates.  The September Issue worked because the producers saw the actual story in the day to day workings in which interesting people interact when putting together the most important issue of the fashion year.  Scenarios were not created nor were the events manipulated.  How much more interesting House of DVF would be if we were treated to how the business actually functions instead of a fabricated for TV mess.

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