Category Archives: Collecting

Jantzen Swimsuit, Mid 1960s

I really love and appreciate all the great friends I’ve made through writing this blog.  So many of you have shared your stories about clothing and sewing, and all these stories make for a rich and varied shared history.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Janey at The Atomic Redhead.  Janey is lucky because she lives in the land of White Stag and Pendleton and Jantzen, otherwise known as Portland, Oregon.  From time to time I’ll get an email from her saying that she has a little something I might be interested in.  I must be greedy, because I’m always interested in Janey’s gifts.

The latest package from Janey contained the two piece swimsuit shown here.  It is, of course, from Jantzen, as the diving girl logo proudly announces.  It is made from a creamy white textured polyester knit, and the bra is very structured.  Many swimsuit bras from this era were made with a thin padded layer that over time degrades into a gritty powder.  But in this bra the padding is intact and shows no sign of powdering.

Thanks to movies like Bikini Beach and Beach Party, some people tend to think that bikinis were pretty skimpy in the mid 1960s, but in my little conservative town, this two piece was about as risqué as it got.  As the decade worn on, the bottoms got smaller, and the bras less structured, but in 1965 girls’ swimsuits were like armor!

I can remember my very first “grown-up” swimsuit.  It was a hand-me-down from my cousin Arlene, who was two years older than me and who lived near Atlanta and who was my idol.  The style was just like the Jantzen here, but was in shades of greens and brown.  I’d have never picked that color combination out, but I’ll have to admit, that at eleven years old, I felt very grown up wearing that suit.

This Coppertone ad from 1964 shows the style quite well.  No bellybuttons here!

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

Flock-o-Fun Birds Apron Kit, 1969

I’ve been aware of this funny little bird print for some time now.   When I first saw it, I thought it was so adorable, and so I put it on my list of things to search for.  I kept running across the print  (at a price I wasn’t willing to pay) and I began to see that it was always made into an apron and it always had the same green ties.  This was in spite of the fact that most of the examples I saw were definitely home sewn.

After years of having this in the back of my mind, I ran across the apron last weekend.  It was simply too cute to pass up, so it came home with me.  An examination of the piece led me to believe that this one was also home sewn.  So why was it that this print was always in the form of an apron, always had green ties, and was always home sewn?

I went searching for more examples, and quickly found some on eBay and Etsy.  I also found something else: several kits that included the fabrics and the instructions to make an apron.  That explained a lot.  The kit was produced by the National Handicraft Institute of Des Moines and was marketed under the name Flock-o-Fun.

Included in the kit was this letter, which explains that there are matching placemats and napkins, and that there is a pot holder kit.  It is signed by the “Club Secretary”, as this is part of the Fad of the Month Club.  A search of Fad of the Month Club and for National Handicraft Institute  found quite a few handicraft kits, and some magazine ads dating back to the 1950s.  According to one eBay ad, the company existed from 1947 until 1981.

It’s my guess that the fabric was printed specifically for the National Handicraft Institute.  That would explain why it’s not seen elsewhere.

This card came with the kit, and shows the placemats and napkins.   The photos of the kit came from eBay seller GypsyGirl6923, who currently has one of the kits for sale.  Since I first started looking for this print, the price for it has come down, and most examples that I found are very reasonably priced.

This would be a great first project for someone who is wanting to take up sewing, but is afraid to tackle a more involved garment.  And I can think of lots of different uses for the fabric.  Two or three of the panels would make an adorable full skirt, and it would make a sweet dress for a little girl.  Someone has an handbag she made from the fabric on Etsy.  Search for “bird apron” in the vintage category.

Many thanks to GypsyGirl6923 for the use of her photos.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Sewing

1920s Deco Dress with Sports Motif, Part 2

You might remember this super two-piece dress from my post two weeks ago, only it looks slightly different today.  After a lot of self-debate, I decided that there was enough of the original design intact to try and remove the later alterations.

The top was pretty straight forward.  I took out the hem and lengthened it as much as possible, one and a half inches.  I have no way of knowing if that was the original hem placement, as it is possible that some fabric was removed from the bottom of the over blouse.

This is the interior, showing the hem.  As you can see, I let it out as far as possible.  The hem tape is rayon, from the 1920s.

I also took out the side zipper and let out the seams as far as I could, which was not much.  I removed the half belt in the back, and the back darts.

The skirt was a bit more difficult.  I removed the added waistband, preserving all the original fabric.  I then made a camisole from white linen to which I attached the skirt.  In doing so, I shortened the skirt a bit so that the pleats would break at the bottom on the over blouse hem.

There were also long darts taken in the top of the skirt so that it would fit at the waist.  I removed these and stitched up the opening that had been made.

I used a basting stitch to attach the skirt to the camisole.  If the dress is ever put on display, it will need a stronger stitch.

It was a lot of work, but to me, the charm of the decoration is that it is so 1920s Art Deco.  The dress needed to look like what it started its life as – a 1920s dress.

Before

After

The after shot shows a longer top and shorter skirt, just like the dress would have had originally.  There’s not a lot of difference, just enough to make it look “right.”

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Marimekko and Design Research

I’m a big fan of the Finnish textile company, Marimekko, and I recently was lucky enough to have this vintage shirt from the company appear in my mailbox.  It is a gift from one of the most generous persons I know, Beth Lennon, or Mod Betty at Retro Roadmap.

Marimekko became known to Americans through the efforts of Design Research, what many consider to be the first lifestyle store.  Design Research was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1953, and was primarily a store selling items for home decor.  After owner Ben Thompson saw Marimekko textiles at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels,  Marimekko clothing and fabrics were added to the store.

Design Research carried  Marimekko until the stores were closed in 1978.  Through the years Design Research had expanded into different markets, and by the late 60s the company was showing signs of trouble.  According to some accounts, their expansion was poorly thought out, with some of the markets not being suited for the store’s aesthetic.   And of course, times were changing.  What looked so modern and fresh in 1953 was looking dated by the mid 1970s.

All of the Marimekko designs are copyright protected, and because of that there is sometimes a copyright date on the tags from the 1960s and 70s.  Mine is missing the tag, but my guess is mid 1970s, based on the stores listed on the label and the fitted shape of the shirt.

I’ve looked, and I’ve not found this particular design.  All the designs were named, and there are records which record who the designer was of each.  If anyone can point me in the right direction to find that information for this shirt I’d be most grateful.

Again, I’d like to thank Beth for sending this great shirt my way.  I’ve actually been wearing it, paired with a black and white Marimekko striped knit that I bought last year.

Beth is presently working on a Kickstarter campaign.  She wants to do a series of videos that will highlight the wonderful vintage, and often endangered, places that make America unique.  If you’d like to help, contributions start at $10 and I know that Beth appreciates every dollar that is given to help record this history.

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Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

1920s Deco Dress with Sports Motif

When I first caught sight of this dress on Instagram, I knew I had to have it.  With the applique sporting motif, it was just the sort of thing that I’m always looking for.

The seller described the dress (skirt and over-blouse, actually) as being from the 1930s.  I was really puzzled as to why she put that date on the set as it just looks so late 1920s to me.

Then I noticed that one of the photos showed a side zipper.  Still, I was convinced that it was from the 1920s.  I mean, look at that orange color!  Look at the shape of the over-blouse!  So despite some condition problems and that pesky zipper, I decided to purchase it anyway.  It was just too perfect to pass up.

The back view of the set actually looks more like it could be from the early 30s.  The half belt is pretty much at the normal waistline.  And note that the skirt is too long for the 1920s.

Another oddity is the skirt.  If this were from the Twenties, you’d expect for it to be an under-dress, sort of like a slip and skirt combination.  But this is a real skirt with a waistband.   It was time to get serious about figuring out this one.

I turned the blouse inside out to examine the seam stitching.  What I found was three distinctly different stitching patterns, evidence that the set had been altered twice.  Here you can see the tiny original stitching along with some later stitches with a longer length.

I then turned my attention to the zipper.  As I suspected, the zipper had the larger stitches, meaning that it was added at a later date.

The back of the blouse has shaping darts at the waist.  These too are later additions, as is the half belt.

The skirt also shows extensive signs of alteration.  My pen is pointing to the original seam, while you can see a newer one to the left.

For the skirt opening, the seam was simply split and the hooks and eyes were used for the closures.  This photo really says a lot.  For such a meticulously made garment, there is no way this waistline sewing was original to it.

This is such a well made dress, that the original owner  must have paid quite a bit for it.  I can see why she didn’t want to give it up just because hemlines dropped and the silhouette became more streamlined.  Cutting off the bodice of the underdress and adding a waistband could have lengthened the skirt considerably (about five inches, it appears.  Look at the photo of the set and note how the pleat opens about five inches below the hem of the top.  You would expect the pleat to open at the hem.)  Adding darts and the half belt to the blouse would have given it a more fitted and fashionable look.

I often leave altered garments in their found state.  In this case, to restore it I’d have to construct a new bodice for the underdress, so for the present time I’m going to leave it as it is.  I will most likely remove the zipper and the half belt.  I haven’t decided about the darts, as they may leave the fabric weakened.

UPDATE:

In my post yesterday I forgot to show the side seams of the blouse.  In the crease you can faintly see the new stitching.  Look nearer the edge of the fabric and you can see the old stitching holes.  The sides were taken in about 3/4 inch on each side.

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1940s Ski Suit and Caps

If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while, you know that I write about my new finds as I investigate them.  But today I have an item that I’ve owned for probably ten years or so.   I had this suit out so I could look at it with some new accessories, and I realized that I’d never written about it.

The suit dates from the late 1940s, while shoulders were still big.  It is made from wool gabardine.  The jacket is actually reversible, though I can’t see why anyone would wear it on the grey side when they could choose this bright red.

The pants are as streamlined as possible considering the fabric, but they are still pretty bulky.  Around the time that this set mas made, Emilio Pucci was revolutionizing ski wear by using a stretch fabric for the pants.  They were cut much closer to the body and gave a slim look to the skier.  No wonder that they were popular.

There are a lot of nice features on the suit, including zippers at every pocket.

The set was made by White Mountain Ski Wear.  I can’t tell you much about the company, but I’ve seen items with the labels on garments from as early as the 1930s, and as recent as the 1970s.

I acquired this cap, even though it was probably intended for wear by men because I have seen photos of women wearing similar hats for winter sports.

And who could resist that button?

I also recently bought this cap.  It was listed by the seller as being from the 1920s, and I can see why she thought that because of the way it fits around the face.  Is is actually a bit later, probably late 1940s.

In 1941 the  Wool Products Labeling Act was implemented in the US, and numbers were given to companies in the order of application.  #7503 was given to Schuessler Knitting Mills of Chicago, sometime in the mid 1940s.  There is a database where these numbers can be looked up, though the number does not give the year of manufacture.  It gives the year the number was issued.  Still, the WPL number is a useful bit of information because it does limit the years that an item could have been made.

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Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing, Winter Sports

Jantzen – Made in Canada

Jantzen made their name and fortune on swimsuits, but started out as a knitter of sweaters, socks and gloves.  The company was founded in 1910 as the Portland Knitting Company.  Later in the decade someone got the idea to make bathing suits using the machine that knit sweater cuffs.  It produced a knit suit that was ribbed, and thus was a better fitting bathing suit.  By 1918 the company was renamed Jantzen Knitting Mills, and the main product was their famous swimsuits.

This souvenir postcard shows the administration building of Jantzen.  The card is not dated, but the cars are late 1920s models, and according to several sources, this building was constructed in 1929.  The growth of Jantzen must have been amazing, as the back of the cards claims that over 1,750,000 swimming suits were produced annually at the Portland facility.

What is also interesting is that the card mentions that Jantzen was also manufacturing swimsuits abroad.  It was a kind of reverse out-sourcing, where the company produced in other countries not to import to the US, but to sell in that country.  Note that in the 1920s, Jantzen was making swimsuits in Oregon, England, Australia, Canada, and New Jersey.

In 1941 Jantzen returned to the sweater business  as part of their new sportswear line.  My sweater, from the 1940s, was made in Canada for the Canadian market.  It came to me as a gift from Deborah at BigYellowTaxiVintage, which is located in Canada.

Jantzen is still in operation today, but as far as I know all their manufacturing is now out-sourced.  They do make very nice, 1950s vintage inspired suits.

Unlike many companies that were sold and resold over the years, Jantzen has retained a large archive of material, both garments and paper items such as catalogs and advertising.  The archive. located in the 1929 administration building,  is not open to the public, but it is a nice thought knowing that the archivist can reach far back into Jantzen’s history when necessary.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing