Category Archives: Collecting

B.F. Goodrich Velvet Shoe Twins – Updated

On a recent vintage outing  I found the brown shoes in the photo above.  Actually, it was the shoe box that caught my eye, and the brown shoes were the prize inside the box.  I immediately thought of the orange shoes which I bought about ten years ago, which I was pretty sure were the same style.  With the exception of the laces and the color, the shoes are identical.

I love that the colors of the box are the orange and brown of the shoes.

I’ve tried to find an ad for the B.F. Goodrich Velvetie, but so far I’ve not found one.  My guess is that these shoes date from the mid 1950s to the early 60s.  (See update below)

Many times I see vintage items advertised as “unique” or “one of a kind.”  But unless a garment is couture, or is made by a seamstress or a tailor, then chances are the item was made in great quantities, and chances are that more than one example of any given garment has survived to the present time.

A good example of this is the novelty border prints that were so popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.  These prints were commonly made into gathered or pleated skirts, and it is pretty easy to locate multiple examples of the same print made into similar skirts.

Another example is the 1940s figural sweater.  These have become quite popular in recent years, with people looking for specific sweaters that they know exist.  Many of these are well documented in ads by makers such as Jantzen and Catalina, and collectors even find vintage photos of the sweaters being worn.  There is a wonderful thread on the VFG forums where these sweaters and ads are shared.

When I first started buying on eBay in 1997, I’d be really distressed to lose out on an item to a higher bidder.  But as time went on, I realized that if an item surfaced once, chances are there were lots more of them out there.  In my early ebay days, I was the runner-up bidder on a Dalton Scottie doggie intarsia sweater.  I would have bid higher, but the sweater was green, a color I rarely wear.  Ten years later, the very same sweater finally resurfaced, this time in black.   I bought it and wore it a few times, but now it sits safely in the Vintage Traveler collection.

UPDATE:  My favorite vintage researcher, Lynne, has emailed an ad for these shoes dated 1968, though she also found them mentioned in 1967.  I think it was the box that threw me, along with the soles of the shoes, which are that ridged crepe one sees so often on late 50s and early 60s casual shoes.  The shoes also came in black.  Many thanks to Lynne!

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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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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints

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.

Click to enlarge

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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Click to enlarge

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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Waist Management: A History of Unmentionables

The Fashion History Museum has a newly opened exhibition at the  Peel Art Gallery Museum in Brampton, Ontario,  Waist Management  It’s all about how undergarments have been used to help women achieve a fashionable silhouette, something that is apparent in just one photo from the display.

A while back I wrote about selling items from my collection and how I’d do it only if I were convinced that the person wanting an item wanted it more than I.  The truth is I’ve also been known to actually give things away if I know someone needs it.

Back in the very early days of Ebay I was smart enough (actually that would be lucky enough) to buy a bit of the lingerie line that Emilio Pucci designed for Formfit Rogers.  At the time it was considered to be a poor alternative to the wonderful silk jersey vintage Puccis that were already getting nice ending prices on the auction site, but the lingerie was cheap and so I bought a few miscellaneous pieces.

After the onslaught of fast fashion made of tissue paper thin poly, the thin nylon Formfit Puccis soared in price.  They were seen not only as wearable clothing, but gained deserved respect as a part of fashion history.

Several months ago I was mindlessly browsing the site I love to hate, Pinterest, and noticed that the Fashion History Museum had begun posting parts of the collection.  In their lingerie section was a Pucci Formfit Rogers matching bra and girdle.  I was pretty sure I had a matching piece, and a quick look through my catalog revealed that I did have a matching robe.

I emailed Jonathan at the museum to ask if he would like to have my piece for the museum’s collection, and of course he did.  I sent it off along with another donation and an ad that showed that this design dates to 1969.

I was delighted to get the photo in my inbox last night.  Knowing that something I had accumulated is now being used to educate others about fashion history is a great feeling.

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Looking at a Collection

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to look through a collection of antique and vintage clothing and linens.  I was asked by an acquaintance of an acquaintance, so it shows how important making friends can be, even in the online world.  Anyway, the clothes were the property of a woman who had been in the home economics department of a local university.  She taught construction and pattern drafting.

Even though her interest in clothing and sewing was well-known, her family had no idea about the collection until after she died.  Quite a few large plastic tubs were found, all neatly labeled “Antique Clothing” or “Antique Linens.”  Her cousin, the administrator of the estate knew little about old clothing, and so that’s when I was called in.

Almost all the clothes were Victorian and Edwardian whites – lingerie pieces and white embroidered waists.  Much of the collection was of a very high quality with all the embroidery and laces made by hand.  Other pieces were more common, with little ornamentation and  cheaper laces.  There were chemises and nightgowns and dressing gowns and a few wonderful dresses like the one shown above.

There were vintage linens of all kinds, especially bridge tablecloths.  I love this windmill one.  That one blade moves to indicate the bid.

There was also a nice selection of vintage crafted handbags.  The collector may have used them for inspiration, as she was a contributor to quite a few craft books that were published by Lark Books and in their magazine Fiberarts.

A big mystery was this incredible jacket.  It is not embroidered, it is appliqued, and is all in wool felt.  I’d never seen anything like it and would sure appreciate being enlightened.

The collector’s interests also extended into textile making, and in the basement of her house a huge loom was set up.  You can also see a spinning wheel, a quilting frame and an embroidery stand.  As far as the family knew, she was not actively involved in activities that would actually use these tools.

But she did sew, and this folding cutting table was in her sewing studio.  That big drawer was full of vintage patterns, all neatly categorized.  After much thought, I decided to buy the table, as I’ve been cutting on a folding picnic table.  I’ll be reorganizing my sewing room and will show it later.

It was really a shame that the collector did not leave any information about her collection.  The cousin suspects that some of them were family pieces as they were tagged with a code that included the collector’s hometown.  Others still had price tags attached from where they had been purchased at an antiques store many years ago.  Perhaps she used them as examples in the classes she taught.  She may have used them for sewing inspiration.  As a lover of textiles, maybe she just appreciated them as lovely objects.

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Outdoor Sports and Pastimes, Peck & Snyder, 1886

I’ve tried limiting my collecting to 1914 and later, but I can’t turn down an opportunity to learn about older sportswear, and to occasionally to buy a piece.  I recently ran across an 1886 catalog by sporting goods company Peck & Snyder.  I didn’t know a thing about the company, but thanks to the internet I can tell you that  Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder opened their business in New York City shortly after the end of the American Civil War.  Their claim to fame is the introduction of the baseball card, which they first mass produced in 1869.

The catalog is quite large, and includes both sporting goods and  other amusements like magic lanterns and costumes for fancy dress balls.  Most of the products are geared toward men, and while there are things for women, one has to look for them.  What is most interesting is how women are portrayed in the catalog.  The illustration above is typical in that women engaged in leisure activities, even more active ones than lying in a hammock chair, are dressed as they would be for other, more formal activities.

I guess a lady never lifts her feet onto the hammock.  I’m just wondering how she kept from sliding out of it!

But it wasn’t just women who were wearing regular attire while exercising.  Note that the man on the bicycle movement machine is wearing a vest.  At least he is not having to wear a corset.

It might seem odd that there were exercise machines available for home use in 1886.  I imagine these were purchased by the very affluent.  I know that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville (built by one of the Vanderbilts) has a gym with all kinds of equipment.  That house was built in the 1890s.

The Biltmore House also has a two lane bowling alley.  Peck & Snyder sold balls and pins, though the Biltmore ones came from the Brunswick bowling company. Again, note the clothing, especially of the woman who is getting ready to roll her ball.

The catalog does have illustrations of women wearing proper gym attire.  Ironically, they do not sell it, though there are quite a few pages of men’s athletic clothing for sale.

Those shirts might look like the form of a woman, but they are men’s “quarter sleeve worsted shirts” meaning they were made from worsted wool.

Some of the shoes are unisex.  Here is a selection of tennis shoes.

Peck & Snyder included quite a few pages of skates, both roller and ice.  The bicycle craze was just getting started, so there were only two models, both with the big front wheel.

There were pages of wool, silk, and cotton stockings and tights, which seem to be for men.  I found this interesting because I recently found a very old pair of striped wool stockings that I felt had to have been a sports piece.

Women’s gym outfits like the one above are very hard to find, but there is one in the up-coming Karen Augusta sale.  I wonder how one did jumping jacks with all those layers?

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Comparing Details as an Aid to Dating Vintage Clothing

Collecting sportswear has a particular challenge in that it does not always follow the fashion of the era.  This is especially true in something like riding breeches that were made for a particular purpose, and thus had to be functional.  Sometimes the collector has to look beyond fashion to come up with a reasonable date for an object.

I have three pairs of riding breeches and jodhpurs.  In order to put them in their correct time period, I have to rely on the details and construction techniques.  I’m not an expert in the history of riding pants, but using what I do know about fabrics, construction, and fashion, I was able to put a date on each pair.

The oldest pair I have is the pair above.  These jodphurs have the full thighs that you would expect to see before stretch fabrics came into use.  The fabric is a sturdy cotton twill.

These pants close using buttons on both sides of the hips.  The buttons are of a type that I commonly see on clothing from the 1910s and 1920s.

The insides of the knees is reinforced with an extra layer of twill fabric.

To keep the pants legs from riding up, there is lacing on the outside of each leg.

These jodphurs actually came with a matching coat which had this label.  The Emporium was in business from 1896 until 1996, which does not help, but the style of the label certainly does.  My best guess for this pair is 1917-1925.

The second pair of jodphurs are also made from cotton twill.  The shape is very similar to the first pair.

These have a hip button closure as well as two leather buckles.  The buttons are plastic, and are a type commonly seen in the 1930s and 40s.

The inside knees are reinforced with fine suede leather.

The bottoms of the legs are not as tight as the earlier pair.  They are held in place by suede straps that button to the hems.

Some of the seams are finished by a type of overlock stitch that is sometimes seen on sportswear from the 1920s through the 40s.  There is not a label present, but I’m pretty sure these are from the 1930s.  Any later and a zipper would be used.  These could be early 40s, but not into the war years due to the use of leather.

My last pair is made from a stretch fabric, a blend of cotton and nylon.  Due to the stretch, the hips and thighs could be cut slimmer and still be comfortable for the rider.

The pants close at the hip with a metal zipper.  Note the loops for a belt.

The inside of the knees is reinforced with leather which was attached by the use of a zig-zag sewing stitch.

The bottoms of the legs open by metal zippers.

Best of all is the label, which told me the fiber content.  It also reveals that these were made in Japan, and there is an RN number.  The number does not tell when a garment was made, but because the RN system was first used in 1952, it can’t be older that that date.  A look at the RN data base does reveal that this number belonged to the Miller Harness Company, which had a store located on East 24th Street in New York.  According to an obituary of one of the owners, Jackie Kennedy was a customer.  I can see her wearing these breeches, and I’m quite sure these are from the 1960s.

I used to be determined to narrow down the exact dating of things, but often it just is not possible.  And when it comes to sports styles that were worn over a period of years, it is often just as useful to know the general dating.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

 

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