Category Archives: Collecting

Early 1930s Tennis Dress

In the early 1930s as hemlines dropped on women’s dresses, they also dropped on sports dresses.  In 1927 a tennis dress would have its hem right at the knee, and it would have had a dropped waist as was the fashion.  In 1932 the typical tennis dress still mirrored the fashionable silhouette of the day.  There was a waist at the natural waistline, but there might also be a dropped waist as you see above. (I’ve read that before 1935, the waist pointed downward, and after 1935 it pointed upward.  This rule often holds true.)  The skirt was the length of a fashionable dress, quite a few inches below the knee.

In 1927 women tennis players were still wearing silk stockings, though some used roll garters and rolled the hose to the knee.  In the early 1930s the ankle sock appeared on the tennis court, having made the jump from school gym classes.

My dress dates from the early 1930s.  The waist had moved back to its natural spot, but there is still a dropped waist feature.  The sleeveless bodice and the V neckline are also holdovers from the 1920s.  There are no openings to help get the dress on; it fit over the head like a late Twenties dress.   It must have been a struggle, as I could not even get this dress on my tiny half-mannequin.

Even though the skirt is long, the three front pleats allow for plenty of movement.

The back also has the pointed dropped waist, but without the pleats.

There are no signs of labels, and this appears to be the work of a home sewer, most likely a fairly skilled one.  This would not have been an easy dress to make.  Note how the sewer had the ribbed fabric cut on the length for some pieces, but on the cross for others.

This 1935 Saks Fifth Avenue ad is a bit later than my dress, but you can see how the skirt was a fashionable long length.  By the end of the decade, tennis dresses diverged from the fashionable length, rising to above the knee.  Matching bloomers were worn beneath.  On more casual courts, some girls and women were even wearing shorts, something that still is frowned upon at some tennis clubs.

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

1920s Knickers and Accessories

I thought that with all the talk about knickers and hiking clothes that you might want to see examples from my collection.  The set above is a matching linen vest and knickers.  There is a very similar set in a 1925 B. Altman& Company catalog which shows the vest and knickers paired with a blouse, plain wool cloche,  knee socks and brogan shoes.  I was lucky enough to find a similar blouse which I’m showing here.

The vest has no closure except for the belt that buttons below the waist.  The knickers button on both sides.

I’ve seen this “The Fad of the Hour” in other knickers from the 1920s.  In looking through my catalogs and magazines I first saw knickers for women in a 1919 catalog, and their last appearance was in 1929.  That’s a pretty long lasting fad!

And just because I love this detail, here is the two button closure on the leg band.

Here is another pair, this time in black and white linen tweed.  Note how they button on both sides of the waist.

There are pockets on both sides as well.

Just for fun I paired these with a late 1920s sweater.  This one has a Marshall Field’s label, but I’ve seen this style in catalogs such as Sears from the late 1920s.

This is an odd cross between a middy and a blouse, but seeing as how it is made from cotton duck, I can safely say the intended use was for outings such as hiking and camping.  The bottom band actually folds up and buttons (that’s the exposed seam you can see).  I’ve seen ads for middies that proclaimed their superiority because they did not fasten at the bottom.

These unworn 1920s knee socks were a very lucky find, from Carol at Dandelion Vintage.  Best of all, both pairs are unworn.

Just like in the photos I shared earlier, the decorative tops of the socks were worn over the bottom band of the knickers.

And for the feet, a pair of Walkover brogans.

Topped off with a plain wool cloche, our hiker is now properly attired and ready to walk.

When collecting, I like to think of the entire ensemble.  To me it is just so interesting to see how women actually wore their clothes, and to be able to assemble all the pieces that was necessary for a look.  As another collector once said, “It’s not just about the frocks.”

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting, Vintage Clothing

Knickers – Precursor to Slacks for Women

After all the talk about knickers in yesterday’s post and comments I thought I’d show a few photographic examples from the 1920s.

Knicker is short for knickerbocker, which is a word that became associated with New York after the publication of Washington Irving’s History of New York.  An old-fashioned character in the book was named Knickerbocker, and the name became sort of a synonym for the old breeches-wearing Dutchmen of New York.  At some point the knee breeches themselves became known as knickerbockers.

Women, and especially school girls, had been wearing bloomers for sports since the nineteenth century, but knickers are not the same as bloomers.  Bloomers were very full and were usually contained at the below the knee hem by elastic.  Knickers were much slimmer and were fastened at the knee by a button closure.

Knickers were commonly worn by boys before they graduated into long pants.  By the early 1920s women were also wearing them for hiking and camping.  I guess it makes sense that girls who were adopting the style of le  Garçon, would literally take to wearing his pants.

In most of these photos you can see that young women often wore their knickers with knee socks.  The socks had a decorative band at the top which was worn over the band of the knickers.

A middy was often worn over the knickers, sometimes along with a cardigan.

This woman looks to be a bit old to be wearing a middy, but when camping necessity must have put a lot of odd ensembles out there.

This looks to be a sweater with a middy collar.

A “mannish” shirt and tie were also worn with knickers.

This woman’s pants look more like riding breeches than true knickers due to the narrowness at the knees.  But check out her boots!

This woman appears to be wearing shorts, but I thought her outfit was pretty interesting.  It looks like writing on the shirt, and what an odd choice of shoes for a hike.

Everything you read about women wearing pants in the 1920s mentions that women wore them only in the most outdoorsy of occasions, but here is a photo showing a woman wearing them in front of the Capitol building in Augusta, Maine.  What a fashion rebel!

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

1930s Rubber Bathing Cap

Almost as soon as women took to the water as bathers, they tried to come up with a reasonable solution to keeping their hair dry.   According to my search of the US Patent Office data base, the first rubber bathing cap was patented in 1887.  Over the next thirty-five years or so, bathing caps looked a lot like a present-day shower cap, with a lot of loose space in the cap to accommodate a women’s long hair.

But as hair styles got shorter in the 1920s, the rubber bathing cap became more fitted to the head.  By the 1930s rubber bathing caps looked very similar to the ones that can be bought today.   For that reason, bathing caps are really hard to accurately date.

The cap above was a very lucky find.  I pulled it out of a bin at the Goodwill outlet – a bin of “hard goods” such as plastic toys, video tapes, cookie tins, and all the other stuff people get rid  of.  It was a small miracle that it survived the last eighty years, but most of all, that it survived the mad scramble of Goodwill shoppers in their quest to find a bit of treasure in the bins.

Inside, the only marks were the numbers, 801232.  I thought that it could possibly be a patent number, but unfortunately it was not.  Also note the rubber bands across the opening.  These were thought to help keep water out.  I found dozens of patents for these “seals,” all just a bit different, all an “improvement” over the others.

I have a 1930s Kleinert’s catalog that is not dated, but it did have an interesting bit of information.  It mentioned that Kleinert’s caps were of the new seamless style.  Two of the caps are shown above, and you can see how similar in style they are to my cap, but my cap has two seams that run front to back.

Here is a similar cap shown in a 1932 fashion illustration in Vogue magazine.  Because it is a drawing, there is no way to tell if it was seamed or not, but it does show that this style was used over the course of several years.

In this rather unfortunate photograph, the woman is wearing an early to mid 1930s style swimsuit along with a similar style cap, but with a strap.

The photo above was taken in the late 1920s as an ad for a summer cap.  You can clearly see the seam in the side of one bathing cap, and it is not as sleek as mine or the ones illustrated that are from the 1930s.

My best guess is that my cap dates from the early 1930s.  The earliest patent for making an unseamed cap  is dated 1932.  I’d never given a seam much thought, but a quick look through my caps showed all of the ones from the 1940s and more recent were all seamless.  It must have been a big improvement.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing, Vintage Photographs

Enna Jetticks Shoes for Women

I got this nifty little item in the mail a few days ago, a gift from Denise in Travelers Rest.  She was getting ready to move, and need to downsize a bit.  She had this fan which had belonged to her mother.  Denise found me after googling “Enna Jettick.”  Thank goodness an old blog post of mine came up in the search because she offered the fan to me.

I guess the advertising premise that if you give someone something with your business name on it, chances are they will keep it.  We just can’t resist free stuff, I suppose.  Anyway, it is amazing how many people did save these old ad gifts.  I’m sure glad they did!

I need no longer be told that I have an expensive foot for I’m an Enna Jettick Girl.

Many thanks to Denise!

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes

Trimfit Net Stockings Inspired by Twiggy, 1967

Twiggy was the Mod “It Girl” of the mid 1960s, and as such her name and image were in great demand.   She was discovered early in 1966 after having her hair cut short. The hairdresser then had professional photos made of her showing off the new cut which were displayed in his salon.  A newspaper reporter saw the photos and then did a feature about Twiggy.  By November of that year she had her own line of clothes and was working on other products that featured her name and image.

Twiggy came to the US in 1967 where her face ended up on the covers of not only Vogue and Seventeen, but also Newsweek.  The tour generated so much publicity that she was able to sign many endorsement deals for products like Trimfit stockings, false eyelashes and toys like dolls and board games.

This photo of twiggy on the packaging clearly shows how the mid 1960s look was all about the eyes.

I was in the seventh grade in 1967, and I can remember getting a pair of fishnet stockings for Christmas that year.  I also got several pairs of pastel stockings, in pink and blue I think, which were worn under the fishnets.  It was a nice effect, and helped keep the legs warm.

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A Young Man’s Fancy by Coles Phillips, 1912

Last summer I posted two photos of art by Coles Phillips that I discovered at an antiques show.  And while I loved the prints, there were a bit pricey, so I promptly forgot about Mr. Phillips and his pretty girl art.

Yesterday I decided to visit one of my (formerly) favorite places to find vintage treasures.  What was five years ago a thriving and exciting antiques market is now pretty much not worth the two hour drive.  In a town that once had six great antique stores and malls, one has closed, two are selling a great deal of reproductions, and one is barely clinging to life.

After four hours of “shopping” I’d found nothing to buy and little to even photograph to share here.  I was about to skip the barely clinging to life mall, then thought I’d might as well waste another twenty minutes.  This is a place that once had antiques and vintage items over three floors of an old department store, and now there are just a few booths left.

I spotted a rack of books, and an old, beat up, plain volume caught my eye,  A Young Man’s Fancy by Coles Phillips.  I couldn’t place the name, but I knew I’d encountered it somewhere, so I picked up the book and opened it.  The first print reminded me of the ones I’ve loved so much last summer.  And the price was more than reasonable.  Suddenly the trip didn’t seem wasted any longer.

The book is a series of sappy poems, or maybe it is just one long poem, but that is not what is important.  The prints are incredible, and there is a brief biographical sketch in the book that explains Phillips’s technique, which he called the Fadeaway Girl.  He usually used his wife as his model and the book is dedicated to her.

Phillips developed this technique after observing how the figure of a musician friend, dressed in black in a darkened room, seemed to be just suggested by his face, hands, and white shirt while his body faded into the room.  He worked on the concept in black and white, and then in 1908  did his first fadeaway in color for a magazine cover.  It was a huge success, and Phillips became a highly sought after commercial artist.  He did numerous magazine covers and he also designed ads for magazines.  You can read more about Coles Phillips and see more of his work at American Art Archives.

Many of the illustrations in my book appeared first in ads or on magazine covers. Not all use the fadeaway technique, but the fadeaways are my favorites.

The book sells online for $70 up, but my copy is in terrible shape, so the real value is in the prints.  I will most likely have my favorites framed.

The small pictures on the screen in this print are tiny reproductions of the other prints in the book.

Proof that you really cannot judge a book by its cover.

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