Category Archives: Novelty Prints

New Twist on an Old Print

If you’ve been a Vintage Traveler reader for a while, you will recognize the little photo album above.  It’s from the 1960s, made by a German company called KEK.  The last time I looked, they were still in business, making a variety of things.

I also have that print in a larger album in a different colorway.  Europe was just so cool in the early to mid Sixties!

 

I was doing my morning scroll through Instagram and came upon this photo.  As you can see, it is pretty much the same print, but with less detail.  As it turns out this print is on a dress that was sold by a UK clothing company called Joules.  Since that company is only twenty-five years old, we know that the fabric is a reproduction of the original KEK print.

The dress is adorable, and is for sale on the Instagram account, @trexesandtiaras, which gave me permission to use the photos.  If I were 20 and in the UK, I’d buy it.

It does bring up the question, yet again, of vintage prints being reproduced.  As I’ve said before, I’m making no judgment on how this fabric got reproduced.  As far as I know, the maker could have had KEK’s permission.  Or it is equally possible that some fabric “designer” found one of the 1960’s albums, or worse yet, photos online, and merely copied the print.  Well, it’s not an exact copy.  Note that on the license plate a 7 was changed to 3.

Joules clothing was tagged in our discussion, so maybe they will shed some light on this fabric.

There have been many times when I’ve been confused over a fabric, not being able to decide if it is vintage or just a new product made to look vintage.  The more I look at modern fabrics, the more I can see the difference.  The modern reproduction is cute, but put side by side there is a great difference in the detailing.  Still, I’d sure love to have a skirt of that fabric.

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Viewpoint

Novelty Print Skirt – An Alpine Holiday

About ten years ago I really began to love 1950s novelty prints, and especially the many border prints that were made mainly for full gathered skirts.  I was really drawn to the designs that were labeled in the selvage as “A Regulated Cotton – Never Misbehaves”.  As it turned out, these prints were designed by artist Saul Steinberg, who is probably best remembered today for his covers for The New Yorker.

The prints in this series were also named.  A favorite seemed to be “Tin Horn Holiday” which has a sort of Old West meets Vegas theme.  There is also “Oasis” which is an Arabian Nights type of scene and “Paddington Station” with trains in the station.  There are others for which I do not know the name such as a scene of the interior of an opera house, an English foz hunt,  and a roller coaster ride.  Unfortunately the selvages were often cut off in the making of the skirt of dress.

But the good news is that the prints are so distinctive that they are fairly easy to recognize.  There seems to be a standard formula that that Steinberg, or maybe the company designers who adapted his work, used.  First, Steinberg drew in a certain style, using a variety of line thicknesses, from very thick to very thin.  The hem edge always has a coordinating border, as you see in the hearts and birds border of this print.  There is a background that usually goes to the top edge of the fabric.  In this case the background is the Alpine landscape.

Steinberg did not sign these prints because he had an exclusive contract with another fabric company to design home furnishing fabrics.  I’m not sure how many prints Steinberg did for A Regulated Cotton, but they all seem to be loosely based around the theme of travel and leisure activities.  Recently I’ve seen several that I’d never seen before, including this new one.

I rarely buy novelty print skirts any more because they have become extremely popular, and so the prices have risen beyond what I want to pay for them.  But this one was so great, and the price so reasonable that I decided to add it to the collection.  It came from Amy at Viva Vintage Clothing, one of my favorite online shops.

I need help naming this one.  I name all my novelty skirts for a movie or book that the print seems to suggest.  I thought about Heidi, and it also reminds me of the “Lonely Goatherd” puppet show in The Sound of Music.  Any other suggestions?

 

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Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints

The Colors of Summer: Red, White, and Blue

I love red, white, and blue, not because the colors are somehow “patriotic” but because they simply say “summer” to me.  When we think of clothing classics, we think of the little black dress and the white cotton shirt and the cardigan sweater.  Maybe we ought to also consider this on-going color combination favorite.

To make my point, today I’m sharing some summer clothes from my collection, all of which have some combination of the color trio.  If you are a newcomer to The Vintage Traveler, you can click the links to read the original blog post about each item.

The early 1970s tennis dress above reminded me of tennis star Chris Evert.

Along the same lines is this 1970s  tennis dress from White Stag.  Note the logo on the pocket.

Red, white, and blue always says “nautical” to me as well.  This gathered novelty print skirt from the 1950s shows why.

Continuing with the nautical theme is this  late 1950s or early 60s short sleeve jacket.  Just add navy slacks.

Add these red 1950s Summerettes to make the ensemble complete.

A 1930s beach-goer would have covered up with a red,white, and blue beach pyjama.

For sports spectating, the 1930s woman might have chosen a nautical themed sundress.

Nautical themes were also good for shopping, as seen in this 1930s cotton frock.

Bathing suits have always looked good in red, white, and blue, as in this Jantzen suit from 1936...

And this swimsuit from the early 1970s.

Got something red, white, and blue to sell or to share?  Feel free to post a link in the comments.

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Filed under Holidays, Novelty Prints, Proper Clothing, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

Simplicity 4945 in Liberty Tana Lawn

I’ve been doing quite a bit of sewing lately, and have a new project to show off.   Back in the early spring when Waechter’s Fine Fabrics announced they were closing, I scurried over to take advantage of their sale and to stock up on some fine fabrics.  Among my purchases was this Tana lawn novelty print of London and the surrounding countryside.  I’d been looking at it lovingly ever since it arrived at the shop, and I knew this was my chance to buy it, and at 25% off.

My plan was to make a skirt, and I already had the pattern pieces out when it occurred to me that what I really needed was a light, cool, cotton blouse.  I went through my collection of patterns and came up with Simplicity 4954 which is from the early 1960s.  I’d made the top before out of seersucker, and it is a favorite – easy to wear, cool and comfortable.

The colors are much truer in this photo, as the top one was taken in low light with my cell phone camera.  The colors are nice and clear, with shades of blue on a white background.

Although the pattern calls for a button at the neckline, I haven’t used one.  It just seems less fussy without it.

I really love designs where the sleeve is cut with the bodice or, as in this case, with the yoke.  It’s a design element seen often in the early to mid 1960s.

From the time I decided to make this top to the minute I finished the hem was about three hours.  That is a very fast project for me, especially since I used French seams (and faux French seams) throughout.  I did save a lot of time by doing all the finishing on the machine.  And because I’d made the pattern before I did not need to do a muslin trial.

And here is the finished project, in a too dark photo.

This is my third garment that I’ve made using Liberty’s Tana lawn, and it is simply a dream to sew.  It’s tightly woven so even though I used French seams, this fabric also does well when simply finishing using pinking shears.

I’ve been trying to add a few prints into my wardrobe of solid blue, black, white and red.  My idea of a print is a nice mariner’s stripe, or for winter, a wool plaid.  Even though I love vintage novelty prints and actually collect them, I only have one example in my own closet.   Maybe it’s time to change that.

I wore it for the first time this weekend, and it performed beautifully.  It stayed crisp and cool and was perfect for a hot summer day.  My silly self-portrait makes me look as if I have a halo, but my friends and family can assure you that is a bit misleading!

Edited to show a better photo of me and the blouse.

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Vintage Sewing

1964 World’s Fair Novelty Print Blouse

The 1964 World’s Fair which was held in New York was a very big deal.  I wasn’t lucky enough to attend the fair, but I did read all about it in Life magazine and other publications.  It was all about the future, and how in order to survive all the countries were going to have to declare peace.  If only…

My friend Mod Betty at RetroRoadmap.com sent this gem my way recently.  She was selling some things when her neighbor noticed that the flags looked like they read “World’s Fair.”  You can barely make it out, but once you know the words are there, you see them.

This part of the print rather confirms that this is supposed to depict the 1964 World’s Fair.  The big globe, or Unisphere,  was the centerpiece of the fair and still can be seen at the site of the fair in Flushing Meadows.

The giant clam shell structure is probably the General Electric exhibit, The Carousel of Progress.  I can remember seeing it at Disney World in the 1970s.

Correction:  This is the Traveler’s Insurance exhibit, as identified by Rebecca.

My guess is that this fabric was made by a fabric printer who was trying to capitalize off the popularity of the World’s Fair without having an actual connection to it.   There were a lot of corporate sponsors, and I imagine they had their own official fair products for sale.  This fabric was close enough to the images of the fair for everyone to make the connection, but not close enough to actually claim to portray the fair.

A big thanks to Mod Betty for the wonderful addition to my collection.

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Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, 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

Happy Bug Day, Warhol Print Skirt

When I spotted this super skirt on {the evil that is} Pinterest, I had a sinking feeling.  Sinking because I wanted this skirt, and it seems like 99.98 percent of the things I see on Pinterest that I want are sold.  I clicked through (thanks Karen, for making sure the links are always there) and there it was on Adored Vintage.  And yes, it had already sold.

So why did I want this particular skirt?  One of my smaller areas of collecting involves fabrics that were either influenced by art, or which were actually designed by artists.  In the case of this skirt, the fabric was designed by Andy Warhol in 1955.

I only know this because of my obsessive reading and rereading of Textile Design: Artists’ Textiles 1940-1976 by Geiff Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Phelps.  The book was published in 2012, and there is an exhibition currently at The Fashion and Textile Museum in London that is based in large part on the collections of the authors.

There is the bug print, in a different colorway, and a very similar print titled Happy Butterfly Day.  The bug print was based on a greeting card Warhol made in 1954.

Unfortunately, not a lot is known about the textiles Warhol designed in the 1950s.  For a man who was a collector of everything, he was a notoriously bad record-keeper when it came to business, not letting the people who worked with him even know for whom the designs were intended.

It was remembered by a Warhol associate that some of the fabrics were produced by Fuller Fabrics, who also did the Modern Masters line.  In 1955, Warhol was still a commercial artist, years away from being considered a “master.”

I hope the lucky buyer of this skirt loves it and treasures it.  I just wish it were me!

Thanks so much to Rodellee at Adored Vintage for the use of her photos.

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