Category Archives: 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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Filed under Novelty Prints

A Pucci for the Californians

I was all ready to leave the topic of Pucci behind and move on when a set of photos appeared in my inbox.  Sent by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, they are of another early Pucci, this one a blouse made from Pucci fabric with a California theme.

The style of the blouse is very much like the last one I posted.  I can picture either of them worn over a pair of capris accessorized with sandals and a big sun hat. Both blouses have the same label, though with a different color printing.  As I pointed out in my earlier post, this is the second Pucci label, after he expanded to Florence, but before he added “Pucci”  to the label.

There is also an I. Magnin label.  I. Magnin was a San Francisco based department store that carried luxury lines and high fashion clothing.  Not only was this blouse sold at I. Magnin, it was specially designed for the store.

I think it is interesting that the blouse is signed Emilio of Capri, while the label is the later Capri/Florence one.

There is also something else interesting about this blouse, and the other two early Pucci pieces that I showed before.  One clue that people use to help identify an authentic Pucci is the squiggly “Emilio” signature found scattered within the print.  But none of these early examples have the signature.  It was not until the 1960s when Pucci turned to more abstract designs that were very easy to copy  that the signature was added.  Upon the advice of his buyer at Lord & Taylor, Marjorie Griswold, the signature was added in the mid 1960s.

I hate to think that vintage buyers might have passed on unsigned pieces because they suspected that they might be fakes.

As for the design of the print, does anyone have a clue as to the possible meaning behind those mermaid Indian girls?

If you want to know more about Emilio Pucci, tomorrow I’ll have a link to the best article on his life that I’ve ever read.

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Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Novelty Prints

Sporty Pucci

I think most fashion lovers are well acquainted with the prints of Emilio Pucci.  Through the 1960s and into the 70s his psychedelic colorful prints were well loved by the Jet Set.  But before his brightly colored geometric prints became a must-have item for an island getaway, Pucci was also making interesting novelty prints  that he sold in his boutiques in Italy.

Emilio Pucci led an very interesting life long before he became a designer.  He was born into an aristocratic Florentine family, and was a member of the Italian ski team in the 1932 Olympics.  He made his way to the USA where he attended Reed College in Oregon on a skiing scholarship.  While there he did his first designing – the uniforms for the college ski team.

During WWII Pucci was a pilot in the Italian Air Force.  His participation in the war came to a halt in 1944 when he helped one of Mussolini’s daughters escape to Switzerland.  Her husband had been the Italian foreign minister and had been executed for his part in a plan to remove Mussolini from power.  Pucci escaped to Switzerland where he spent the rest of the war.

In 1947  some ski clothes Pucci designed for a woman friend were photographed by Harper’s Bazaar photographer Toni Frissell.  The pants were made of a stretch fabric, and Bazaar asked Pucci to design skiwear to be featured in a fashion shoot.  After the photos came out in 1948, Pucci was made offers by several big skiwear firms.  He did do a line for American company White Stag.  I’ve often wondered if the White Stag items had any special labeling.

By 1949 Pucci had opened a boutique on the Italian island of Capri.  There he first sold swimsuits and scarves, and after consulting with Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus, he was convinced to turn the scarves into blouses.   He continued working with stretch fabrics, and the ski pants morphed into stretch slacks for casual wear.  They were produced in solid colors that coordinated with the colors in the print blouses and scarves.

The earliest Pucci labels read “Emilio of Capri” or “Original Emilio Sportswear.”  Pucci did not want to use the family name as it was considered to be unseemly for a noble family to be in trade.  The second label was developed when Pucci opened up in Florence, but was still also in Capri.  Both of the items I’m showing have this label.  I’ve never read exactly when this label was first used, but it did not last but a few years because the entire operation was eventually moved to Florence.

Click

By the early 1960s Pucci was famous, and rich, and the label became “Emilio Pucci”  I guess money speaks louder than society’s expectations.

This wonderful blouse was posted on the Vintage Fashion Guild forums, and I just had to share it with you.  It is from seller Jeana at Erawear Vintage, and it has the best ever ski motif.

The colors are exactly what you would expect from a Pucci print, but the charming print makes it so much more special.

Another VFG seller, Terri of Vintage Devotion, recently found this super Pucci print that has a golf motif.  Pucci loved sports, and not just skiing.

See the “Emilio” signature in the print?  This signature continues to this day in Pucci prints.

Blouse photos copyright Erawear Vintage

Dress photos copyright Vintage Devotion

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Filed under Designers, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, World War II