Category Archives: Proper Clothing

Edwards Sports and Beach Shops

This little advertising brochure is from Edwards Department Store in Rochester, New York.  It was “Rochester’s largest popular priced store.”  By popular priced they did not mean cheap; they meant moderately priced.  There is no date on the folder, but judging from hairstyles, skirt lengths and clothing details, my best guess is 1940 or so.

Two piece swimsuits were just coming into being in the late 1930s, and they were quite daring.

What’s really interesting is the wide variety of bathing suits that had become available by the end of the 1930s.  Suits were being made from woven cottons, like the middle one pictured, and were a lot like very short dresses with bloomers.

Lastex was added to both woven and to knit fabrics to give shape and a bit of control.  And for the traditionalist, wool jersey suits were still available.

The sports shop featured both slacks and shorts.  On the left is a blue denim overall.  These were very popular during WWII as many women went to work on farms and in factories.

The playsuit was a versatile, if inconvenient at times, garment.  Wear it with the skirt on the street, without it on the tennis court.

Click each photo to see an enlarged view.



Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Brownie Gymsuit, 1930s – 40s

I recently added another gymsuit to my little collection of them.  My best guess is that this one is from the late 1930s, or maybe into the early years of the 40s.  In fact I have a 1940 catalog from maker Aldrich & Aldrich that shows a suit that has a lot of the same features.

Gymsuits are not fashion items, but to some extent they did follow fashion, or at least sports clothes fashion.   In the case of my gymsuit, the pleated sleeves were very popular in the mid 1930s.   Maybe some gymsuit maker noted the fashion and realized that this sleeve was a good one for use in a garment that needed to let the wearer move.

Other features that increased mobility were the pleated skirt and the presence of an inverted pleat in the back.

To make it easier to get dressed in the small amount of time that a school schedule allowed, there were snaps instead of buttons, and a metal belt clasp that did not require buckling.

I’m always amazed at how well vintage gymsuits are constructed.  The fabric is usually a cotton; either a broadcloth, poplin or a lightweight duck.   They were made to last through four years of physical education.

There were quite a few gymsuit makers, but Brownie is a new one to me.  It is interesting that the label was based in St. Louis, home to the fashion industry for the teen set.

A brownie is a sort of elf-like creature, similar to Dobby in the Harry Potter series, but cuter.  They were popularized in the late 19th century by illustrator and writer, Palmer Cox.   The Brownie branch of the Girl Scouts was named for them.


Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Abercrombie & Fitch, Von Lengerke & Antoine, 1930s – 1950s

I recently acquired some Christmas catalogs from Von Lengerke & Antoine, the Chicago branch of Abercrombie and Fitch.  I already had some summer catalogs from the store, but these are full of gifts and woolens.  The covers are really nice, with winter scenes that spread across both sides.

The catalogs range from 1939 to 1954.   Because Abercrombie & Fitch was a sporting goods store, the clothing styles change very slowly, with many items being offered for up to five years before being updated.  This is especially true during the war years.

Click to enlarge

The offerings during WWII were geared more toward the servicemen and less toward the sportsman.   There were gifts for members of every branch of the service.

Abercrombie & Fitch not only had goods manufactured with their own label, they also sold other quality products.  This men’s Pendleton shirt is from the 1947 catalog, and cost $10.75.  That is about $110 in today’s dollar.  A new Pendleton wool shirt costs $115, so pretty much the same price.

The catalog offered carriage boots all through the war years.  Carriage boots actually date back to the days before the automobile, but this practical winter boot remained a favorite for many years.

Today red plaid thermos kits are quite easily found, but ones of this quality are rare.  Cocktails, coffee and sandwiches:  the necessities of vagabonds.

Scotch coolers are also common, but they are rarely in great condition.  People used them.  That is a bar case for someone with friends.

Sweaters were a big item in the catalogs, with many being made of cashmere in Scotland.  Note the “false eyelashes” on the Flirt.  Today if an item in a catalog is labeled “imported,” you can pretty much assume that means China.  There is no indication where the imported ski jacket and cap originate, but you can be sure that it was not China!

I love the Bottomless Bag.  It does not indicate the size, but if it weighs five pounds it must be pretty large.  I’ll take the tartan plaid.

A winter classic, it is hard to beat the sharpness of a Hudson’s Bay blanket jacket.  The $55 price tag translated to $465 in today’s dollar.  You can buy a new, very similar coat from the Hudson’s Bay Company for $695 Canadian, or $635 US.  Interestingly, their fabric is now made by Pendleton.


Filed under Proper Clothing

1920s Corset and Bra Combination

I don’t write a lot about lingerie because I rarely ever buy  it.  Not that I don’t have quite a bit of lingerie in my collection, I do.  It’s just that after years of collecting I have a fair amount of undies, and now I only buy to upgrade items or to fill a gap in my holdings.  Sometimes I’ll pick up something odd that I’ve never seen before.

That was the case with this bra/corset.  Corsets with bras are pretty common from the late 1940s and into the early 60s.  They usually have a very structured bra and elastic garters.  But this one is considerably older.

The bra section is covered with a type of lace that I see quite often in items from the 1910s and 1920s.   The shaping is very soft, much like the bras in the 1920s.

Both the front and the back are laced with cotton laces.  The eyelets are a silvery metal.  You can see that the side backs are boned.

The corset closes on the side with a row of hook and eyes.

The straps are a thick satin.  The ribbon trim at the top of the bra is typical of that found on 1920s lingerie.

I’ve looked through all my 1920s and early 30s sources and I could find nothing like it.  The modern brassiere was patented in 1914 by Mary Phelps Jacob, so I’m pretty sure this falls between 1915 and 1932.  Any thoughts?



Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

Vintage Halloween Costumes

I love Halloween.  I’ve always loved it, though I think it was a lot more special when I was a kid back in the 1960s.  That was before people were too afraid to let their kids wander about after dark, dressed in weird clothing and begging for candy.  Today Halloween is “safe” and “organized.”  Not really to my taste, but I do have my memories.

By the time I started trick or treating in the late 50s and early 60s, most of us were buying costumes at the dime store.  They were cheap, and you could “be” pretty much anyone.  One year I was Lucy Ricardo.  Looking back, I can see how cheesy the costumes were.

But go back even further, to the 1920s and 30s, and you’ll see that kid’s costumes used to be downright scary.  The commercially made masks were constructed of a stiffened gauze with the features painted on.  Above you can see a black cat mask from the 1930s.  I found this mask, believe  it or not, in the Goodwill clearance bins.  Since then I’ve seen photos of the entire costume that includes a black glazed cotton jumpsuit and a white ruffled collar.

The costume was in a box like this one, only I do not have the entire box – just the lid.

Today all the photo sites like pinterest and instagram have been full of vintage photos of kids and adults in creepy costumes.  It’s amazing how truly scary some of them are, all without the benefit of stupid fake blood.  I never see these photos when sorting through stacks of them at flea markets, so I’m betting that they are popular with collectors.

In the good old days of the 1980s I collected Halloween decorations, but then someone published a book and the prices soared.  I rarely buy anything to add to the Halloween stuff, but it is interesting that the last two items I bought were things to wear.

I recently bought this crepe paper party hat because it was too good a deal to pass up.  Plus, I really, really like the pumpkin guy.

I spent some time on ebay today, looking at the sold prices of vintage Halloween collectibles.  I only wish all the investments I’ve made in life were as good as the dollars I spent on Halloween tin and paper.  And that does not even take into account all the fun I had finding my treasures.

UPDATE:  My friend Amanda alerted me to a fantastic page of vintage photos of people in costume.


Filed under Collecting, Holidays, Proper Clothing

Bathing Suits, Circa 1872

After showing my newest vintage bathing suit, I thought I ought to show this fashion print of some very early bathing costumes.  When I was a little girl I always wondered why it was called a bathing suit, as the ones from the early 1960s were mainly one piece affairs.  But looking at this image you can see why it was called a suit.  The full ensemble included a cap, dress, pantaloons, stockings and shoes.

Interestingly, my 1916 bathing suit is more similar to these from over forty years prior than it is to the one piece knit suits women were wearing only five years later.  It was pointed out in the comments yesterday that the changes in bathing suits had a lot to do with the move toward more freedoms and rights for women.  It is interesting that women gained the right to vote in the United States about the same time they began to wear bathing suits that were actually suitable for swimming.


Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Circa 1916 Bathing Suit

I look at bathing suits from the first quarter of the 20th century and I get the idea that the true purpose of them was to make women look as unattractive as possible.  They were pretty worthless when it came to actual swimming, and the sex appeal is nonexistent.  Thank goodness for the 1920s and the knit wool suit, droopy and saggy as it was!

Bathing suits changed a lot in the 1910s.  At the beginning of the decade most of them still had sleeves.  They were most commonly made from woven wool.  The bloomers covered the knees.  By 1920 the sleeves were pretty much a thing of the past, sateen and twills cottons were becoming more popular as the fabric of bathing suits, and the bloomers skimmed the tops of the knees.

This suit shows both the old and the new.  There are no sleeves, and the fabric is cotton.  But the bloomers remain long, hitting just below the knees.  The top is like a dress, comes to the knees and is shapeless.

A common problem with collecting older bathing suits is that the pieces often get lost.  I’ve found just the bloomers, and just the dress, and belts are usually long gone.  But this suit is intact, including both a white and a black belt.   It even had a pair of black cotton stockings with it.

This suit was certainly homesewn, as shown by the poorly executed stitching.  But I love the attempt at interesting details in the form of the white cuffs with black buttonholes.

The bodice shaping is accomplished through the use of two big tucks and the belt.  Still, it is basically just a sack cinched in the middle.  Somehow I can see why this look did not satisfy the modern 1920s woman.



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