Category Archives: Proper Clothing

Bowl to Stay Slim, 1958

Growing up in the 1960s, I can remember bowling being a very big deal.  The leagues that met weekly to compete were an important social function for many people in my community.  My parents didn’t bowl, but the parents of a friend were in a league so I often went with them to the lanes.  I learned to bowl (badly) and was never any good at it, but as I said, the social part of it was really the point.

In 1958 Brunswick, a maker of bowling supplies, published this booklet that was aimed to encourage women to take up the sport.

Bowling is a graceful, rhythmical sport.  A fun sport that’s not strenuous yet so good for the figure.

Marion Ladewig really was a professional bowler.  Here she is on What’s My Line? where she actually stumped the panelists.

The booklet is full of photos of attractive – and slim – women bowling, intermingled with dieting tips and how to score the game.

Here we have Mrs. Ladewig helping a young woman pick out a ball.  One thing I did not realize is that “Shoes are made for both right and left-handed bowlers…”  I’m left-handed, and I can’t ever remember being offered left-handed shoes.  Not surprising since I always considered myself lucky if they actually had the right size for me.

Of course the booklet would not be complete without an ad for Brunswick equipment.  I was especially interested in the shoes, mainly because bowling shoes can be a bit of a problem to accurately date.  I’d sure like a pair of the Princess Brunswick, in red, please.

The back cover has one last reminder, that bowling is a fun activity for the entire family.

In my bowling file I found another booklet, which is less soft-sell, more sports-minded.  I only picked it up because it is labeled “Compliments of Misty Harbor.”  I thought that was an odd sponsor considering Misty Harbor was a maker of rain coats and jackets, not something one would wear while bowling.

And once again, here is the bowling team from 1956.  I find it interesting that all the advertising booklet women are wearing skirts and dresses, but the real bowlers are outfitted in slacks.

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National Park Seminary: A School for Girls

The book I’m sharing today is enough to make me clean house a bit more often.  That’s because I found this one among my husband’s books which are usually in a bit of disarray.  The root of the problem is that we are both book lovers, and we have outgrown the two floor-to-ceiling shelves that cover two entire walls in his office.  We’ve decided to add more shelving, and so we are sorting through books, and that when I turned up A School For Girls.

The National Park Seminary was a private two year program for young women of means.  When this book was published in 1924, the school was being called a junior college, but in reality it was more of a finishing school.  There were several courses that girls could take, all of which were heavy on the arts and on homemaking skills.  There was also a four year high school program.

National Park Seminary, commonly referred to as The Glen School, started life as a hotel.  When the hotel failed in 1894, the property was purchased and converted into the school.   The facility was spread over ninety acres and consisted of around thirty buildings, many of which were connected by covered walkways.

In 1924 the school seemed to be on firm footing, but the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression  took a heavy toll on the school.  It barely remained open, and in 1942 the school was closed when the US Army bought the property.  It was established as part of Walter Reed Army Hospital as a rehabilitation  facility for disabled soldiers returning from WWII.

My husband does not remember where he got the book, but he does know why he bought it.  He was stationed at Walter Reed in the early 1970s.  The research facility in which he worked was located near the old school, and he and his co-workers would regularly go to the cafeteria there.   By that time the facility was severely underfunded by the army, but Tim still remembers the buildings as being quite grand.

The army eventually closed the Forest Glen facility, and it fell into disrepair.  Today it is being restored, and the old school and hospital is now being converted to condos and apartments.  A Google images search shows both the decay and the newly restored buildings, and is quite amazing to look at.

The book seems to a catalog of sort for prospective students.  It outlines the courses, lays out the rules, and brags about the facility and the clientele.  As expected, the school was quite expensive, with a basic charge of $1375 ($19,100 today), but with many additional charges, including up to $100 ($1400 today) per course.  Girls had to have five references in order to be considered for admission.  Any girl who turned out to be a “difficult case” was “…promptly returned to her home.”

The book is full of photographs of the school and of the girls.  After a while the photos, which are obviously staged, start to look alike, and I’m guessing that the same girls were used over and over.

I’m sure that by now you have noticed that all the young women are wearing very similar dress.  While not a true uniform, each girls was instructed to have:

Four dresses cut after the style of the two-piece sailor dresses.

There was a Dress Circular that was supplied to the mothers of applicants that laid out in detail the particulars of dress that was accepted at the school.  In addition to the four middy dresses, my book gives a few general dress requirements:

Three simple dresses to be worn at evening dinner and Sundays at home.

One evening dress for formal parties.

One topcoat or a tailored coat suit for trips to Washington.

All jewelry is forbidden…

Unfortunately, the book does not go into detail about athletic wear, but the pictures pretty much tell the story.

This shows Indian club exercise in the gym.

Several sports teams were pictured, all wearing the identical middy and bloomer combination that we see in use in the gym.

But for riding, the proper attire was a riding jacket and jodhpurs.

Note the covered walkway.

And the middy dress worked well for tennis.

Finally, I want to share one of the courses that was offered in the home economics department – Laundry.  At first I wondered why a girl who could afford to go to an expensive finishing school would need to know how to do the laundry.  Silly me!

An interesting course that ought to be taken by any girl who would intelligently supervise such work in her own home.  Many an expensive article has been ruined because the necessary caution or advice could not be offered by the inexperienced housewife.

 

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1930s Northbilt Ski Pants

In the 1930s skiing was a relatively new spot in the US, having become popular only in the 1920s.  After winter resorts and ski slopes were developed it became obvious that women especially were going to need clothing specifically for the sport.  It just was not practical to try to make one’s way down a mountain wearing a 1920s skirt, or even knickers that ended at the knee.  By the early 1930s companies were making full length wool ski pants for women, another great example of how active sportswear led to women adopting the wearing of pants.

Even though these ski pants were made to be functional in the snow, a woman wearing them would still want to look her best.  The waist and hip area is slim and quite fitted, with little extra bulk.

And what a nice curve there is to the side button opening.

The leg cuffs are made of a knit wool for a close fit.

And for the key to your room at the lodge, a little patch pocket was included.

These ski pants were made by the Northbilt company in Minneapolis.  According to the US Trademark site, Northbilt was first used as a brand name in 1919.  The last reference I can find to the company was in 1962.  As always, additional information about this company would be appreciated.

Here is a page from a 1936 Montgomery Ward catalog showing their selection of women’s ski pants, which are very similar to my pair.  Note that one pair has  “slide fasteners” – zippers – at the cuffs and the waist.  Button closings were slowly being replaced.

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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.

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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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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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White Stag Function-Alls for Women Workers

I recently got a message from Juliet at SixCatsFun Vintage saying that she had found a denim jacket with an interesting label.  It was “White Stag Function-Alls.”  At first I sort of shook my head in wonder, as White Stag made clothing primarily in canvas up to the middle 1960s.  But something seemed familiar.

I pulled out a WWII era White Stag catalog I have, and there it was – a full page of denim Function-Alls.  They were produced for women who were working in wartime jobs that required sturdy work clothing.

Overall Jacket to match style No. 7844 or No. 653.  Triple-stitched 8-oz. Sanforized denim.  Copper buttons. Complete with bandana Handkerchief.  Dark Blue denim only.

You can see the triple-stitching referred to in the copy.  And if you want to see the label a bit more clearly, it is printed in the catalog.

It’s a gloved hand pulling on a lever of some sort.

Due to the faded and frayed label, you can tell that this piece was used, probably by some 1940s Rosie the Riveter.  I think the documentation from the catalog makes the piece really special.  It’s hard to find WWII era women’s work clothing, though you know it must have been made by the millions.

The great condition of this piece is typical of the type of quality that White Stag turned out.  Even under wartime restrictions and shortages, they managed to produce a product that held up beautifully.  My catalog is not dated, but the references to the war and “the duration” make me think it is probably from 1943 or 1944.

Note the stag on the button.

Thanks to Juliet for sharing this great piece of history with me, and for letting me show it off here.  For anyone interested in this historic piece, she is selling it on ebay.

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Style and Influence: First Ladies’ Fashions

I usually share links to other sites during my Vintage Miscellany posts, but this video is so interesting (and so long) that I thought it deserved a bit of extra attention.  This is a video of an event that was held in Washington, DC last week.  Hosted by the US National Archives, it is a conversation about the fashions of the First Ladies.

The moderator is Tim Gunn of Project Runway, along with Valerie Steele of the Museum at FIT, Lisa Kathleen Graddy of the First Ladies Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and fashion designer Tracy Reese who has dressed Mrs. Obama.  Each participant brought an interesting perspective and set of knowledge, and Gunn kept the program moving.

Many of the clothing examples shown came from the Smithsonian’s collection.  For years there was a wonderful exhibition that started with Martha Washington and featured a dress from each First Lady.  They were all lined up in chronological order and it was an excellent timeline of two hundred years of fashion.

Several years ago this exhibition was taken down and was reinstalled as a sampling of clothes and personal items from the First Ladies.  I’m so glad that I got to see the First Ladies in all their glory, as the new exhibition is not nearly so impressive.  It is, however, wildly popular.  I was there last spring and had to squeeze into the smallish gallery along with busloads of field-tripping schoolgirls.  Still, it is a must-see exhibition for the visitor to Washington.

The question was asked of the panel participants: “Which First Lady’s style do you most admire?”  To me it is Dolley Madison, if only for the fact that she came from the North Carolina backwater and was reared as a Quaker, and went on to be one to the style leaders of her day.  Feel free to answer the question in the comments, and do yourself a favor and take an hour and a half to enjoy this program.

 

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Columbia College, Spotlight on Your Future! 1955

This recruitment bulletin from Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, was sent to prospective students for the 1955-56 school year.  Columbia College is a college for young women, and was established in the 1850s, making it one of the oldest women’s colleges in the US.  In 1915 Georgia O’Keeffe taught at the school.

The study of photographs and literature from women’s colleges is interesting from a fashion history perspective because of the unique environment.  Even in the 1950s women in co-educational colleges were often prohibited from wearing pants or shorts in co-ed situations.  At women’s colleges the dress code was usually much looser.

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The curriculum at Columbia is what one might expect to find at a women’s college in the 1950s.  Home economics, education, music and art were standard courses for women.  There was also a business course, with a short two year certificate.

Physical education courses mandated the gym suit.  This style actually looks quite nice, with the well-fitting shorts.

Dressed for tennis, the girl on the right is wearing a Columbia College jacket.

Dramatic productions seemed to be a popular extra- curricular activity.

I assume that The Postscript was the college newspaper.  Note that many of the students are in jeans and sweatshirts.

There was no explanation for the historical dress, but since home economics was a big part of the program, it may have to do with clothing history.

The bulletin attempts to paint Columbia as an active place where the students were kept safe and busy.  In the early Fifties it was not always taken for granted that girls would even be allowed to attend college.  One of the big stories from my mother’s family concerned her younger sister, Jean.  Jean was an exceptional student, and as a high school senior she was offered a scholarship to Women College in Greensboro, NC.  The problem was that my mother had just dropped out of nursing school to get married, and my grandfather vowed not to let Jean leave home.

A big argument ensued over dinner one night, and my seventeen-year-old aunt got so angry that she picked up the bowl of beans and flung it in my grandfather’s face.  It was a grand gesture, but the best that she was able to negotiate was a two-year business school.  She then worked as an administrative assistant in a bank until she got married and started a family.

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