Category Archives: Sportswear

Lady Manhattan, Part II

I’ve spent a great deal of the past three days looking for ads for Lady Manhattan, but I’ve not found a single one in my fashion magazines in the years between 1953 and 1962.  They did advertise, as there are ads for sale on ebay (something I really do not understand) but maybe they were placed in regular women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping or McCall’s.

One thing that made me think my silk blouse was later 1950s was that a 1954 ad I saw on ebay  had a facsimile label as part of the ad.  That label is the one you see above.  While I could not locate an ad in my magazines, I did happen upon a second Lady Manhattan blouse.

What is really interesting about this earlier Lady Manhattan shirt is that it is so similar in construction to a man’s casual shirt.  I’ve seen a lot of men’s shirts from the early to mid 1950s that have an open collar like my new lady’s shirt.  The fabric is a nice cotton shirting like you’d expect to find in a man’s shirt.

There is a chest (breast?) pocket, and the sleeves are inserted like those in a man’s shirt.

There is a placket for the cuff opening, something that is not usually seen in a woman’s blouse.  I was really surprised at the French cuffs.

The seams are flat felled, and are the smallest, neatest ones I’ve seen on a mid-priced garment.

If you look back at the later silk shirt, you can still see vestiges of a man’s shirt in the design.  The open neck collar, the French cuffs, and the curved hemline are almost identical to this cotton shirt.  But the fabric is softer, the pocket and cuff plackets are gone, and the seams are French.  It has the feel of a blouse rather than of a shirt.

I actually bought this piece to wear, as I’ve been looking for some prints to add to my mostly solid and striped wardrobe.   I found it in a fantastic vintage clothing booth in an antique mall in Taylors, South Carolina, which is in the Greenville area.   She also has an Etsy shop, Kate Dinatale Vintage.  It was such a pleasure finding a vintage store in my area where the items are beautifully presented and reasonably priced.

UPDATE:

And finally, here is the full view.  And today while rummaging through my button box, I found a forgotten pair of mother of pearl cuff links.

 

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Mid Twentieth Century Bathing Suit Cover Up

I’ll be honest, there are few things that get me as excited as seeing a fantastic vintage novelty print, especially one that has a beach theme.   Make that novelty print into a wonderful piece of sportswear and I’m moving into the thrilled category.  And to find out that this treasure is actually for sale, that registers into the ecstatic range.

Seriously, this print is about as good as it gets.   The hats, the suns, the waves, the sand!

And that’s not just a collar; that’s a hood.  The interior of the jacket is lined in the green.

Even the buttons are super, being covered with the same green fabric as the lining.

The maker was Ceeb of Miami.  Ceeb was a label of the Miami Sportswear Company, which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Brasington and Mr. and Mrs. W.T. Rose.  (I wonder why C.B. got the label named after himself.)  The business is still in operation, and they still manufacture bathing suits in the USA.  According to their website the company was started in 1942, but the US Trademark Database says 1946, with the name being trademarked in 1949.

That means my jacket has to date after 1949, as the label tells us the name is registered.  The print looks early to mid 1950s.  I’m really tempted to take out part of the hem to see if the selvage is intact and if so, does it have any information printed on it.  The more I think about this, the more I want to do it.

Ceeb made a variety of “Florida” fashions including jumpsuits that were really bathing suits with capri length legs.  They could be quite fancy with shiny fabrics and sequins and such. Today their image is decidedly less sexy.

What really has me excited is that I’m sure that out there somewhere is a matching bathing suit.  It is there, I know it.  And I will find it.

You might be wondering how I found such a perfect object.  I found it by way of Instagram.  This has become my favorite way to find new things for my collection, as sellers usually post their new finds there even before they are offered for sale.  It’s like an auction preview, and with me at least, it is quite effective.

If you are a vintage seller, you really should be on Instagram.  It is an excellent way to not only show off things you have for sale, but also to give your business a personal face.  The Instagram accounts I find to be most interesting are the ones that feature the family dog, their garden, their travels, the sunsets.  Throw in some nice historical clothing and I’m ready to follow.

With Instagram, it’s important to remember to be social.  I really find it to be the most social of the big sites.  Perhaps it is because the great majority of photos posted are of a more personal nature (as compared to Pinterest and Facebook, where most of what you see is not original to the poster).  For whatever reason, it is a great place to post photos and get feedback.

For those of you who sew, there is a growing sewing “community” at Instagram as well.  People share tips and show off their patterns and projects.  It’s a lot of fun as well.

Beach jacket from DnJVinage.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Currently Re-reading – When the Girls Came Out to Play

You might have noticed over the past two weeks that I’ve made repeated references to one book, When the Girls Came Out to Play, by Patricia Campbell Warner.  I actually surprised myself because I was sure I had reviewed this book years ago, but a look back into the archives showed that I merely recommended the book back in 2006 when it was released.

The book is an outgrowth of Warner’s doctoral dissertation , but it does not read like an academic journal.  It was written in an easy to follow narrative style, but it is also richly annotated with end notes.  This is really my favorite kind of book – one that reads like a conversation with a very knowledgeable friend.

Reading the book for the first time was like a revelation.  Even though I’d been studying fashion history for a long time, there were no scholarly studies on the progression of American sportswear.  Through Warner’s research, I was able to fill in a lot of gaps in my own knowledge and thinking about the subject.

One of the big ideas in the study is that starting in the Nineteenth Century there were two separate trends in sports attire for women.  There were clothes that were appropriate for public wearing, such as tennis dresses, bathing suits and bicycling ensembles.  In these areas, women were mixed with men and were expected to follow the rules of proper dress.

The other trend was clothing for a more private environment, especially that of the woman’s college.  In places where women were not mixing with men, they were freer to don less feminine garments like bloomer gym suits.

Eventually the two different sports clothing strands began to merge.  Women who had worn bloomers at summer camp or college were used to wearing the pants, so to speak.  It was an easy leap to wearing knickers for outings and beach pyjamas at home and at the shore.

Over the years I’ve repeatedly referred to this book, and I see it as the foundation of my own studies of sportswear.  As with any study there are always new things to be discovered, and there is still a lot to be learned about how women became pants wearers.  It is a fascinating topic, with all kinds of historical and social strands of learning.

When the Girls Came Out to Play can be purchased quite inexpensively from Amazon, but the great news is that it can be read free online in the pdf form.  Either way, this is a must read for those interested in the development of sportswear for women in America.

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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

Proper Tennis Dress, 1914

The roots of tennis date to the Middle Ages, but the modern game did not emerge until the 1870s.   First played on the great estates of England, the game quickly spread to the US where it retained its elitist air.  The game was played in private clubs, and in mixed sex company.  In fact, women themselves started playing the game.

In the nineteenth century the game was not the fast paced running game of today.  Players generally just passed the ball back and forth across the net, with little running required.  Women actually played in the fashionable dress of the day (including corsets) with few concessions to the sport.  Pre-1900 photos show women playing in swagged skirts, skin tight jackets and constricting sleeves.

There was a reason.  Private clubs and resorts where tennis was played were prime courting territory.   Young unmarried women  and men wanted to look like suitable marriage material, and that meant dressing in the proper manner.  Even though fashion magazines at the time showed proper tennis attire, the dresses were pretty much what a woman would have worn for any outdoor activity.

A big change in tennis wear for women happened around the turn of the twentieth century.  It was discovered that the dark skirt and white waist combination that was so popular with women was well suited to tennis.  The waist was blousy and loose, and the skirt was A shaped and allowed for movement.  The skirt was still long, but it no longer swept the ground.

About the same time, white dresses for summer became the style, and so before long the skirt was white as well.  According to Patricia Campbell Warner in her book When the Girls Came Out to Play, the choice of the color white also appealed to the elite.  It was hard to keep clean and required a lot of care in laundering, requiring time and resources limited to the well-to-do.

In 1914 tennis player and teacher Miriam Hall published a little book titled Tennis for Girls.  Tennis was becoming a fast paced game that required movement of the arms and freedom of the legs.  Ms. Hall gave suggestions on tennis dress in the book.

Clothing, light of weight, should be worn, enabling one to move freely.  There should be no restriction at the neck, and as little as possible at the waist.  To further this, it is wise to substitute for the corset, some good corded waist, or a boned brassiere, the stockings to be supported from the waist or shoulders.  The use of the round garter is worse than foolish – it is often dangerous, leading to the formation of varicose veins.

The sleeves should not extend below the elbows and the skirt should be wide enough to permit a broad lunge and not longer that five inches from the ground.  The best shoe is of soft canvas with a flexible, not too heavy, rubber sole.  If there is a tendency toward fallen arches, a light-weight leather support should be worn inside the tennis shoe.

In the photo Hall is wearing what looks to be a middy over a sports skirt, pretty much the same outfit that schoolgirls across the country were wearing to school each day.

It took a tennis star, Suzanne Lenglen, to bring short skirts and bare arms to the tennis dress.  When she first appeared in such an outfit at Wimbleton in 1919, it was scandalous.  Six years later women were wearing her look on the streets.

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Early 1960s Gymsuit

I think it is pretty incredible that any vintage gymsuit exists.   Talk to almost any woman who had to wear one and you’ll get a long list of what was wrong with the garment, starting with unflattering and ending with hideous.  It seems to be a universally held memory by women over a certain age that the gymsuit was invented to lower self-esteem and inflict psychological pain.

One would think that on the last day of high school gym class there would have been mass ritual burnings of the garment.  Why would anyone keep such a hated thing?

To be honest, I can’t remember what happened to mine.  I graduated high school just as my sister started junior high, so it is possible that my mother made her wear it.  Not that there could have been much life left in it after I’d been abusing it for six years.  That’s right; I wore the same gymsuit for the entire six years of secondary school.  This was back in the day when mothers bought clothes a bit big so the child would “grow into” them.  Not that I grew much after age twelve.

But people did for one reason or another keep their old gymsuits.  I have fourteen of them, the oldest dating to around 1865 – 1870.  But until recently I did not have one that was similar to the one I wore in the late 1960s and early 70s.   Above you can see the latest addition to my little collection.

Gymsuits can be hard to date, as the styles tended to be used over a long period of time.  I was still wearing in 1973 the suit my parents bought in 1968.  And it was really similar to ones I’ve seen from the 1940s and 50s.    But there are a few things that told me this one was newer.

The button-down collar was the first hint.  According to a 1962 Moore Gymwear catalog I have, a style that was introduced the previous year was very popular partly due to “a sophisticated Ivy League, button-down collar.”   This suit was called the “Matadora”, and it is almost identical to my latest gymsuit even though mine was made by Champion.

In fact, my suit has every single one of the features shown in the diagram.

“Nylon and cotton elastic at waist for slender look”

“Button-down Ivy League Collar” and Snaps

“Princess Styling – Long Lines for Comfort” and “Tucks for Form Fit”  This suit has it all!

As I said, this suit was made by Champion.  The RN number is another big help in dating.  The labeling law changed in 1959, and it is known that the first number under the new law was 13670.  Since my number is 26094, I know the number was issued after 1959.  There is an RN number database, but it is of limited use.  For example, this number is now owned by Hanesbrands, which owns Champion.

I’m sure that this gymsuit was once white and that it has been dyed.  You can’t really tell in my photo, but the label is also green.  And the color is terribly uneven.

I love it when the original owner’s name is embroidered on the gymsuit, but I am so grateful my teachers did not have us do this.  It would have severely limited our ability to borrow a suit from a neat friend on inspection day!

These come up for sale quite often on ebay and etsy, but I don’t know of anyone other than myself who collects them.  They aren’t really “fashion”, but they are an important part of the shared history of women who came of age before the gymsuit was finally eliminated by most schools in the 1980s.

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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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