Category Archives: Sportswear

Outdoor Sports and Pastimes, Peck & Snyder, 1886

I’ve tried limiting my collecting to 1914 and later, but I can’t turn down an opportunity to learn about older sportswear, and to occasionally to buy a piece.  I recently ran across an 1886 catalog by sporting goods company Peck & Snyder.  I didn’t know a thing about the company, but thanks to the internet I can tell you that  Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder opened their business in New York City shortly after the end of the American Civil War.  Their claim to fame is the introduction of the baseball card, which they first mass produced in 1869.

The catalog is quite large, and includes both sporting goods and  other amusements like magic lanterns and costumes for fancy dress balls.  Most of the products are geared toward men, and while there are things for women, one has to look for them.  What is most interesting is how women are portrayed in the catalog.  The illustration above is typical in that women engaged in leisure activities, even more active ones than lying in a hammock chair, are dressed as they would be for other, more formal activities.

I guess a lady never lifts her feet onto the hammock.  I’m just wondering how she kept from sliding out of it!

But it wasn’t just women who were wearing regular attire while exercising.  Note that the man on the bicycle movement machine is wearing a vest.  At least he is not having to wear a corset.

It might seem odd that there were exercise machines available for home use in 1886.  I imagine these were purchased by the very affluent.  I know that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville (built by one of the Vanderbilts) has a gym with all kinds of equipment.  That house was built in the 1890s.

The Biltmore House also has a two lane bowling alley.  Peck & Snyder sold balls and pins, though the Biltmore ones came from the Brunswick bowling company. Again, note the clothing, especially of the woman who is getting ready to roll her ball.

The catalog does have illustrations of women wearing proper gym attire.  Ironically, they do not sell it, though there are quite a few pages of men’s athletic clothing for sale.

Those shirts might look like the form of a woman, but they are men’s “quarter sleeve worsted shirts” meaning they were made from worsted wool.

Some of the shoes are unisex.  Here is a selection of tennis shoes.

Peck & Snyder included quite a few pages of skates, both roller and ice.  The bicycle craze was just getting started, so there were only two models, both with the big front wheel.

There were pages of wool, silk, and cotton stockings and tights, which seem to be for men.  I found this interesting because I recently found a very old pair of striped wool stockings that I felt had to have been a sports piece.

Women’s gym outfits like the one above are very hard to find, but there is one in the up-coming Karen Augusta sale.  I wonder how one did jumping jacks with all those layers?

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear

Comparing Details as an Aid to Dating Vintage Clothing

Collecting sportswear has a particular challenge in that it does not always follow the fashion of the era.  This is especially true in something like riding breeches that were made for a particular purpose, and thus had to be functional.  Sometimes the collector has to look beyond fashion to come up with a reasonable date for an object.

I have three pairs of riding breeches and jodhpurs.  In order to put them in their correct time period, I have to rely on the details and construction techniques.  I’m not an expert in the history of riding pants, but using what I do know about fabrics, construction, and fashion, I was able to put a date on each pair.

The oldest pair I have is the pair above.  These jodphurs have the full thighs that you would expect to see before stretch fabrics came into use.  The fabric is a sturdy cotton twill.

These pants close using buttons on both sides of the hips.  The buttons are of a type that I commonly see on clothing from the 1910s and 1920s.

The insides of the knees is reinforced with an extra layer of twill fabric.

To keep the pants legs from riding up, there is lacing on the outside of each leg.

These jodphurs actually came with a matching coat which had this label.  The Emporium was in business from 1896 until 1996, which does not help, but the style of the label certainly does.  My best guess for this pair is 1917-1925.

The second pair of jodphurs are also made from cotton twill.  The shape is very similar to the first pair.

These have a hip button closure as well as two leather buckles.  The buttons are plastic, and are a type commonly seen in the 1930s and 40s.

The inside knees are reinforced with fine suede leather.

The bottoms of the legs are not as tight as the earlier pair.  They are held in place by suede straps that button to the hems.

Some of the seams are finished by a type of overlock stitch that is sometimes seen on sportswear from the 1920s through the 40s.  There is not a label present, but I’m pretty sure these are from the 1930s.  Any later and a zipper would be used.  These could be early 40s, but not into the war years due to the use of leather.

My last pair is made from a stretch fabric, a blend of cotton and nylon.  Due to the stretch, the hips and thighs could be cut slimmer and still be comfortable for the rider.

The pants close at the hip with a metal zipper.  Note the loops for a belt.

The inside of the knees is reinforced with leather which was attached by the use of a zig-zag sewing stitch.

The bottoms of the legs open by metal zippers.

Best of all is the label, which told me the fiber content.  It also reveals that these were made in Japan, and there is an RN number.  The number does not tell when a garment was made, but because the RN system was first used in 1952, it can’t be older that that date.  A look at the RN data base does reveal that this number belonged to the Miller Harness Company, which had a store located on East 24th Street in New York.  According to an obituary of one of the owners, Jackie Kennedy was a customer.  I can see her wearing these breeches, and I’m quite sure these are from the 1960s.

I used to be determined to narrow down the exact dating of things, but often it just is not possible.  And when it comes to sports styles that were worn over a period of years, it is often just as useful to know the general dating.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

 

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Catalina Official All America Board of Football Sweater Vest, 1940s

If it were up to me, this label would read “Bored of Football” but then if everyone were like me there’d not be lots of old athletic sweaters to covet.  I’ll admit, I bought this mainly because I thought the label added a lot to the story.

As you can see, this sweater is official, of what though, I’m not entirely sure.  Googling brought up some vague references to a Board of Football helping to select the All American college players for each year.  Unfortunately, I soon got bored with the search and decided to just focus on the sweater.

Athletic letter sweaters are a fairly commonly found item.  Unfortunately, the moths often find them first, as I’ve found many that were nibbled beyond repair. There is a reason these are so common, as the letter sweater was a standard trophy for not only high school and college football players, but also for cheerleaders, basketball players, track runners and even band members.

Older athletic sweaters, before the mid 1930s or so, tend to be pullovers.  My 1936 Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods catalog has both pullovers and cardigans, for both men and women.  They are called warm-up pullovers and coats.  Later athletic sweaters, from the late 1950s or so, are often made from acrylic yarn.

 

It’s such a nice hefty knit.  My color here is wrong though.  The real color is what you see in the top photo.  I obviously have not mastered the art of color balance.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Winter Sports

1920s Spalding Ted Shirt

Last week I got to take in the big Liberty, NC Antiques Fair.  Actually it is more like a big flea market where most of the stuff is old.  It’s usually not the best place to find clothes because it is outside and some dealers don’t like to exhibit clothing out in the weather, but I have found some fabulous things there over the years.

The first booth I came to had the dealers still pulling bins of textiles off their truck.  There must have been over a dozen big plastic binds full of clothing and linens from the past 125 years.  According to the seller they cleaned out the clothing from an estate and this was everything in the house.  There was no rhyme or reason to the packing of the bins.  You might have one with Victorian underwear and 1940s kids’ clothes together.

So I settled in to go through all the bins, and I was rewarded with some really interesting items.  One was this shirt from sportswear maker, A.G. Spalding.  It looks a bit odd, kind of like a shirt with legs.  I knew I’d seen a similar one in an ad in a 1929 EveryGirl’s magazine.

As you can see, in this ad from Man O’ War, it was called a ted shirt, which I assume is a cross between a teddy and a shirt.  Even though it is shown without a bottom in the ad, I assume it would be worn with bloomers.

I think this ted shirt is also from the late 1920s, with the popular round collar that is also seen on dresses from this era.  Also, the label is very similar to another Spalding suit from the late Twenties that I have in my collection.

Note how the top of the opening is shaped like a V and fastens beneath the collar.

As in the ad, there are curved shirt tails.

It looks like the purpose of the ted shirt was to keep the tails of it neatly tucked inside the bloomers, rather like the bodysuit of the 1970s.

Click to enlarge

Here’s the entire ad.

I’ll be sharing some of the other great sportswear I got from this dealer in the coming days.

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Spalding’s Athletic Library

If you are in the US, you probably recognize Spalding as the brand name of a company that makes sporting equipment.  The company has a very long history, being formed by A.G. Spalding in the 1870s.  His first product was baseballs; Spalding himself had been a pitcher for the Chicago White Stockings. Before long his business was making all kinds of sporting equipment.

Spalding got into publishing when he produced an official guide to baseball.  In 1885 he branched off into guides for other sports, and the series became known as Spalding’s Athletic Library.  Eventually the company was publishing around 300 guides.

I did not buy this book, probably from the early 1920s, as I felt like it was too pricy, but I looked on eBay and prices for these guides are all over the place. It’s interesting that women were featured as well as men in the cover art. The company was making items specifically for girls and women by this time.  I have a 1920s gymsuit in my collection.

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Filed under Sportswear, Summer Sports

The Eveready Sportsman’s Hand Book, Circa 1914

Never judge a booklet by its cover, I say.  Attracted by the woman in her middy dress, I opened this up to find some great illustrations of sportswomen, not men.

Eveready traces their roots to 1896, but the company was not called Eveready until 1914.  They had obtained the patent for the flashlight which they produced along with the batteries to power them.

Click to enlarge

This little promotional booklet really does have hints for the sportsperson, but the best parts are the illustrations along with poems that describe each scenario.  The “girl” in each is holding and using her Eveready to help her in her quest for sport and health.  Note that the Sight-Seeing Girl seems to be in charge of the tour of the ancient ruins.

 

The Motor Boat Girl needs no headlamp as long as she has her Eveready handy.

The Hunting Girl is not afraid because she is fully equipped with her flashlight. Of course toting a firearm might add to the secure feeling as well.

Night fishing, anyone?

And of course The Camping Girl is in charge of the cooking pot.

The Motoring Girl is most useful when holding the Eveready for the man who can fix her motorcar. And note the hint of Motoring Girl’s reckless driving!

 

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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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Filed under Shopping, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing