I’m sure you have spotted the problems with this elderly tennis racket, but I still was almost a victim to its charms. It just stands to reason that a collector of sportswear would be attracted to the corresponding sports equipment, even if they would just be props. I’ve been tempted before, and I’ve resisted, just as I resisted this great old racket.
Click to see the great logo.
The maker was Wright & Ditson, a sporting goods company started by baseball player George Wright and businessman Henry Ditson in 1871. The company was bought in 1891 by Spalding, but the Wright & Ditson name was used until the 1930s. Some sources say the the Spalding company bought up other sports equipment companies and then continued to use the name of the acquired company in order to give the appearance of competition to consumers. Today there is a “vintage” sports shirt company that uses the Wright & Ditson name.
The best I can tell, this racket was made in the very late 1800s, or in the first decade of the 1900s. The oval shape was introduced around 1885, and a 1910 catalog shows an up-dated form of the tennis-player logo, so I’m pretty sure it dates within that range.
It would be hard to tell the story of American sportswear without using the term nautical. Some of the very first sportswear garments for women borrowed heavily from the traditional sailor’s uniform. In the 1800s when more and more women took to sea bathing, their bathing suits often had a sailor collar and middy braid. Gymnasium attire followed suit, with the middy blouse, modeled after a midshipman’s shirt, becoming the favored top for girls and women’s sports attire.
Through the years a nautical theme has been favored in prints for sports clothing, especially for that made to be worn for a seaside vacation. I’m always happy to run across novelty print fabric that has a nautical motif.
My latest is this cotton duck from the 1950s or early 60s. I love the turquoise and yellow colors, but I especially love that Sailmakers font.
Though nautical prints are generally in a red, white, and blue colorway, this print shows that there is no need to be stuck in that design rut.
I found this print several years ago, and it remains a favorite. There is something especially crisp about blue and green on white.
How about some green and lavender gulls?
In a more traditional vein is this terry cloth. I’ve got plans to make this into a beach robe.
And finally, not fabric yardage, but a super nautical hankie that has all the bells and whistles.
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.
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.
Was it the snappy red color with the contrasting black trim, or was it the tee holder with the three yellow tees? I can’t really say, but something really sold me on this pair of vintage golf shoes.
I placed the dating of 1950s on these mainly from clues on the shoe box.
First, the guys in the photograph are straight from the mid 50s, plaid golf bags and all.
But the best clue was on the Kroydon logo, where it reads, “Golf leadership for over 40 years.” Solid information about Kroydon was a bit hard to come by, but I found several old ads for Kroydon golf clubs on ebay. I found that the company was located in Maplewood, New Jersey. From there I googled “Kroydon, Maplewood” and found a reference to the company in a 1940s book called Prominent Families of New Jersey. According to the book, Kroydon was established in 1918.
While Kroydon made golf clubs, they also must have had agreements with other manufacturers to produce golf accessories that were marketed under the Kroydon name. Endicott Johnson was a large shoe manufacturer located in southern New York state.
Whenever I find sportswear in unused condition, I wonder about the person who owned it. Did this woman want to learn the game, but never made the time for it? Did her golfer husband buy them for her for Christmas, hoping that she would pick up the game? Or did a conservative dresser buy them, hoping to snazz up her style, but then lost the nerve? I’d love to know the real story.
Walk into any antique shop in the country and there is sure to be a selection of vintage hats. Considering that most women stopped wearing them in the late 1960s, it is a wonder that so many of them survive. Hats take up a lot of storage space, and you would think they would have all been thrown out in an effort to gain closet space. Perhaps many women kept thinking that hats would make a comeback, and so were reluctant to toss them. And I’m sure that many were saved due to sentimental reasons.
The shops are full of church hats, cocktail hats, and sun hats, but a bit harder to find is the lowly sports cap. Like other sportswear, they received hard use. I’ve found a few that were in seriously sad condition with dirt and sweat stains. I imagine that most of them that reached that level of use were simply thrown away.
This 1950s cap must have belonged to a woman who preferred the indoors, as it shows few signs of wear. Maybe it was bought out of necessity on a beach vacation (note shell decorations).
This cap appears to have been homemade. It provides some serious shade, but style is not forgotten:
I have another homemade one from the 1930s, and two that are from the 1950s and are similar to the one at the top of this post. These 1950s caps look an awful lot like the baseball cap, but often with a smaller brim.
Here are a few ads from the early 1950s.
“Perfect loafing costume…”
These cute little caps were made from Cannon terry cloth.
I’m not going to lie. I want that plaid Pendleton cap. I also want the handbag.
People in the 1920s were fond of the exotic, and so it is no surprise that a popular sun shade was theJapanese paper parasol. It seems a bit risky to take a fragile paper item to the beach where it would be threatened by wind and water. Maybe that is why so many of the ones found today are ripped and faded.
I found this one at an antique mall along with several others, all deadstock, never used. I can’t say that it is from the 1920s, as these are still being made today (but probably in China). Anyway, I loved the colors and design of this one, regardless of the age.
It structure of the parasol is entirely bamboo.
Two of these 1920s women have paper parasols. I also love the bathing cap and shoes and beach pyjamas on the woman on the right. I have no idea where this photo was taken, but note the US flag flying. The sign on the building reads “Rooms, Tents, Cottages”. Any ideas as to where? There seems to be a fairly large hillside directly behind the beach, so that rules out a great deal of the east coast.
This ad for Lux laundry soap is from 1923.
To see it in the round, here is a vine.