Category Archives: Viewpoint

June in Review

Wow, but that was fast.  I’m referring to the coming and the going of June.  It seems likes this happens every summer.  It will be snowing before we know it so let’s enjoy summer while we can.

A sparrow thought it was good idea to build her nest in a flowerpot at my local Lowe’s Home Center.  She choose her site well, as the workers at Lowe’s took great care to protect mother and babies.

The worst thing about having too much stuff is trying to find what you need when you need it.  After one such hunting expedition I went on an organization binge.

The best part was that I found this strip of photo booth pictures that have been lost for about ten years!  I’m on the left, and my friend Carolyn is on the right.  We were visiting the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and could not resist.  What I can’t get over is how much I actually look like Andy in that last photo.  I really hope Carolyn is not reading this because I remotely remember something about promising to destroy these.

I posted a link to this auction earlier, but I’m still not over the fact that someone paid $831 for one sewing pattern.

Of course I did a little bit of vintage shopping in June.  I love a good sports themed booth.

This statue is in the graveyard at the  St. John of the Wilderness Church in Flat Rock, NC.  For some reason, everywhere I went that day I was reminded of my sister.  Can you see the word “Sisters” on the plaque?  And what about those two little birds.  I was touched.

Yes, I do have a few scarves.  And yes, I do have a few blue scarves.

This is our dog Spooky.  Spooky is a very old guy – seventeen – and this is about as active as he gets these days.  Still, he’s a good old fellow.  He loves his vintage Scottie quilt.

My husband celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday in June.  I was glad to help him celebrate.

The end of the day, and of June.

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Betsey Johnson Meets the Spring Maid

A few weeks ago an Instagram friend, Carla, posted a photo of a Betsey Johnson dress that had a very familiar-looking print.  If you look carefully at the print above you’ll see young women, all of whom seem to be having a problem with their skirts flying up.

The print is, in fact, a redoing of the Springmaid girl, a topic I’ve written about quite a few times.  What started out as a risque ad campaign for Springs Mills fabrics and sheets was eventually made into a series of fabrics for the company.  Springs Mills not only decorated their corporate offices with the prints, they also had items made up for sale and they offered the fabrics to clothing manufacturers and home sewers.

So how did Betsey Johnson end up with a print that was designed for a bed sheet maker over sixty years ago?  I can’t possibly know for sure, but I have constructed a possible scenario.

A fabric “designer” is wandering through a flea market in search of inspiration.   The designer spots a sixty-year-old shirt made of the Springmaid fabric.  The designer buys the shirt and returns to her office where the Springmaid girls are cut apart and re-positioned, their clothes given a change of color, and then the new design is put on a black background.  The fabric is printed and someone from Betsey Johnson spots it at a wholesalers.  The fabric just screams “Betsey Johnson,” so it is bought and used to make dresses sometime in the 1990s.

Or I could be completely off base, and the fabric maker contacted Springs Mills and got permission to use their design.

Clothing design has no copyright protection in the US, but textile designs are protected.  Regardless, it is really quite common to see  vintage textiles reproduced in this way.  Tammis Keefe and Vested Gentress are two that I’ve written about in the past.  Like I said, it is possible that the maker of this fabric had permission to use the design.  That has been known to happen as in the case of fabric maker Michael Miller using Tammis Keefe designs.  Actually, Keefe has been dead many years and she left no heirs, but Michael Miller gave complete credit to Keefe, putting her signature on the fabrics.

So, no judgement, just an observation of one more thing that can be confusing, especially to newer buyers of vintage.  Yes, those Springmaid girls do look like they came from 1950, but the colors and label say otherwise.

Many thanks to Carla who graciously let me use her photos.

ADDITION:

It has occurred to me that there is a third possibility – that the fabric was actually made by Springmaid.  The company is still in business, and so it is possible.

AND MORE:

Ballyhoo Vintage has a hat lined in this fabric in the original colorway.

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May in Review

It’s time again to see what else is happening in my world.  One reader once called my life “Lizzie Land” which is as good as any way to describe my universe.

Above you see the dogwoods in bloom in the backyard of what we call the “Little House.”  We bought the Little House ten years ago after my mother-in-law’s house flooded and she needed a new home.  She never lived there, but I fell in love with it and today it houses my collection and sewing room.  We’ve also had some incredible parties there.

I bought a bunch of archival flat boxes, and so I spent quite a few days transferring clothing into them.  It was something I’d been needing to do for a long time, so it was a relief to get my collection in a safer environment.

May is the start of rhododendron time in the mountains.   This hedge belongs to the neighbors across the street, and is about fifteen feet high.  Rhododendron is beautiful, but the early settlers in the mountains called a rhododendron thicket a “hell” because it was so difficult to traverse one.

I spotted these ocean liner deck chairs at a local antique mall.  They were priced at $1200 each and the little plate identified them as being from RMS Queen Elizabeth.

 

And I continued with the Scotty obsession…

My next sewing project is a man’s cabana top for me.  I love this top, but somehow can’t imagine many men today who would wear such a garment.  Whatever happened to the adventurous male dressers of the 1960s?

Rainbow over Asheville.  Rainbows are truly a symbol of hope for me.

A good friend had to have surgery, and I was surprised to find a small display of old dresses being displayed as art on the hospital walls.  It was interesting, as there was no indication at all of the significance of the dresses.  And as much as I love having historical dress gain exposure, the conditions were less than ideal with both natural and strong artificial light being a factor.  And to make it worse, two of the three dresses were misdated.

The Carolina strawberries are in, and I celebrated by actually making a pie.  It was good.

I spent a day recently playing tourist in downtown Asheville.  We tend toward art of the obvious nature, as shown by this sculpture is in front of the Flatiron Building.

All these photos originally appeared on Instagram, which I will admit is a good idea after all.  I’m so sorry I used to bad-mouth it.

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Thoughts on Bathing Suits, and a Winner

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First, congratulations to the winner of the Popina Bathing Suit giveaway – Karen Antonowicz.  Karen, I’ll be in touch with the details.

I want to thank all who entered the giveaway.  I was really surprised at the number of entries considering that I did not post about the contest on any social media.  I really wanted this to be for Vintage Traveler readers.  Thanks for being my little vintage community.

From some of the comments, I gather that there is a bit of swimsuit anxiety among us.  I’ll admit to suffering from it.  As Jet Set Sewing put it in her comment, she’d  not model it online in case she won.  I can relate.

It’s no wonder really.  This time of year we are bombarded by ads and articles on getting a “bathing suit body.”  But one of my nieces put it all into perspective with something she posted somewhere online:  Take your body, put a bathing suit on it.  Instant bathing suit body.

I think we worry too much about what others might think of a bit of flab or sag or wrinkle instead of just putting on the bathing suit and enjoying the beach or pool or lake.  The truth is, I’m almost 60 years old, and covering my body from head to toe is not going to disguise that fact.  I’m reasonably fit, but I still have flabby and saggy bits.  But I’ve got a few wrinkles on my face and I’m not obsessed with covering it.

It’s summer.  I’m going to wear my shorts and short skirts and short sleeve tops and stay cool.  And if I’m lucky enough to encounter a large body of water, I’ll be wearing my bathing suit.

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April in Review

So to prove that I do more than sit around and think about old clothes all the time, here’s my month of April as seen on Instagram.  I love violets.  They always remind me of the walk between the houses of my great-aunts, Agnes, Mary, and Ethel, who all lived within hollering distance of each other.  There was a small field in the middle of the walk which every spring produced the most glorious long-stemmed violets.  I picked them by the hundreds.

I came across these fantastic skiing dolls in an antique mall in Asheville.  I’d never seen anything like them, but according the Sarah at TinTrunkVintage they were likely made by Roldan, a Spanish company.   Rexard and Klumpe made similar dolls.  The detail on these is just fabulous.

A visit to my favorite independent booksellers made me realize that we may have enough books about Coco Chanel in the world.

I’ve been reading Banners of Silk, by Rosalind Laker, a novel of which a major character is couturier Charles F. Worth.  It’s a bit melodramatic.

Here’s a bit of Scottie cuteness from my collection.  This is the corner of a card table cloth.

I did manage a sewing project, which I’ll be sharing in a few days.

Based on the antique sewing diaries and personal fabric collections I’ve seen in museums, I decided to start my own sewing diary.  I’m catching up with old projects.

This photo was taken at Elsewhere in Greensboro, which is a thrift store turned ongoing art project.   The old clothes are now hanging from the ceiling.  Nothing is for sale, no matter how much you beg.

I went to the Liberty Antiques Festival, a nice flea market that is held twice a year in a field.  It is probably my all-time favorite shopping venue.

And last of all, here I am in my natural habitat, the vintage clothing store.  A note about my hair:  Bumble & Bumble’s curling shampoo really does work.

 

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Ad Campaign – Aileen, 1957 UPDATE

The best suggestion of all? – Aileen’s mix-or-match cotton knit coordinates for career or campus…

In 1957 Aileen was the new brand in town.  The company was formed in 1956 as Aileen Knitwear.  In the early Sixties the company branched out with Aileen Girl and Aileen Teen, but my recollection of the brand starts with their junior line, The Red Eye.  It was my favorite brand in my high school years, and I spent my entire first paycheck at age sixteen on three matching knit pieces.

I think the best advice I ever gave my ten and eleven year old students was to never put to paper anything that they would not want the whole world (meaning their parents and friends) to know. I’m afraid these two young career women didn’t get such good advice!

I’ve been thinking a lot about communication over the past few days.  If I were to give the same advice to students today, I’d have to go beyond passing notes to include emails and texts and facebook posts.  For better or for worse, the way we communicate has changed.

One of the joys of writing The Vintage Traveler is all the communication I have with readers.  Whether it is comments here on the blog, emails, or comments on twitter or instagram, I’m always learning from the smart people who check in here.  And I’m appreciative of all the great ideas and suggestions I’ve received over the years. I consider The Vintage Traveler to truly be a group project.

I do need to remind readers that I do have a posting policy.  It is very rarely that I feel the need to remove a comment, but I will do so to maintain the positive atmosphere of The Vintage Traveler.  Most of the few comments that I’ve removed are on an old post about the American Pickers television program.   I understand people hating that show, but I still can’t allow comments that might be slanderous.

I get several emails a day from people wanting help with this or that label, or asking about something they have in their collection or for sale.  I welcome these questions, especially when a dialogue about the object results.

But lately I’m getting lots of question emails, and after I take the time to answer, I never hear another word from the questioner.  This is usually from an emailer who has stumbled on The Vintage Traveler through a google search of their item.  If a person can’t be bothered to take ten minutes to explore the site and try to figure who the human being behind it is, then that’s a pretty good indication that my answer to them will not be acknowledged.  

But then, there are those of you who have emailed me out of the blue, a conversation ensued, and I now count you among my true friends.  It’s all about the conversation.

UPDATE

In a world where so many clothing and textile businesses have closed, it’s nice that there are a few older businesses that are still alive and well.  Many of these have extensive archives can pretty much identify any of their vintage products.  Unfortunately, in the past year I’ve gotten emails from two of them, asking me not to publicize the existence of their archives due to excessive requests for information.

I’m sure that most of this is due to the fact that many of these archive departments are understaffed, and they simply don’t have the time to do the research.  But I can’t help but wonder if they are just tired of taking the time to answer questions for which they get no return acknowledgment.  I can’t say that I blame them.

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Looking Forward to Seeing Mr. James

Charles James, that is, and seeing his work, not the man himself.   You probably have heard by now that this year’s exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan in New York is on the clothing of James.  I can’t think of a more appropriate designer to have his work on display in an art museum than James.  His work really did transcend fashion and entered into the realm of something higher.

I’ll be writing more about James when the exhibition opens, and hopefully I’ll be visiting New York this summer so I can see this show.  But today I want to talk about the Costume Institute.

I’ve written about how after Diana Vreeland was fired from Vogue, she was asked to be the director of the Costume Institute.   Under her direction, the Costume Institute blossomed, with the exhibitions being theatrical and extravagant productions.  You can say that her work there has set the tone for what the Costume Institute does today.  It helps when going to their shows to remember that it is after all, an art museum.  We history people tend to want a strict historical accuracy, but the shows, both under Vreeland and today, are about visual impact.

Vreeland’s vision for the Costume Institute continues today.  She’s probably the most important person in the history of the institute.  What a shame that the newly remodeled galleries have been named for Vogue editor Anna Wintour.  I realize that Wintour, as the chairperson of the fund-raising gala has raised millions of dollars for the Met.  It’s just one more example of the person who gives the money, or in this case, coerces it from others, gets the building named for her, instead of the woman who made the institution what it is today.

I feel that the Metropolitan is a bit too cozy with Vogue and its editor.  One of the biggest criticisms of the most recent shows has been that they are too commercial. The idea that a magazine whose mission it is to promote the fashion industry, and to help sell clothes should have such influence over the one show a year that the Costume Institute produces seems to me to be a big part of the problem.  I’m just hoping that with the Charles James exhibition, this will not be an issue, as there nothing to be sold.

The photo of Diana Vreeland was taken at the Costume Institute and was published in Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy, 1978.

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