Category Archives: Vintage Clothing

Irene Lentz Early 1960s Dress

This Irene dress in my collection is a great example of beginner’s luck.  This was so long ago that clothes from the 1970s were not vintage, and people were just beginning to see that maybe there were some things of interest from the late 1950s and early 60s.  Most of the few books that had been published about vintage clothing suggested that there was not much of value after the early 50s.

So with that mindset I was at a church rummage sale, looking for things from the 1930s and 40s, when I came across this dress.  I knew it was older, due to the construction and the very fine metal zipper, though not as old as I was seeking.  Because it was so beautifully embroidered, I plunked down my $2 and took it home.  From there it languished in a box with other miscellaneous bits for at least a decade.

After the internet came into my life I could see how it was going to be a great help in getting information about old clothes.  It was the early days of eBay, and I would come home every afternoon from teaching, sit down in front of the computer and go through all the new listings in the vintage clothing category.  It took me about thirty minutes. Before long eBay set up discussion rooms, and I gravitated toward the one for vintage clothing.

People there were great about sharing knowledge, and one thing that was popular was to post a label and everyone would sort of pool information.  One day someone posted an irene label.  I remembered my dress that I’d stuck away all those years ago.  Though I’d seen that it was a very nice dress, I had no idea of the wonderful history behind it.

It was a common practice for high end designers to do some designs that were exclusive for a particular store.  I’ve read that Adrian had agreements with twenty-five stores across the country.  The Halle Bros. Co. was located in Cleveland.

The embroidery is machine made, but still very beautiful.  It reminds me of an Oriental shawl.

The bust darts are on the outside of the dress.  What makes this so special is that the darts do not stop at the side seam, but continue around to the back where they form a little bustle effect.

The bodice front and back are cut as one piece.

It just makes me worry about the great things I saw in the 1980s but was too foolish to buy.

UPDATE:  The dress is not ombre shaded the way my photos look.  It is the light beige you see in the small photos.

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Sun Proof Sola Hat

Ever since reading Women Travelers, I’ve sort of felt the need for a pith helmet.  They are a fairly easy item to find, but every time I ran across one, I was not impressed with the quality.  I mean, did Gertrude Bell ride across Iraq wearing plastic and faux leather?  I think not.  But I recently found a hat actually made of pith, and I knew I’d found my hat.

To be honest, I knew nothing about pith helmets before I found this one.  I’ve had to do a bit of homework, and what I found was fascinating.  The hats were originally actually made from the pith of the aeschynomene aspera plant.  This plant was commonly known as the sola with the hats being called “sola topee” in Hindi.  The English thought they were saying “solar topee”, and so the name sun hat, or sun helmet, was also applied to the hat.

Hats made from sola pith were made mainly in India, but also in surrounding countries like Pakistan.  In places where the sola did not grow, other materials were used, like cork.

My hat is a style called the “Bombay Bowler.”  There is a photo of Churchill wearing one during WWII.  Pith helmets date back to the first half of the nineteenth century, but I could not find when this particular style originated.

My helmet is missing the inside band.  It would have covered the writing and gone nearly to the edge of the grey cloth you can see in the top right corner of my photo.

Can you tell that the grey cloth covers a heavy paper that is pleated?  That is to allow for additional ventilation.  There are also four holes that allow air to circulate.

Besides the inside band, this hat is also missing the chin strap which rested across the front brim.

These hats were worn by officials in the British Empire, but they were also available for civilians to purchase and wear.  Perhaps some woman traveler bought this one while traversing the East and brought it home to North Carolina.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

1960s Chanel-Inspired Davidow Jacket, Part II

Earlier in the summer I posted about a great find I made, an early 1960s Davidow jacket that was clearly Chanel-inspired.  Unfortunately, there was no matching skirt, so instead of buying this jacket for my collection, I bought it to actually wear.

On the negative side was the condition of the lining.  As you can see, there were major issues in the underarm area.  I decided that the best thing to do was to send the piece off to the dry cleaners and then replace the lining.  The problem then became one of finding a nice silk fabric that would go with the tweed.  It’s times like this that I really miss Waechter’s.  I did try the remaining fabric store in the area that carries luxury fabrics, House of Fabrics, but they did not have a suitable match.

The tweed is so wonderful.  It really looks a lot like the tweeds that Bonnie Cashin used in her beautiful coats. But the two shades of blue were proving to be a color challenge.  Then while sorting through some damaged scarves, I happened on a nice old Vera polka dot.   It was not large enough for the entire job, but I also had an oblong scarf in ombre blues that could be used for the sleeves.

This is the point where I make the cutting up old stuff disclaimer.  If you are a vintage clothing shopper then you are well aware that much of what is on the market is not in its original form.  If someone were to run across my bell bottoms from 1973 they would wonder why would anyone mutilate a pair of pants like that.  Well, I cut them off because I am very short.  I also chopped off my skirts and dresses.  My cutting was part of the history of the garments, but it would tend to make them less attractive to a collector today.

Unfortunately there are sellers who are still cutting old clothing up in order to make it marketable to a certain market.  I’m not saying that it is always a bad idea to cut up old clothing; I’m saying it needs to be done thoughtfully, keeping in mind several factors.  You would like to think that anyone would know not to cut into a Charles James, but not everyone who loves old stuff is concerned with designer names.  My big fear in condoning “up-cycling” is that important pieces are being lost. Condition also plays a role, but even a very damaged Charles James is a valuable treasure.

The truth is that most clothing does not end its life as it began it.  I can be very much against remodeling vintage clothes, but then I do have to fact the fact that the mere act of wearing a garment shortens its life.  It is possible to love a garment to death, as you probably know from experience.

So what if you have a common item that is damaged, like my Vera scarf?  I feel I can cut into it with a clear conscience.  (Be aware that while Vera scarves were made by the thousands, some designs are quite rare and valuable.  Research before cutting.)  The jacket, while lovely and very wearable, is less collectible minus the skirt.  I’ll be wearing it, hopefully for a very long time.  It is quite possible that I will love it to death.

I carefully removed the old lining and removed the seams so I could use the pieces as a pattern.  The sleeve is made from two pieces, and I had just enough silk to make the pieces.  I attached them by hand, using the fringe of the scarf at the cuff.

When that was finished I cut out the bodice, using the border of the Vera scarf as part of the design. Here you can see that there was no underlining in the jacket.  The seams were in good condition.  I attached each piece to the jacket separately.

Because there was a pattern to the dotted design, I cut the back from the very middle of the scarf so that the density design would be retained.  The last pieces that I attached were the sides of the bodice.

When doing something like this, lots of basting is essential.  The silk is slippery, and the more control you have, the better.

The last step, one that I’m still working on, is the quilting.  I decided to let the dots determine the quilting design.  I’m not going to quilt every dot.  I’m already seeing spots in front of my eyes from working with it.

I’ll be changing the buttons as well.  I thought I’d found the perfect buttons, some that I’d salvaged from a destroyed sweater, but they are not the quality I was wanting, so they will probably be temporary until I can locate exactly what I need.

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Filed under Vintage Clothing, Vintage Sewing

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

Lady Manhattan Silk Blouse, 1950s

I recently found this silk blouse at my not-so-secret shopping place.  Because I can’t seem to pass up a great separates piece and because I did not already have a piece with this label in my collection, I decided to take it home with me.  Plus, I just loved the modern, graphic look of the print.

The Manhattan Shirt Company was a maker of men’s shirts.  The company dates back to 1867 and was, interestingly enough, headquartered in Paterson, New Jersey.  By the early twentieth century the company owned or leased eight mills which produced men’s shirts of various types.  In 1912 Manhattan Shirt was incorporated in New York, and continued to be a major producer of shirts.

According to the United States Trademark Office database, Lady Manhattan was first produced in 1953.  The application for the trademark states that the label was used not just for women’s shirts and blouses, but also dresses, skirts, sweaters, pajamas, jackets,  trousers, and shorts.   Nevertheless, most items seen today with this vintage label are blouses or shirts, though I’ve also seen shirtdresses and skirts.

It’s my guess that this blouse dates to the mid to late 1950s.  I’ve been looking for ads, and while I did not find this blouse, there are several ads for sale on ebay for similar styles in silk, all dating between 1957 and 1960.  Later on in the Sixties, Lady Manhattan, like so many companies, abandoned their use of natural fibers for the “easy case” dacron, nylon and blends.

A word about the trademark database is in order.   Ten years ago, back in the very early days of the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Label Resource, a seller on ebay disputed some of the information we had included.  She said that what we had written about some company was wrong because of what was on the trademark database.  It was a fairly well documented company, so we had no trouble backing our information, but it did bring to light a very interesting point.

Just because the database contains official government documents does not mean that there cannot be errors in it.  The information for each application is supplied by the company making the application, and in some cases it is many years after the first use of the name.  I can just picture some junior staff member being handed the application to fill out, and his quest to gather the information from other people in the office.  I’m sure there have been a lot of educated guesses over the years.

It’s like any other source.  It’s always best to have a second source to verify information, especially when it comes to dates.

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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

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