Category Archives: Vintage Clothing

Jantzen Swimsuit, Mid 1960s

I really love and appreciate all the great friends I’ve made through writing this blog.  So many of you have shared your stories about clothing and sewing, and all these stories make for a rich and varied shared history.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Janey at The Atomic Redhead.  Janey is lucky because she lives in the land of White Stag and Pendleton and Jantzen, otherwise known as Portland, Oregon.  From time to time I’ll get an email from her saying that she has a little something I might be interested in.  I must be greedy, because I’m always interested in Janey’s gifts.

The latest package from Janey contained the two piece swimsuit shown here.  It is, of course, from Jantzen, as the diving girl logo proudly announces.  It is made from a creamy white textured polyester knit, and the bra is very structured.  Many swimsuit bras from this era were made with a thin padded layer that over time degrades into a gritty powder.  But in this bra the padding is intact and shows no sign of powdering.

Thanks to movies like Bikini Beach and Beach Party, some people tend to think that bikinis were pretty skimpy in the mid 1960s, but in my little conservative town, this two piece was about as risqué as it got.  As the decade worn on, the bottoms got smaller, and the bras less structured, but in 1965 girls’ swimsuits were like armor!

I can remember my very first “grown-up” swimsuit.  It was a hand-me-down from my cousin Arlene, who was two years older than me and who lived near Atlanta and who was my idol.  The style was just like the Jantzen here, but was in shades of greens and brown.  I’d have never picked that color combination out, but I’ll have to admit, that at eleven years old, I felt very grown up wearing that suit.

This Coppertone ad from 1964 shows the style quite well.  No bellybuttons here!


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

1920s Deco Dress with Sports Motif, Part 2

You might remember this super two-piece dress from my post two weeks ago, only it looks slightly different today.  After a lot of self-debate, I decided that there was enough of the original design intact to try and remove the later alterations.

The top was pretty straight forward.  I took out the hem and lengthened it as much as possible, one and a half inches.  I have no way of knowing if that was the original hem placement, as it is possible that some fabric was removed from the bottom of the over blouse.

This is the interior, showing the hem.  As you can see, I let it out as far as possible.  The hem tape is rayon, from the 1920s.

I also took out the side zipper and let out the seams as far as I could, which was not much.  I removed the half belt in the back, and the back darts.

The skirt was a bit more difficult.  I removed the added waistband, preserving all the original fabric.  I then made a camisole from white linen to which I attached the skirt.  In doing so, I shortened the skirt a bit so that the pleats would break at the bottom on the over blouse hem.

There were also long darts taken in the top of the skirt so that it would fit at the waist.  I removed these and stitched up the opening that had been made.

I used a basting stitch to attach the skirt to the camisole.  If the dress is ever put on display, it will need a stronger stitch.

It was a lot of work, but to me, the charm of the decoration is that it is so 1920s Art Deco.  The dress needed to look like what it started its life as – a 1920s dress.



The after shot shows a longer top and shorter skirt, just like the dress would have had originally.  There’s not a lot of difference, just enough to make it look “right.”


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

Marimekko and Design Research

I’m a big fan of the Finnish textile company, Marimekko, and I recently was lucky enough to have this vintage shirt from the company appear in my mailbox.  It is a gift from one of the most generous persons I know, Beth Lennon, or Mod Betty at Retro Roadmap.

Marimekko became known to Americans through the efforts of Design Research, what many consider to be the first lifestyle store.  Design Research was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1953, and was primarily a store selling items for home decor.  After owner Ben Thompson saw Marimekko textiles at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels,  Marimekko clothing and fabrics were added to the store.

Design Research carried  Marimekko until the stores were closed in 1978.  Through the years Design Research had expanded into different markets, and by the late 60s the company was showing signs of trouble.  According to some accounts, their expansion was poorly thought out, with some of the markets not being suited for the store’s aesthetic.   And of course, times were changing.  What looked so modern and fresh in 1953 was looking dated by the mid 1970s.

All of the Marimekko designs are copyright protected, and because of that there is sometimes a copyright date on the tags from the 1960s and 70s.  Mine is missing the tag, but my guess is mid 1970s, based on the stores listed on the label and the fitted shape of the shirt.

I’ve looked, and I’ve not found this particular design.  All the designs were named, and there are records which record who the designer was of each.  If anyone can point me in the right direction to find that information for this shirt I’d be most grateful.

Again, I’d like to thank Beth for sending this great shirt my way.  I’ve actually been wearing it, paired with a black and white Marimekko striped knit that I bought last year.

Beth is presently working on a Kickstarter campaign.  She wants to do a series of videos that will highlight the wonderful vintage, and often endangered, places that make America unique.  If you’d like to help, contributions start at $10 and I know that Beth appreciates every dollar that is given to help record this history.


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

1920s Deco Dress with Sports Motif

When I first caught sight of this dress on Instagram, I knew I had to have it.  With the applique sporting motif, it was just the sort of thing that I’m always looking for.

The seller described the dress (skirt and over-blouse, actually) as being from the 1930s.  I was really puzzled as to why she put that date on the set as it just looks so late 1920s to me.

Then I noticed that one of the photos showed a side zipper.  Still, I was convinced that it was from the 1920s.  I mean, look at that orange color!  Look at the shape of the over-blouse!  So despite some condition problems and that pesky zipper, I decided to purchase it anyway.  It was just too perfect to pass up.

The back view of the set actually looks more like it could be from the early 30s.  The half belt is pretty much at the normal waistline.  And note that the skirt is too long for the 1920s.

Another oddity is the skirt.  If this were from the Twenties, you’d expect for it to be an under-dress, sort of like a slip and skirt combination.  But this is a real skirt with a waistband.   It was time to get serious about figuring out this one.

I turned the blouse inside out to examine the seam stitching.  What I found was three distinctly different stitching patterns, evidence that the set had been altered twice.  Here you can see the tiny original stitching along with some later stitches with a longer length.

I then turned my attention to the zipper.  As I suspected, the zipper had the larger stitches, meaning that it was added at a later date.

The back of the blouse has shaping darts at the waist.  These too are later additions, as is the half belt.

The skirt also shows extensive signs of alteration.  My pen is pointing to the original seam, while you can see a newer one to the left.

For the skirt opening, the seam was simply split and the hooks and eyes were used for the closures.  This photo really says a lot.  For such a meticulously made garment, there is no way this waistline sewing was original to it.

This is such a well made dress, that the original owner  must have paid quite a bit for it.  I can see why she didn’t want to give it up just because hemlines dropped and the silhouette became more streamlined.  Cutting off the bodice of the underdress and adding a waistband could have lengthened the skirt considerably (about five inches, it appears.  Look at the photo of the set and note how the pleat opens about five inches below the hem of the top.  You would expect the pleat to open at the hem.)  Adding darts and the half belt to the blouse would have given it a more fitted and fashionable look.

I often leave altered garments in their found state.  In this case, to restore it I’d have to construct a new bodice for the underdress, so for the present time I’m going to leave it as it is.  I will most likely remove the zipper and the half belt.  I haven’t decided about the darts, as they may leave the fabric weakened.


In my post yesterday I forgot to show the side seams of the blouse.  In the crease you can faintly see the new stitching.  Look nearer the edge of the fabric and you can see the old stitching holes.  The sides were taken in about 3/4 inch on each side.


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

Red Gingham Times Two

I recently received a box in the mail that made Christmas look like a second-rate holiday.  Reader June Lepidow had written and asked If I’d like a pair of 1950s clam diggers and a pair of jeans from the 1940s.  Well, of course I would.

When the box arrived I was shocked to also find the above swimsuit, and early 1950s skirt and an Hawaiian print halter dress from the early 1960s.  That June really knows how to pack a box!

The label in the swimsuit was Surf Togs.  That little R in a circle means that the trademark is registered, so I was able to locate the information about the company in the US Patent and Trademark Office website.   The name dates from 1933  as a maker of knit swimwear.  They were located in New Rochelle, New York and was owned by Jacob Soloman.

I love the lines of silver lurex. I do think a bit of effort could have been made in matching the check.

The inside structure consists of metal boning, which you can see has begun to rust, and which has poked a hole in the fabric.  The use of metal in a swimsuit is quite puzzling, but a suit like this one is probably more suited to pool and ocean-side lounging, rather than actual swimming.

I’ve written before about how bathing suits from the 1950s were styled much in the same manner as a sundress.  Just visualize a long circle skirt with the top of this suit.  A lot of vintage sewing patterns for bathing suits show a coordinating skirt or shorts.  You could go to the beach wearing the bathing suit with the skirt over it and not have to worry about finding a changing room.

With this bathing suit you might have worn these clam diggers.  The gingham is not the same, of course, but the color is very similar.  This piece was another of the gift from June.  According to her, all the clothes came from the same woman, so maybe these pieces were worn together at one time.

Sometimes, it is all about the details.


Filed under Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1940s Ski Suit and Caps

If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while, you know that I write about my new finds as I investigate them.  But today I have an item that I’ve owned for probably ten years or so.   I had this suit out so I could look at it with some new accessories, and I realized that I’d never written about it.

The suit dates from the late 1940s, while shoulders were still big.  It is made from wool gabardine.  The jacket is actually reversible, though I can’t see why anyone would wear it on the grey side when they could choose this bright red.

The pants are as streamlined as possible considering the fabric, but they are still pretty bulky.  Around the time that this set mas made, Emilio Pucci was revolutionizing ski wear by using a stretch fabric for the pants.  They were cut much closer to the body and gave a slim look to the skier.  No wonder that they were popular.

There are a lot of nice features on the suit, including zippers at every pocket.

The set was made by White Mountain Ski Wear.  I can’t tell you much about the company, but I’ve seen items with the labels on garments from as early as the 1930s, and as recent as the 1970s.

I acquired this cap, even though it was probably intended for wear by men because I have seen photos of women wearing similar hats for winter sports.

And who could resist that button?

I also recently bought this cap.  It was listed by the seller as being from the 1920s, and I can see why she thought that because of the way it fits around the face.  Is is actually a bit later, probably late 1940s.

In 1941 the  Wool Products Labeling Act was implemented in the US, and numbers were given to companies in the order of application.  #7503 was given to Schuessler Knitting Mills of Chicago, sometime in the mid 1940s.  There is a database where these numbers can be looked up, though the number does not give the year of manufacture.  It gives the year the number was issued.  Still, the WPL number is a useful bit of information because it does limit the years that an item could have been made.


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing, Winter Sports

Vintage Bathing Shoes: 1930s? 1940s? 1950s?

A lot of the fun of collecting anything is finding out about the things one has selected as worthy of their collection.  Sometimes this quest for knowledge is easy, thanks to Mr. Google.  But there are other times that I finally give up and consult an expert.

Above is a pair of rubber bathing shoes made by the United States Rubber Company, the company that also manufactured Keds sneakers.  Before the mid 1920s, bathing shoes were generally made from canvas, but by 1930 the old style had been replaced with the new rubber models.  They were, as one can imagine, much more practical, being waterproof.  Rubber bathing shoes remained popular throughout the 1930s, but by the 40s, more people were going barefoot in the water, and wearing sandals on the beach and at poolside.

At first glance, these shoes seem to be 1930s bathing shoes.  The style and the shape of the toe indicate a mid 30s to 1940 manufacture.  The box graphics and fonts also look 1930s.  So why am I questioning the dating?

The problem lies within the sole.  This wavy sole, made from what looks to be rubberized cork, is commonly found on shoes from the 1950s.  But were bathing shoes even still being made in 1950?  For help I turned to shoe expert, Jonathan Walford.

I felt a lot better after Jonathan emailed back that he found them to be confusing as well, saying that he did not associate the wavy soles with pre-WWII shoes.   And he did confirm that rubber bathing shoes were made into the 1950s.  His mother had a pair that she wore in the early 50s at the family beach cottage because of sharp shells and slimy seaweed.

It was Jonathan’s feeling that these shoes are most likely 1935-1940.  I agree with him, but I’m still looking for a source that clearly shows this type sole on a 1930s shoe.  The problem is that in ads, catalogs, and fashion spreads, the sole of a shoe is usually not shown.  I’ve seen a few maybes in late 30s catalogs, but nothing definite.  And as always, your thoughts are welcome.

I got these great shoes from Carol at Dandelion Vintage.  She runs what has to be one of the oldest online vintage stores on the Web.  She has nice things and excellent prices.  Thanks, Carol!


Filed under Shoes, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing