Tag Archives: fabric

Vintage Christmas Fabric

If you haven’t been into a fabric store recently, especially one that carries mainly printed cottons, you might be really surprised at the huge selection of prints.  There are novelty prints for every hobby and cartoon character and animal.  There are prints for baby, for John Deere drivers, and football fans.  There are hundreds of “retro” prints, some that could easily pass for real vintage.

I actually have a few pieces in my fabric stash that I honestly can’t say what the ages of them are.  Sometimes the width is a clue.  The above pink and red (and awesome) print is 35 inches wide.  The width is a hint, but not a guarantee that the fabric is older than last week.  I do know that this piece is vintage because it came with an original label.

Isn’t the detailing something?

This piece is also vintage.  It is a border print, and it may look like one side of a tablecloth, but it is cotton broadcloth, and was perfect for aprons, gathered skirts, and dresses for little girls.

This is a piece of cotton flannel that I bought from etsy several years ago.  It was sold as vintage, and the fabric is 35 inches wide, but I’ve never been 100% sure that it is vintage.  I’d like to think it is from 1960 or so.  I adore that script font.

I’d like to add that none of these fabrics have information printed on the selvage.  Most modern prints that I’ve looked at in the past five years or so do have a printed selvage.  “Designer” fabrics are a very big deal in the quilting and crafting world, and many have the designer’s name and even the name of the print.

Don’t miss the enlarged version.

And finally, here’s another mystery fabric to ponder.  I have two eighteen inch squares of this print that I bought at my not so secret shopping place about five years ago.  They are edged by an overlock stitch, which might lead one to think they were meant to be napkins.  However, the thread is an ugly grey.

If this is a contemporary print, then the designer got a lot of things right.  The font looks vintage, as do the colors.  The use of the harlequin type diamond print on the packages looks vintage.  The stylized Christmas trees with the atomic shapes look vintage.  I could go on, but you get the point.  It’s almost like every vintage Christmas cliche in thrown into one print.  Too good to be true?  It won’t hurt my feelings if you think it is new.




Filed under Holidays, Novelty Prints, Southern Textiles

Ad Campaign: Shirt Classics by Sweet Adeline, 1960

I love a good double-entendre, and I’m assuming the Sweet Adeline product development people had two thoughts in mind when they named this blouse The Alpha.

I noticed this ad while looking for something else (I do that a lot) and it caught my eye because of some fabric I found about a year and a half ago.  When I spotted the fabric in a thrift store I thought it was vintage, but when I read the selvage I found the name of a modern designer.  I blogged about it at the time.

At the time I felt a bit bad about being momentarily fooled into thinking the fabric was early 1960s, but now I feel vindicated.  The prints are very, very similar.  A few years ago there was a big stink about one of the popular fabric designers.  Seems like she was taking vintage tablecloths and reproducing the prints as fabrics that she called her own.  Not that the alphabet fabric designer did this, but I can certainly see the vintage inspiration.


Filed under Ad Campaign, Curiosities

Ad Campaign – Riegel Fabric, 1949

Riegel’s Fine-carded Gabardine is a ’round the year fabric for smartly styled garments that must look well, wear well… and cost less!  It has the rich “feel” that identifies quality everywhere… in a range of colors and weights for heavy outerwear or summer playclothes.

Whatever is wrong with actually dressing to fit the weather?  Can you imagine the young woman above in stiletto booties with no socks or tights, and a shaggy white fur jacket?  Or how about white wide legged pants that drag the ground, gathering snow and getting soaked through?  And my personal favorite, white print skinny jeans with four inches of bare leg between them and  white wedge shoes.  Yet in the aftermath of a snowstorm in New York City, these outfits were a common sight.

I know that there are people who spend weeks planning their ensembles for NY Fashion Week, and far be it from me to say they don’t have the right to look as foolish as they wish.  But there is a lot to be said for being a bit flexible when it comes to dressing for the weather.  Is it not possible for one to be both comfortable and fashionable?

I know that I’m missing the point here.  The purpose of dressing up for Fashion Week is so that one will be photographed.  Suzy Menkes calls it the Circus of Fashion.  The saddest part is that she is right:

Having lived through the era of punk and those underground clubs in London’s East End, where the individuality and imagination of the outfits were fascinating, I can’t help feeling how different things were when cool kids loved to dress up for one another — or maybe just for themselves.



Filed under Ad Campaign, Proper Clothing, Viewpoint, Winter Sports

Elegance Magazine, Mid 1960s

I’ve mentioned several times in the past what a great resource the old American Fabrics magazine is for people who love old clothes and textiles.  The inclusion of fabric swatches give a much more complete picture of what a fabric was actually like as to texture and color.   And while, as the name suggests, most of the fabrics were of American manufacture, the publication did sometimes feature fabrics from other countries.  But to see the crème de la crème of European fabrics, the publication to get was Elegance.

I never knew about this gem until fellow vintage fan Susan let me know she had three of these that she is selling from an extensive collection of vintage clothing related items.  From her email about them:

…they appear to be a collaboration between Elysee Fabrics, a German company that supplied couturiers and clothing manufacturers, and Vogue patterns;  typically, the magazine has full page, full color photos of Paris couture by really famous photographers like Helmut Newton, with an actual swatch of the Elysee fabric the couturier used, and then a sketch of a Vogue pattern that resembles the photographed couture garment, plus , other, similar Elysee fabric swatches that would also make up well in that pattern.  Sometimes they just make up a Vogue pattern out of the fabric and have it photographed. 

These are now for sale at ebay, and yes, they are a bit pricey.  That is because they are very desirable and hard to come by.  Even if you can’t afford to buy them, definitely take a look at all the lovely photos.  And if it leaves you wanting more, you might check out Paper Pursuits, where they have quite a few issues for sale.  And be sure to put this magazine on your shopping radar.  You just never know when a few copies might show up at the local Goodwill.

Here are a few pages that I loved.  Be sure to click for the enlarged image.

All photos copyright Susan Grote


Filed under Too Marvelous for Words, Vintage Sewing

Ad Campaign – Lorraine Worsteds, 1946

A big difference in advertising now and in the past is that 60 years ago consumers seemed to have a much greater knowledge about fabrics and fibers.  Today it would be really strange to see an ad for a fabric, but up through the 1970s these ads were commonly found in fashion magazines.  I’m betting that most people these days don’t even know what worsted is.

If you need to brush up on your fabric and fiber terminology, you are in luck.  As I announced earlier, the Vintage Fashion Guild now has a Fabric Resource, and you can learn quite a bit by just reading through it.  For example, worsted happens to be “Fabric made from high-twist, worsted yarns that have long, smooth fibers.”  And don’t forget to click on the fabric samples to see the enlarged fabric.


Filed under Southern Textiles

Ad Campaign – Wesley Simpson, 1949

Wesley Simpson was a fabric designer, and was the husband of designer Adele Simpson.  Today he is probably known mostly for the scarves he designed and produced in the late 1940s.

Today most consumers would be hard pressed to name even one maker of fabrics but in the mid 20th century, the fabric used by a maker of clothing was often a big selling point.  Clothing manufacturers and fabric makers often teamed up for joint ad campaigns, and it is not uncommon to see a fabric label along with the maker’s label in a high quality vintage garment.

I love the matching shoes, which were made by Joyce.  The swimsuit is by Cole of California.


Filed under Ad Campaign

Protect Yourself – Springmaid

I actually wrote and posted this piece six years ago, back when I had about ten readers and five of those were members of my family.  So I hope the ten of you won’t mind a summer rerun with updated images and a few changes to the text.

This is the middle of Southern textile country.  I live about 30 miles from where Beacon made their famous blankets and robes, 60 miles from the Swirl wrap dress factory, and 100 miles from Springs Mills, which produced mainly fabrics and sheets.  All around me were hundreds of small textile and clothing manufacturers that blanketed the South before they all up and moved to Mexico, Korea or China.

But this is all about Springmaid.  For some time I’ve had a little book called Clothes Make the Man written by Elliott White Springs, who was the president of  Springmaid in the 1930s through 50s.  It’s actually a collection of his letters, many of which discuss a famous ad campaign that Springmaid launched in 1947.  The ads featured pin-ups and risque wording in the ads.  So I was very pleasantly surprised when I turned up a length of  fabric that Springmaid developed as a result of the popular ads..

The pin-up ads actually got their start with an in-house beauty contest, Miss Springmaid, in 1947. The winners were taken to New York where they were sketched by leading illustrators, with the sketches to be used in advertising. By early 1948, Colonel Springs (a real colonel!), had remembered a cover of Esquire magazine which had three ice skaters warming themselves before a performance. Springmaid acquired the rights to that picture to use in advertising a fire-proofed fabric they had developed during the war.

It wasn’t so much the picture that caused all the fuss – it was the ad copy. Written by Colonel Springs, there were phrases such as “the false bottom and bust bucket business” and “be protected by the Springmaid label on the bottom of your trademark.”

Within a few months the furor died down somewhat and the company began to notice copycat ads from other companies. In a September 1, 1948 memo, Col. Springs instructed the ad department to make a montage of the Springmaid girls. It was to be used first for the jacket of the latest edition of Clothes Make the Man, and later to be printed on cloth. According to Colonel Springs, “It will make a terrific bathing suit or beach jacket.”

There were later prints made also, including one called Holiday, which had smaller girls and no stripes, and Harem, which had an Oriental flair. There is also a mention of a Persian print, but it could possibly be the same as Harem.

In June of 1951, the company built a new railroad terminal for  their 28 mile railroad which connected the two main factories in Chester and Lancaster, SC. They got Gypsy Rose Lee to do the official unveiling. Special men’s sports shirts and billed caps were made from the harem print, just for the occasion.

And just a few months later, Springmaid announced that they had contracted with various clothing makers to do a line of women’s sportswear using the prints. Inspired by Gussie Moran, the famous panty-baring tennis star, the company released one of the prints as tennis and swim panties. They were made by Cole of California.  At least one dress and a swimsuit were designed by sportswear designer Carolyn Schnurer using the Harem print.

In 1951, a new Springs Mills office complex was built in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Much of the furniture was fashioned from old mill parts, and the furniture was upholstered in the Springmaid Girl prints.

Like it or loathe it, Colonel Springs was definitely doing something right.  His company has weathered the horrible times in the US textile industry, and is still producing textiles in Fort Mill, SC.  And I’m used to having to really dig for any information concerning most older manufacturing companies, but this was almost too easy, with the book and all.  I’m also happy to report that there is an excellent record of the history of Springs Mills, as the company donated many of their papers to the textile archives at Duke University.

I found this fabric in Charlotte, NC, about ten miles from the Springs Mills factory.  It is the very same print that was used to upholster the company furniture in 1951.


Filed under Ad Campaign, Curiosities, Southern Textiles