Vintage Miscellany – March 18, 2018

I’ve posted photos of this unknown woman before, as she is featured in the small photo album of the Adirondacks that I have. This photo was not glued in the album, and I think it might be a bit later. Our sportswoman has taken to wearing her outing skirt a bit shorter than before.

And now for some news…

  •   Rita Moreno reached far back into her closet to find a dress for this year’s Oscar ceremony.
  •    FIT has started a new project, “The Fashion History Timeline is an open-access source for fashion history knowledge.”
  •    Blogger Leimomi Oakes decided to test the waters in a newly made Edwardian style wool bathing suit.
  •    “A uniform for intellectuals … Marimekko is for women whose way of wearing clothes is to forget what they have on.”
  •    DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) has a great feature on women’s impact on baseball.
  •    The story of a circa 1730 wedding dress and the girl who made it.
  •    Tim Gunn and Dr. Valerie Steele at The Museum at FIT’s 19th fashion symposium, Fashion and Physique,  which was held in February, 2018.
  •    The fashion legacy of Hubert de Givenchy.
  •     Jimmy Fallon ordered a lot of junk from the Trump store so he could see where the products were made. No surprise that most of the stuff was made in China, but two items, including a doggie bandana, had no country of origin on the product, a violation of law. Fallow has filed a complaint.
  •   Besides the obvious fact that Trump campaigned on an “America First” platform, is there any tradition that the first family should be following in regards to fashion?
  •    Last of all, let’s talk about museums. Every year the de Young Museum in San Francisco has a very popular show in which local flower arrangers display their work which is inspired by art in the museum. The show is so popular with people taking photos that the museum has set aside a period of time as “photo free.” As expected, some people love it, and others hate it, but the article does a good job of presenting both sides of the issue.
  • When I started writing this blog in 2005, it was very common for cameras to be banned in museums. That’s why I started sketching in museums. But as the camera phone became ubiquitous, and social media became increasingly visual, many museums began changing their policies. It makes sense. A good Instagram photo can be valuable publicity.  Today I use my camera a lot more, but a museum experience is not just about taking a lot of great photos to put online. It’s about what you can see and learn.



Filed under Vintage Miscellany

Fashion Stories: The Wright Flyer and the Hobble Skirt

My apologies if you have already seen this image on Instagram, but I’m still looking for the answer to a question I asked there:

Is there any evidence that this 1908 photo inspired Paul Poiret to design his hobble skirt? Or is this just one more modern interpretation of the past?

I have been reading David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers and in it the story is repeated that Poiret saw the photo and had an inspiration. This is not referenced in the endnotes, however.

A photograph of Madame Berg seated on the Flyer at Wilbur Wright’s side, beaming with pleasure in advance of takeoff, made an unprecedented magazine cover, and the famous Paris dress designer Paul Poiret, quick to see the possibilities in the rope around the ankles, produced a hobble skirt that became a fashion sensation.

In looking for the answer, I made the obvious series of Google searches, and in doing so found more and more misinformation. Edith Berg, seen in the photo, and who was the first American woman to ride in an airplane, is sometimes identified as Katherine Wright, the sister of the brothers. In some tellings of the stories, Wilbur tied the robe around Mrs. Berg’s legs, in some she tied the rope, and in others her husband tied it. One site calls Mrs. Berg “Hart Berg”, which was her husband’s name. Others claim she was the first passenger to ride in the Flyer.

Even the Smithsonian site has a suspect version of the story:

 A French fashion designer watching the flight was impressed with the way Mrs. Berg walked away from the aircraft with her skirt still tied. Mrs. Berg was then credited with inspiring the famous “Hobble Skirt” fashion.

To be fair, many of the sites I found tell the story as a “possibility.” But in others it is related as fact. Several even gave the Wright Brothers credit for “inventing” the hobble skirt.

The closest thing I’ve found to a contempory source was quoted in Alison Matthews David’s book, Fashion Victims. A New York Times article from June, 1910 called the hobble skirt the aeroplane skirt. This does seem to hint at a connection to the skirt and to the practice of early women passengers having their skirts tied below the knees.

I also found a 1928 article based on an interview with Edith Ogilvy Druce, formerly Mrs. Berg. In the article she claimed to have inspired the hobble skirt.

I know that Poiret was not one to admit his fashion inspirations, so I doubt that he related this story even if it were true. He did write an autobiography, but I have not read it. If he was inspired by the photo, why did he not make the first of his hobble skirts until two years later, in 1910?

I know I’ve presented more questions than I have answers, and I have one more. Is the answer even out there?




Filed under Fashion Issues

Givenchy For McCall’s Patterns, 1966

I don’t write a lot about haute couture here at The Vintage Traveler. The careers of most of the 20th century greats are so well documented that there’s just not a lot I can add. But I just could not let the recent death of Hubert de Givenchy pass by without mentioning one of my favorite ever sewing pattern lines. In 1966 the movie, How to Steal a Million staring Audrey Hepburn and a wide cast of Givenchy creations, led to four of the suits Audrey wore in the movie being adapted into sewing patterns by McCall’s.

The patterns rated three pages in McCall’s magazine, all with publicity stills of Audrey, rather than pictures of the patterns. In the McCall’s Home Catalog, however, there were sketches of the pattern designs. By comparing the two sets of images you can see that the patterns are very faithful to the original designs as worn in the movie. All four designs were either suits or coat and dress ensembles.

Over the years I’ve managed to find three of the four patterns. An interesting note is that neither Audrey Hepburn nor the movie were mentioned on the actual pattern envelopes. I find that a bit odd as the connection between the patterns and the movie were well publicized in the magazines.

This is the pattern that I do not own. I need this pattern in my life.

I’ve been telling myself for years to make this coat. Maybe now is the time.

I don’t even try to collect couture clothing, as my interests don’t really run in that direction. I have been known to pick up the rare (inexpensive) piece though when lucky enough to find it. In fact, one of the few pieces of couture I own is a Givenchy suit, which dates to 1967.



Filed under Designers

Getting Exercise at the Biltmore Estate

One of the things that amazes visitors to Asheville’s Biltmore Estate is the size of it. As a kid of twelve years visiting for the first time, I could not believe that this was the country home for three people. What was not explained back then was that it was home to the George Vanderbilts, but also a “hotel” for their friends, family, and acquaintances. Visitors to the estate were common, and many of the bedrooms were set aside for them.

The house was finished in 1895, and it was located way out in the country outside the very small city of Asheville. For people used to New York and Newport I can imagine that visitors wondered how they would spend the time at the estate. What would they do?

In planning Biltmore, Vanderbilt took this into consideration. He built a large library for the book lovers, and there were walking trails – eventually as far as Mount Pisgah which was fifteen miles away. He also built an indoor recreation area.

The gymnasium had been a popular idea for several years. Doctors and educators had begun to see the importance of exercise as a structured activity. But Vanderbilt’s gym area was not all work. He also had a two lane bowling alley.

It would not have been appropriate for the men and women at Biltmore to go traipsing around the house in their exercise attire and bathing suits, so a line of changing rooms was built between the bowling alleys and the indoor swimming pool.

It’s pretty much impossible to get a photo of the pool that shows it properly. It is in a tiled and vaulted room, with the deck built around three sides. It’s a large space, but feels a bit claustrophobic, as the walls are so close to the pool. If the tilework looks a bit familiar to those of you in New York, that is because it was designed by architect Raphael Guastavino, who worked extensively in New York, and designed many of the early subway stations.

There was once an outdoor swimming pool, which has been filled in.

The gym had some basic exercise equipment like the rowing machine above, but it was mainly an area for free exercise. On the wall you can see a row of “Indian” pins or clubs, which an exerciser used to swing around and build up the arms.

Or one could workout on the parallel bars, or use the wooden dumbbells located on the wall. There are even two showers.

This image is from an 1895 book, Artistic Work and Gymnastic Games by Henry S. Anderson and Stanley Schell. I love the thought of women thus attired in the Biltmore gym.



Filed under Gymnasium, Museums, North Carolina

1960s Golf Dress: Chippers by Gregg Draddy

We’ve had a lot of cold and rainy days recently, and that means I’ve spent too much time prowling online selling sites looking for things I didn’t realize I had to have. The dress shown here is a great example. I rarely look for and buy Sixties and newer clothing online because there is so much of it selling for reasonable prices in my local markets. But for this golf dress I made an exception.

I wasn’t familiar with this particular label, but it was the details and condition that sold me on this one. Both side seams are open to the waist to show off the little calico shorts beneath. I loved how the calico was also used to trim the scalloped hem and the neckline.

And I guess a bit of nostalgia was in play here because this was exactly the type of dress (we called them scooter dresses) that the girls in my school used to skirt the dress code prohibition of pants for girls. I had several of these in the late Sixties, and I can remember the teachers telling us to wear a scooter dress the next day whenever something was planned that might mean we’d be on the floor.

So if this was just common attire for schoolgirls in 1968, why did I want this as a golf dress?

The back of the dress tells the tale. There is a pocket that has an expandable pleat, perfect for golf balls and tees. There is also a ring sewn to the other side. I really can’t say what the true function was, but I’ve seen men’s golf pants that have a towel holder in the same spot. Could that be it?

After a bit of online searching, I found the answer in a 1969 Golfdom article:

“From Greg Draddy comes the drop waist dress slit up the sides with pants attached. The back pocket is detachable and there’s a towel ring. Some have cowl collars, others a placket; but all have long back zippers. There’s a waffle pique to fall into the category of texture treatment in fabrics. All the dresses retail from $30 to $35.”

One of my favorite things about this dress is that the pocket is removable. If the owner wanted to wear it off the golf course, she could without it screaming “golf dress”.

I think Chipper is a great name for a golf dress, and it also fits in with cute names of the other lines produced by Gregg Draddy: Zizzie, Tizzie, Sassy, and Steppy.  I haven’t found a lot about the Gregg Draddy label, but one of the dresses I found for sale also had a Bergdorf Goodman label, so the brand was not cheap. But I already knew that from examining my dress. The quality is superb, with a complete cotton lining. And if not for the wear on the label, I’d have bet that this dress had never been worn. Just lovely condition.

I wasn’t very successful in searching for Gregg Draddy as a person.  Those familiar with sportswear may recognize the Draddy name, as it was Vin Draddy at American clothing company David Crystal, who brought the Lacoste polo shirt to America in 1950. I did find a photograph of Gregg Draddy and Vin Draddy together with a few celebrities, and I also found a reference to Gregg as a manufacturer. I’m thinking Vin and Gregg were brothers. There are descendants of Vin still around (in the Asheville area, no less) so the answers are out there.



Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Vintage Miscellany – March 4, 2018

Is it just me, or is bowling somehow usually thought to be a sport of the 1950s? This postcard (1910ish) reminded me that bowling was enjoyed way before the time of Laverne and Shirley.  Also, my recent visit to Biltmore Estate included a look of the bowling alley they had installed in the basement as part of their recreation area. And that was in 1895. It’s harder to find bowling lanes these days, but for those of you in the big freeze looking for a way to get exercise indoors, you might seek one out.

And now for the news…

  • February is over, so that also means the end of all the various fashion weeks. I don’t pay much attention to them, but the Dior show was interesting to me because of the use of the crazy quilt concept. Crazy quilts were a late Victorian craze, and have a very old fashioned feel and appeal. Also seen in the Dior show were decorative bits that look like needlepoint. Is this a trend? Be sure to click through the slideshow to see the various usages of needlework.
  •  Stylactivism for the over fifty set.
  •   “A New Jersey woman says she was thrown out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art last weekend because she showed up in an authentic period costume that a security supervisor accused her of stealing.”
  • How dressing the part helps connect us to the past – Cheney McKnight talks about how it is important to have an honest dialogue about slavery.
  •  Here’s a great article about Elizabeth Keckley, friend and dressmaker of Mary Todd Lincoln.
  •  I love stories about old books and those who care for them. thanks to Juliet for the link
  •  There are two new fashion history podcasts you might enjoy. Bande à Part is by fashion historians Rebecca Arnold & Beatrice Behlen, and if it seems like a conversation between two friends, that’s because that is what it is.
  •  Also really good is Dressed: The History of Fashion with fashion historians April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary.


Filed under Vintage Miscellany

Woman’s Institute Fashion Service, 1921 – 1924

If you are into vintage sewing or the history of home sewing, it’s pretty much assured that you’ve run across Mary Brooks Picken at some point. In addition to the many books she wrote on sewing and dress, she started the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in 1916. Woman’s Institute was a mail-order school, and at its peak in the 1920s, there were close to 300,000 women enrolled.

The lessons were mailed to each student, who then had to pass a test before progressing. Some of the lessons required that the student submit a sample of sewn work. Students could submit questions about a lesson by mail and get a reply from one of the teachers.

When I was in home ec class in the early 1970s, learning to sew actually meant learning to produce a garment by following the directions in a commercial pattern. Through the Woman’s Institute, students were taught to make a garment by following the directions for cutting, and by draping the fabric on the body. It was a very skilled process, more in line with what students in a design curriculum learn today.

Every student taking the dressmaking class got a magazine called Fashion Service. At first it was sent twice a year, but by the mid 1920s it became a monthly publication. Fashion Service gave advice and instruction on the latest styles, sort of an update to the regular lessons. Last week I was lucky to find some issues of Fashion Service in a nearby antique mall.

The magazine was divided into themes, like sports dress, tunic dress, one piece dress, and after 1923, the one hour dress. These two dresses from 1921 are sports dresses. On the adjacent page were Picken’s instructions for making each design.

This looks a bit sparce, but each student had to rely on what she’d learned from her lessons, and there was another full page of general instructions for making the sports dress.

Click to enlarge

And some styles were given a full page of illustrations to show how to drape the dress.

Click to enlarge

And don’t think that the designs were all very simple. It seems that no design was too complicated for the Woman’s Institute student.

Most of the garments featured were dresses, but most issues also had a page of blouses and skirts, a page of coats, and a few pages of clothes for the children. Absent was instruction in lingerie and bathing suits.

Picken knew her students, so each issue also had a page of what she called “home dresses”. Somehow that just sounds better than “house dress”, I think.

Millinery was covered in a separate course, but Fashion Service usually had a page or two on the latest in hats.

There were a few playsuits with bloomers for little girls…

but in the seven issues I have ranging from 1921 to 1924, there was only one design for women that featured pants. This knickers set looks a bit odd at first glance, but the tunic in the large illustration is actually the skirt that was “for town wear.” This was probably an improvement over the idea of mountaineer Annie Peck, who in 1901 suggested that a skirt worn in town could be “left under a rock” when on the trail.



Filed under Fashion Magazines, Sewing