Real Silk Costume Color Harmony Charts for Spring & Summer 1925


I have gone on and on about color, and finding this 1925 color chart has just made me more determined to learn more about historical colors.  This one was produced by Real Silk Hosiery Mills, which used it to help consumers pick out the correct color of stocking.  Real Silk was like Avon, being sold only through representatives who called on women at home.  Their slogan was “From Mill to Millions.”

The color consultant and fashion director at Real Silk was Miss Katherine Harford.  As you can see, she was formerly with Harper’s Bazar, but it does not tell us what her job there was.  The only references I could find to Miss Harford were in Real Silk ads.

Unfortunately it appears that one/third of this folder is missing.  In other examples I’ve found there was another section labeled “Street”.  Still, there is enough here to give us a good idea of fashionable colors in 1925.

In today’s anything goes world women might find the advice of how to match costume, hose, shoes and accessories to be a bit quaint.  But in 1925, the showing off of one’s legs was a big deal, one that many women were still unaccustomed to doing.

If you are up on internet social causes, you might have noticed the “nude” color.  Today most people have come to recognize that people are not all the same color, and one “nude” does not fit all.  The same thing goes for “flesh.”

Of course, in 1925 it was okay to use such terms as “Indian Skin” and “Mulatto”.  Sometimes when I feel discouraged about the lack of progress in our own society, I can always look to the past to see that in some areas, at least, improvement has been made.

But societal issues aside, we can see on this chart some of the best and most popular colors of the mid 1920s.  Salmon, of course, as orange was so much in favor, but also Bluet, Blush Rose, and Melon.  I find it interesting that black is not in the evening costume category, as it had really gained in favor.

I look for old color charts, and buy any that are dated and reasonably priced.  Thread and needlework companies also did color charts, but I’ve found they are rarely dated.  Maybe they didn’t change the colors so often, as needlework requires a large range of colors, many of them not of the mode.

1 Comment

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities

Nan Duskin, 1942

I recently ran across this little booklet from famed Philadelphia clothing store, Nan Duskin.  Duskin started in fashion retail at the Philadelphia branch of Bonwit Teller, and later moved to The Blum Store.  In 1926 she opened her namesake ladies’ store.  She sold the store in 1959, and it eventually closed in 1995.

Nan Duskin ran a very up-scale establishment, more like a salon actually.  There were regular fashion shows with customers picking their choices to have tailored to fit.  After the store was sold in 1959 the new owner changed the format to that of a regular ready-to-wear shop, a move that led Ms. Duskin to regret selling.

But still, it was a store that continued to sell all the best labels.  If you find a dress with a Nan Duskin label, it will probably have another label as well that could range from Chanel to Jean Muir to Oscar de la Renta.

My little booklet dates to 1942, and I greatly suspect it was designed and printed before the USA joined WWII.  There is no mention of the war, which would have been unusual, and the text refers to the Southern season, which would have been January and February.  These were clothes suitable for travel, and also light weight for a visit to Florida.

For a store that became known for selling the latest in designer labels, it seems interesting that not a single designer is mentioned in the booklet.  Of course, by late 1941 the flow of fashion from Paris had slowed to a trickle, and so stores like Nan Duskin had to rely on American manufacturers who even in the early Forties were not always crediting the designer.

Most of the clothes in the booklet were made from Celanese rayon.  It could be possible that this was a joint advertising booklet between Nan Duskin and Celanese.

Even though the war is not mentioned, there is a lot of red, white, and blue in these clothes.  And be sure to take notice of the hats as well.  Although not described in this book, Nan Duskin did sell hats.  And what hats these are! Definitely high fashion.

I’d love to hear any memories you might have of Nan Duskin.


Filed under Designers, World War II

Irene Brown Cashmere Sweater for Golfer


I’ve been on a lucky streak online recently, as far as finding great stuff for my collection.  Above you can see my new favorite, bought off eBay from seller lindys4sale.  It is cashmere, and is decorated with velveteen appliques, accents with beads, embroidery, and the occasional bit of leather.

Irene Brown of Detroit is a new name to me, and an internet search showed up only a few references, all in Michigan newspapers dating from 1962 to 1968.  I found two other examples that had been sold online, both of which used applique to decorate the sweater.

One thing I can tell you about Irene Brown is that the sweater that bears her name shows top notch workmanship.  Each little piece was cut from velveteen or leather, and then was expertly appliqued to the sweater.  The letters shown above are about an inch and an eighth, are beautifully finished and then embroidered on one side to mimic a shadow.  The number on the flag and the dimples on the ball are made with beading.

Even the sides of the sweater and the sleeve cuffs are decorated.  The two other examples I found of Brown’s work also had gathered cuffs like this one.  Perhaps it was a trademark of her designs.

The back of the sweater has one big applique of a golf bag and clubs.  All the design on the bag was made through embroidery.

The interior is not lined, so you can get a good look at the handwork.  I would have expected a sweater of this quality to be lined, but I can find no traces of old lining threads, and the other examples I found do not seem to be lined either.

One thing I really love about vintage golf prints and such is that the 19th hole is almost always referenced.  That little cocktail is enough to entice me onto the golf course.  You’ll find me in the club house.



Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Vintage Miscellany – October 16, 2016

One of the most interesting things about this photo from the 1930s is that the original is only 1.25 inches square.  The edges are blurred, but enlarging this digitally opened up a world of detail that went undetected when viewing the original.  Still, there are so many unanswered questions.  What is the woman on the left holding?  What is the bracelet the other woman is wearing?  And most importantly, what is going on with those hats?

With images all over the internet, it is tempting to just help oneself to the goodies, but before using any image, be certain that you have the right to it.  There are so many sites today where the images are free of copyright that it is a shame that people resort to (alleged) theft.

The whole point of Instagram is to post one’s own photos, but I’m noticing more and more people are treating Instagram like Tumblr or even Pinterest, posting photos from museum sites and fashion runway shows.  The pictures are nice, and there is often great commentary, but I prefer seeing what people have going on in their own lives.  I want to see your collection, and your vacation pictures, and your dog.


Filed under Vintage Miscellany

Super Find Becomes Albatross Becomes Happy Memory

I recently found a stack of wonderful old linens at my favorite shopping place.  As so often happens, a load of donations go in after the closing of an estate, or maybe a move to a smaller house.  Anyway, I sometimes find the entire contents of the linen closet, and that usually means at least a few great novelty prints.

This souvenir tablecloth from Cuba was the best of a really sweet group of printed tablecloths.  These tablecloths were very popular in the post WWII era, and I imagine that most homes had at least one – a Christmas theme cloth perhaps.  I still have the one my mother used on our holiday table.

Tablecloths were also a great vacation souvenir, and I’ve seen printed ones with destinations from Alaska to Florida and beyond.  Most that I’ve found are not labeled, but I know of one company, California Handprints, that made novelty and printed tablecloths.  My guess is that this one, though sold in Cuba in the 1940s or 50s, was actually made in the USA.

I was really happy to find the Cuba one, especially after checking the prices on Ebay.  So I took a few photos, wrote up my listing, and put it on Etsy to sell.  I also posted a photo on Instagram, where a fellow vintage travel enthusiast saw it.  She emailed with the great news that she and her husband are traveling to Cuba soon.  I clicked over to review my listing, but found it had disappeared.  After a long search, I discovered that Etsy had deactivated the listing.

That was a bit puzzling, but the next day I got an email that stated that the tablecloth was in violation of the US embargo against Cuban products!  I sent an email back explaining that the tablecloth was made before the Cuban Revolution and the embargo.  It was probably made in the US, and then imported to Cuba where a tourist bought it and brought it back to the States.  In other words, it is not an illegal Cuban product.

No matter, as the diligent people at Etsy can’t take a chance that the selling of my tablecloth might be the very thing that allows the Cuban government to break the (already weakened by US law) embargo.  So my option was to stick it on eBay where there are several similar ones up for sale.

But it just left a sad feeling, with my happy find turning into a problem.  I had to find a way to break the evil spell cast upon my innocent tablecloth.  So now the tablecloth is on its way north, to the lucky Beth who will soon be traveling to Cuba.

And by the way, the email from etsy’s legal department asked me to please keep our email exchange a secret.  They are probably embarrassed for the world to know that legal communications are headed with “Hi there” and are signed with a first name only.  Seriously.

But enough of that!  I’m not one to hold a grudge so instead of making fun of Etsy Legal, let’s look at the great details of this print.  Aside from the sleeping guy under the sombrero in which the designer got his Latin American countries confused, the print is full of references to the fun things one would encounter in the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics.”

Cruise ships! Tennis! Skiing! Rum! Sailing!

Dancing! Show girls! Tobacco fields!

And a whole corner of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay!

I have opened my annual Etsy pop-up shop, in which I try to make a few bucks to support my collecting habit.  I sell vintage sewing patterns and other vintage finds from the past year that I’ve decided not to keep.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Shopping

Currently Viewing: The First Monday in May

Theatrical one-sheet for THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Something that always strikes me as ironic about fashion movies is that we are always advised that fashion is art, while at the same time we are reminded that fashion is commerce.   Not that the two cannot peacefully co-exist, as we are also told in The First Monday in May.  That’s just the first of many fashion truisms that the viewer is exposed to in this 2016 documentary on the annual Met Gala which is a fund-raiser for the Costume Institute.

I had not been anxious to watch this one, as my interest in galas and celebrities is so low, but throw in the Costume Institute and the availability of the film on Netflix and I decided it was worth a try.  As it turns out, I’ve watched it twice, not because it is so good, but because of what it reveals about the relationship between Vogue and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and the Costume Institute and curator Andrew Bolton.

First of all, I’m glad that Wintour has been so effective at raising money for the Costume Institute.  In 2015 alone, $12.5 million was raised.  It’s obvious that she is an excellent manager, and her brusqueness seems to me to be a characteristic of a person who just wants to get things done.  In the film there was a not so sly segue from Anna May Wong as the Dragon Lady, to Wintour.  Can’t we just get past the fact that here is a woman who has a lot to do and who can’t spend her time pussyfooting around feelings?

Apparently not, and it seems a bit odd seeing how The First Monday in May was co-produced by the director of special events at Vogue, Sylvana Ward Durrett.  It seems very unlikely that a woman who worked so closely with Wintour would portray her in any light other than the one Wintour wanted.  In fact, knowing of Durrett’s involvement in the film puts a whole other light on it.  She also is a major player in the movie, as the planner of the gala.

A scene from THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

But what I found to be most interesting was how much input Wintour had on the exhibition itself.  In the photo above, (taken from the press kit on The First Monday in May website) you see Wintour looking over the projected exhibition.  Months before the opening, Bolton is seen showing Wintour a montage of photos of the clothing that was to be included in the show.  She is shown giving approval (or not) at every step of the process.

As Wintour herself explained it, “Andrew is a real visionary and our job is to help him execute his creative genius.”   She did not make clear exactly who she meant went using the pronoun “our.”

I’ve always suspected that Wintour has a lot of influence in the Costume Institute shows.  It’s always been a bit puzzling as why, when the Institute has one of the best collections of historical clothing in the world, that so many of the more recent shows rely on clothing from the 21st century, much of which is borrowed from the design houses.  Putting so much focus on recent clothing would certainly help boost the current fashion industry, something that is also the mission of Vogue.

The exhibition in 2015 was China Through the Looking Glass, about how designers have used the historical view of China as an influence.  Heavily represented were Alexander McQueen, John Galliano for Dior, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and John Paul Gaultier.  Less represented were historical artifacts from the Met’s own collection, though I did see a 1920s Lanvin and a group of Poiret dresses, a 1920s embroidered shawl, and two dresses from the 1950s.  I’m sure there were more (I did not see this show in person) but considering there were around 150 garments in the show, the few I spotted are definitely in the minority.

It just seems like so much of the permanent holdings of the Costume Institute never sees the light of day.  Considering how Chinese culture has been an influence on Western fashion for centuries, I feel quite certain in saying that this exhibition could have pulled almost entirely from the Met’s own collection.  But then without all the current designer’s work being represented in the exhibition, how could one get them to the gala, and especially how could they get them to pay for one of the sponsor tables?

It all seems so cozy, with the designers and their muses touring the exhibition, looking for their own work.

The film shows the large banquet, where designers, sponsors and celebrities seem to just fall into place.  That’s because the seating was not just carefully arranged, but agonized over.  For weeks the seating chart was arranged and rearranged.  To me, this was the most cringe-inducing part of the entire movie, with Durrett explaining to Wintour, “These are people I’m hoping will just go away,” and Wintour referring to seating “…somebody better here…”  In the end, actress Chloe Sevigny was a big loser, being seated at a “bad table.”  The look on her face when she realized she had been exiled to Siberia was made even sadder when she said, “I’m going to be all by my lonesome just like in high school.”

While so much of the movie is about the planning of the gala, quite a bit of time is also devoted to Andrew Bolton and his process of working through the plan of the exhibition.  This might have been interesting if not for the constant hand wringing over whether “others” at the museum considered fashion to be art.  By others, I guessing Bolton was primarily referring to the curator of East Asian art, who was supposedly in a collaboration with the Costume Institute for this exhibition.  This curator repeatedly voiced his concerns about how the objects in his department were going to be used, and each conversation seemingly ended with Bolton yet again whining about how fashion was so misunderstood in the Met.

It occurred to me that it might not be a good idea to go on so on camera about colleagues not respecting you, especially with words like, “Some people have a very 19th century idea of what art is.”  And even at the very end, when the installation was complete and was looking over the top marvelous, the Asian art curator congratulated Bolton, but Andrew very ungraciously dismissed the other curator and turned to his partner for a hug.

Frankly, I’m sick to death of the “Is fashion art?” question.  As long as people are lining the halls of the museum to see fashion, who cares.

I could actually go on longer with this, as I’ve not even touched on how questions of appropriation and culture were handled, but I’m over my word limit.  I suggest you watch The First Monday in May, not as a lover of fashion history, but with the goal of looking for the great bits.  I loved seeing inside the fashion conservation department.  There is an interesting interview with John Galliano.  But best of all is when the late Bill Cunningham congratulates Bolton, but makes the faux pas of bringing up the ghost of Diana Vreeland.  You just can’t make this stuff up.


Filed under Currently Viewing

Liberty Antiques Festival, Fall 2016

The late September Liberty Antiques Festival has come and gone, and with it the year’s flea markets are pretty much over.  It’s a sad time but I have plenty of things to show and talk about, and I’m sure it will cheer me up a bit.

Above is a hooked rug, Scottie theme.  I took the photo, and tried to forget about it, but I could not, so hours later I made my way back to the booth, thinking that it had surely sold.  But it was still there, and the vendor even offered a generous discount.  So this one is now in my office.

I love seeing the contraptions that women have worn under their clothing in order to accomplish a fashionable silhouette.  One could sit, but not recline while wearing this bustle.

I thought this late Victorian tennis player was so lovely.  I especially like her hat.

Even if I were to not buy a thing, going to a market like this one is invaluable in the education department.  These old riding boots were way out of my range of knowledge, but it was fun to take a few minutes and study them.

I have to make myself take ten deep breaths when I encounter a nice grouping of vintage sewing patterns, especially when they are as great as these.  My new rule is that if there is no chance I’ll ever make it, then I cannot buy the pattern.  Still, I was so tempted by the 1920s one.

I was also tempted by this grouping of shoes.  It did not matter that I really do not need any 1920s sports shoes.  I stood there and tries to come up with a good reason to spend over $200 for these.  Common sense prevailed.

There are times when I turn down an object based purely on price.  In the 1950s when jet travel became available and people besides the rich leisure class could afford to travel abroad, handbags with travel destinations became popular.  I have several, but would have added this one as well, but I felt that it was over-priced.  These were not high quality items to start with, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put a lot of money into something that is already well represented in my collection.

This is about the oddest Collins of Texas bag I’ve ever seen.  It was made after Enid Collins sold the company to Tandy, so it is probably 1970s.

I loved this uniform, and I had to remind myself that I’m not a uniform collector.  I do think women’s uniforms would make a fabulous collection though.  Anyway, the seller did not have any information about the dress and hat, which were a set.  The hat and one collar have plastic sword pins, and the other collar has a Red Cross pin.  The dress and hat looked post WWII to me, and were in incredible condition.  I’d appreciate any ideas you might have about them.

This 1940s poster really made me want to shop in that store.

And finally, I really do need an aviatrix’s ensemble, don’t you think?


Filed under North Carolina, Road Trip, Shopping