Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company Blouse

I rarely buy incomplete garments, but this one was rare enough to make an exception.  I didn’t feel too bad about the bloomers being missing, as I do have several pairs from the same era.

I wasn’t able to locate much about the Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company. Most of the sources were ads in women’s colleges’ newsletters and in sports magazines. The earliest reference I have found is from 1909, but I’m quite sure my blouse is a bit older than that.

The company also made bathing suits, and I found one suit labeled “Columbia Bathing Suit Co.” It was pretty much identical to the Columbia gymsuits I found online.

The addition of this second label helps to narrow the date a bit. The National Consumers League was chartered in 1899, which you can read on the label, in the circle. I’ve seen several Columbia gymsuits with this label in online collections, several being dated to before 1899. Even museums make mistakes!

I’m quite sure that my blouse is from around 1905, or possibly a bit earlier. You see the styling of the typical blouse of that era, with the blousy front and slightly gathered sleeves.

The waist buttoned to the bloomers, the waistband of which would have covered the brown cotton facing that holds the buttons. The buttons are made of glass.

The opening in in the front, with hook and eye closures on the shoulder, and a line of buttons running diagonally to the waist. These are concealed by the deep tucks.

Like many gymsuits and bathing suits made before 1920, this one is made from wool. It’s a very light, open weave wool, but terribly scratchy. Girls must have loved it when cotton became the favored fabric of gymsuit makers.

There is a modern Columbia Sportswear Company. I could find no connection between the maker of my blouse and the current company.

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Brucewood Sportswear for Women

I always consider it to be a lucky day when I spot a vintage sportswear catalog for sale. There are quite a few places to look for such catalogs, especially on ebay, but rarely do items of this sort come up for sale. The only bad thing about this one is that there is no date.  Using style clues, I’m placing this one at 1936, give or take a year.

This catalog only has ten pages, so I’ll be sharing the entire thing.

Best of all, there are swatches! Swatches make any catalog better.  Actually, I would not order the Skipper Slacks, due to the thinness of the fabric. I always think of Indian Head as a thicker duck cotton, but this is a thin poplin. I bet a lot of people were disappointed with this item.

But is Plaiddies not the best name ever?

The very wide legged slacks actually look a bit earlier than 1936.

But I’m placing my date partly based on the bathing suits. These are very similar to a Jantzen suit that I know was made in 1937.

The Brucewood bathing suits were also very stylish, and they were a dollar or more cheaper than the Jantzens.

Look at the waists of two of these suits and you can see the two-piece bathing suit starting to develop.

There are a few more dating hints in this grouping. The skirts are very long. By 1937 or so skirts started inching up toward the knee. Also, there’s no hint of the gathered shoulder that had become so popular by 1938.

And how can one not love a good bikette?

Terry and wool jersey.

Riding clothes are not always including in sportswear catalogs, so having a spread of them is a real treat.

What looks to be shorts is described as a pantie. It looks like they could have been buttoned to the shirt, and if so, would have been for wearing under the breeches.

Several of these jackets have asymmetrical openings, a common feature in the mid-1930s.

The sweater twin set is most associated with the 1950s, but they were actually popular starting in the 1920s.

Maurice L. Rothschild was born in Germany in 1964. As a teenager he came to America, and he eventually settled in Minneapolis. He started a store, the Palace Clothing House in 1887. The first store was small, and he quickly outgrew it, and after moving several times he constructed what became known as the Palace Building in 1907.  The store remained in that location at the corner of  Nicolett and Fourth Streets. A branch store was opened in Saint Paul in 1893, and one in Chicago in 1904.

Maurice died in 1941, and the business continued under the direction of his widow, Hulda, until 1949.   At that time the business merged with the  Young-Quinlan Company.

Company information is from the Hennepin County Library.

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Edwardian Divided Skirt

The world is reopening, whether or not Covid-19 is under control.  I’m a bit conflicted, as it seems like the more people are out being “normal”, the greater the likelihood is that we’ll again find ourselves in lockdown again this fall. I have discovered that antique shops are a good compromise between staying home completely and jumping into a swimming pool with 100 strangers, yelling about our right to party.

So, after getting my hair cut for the first time since February, I went to an antique mall in a nearby town, as a little treat for myself. I had never been there before, so I didn’t have any expectations. As I walked up the aisles, I saw ahead a booth that clearly had clothing. Ten years ago I’d have been all excited, but so many booths in antiques malls are now selling modern clothing that I really didn’t get my hopes up.

But, praise be, there were old clothes in this booth! I immediately spotted a pair of old black cotton exercise bloomers. $12! As I grabbed them, I took a quick look around the booth, and then I saw it – an Edwardian divided skirt. This is the garment women wore for hiking, for camping, and for horseback riding. It’s an all-purpose sports garment, with a big secret.

That secret is that the skirt is actually a pair of pants. Unbutton the front panel, flip it to the right, and you are now wearing culottes.

For years women had been wearing some sort of pants under their skirts for sports. The divided skirt was a late Victorian innovation that allowed the wearer to switch from one to the other with the changing of a few buttons.

Even buttoned to expose the pants, the garment could pass for a skirt.

These were sold by the Standard Mail Order Company of New York  City.  There are digital copies of catalogs from that company all over the internet, so I will be doing a bit of searching for my divided skirt.

This was not a product unique to Standard. My 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog has a very similar style  for sale for $12.50 to $20  dollars. According to the inflation calculator, that would have been  $320 to $512in today’smoney. Perhaps Standard was a bit more accessible to the less-than-rich.

And I’m guessing it was more affordable, as I have in my collection of vintage photos various women wearing the garment. It was such a great innovation, which allowed women to ride a horse astride, to safely ride a bicycle, and to romp freely through the woods, Can’t ask more of a garment than that.

My divided skirt shows a lot of signs that it was worn a lot. It’s missing a button, and there are a few small rips around some of the buttonholes. The hem you see with the darker thread is not original. Either the original wearer was very short, or she shortened the skirt in the mid 1910s when fashion dictated a shorted skirt. Either way, it’s a part of the skirt’s history, and will remain.

 

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How I Collect – 1940s, Part 2

Today I continue with my tour through the 1940s. Women started wearing overalls for outdoor work in the late 1930s, but the garment really caught on during World War Two. They were great for gardening and other yard work, but women must have really loved the comfortable overalls, as I have quite a few vintage photos showing women wearing them for leisure.

By the 1940s shorts were being worn on casual occasions, but I’ve also seen photos and magazines ads of shorts being dressed up with the addition of a jacket.

Opps! I used the same hat twice!  Cotton became common in use for bathing suits in the 1940s. This one is a woven twill, but is lined in cotton jersey.  The palm tree cape is made from chenille, probably made at one of the many chenille businesses in North Georgia.

The matching shorts and tee shirt were made by Jantzen, and you can see the original sticker on the shirt.  Thinking about color is so interesting because if you look at many vintage garments you can start to see what colors were popular during different eras. My cute little hexagon shaped bag and the sandals are a perfect match to the green of the tee and shorts.

This golf dress has a label called “American Golfer”.  Women were increasingly turning to skirts, culottes, and even shorts for golfing, so American Golfer began advertising their dresses as good for streetwear.

During the last years of WWII, bathing suit makerCole of California began producing some of the barest bathing suits to date. One was a two-piece similar to this one, but the front of the pants were attached to the back using cord woven through eyelets. Cole ran ads with the suit juxtaposed with a paratrooper, as much of Cole’s production was in making parachutes. Was the assumption to be that they used parachute cord in the bathing suit?

This outfit symbolizes the lucky find. I was rummaging through a box of old damaged clothes at a flea market when I pulled out the playsuit. It ran through my mind that there was most likely a matching skirt originally. Sure enough, the skirt was at the bottom of the box. The sandals came from an old general store in West Asheville, NC. For years the elderly owner went to the store, in spite of the fact that no new merchandise had been added since the early 1970s, and there was stuff still dating from the 40s. There was a big box of shoes, all dumped together and a bit of digging produced this pair, at the original price of $6. I used to frequent the place until the owner became too ill to work. Some years later there was a water line break, the place flooded, and most of the remaining contents went to the dump.

To me, this is the perfect picnic dress. It was designed by Sophie Gimbel, the in-house designer at Saks Fifth Avenue. The shoes were brought back from the Far East by a soldier returning home after WWII.

I love this dress so much, and it has a local (Asheville, NC) label.  The red and white bits are applied flowers, each with a pearl button in the center. The handbag has a lucite Scottie dog clasp!

I am finishing up the 1940s with a truly lousy shot of a beautiful set from the estate of Mary Jane Hefner. Since this was most likely part of her college wardrobe I paired it with a football themed scarf, also from Jane’s estate. Jane had several slacks sets, all in immaculate condition. Was it because slacks on girls were not acceptable at her small town college (meaning the pants didn’t get a lot of wear), or was she just very careful with her clothes? It’s likely a combination of both.

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How I Collect – 1940s

As I’ve stated before, How I Collect is a series I’ve been posting on Instagram. I’ve worked my way up to the 1940s, though I haven’t photographed everything in my collection. I have quite a few ensembles from the Forties, so I’ll be showing them in two parts. My apologies if you follow on Instagram, as you have already seen these. And I’ve included links to older posts about some of the garments.

This early 1940s ski suit has a Sonja Henie label. The ice skating star had her name on both skating attire and ski suits in the late 1930s and into the 40. The little pin is a souvenir of a live Sonja Henie skating show.

I wish this were a Sonja Henie ice skating dress, but no, the label is Gail Burke Classics. Still, it’s pretty nifty with the felt appliques and the green taffeta lining. Ice skating enjoyed a surge of popularity in the late 1930s and the 1940s due to the influence of Henie’s movies and live skating extravaganzas.

By the late 1940s, wool gabardine had pretty much replaced  heavy, thick wool as the favored fabric for ski attire. This suit has a reversible jacket. The nylon cap has a little skier on the front emblem.

It’s not all sportswear, but I also love the types of clothing that would have appealed to a sportswoman. Claire McCardell fits that bill perfectly. The scarf is a champagne motif, and the shoes are a lucky Ferragamo find from years ago.

I’ve written at length about the curious case of the 1940s Alpine fashion fad. Some trends really do defy understanding, in retrospect.

I’ve also written about this piece, a World War Two era siren suit from England. It was a lucky buy from an auction house that thought it was a ski suit. Here I explain why it’s not appropriate for skiing.

I bought this Gilbert Adrian suit years ago on ebay. I actually wore the jacket when I went to an exhibition on Adrian with friend Liza. I was terrified I’d ruin it, so I had to change before I went out to eat lunch.  The shoes are from Swiss maker Bally.

For the most part I do not collect lingerie, but I do love a great pair of pajamas especially when there’s a trio of Scottie dogs embroidered on the pocket. I’ve had these since the 1980s. I bought them back when I actually wore a lot of old clothes. It’s a miracle they aren’t covered in coffee stains.

I love this great bowling dress so much, and so I was thrilled to find the red and white bowling shoes to match. It’s enough to make a collector’s heart sing.

Slacks were already beginning to gain in popularity in the late 1930s, but WWII really made pants-wearers of many American women. The sweater is from Bradley, and is made with a cheap blend of reprocessed wool. The shoes have not a bit of leather, as the uppers are velveteen and the soles are a synthetic rubber.

The handbag is a Chimayo handwoven bag. I found it in the Goodwill bins! That was a very lucky day.

Next will be some nice summery ensembles.

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Updates

I lifted this photo from Jonathan at Kickshaw Productions, and I don’t know where he found it. This would have made me sad under any circumstances, but now that most museums are still closed, it makes me really sad for the opportunity these kids lost, and mad at the adults who should have better managed the time in the museum. I really hate that it looks like these kids missed out on a great art experience.  I had the pleasure of seeing Night Watch some years ago with two teens (and several art-loving adults) and it was one of the highlights of that trip.

Actually, museums are beginning to reopen, and I think that’s a good thing as long as numbers of visitors are limited and that visitors use good sense. Most of the museums I’ve visited over the past few years have not been so crowded that keeping a safe distance from others would be difficult.

I want to thank all of you who have sent birthday cards for Magda Makkay.  It’s not too late to get yours in the mail!  I’ll be mailing the package of them on June 18th, and if there are stragglers I’ll be sending a second packet if necessary.

Magda Makkay

c/o Lizzie Bramlett

PO Box 493

Clyde, NC 28721

 

Many, many thanks!

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Kirness Sisters, Jerusalem, Jacket

I haven’t bought a lot of things lately due to first one thing and then another, but I did get this pretty cross-stitched rayon jacket about a month ago. I spotted it on Instagram, where it was love at first sight. After it came I put it on a hanger and put it where I could just admire it for a while.

Today I finally took a closer look, and did a bit of searching for the makers, the Kirness Sisters. I knew about this shop, but I really didn’t know much about the sisters. A general search brought up a few garments, all hand embroidered with a Middle Eastern look. There were caftans and robes and dresses. Most of the sellers listed them as being from the 1910s or 1920s.

In the July 12, 1934 Palestine Gazette I found a notice where the business had registered as a partnership. The two owners were Esher and Lida Kirness. Their business was the manufacture and selling of the arts and crafts of Palestine.  I found no other mention of Esher, but Lida married Alexander Avraham in 1937. All the other sources were written in Hebrew, so this is pretty much it, for now.

Photo form the Tim Gidel Collection, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Luckily, this photo of the exterior of the shop survives. It was taken in 1936 during the time Palestine was under British administration.

The earliest reference I found to the Kirness Sisters was the 1934 partnership registration, but that does not necessarily mean that the business actually began in 1934. Most of the clothing I have seen with the label do look to be from the 1920s, especially the dresses. I suspect that my jacket is from the late 1920s or the early 1930s.

Here is the jacket again, this time taken before I took a close look at the interior. Compare it to the photo at the top. Can you see where an alteration was made?

If you guessed “sleeves” then you are correct. The sleeves had been shortened and made more narrow.  The person who made the adaptation, possibly the original owner, went about it in a way so that the changes were not obvious. It was not until I turned it inside-out that I saw that the sleeves had been shortened about two inches. Not only that, the sleeve seams were taken in to make the sleeves more narrow. Could this have been to update the sleeves to a more narrow 1930s look?

But this is the outside.  The alternations can barely be detected. My scissors are pointing to the seam there the sleeve was shortened. Also look just below the tip of the scissors t see one of the places where the sleeve was  narrowed.

Because the alteration was made without cutting the fabric, reversing the change was easy.  Only a crease was left to indicate the alteration.

I know that many people wear old clothes, and that in order to make them fit sometimes alterations are needed. If this is you, then please do like the alterer of this jacket did. Make any changes so that they can be reversed. That means to not use scissors.  I’d also say that reversing alterations is easier when the stitching is in a slightly different color thread than the garment. I almost went blind removing black thread from a black garment.

Here’s the label in case you are ever lucky enough to run across a Kirness Sister garment. I’m thinking that would be more likely if you are in the UK, as most of the examples I located online were from sellers in the UK.  There’s good reason for this, of course, as the British were still operating under the idea that they had the right to be in Palestine. There was a large British presence in Jerusalem.

The crossstitch is so beautiful, and it shows the marks of a skilled embroiderer. Today people might sound the cry of cultural appropriation concerning garments like this one, but you have to remember this was made by a person in Palestine for the tourist trade. It’s similar to buying Native American jewelry from the maker. It helps the local economy and supports craftsmanship.

This came from the beautiful shop of Madame E Vintage at etsy.

 

 

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