Shopping with The Vintage Traveler – Summer 2018

If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while you know that these “shopping” posts are actually looking and not buying posts. I’m not sure why some people seem to think that shopping actually means spending money.  I tend to look at shopping trips as research. One doesn’t have to buy in order to learn. And I’m always seeing something that is new to me.

There is one particular show I try to attend every year just because the vendors there often have things that I don’t have the opportunity to see every day. The Antiques Market at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia,  has sellers who specialize in regional antiques. And I know that for some odd reason the rest of the country seems to believe that every cabin in the Appalachians still had looms in service until the 1980s, that is simply not the case. Hand weaving was pretty much a lost art in this area (as it was in the rest of the USA) until it was re-discovered in the 1930s and was revived as a way to make money off the tourists.

So, I really don’t think that over-shot coverlets like the one on the left are any more common here than in any other area along the east coast. I did find an early one several years ago at the Goodwill Outlet, bit I’m pretty sure that was a one-time deal.

The cover on the right looks like a piecework quilt, but it is actually a woven coverlet.

I also spotted this gem in Abingdon. It’s a sort of fancy patchwork sampler with the patches sewn to a background piece.

This basket was made entirely of stitches.

These are not in my line of collecting, but I love decorated stockings so much. Just the thought that so much work went into something that was not meant to be seen, that the beautiful hand embroidery was simply for the joy of having nice things, makes me happy.

This shawl was spotted in a really great antique mall (Bryant’s) in Otto, NC. It’s one of those places where I always find interesting things, like a spiderweb lace shawl.

Colonel Cotton Blossom looks a bit familiar, but all Southern “colonels” tend to resemble one another. At any rate, I love finding vestiges of the once-great cotton industry of the South.

This is proof that I do not buy all the Scottie things, thank you very much!

I am sorry to say that I have forgotten the name of the maker of this crossword dress. It was one of the big makers of casual dresses in the 60s, and isn’t it amazing?

I almost bought this 1930s tabletop tennis set, which was mint in the box and complete. And cheap. But I’m trying to stay focused.

Go-go boots for the pre-teen set. Vinyl, and certainly not meant to last for fifty plus years.

Coca-Cola advertising often has the best depictions of girls in sporty attire. I hope she has on tights under that skirt and those socks.

I paid a visit to Kate DiNatale Vintage in Greenville, SC. She always has the best stuff, including these Halston sandals.

Yesterday I decided at the last minute to go to a “vintage” market in Asheville. The show was put on by a group that does this type of thing all over the country. There were quite a few vendors, many of whom were selling crafts or new stuff that has an “old” look to it. I think we are to the point in the evolution of the word “vintage” that it no longer means “aged”. Looking old is good enough, as evidenced by the masses of people who were there snapping up the faux-tiques.

I have nothing at all against new stuff that looks old. I realize that some people would rather have a reproduction printed tea towel or tablecloth than to use an old one from a stranger’s linen closet. My problem is in the use of the word “vintage”, which to me implies that the stuff being offered is old.

In the end I felt like Alice who tumbled into a rabbit hole and ended up in a beige and black Pinterest-land. Beige and black pennant banners, beige and black pillows with cutesy sayings, beige and black painted furniture.

I will say that in spite of my irritation at the situation, I managed to find a few things for myself from the few vendors of authentic old stuff, including an adorable Scottie key ring and a 1940s letter cardigan with the athlete’s name embroidered on the inside. So, at least it wasn’t an afternoon wasted.

 

 

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Gym Suit Uniformity

This is a brochure sent out to gym teachers with the aim of convincing them that having all students in matching gym suits was the way to go. It seems a bit odd, because from what I’ve seen, heard, and read, by the time this brochure was mailed in the early 1950s, most schools already had the girls in matching gym suits. Maybe there were some rogue gym suit holdouts in various corners of the USA.

My favorite part of this ad is how the gym suit is being compared to a Rockette costume. Uniformity was very important to the Rockettes, so much so that there was not a Black Rockette until 1988. Even then the director, Russell Markert, was reluctant, claiming it messed up the uniformity.

I also like this chart that pointed out the practical features of the Moore gym suit.

One thing this brochure does not have is the date it was published.  The photos, especially that of the girl on the front (with her gym class lipstick on point) look to be late 40s or early 50s. I set about looking at what might be clues in the text.

It mentioned that Russell Markert was the director, and Gene Synder was the co-director of the Rockettes. I looked for information of both men, but that turned out to be a dead end as both men’s tenures with the Rockettes spanned many years.

One gym suit was labeled as being style A12-66.  I have a 1949 Moore catalog, but this model was not mentioned. There was a style A10-66, so maybe the suit in the picture is an updated version. I also have a 1962 catalog, but by that time the method of numbering the suits had changed. There was a model 12, which was very similar to the model in the picture. Anyway looking at the style numbers proved to be inconclusive.

Finally I looked at the addresses given for the branch offices of ER Moore.  The address of the Los Angeles office was changed from what was given in 1949, but was the same at what was listed in 1962. That pretty much proved the brochure is after 1949, but before 1962, as noted by the change in model numbers.

So I’m going with early 1950s, due mainly to the styling of the suits, and to the girl’s hair and makeup.

One additional note is this also shows how slow to change gym suit styles were. Just the fact that Moore was offering pretty much the same suit over at least ten years goes to show just how hard it is to put a firm ate on these garments.

 

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Vintage Miscellany – August 12, 2018

I’m noticing an alarming trend on social media, and that is the insistence of many that autumn is in the air. Personally, I refuse to believe this nonsense, as I’m pretty sure that last week it as the beginning of June. So, enough with the winter’s coming talk!

And now for some news…

    •   The Worthing Museum of Brighton University has a great feature called Objects Unwrapped, in which objects from the collection are researched and written about.
    •   The ongoing problem with preserving items made of synthetic materials extends to bathing suits. Thanks to Betts for the link.
    •   The archive at Italian brand Max Mara is simply amazing.
    •   If nothing else, Paul Manafort is guilty of crimes against fashion and of good taste.
    •    Bihor Couture, not Dior couture.
    •   If you can’t get to New York to see Fashion Unraveled at the Museum at FIT, you can still explore the concepts on their website.
    •   The importance of the artifact is made clear with one little girl’s sweater.  This article also effectively highlights the evils of Nazism.
    • The American Civil War meant hard times for textile workers in Britain. 
    • The Imperial War Museum site is showing art made by women artists during WWI depicting women at work.

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Catalina Contures, 1960s Key to Confidence in Swimwear Comfort

Here’s one to be filed under “Things I found while looking for something else.” I could also put it under, “Things I didn’t know existed.”

Not that I didn’t know about “falsies” or bust pads; I just didn’t know that Catalina made these for swimsuits back in the 1960s. And considering how much time I spent  between 1965 and 1972 devouring Seventeen and Teen magazines, You’d think I’d have known every product that was marketed to my demographic (otherwise known as the teenager).

I have a fairly decent selection of Seventeen and other fashion magazines from the 60s, so after I found this item, I decided to revisit the magazines to see if I could spot an ad for Contures. I was pretty sure that I’d come up empty, as I felt sure I would have remembered seeing this product, and especially if the mermaid packaging was featured in the ads. And I was right, there were no Contures ads to be found.

From reading many online ads for vintage Catalina bathing suits, it does appear that many of their styles were made with pockets in which to insert the pads. I’m still trying to figure out how that would lead to “confidence in swimwear comfort”.

Looking at this product and the language used to sell it, it’s no wonder so many young women developed (and unfortunately still develop) body image issues. I do hope that all of you who have girls and teens are teaching them that their bodies are not objects that need correcting. Well, unless they have scoliosis or some other medical condition.

It’s really quite remarkable that these have survived at all, much less in the original box in a plastic bag. It’s obvious they were never used. Maybe the buyer had a moment of clarity and decided her breasts were fine as is. I like to think that’s the case.

The condition of the pads is amazing. They look like new, which is surprising considering they are made from a spongy synthetic substance and were wrapped in a plastic bag for fifty years. I have re-homed them in a muslin pouch, after wrapping them in acid-free tissue. Maybe that will help them last another fifty years.

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1970s Design Research and Marimekko Bikini

Here’s a truth about collecting: Sometimes it is easier to effectively collect things that are one hundred years old than it is to collect things one remembers wearing.  When it comes to things within one’s memory, your thoughts can’t help but be clouded by what you actually remember. Does that make sense? Well, here’s an example.

I once went to an exhibition of one woman’s collection of handbags along with her collected contents of what might be in each bag. With the 1900s through the 1950s bags, all was well, but when it got to the late 1960s and the 70s, things seemed to fall apart. I scrutinized each item, as though it was my handbag from that time. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was reading my own experience into the contents of the bags.

It was a valuable lesson.  But it has also made me very cautious when collecting from my own years of wearing fashion, particularly the 1970s. This helps explain why I have more bathing suits from the 1930s than from the 1970s.

Still, I can recognize the good stuff when I see it. This 1970s bikini is a good example. I first spotted it on the Instagram feed of  Selvedge Fine Vintage, and I knew it was something I needed for the collection.

I don’t remember Design Research from my youth, though I do remember the brand that was most associated with that store, Marimekko. Growing up in North Carolina, we used to joke that we could get a copy of a two year old Seventeen, copy the styles, and be on the cutting edge of fashion. It was the truth. Looking back at Seventeen from 1973 I can see how great and cute the styles were, but none of us in the back-of-beyond would have had the courage to wear most of what the magazine was telling us was stylish.

But I would have worn this bathing suit.

I’ve written about Design Research before, so I won’t repeat the facts here. But what makes them important was their association with Marimekko. My new bikini does not have a Marimekko label, but it’s impossible to deny the connection. This suit, if not from Marimekko, was strongly influenced by the Finnish brand.

This was about as skimpy a bathing suit as I would ever have worn. What makes it really interesting is that built into the pants is a way to make them even smaller.

On the inside of the sides is a drawstring that can make the side a few inches smaller.

So as the bikini continued to shrink, bathing suit makers came up with ways for a wearer to have it both ways.

I have another Marimekko/Design Research item from around the same time, a shirt with a similar print. I’m not stretching the truth when I say that an early 70s woman would have worn this shirt as a cover-up for her black and white swimsuit. Many swimsuit companies were showing matching shirts as bathing suit cover-ups during this time.

All the Marimekko patterns have names, and if anyone recognizes either of these I’d love to know what they are called.

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Early 1930s Catalina Bathing Suit

When one thinks of pioneers in the American swimsuit industry, Jantzen immediately comes to mind. But lately I’ve been giving a longer look at another major swimwear maker, Catalina. And while it’s probably true that Jantzen was the industry leader in the years between 1920 and 1970, my fresh look at Catalina has revealed a company that is at the top in terms of design.

I recently acquired the suit above, and I wanted it because it shows a link between the traditional one-piece suit, and what was soon to come, the woman’s two-piece. A side view makes this more obvious.

The bodice of the suit is attached only in the front for about seven inches. This feature was also seen in men’s suits at the time, and soon there was a zipper in men’s suits that allowed them, for the first time, to go topless. Women weren’t given that option (not until Rudy Gernrich’s monokini in 1964, anyway), but there was no stopping the shrinking of the swimsuit and the advent of the two-piece.

The two-piece for women first appeared in Europe in the early 1930s, and by 1935 Catalina was making two-piece suits, but it was not until the 1940s that it really caught on in the USA.

I did a lot of searching for my suit, but the closest I found was the suit in this 1932 ad.  The ad does not tell us the fiber of the yarn, but I’d guess that it’s wool, as this is about the time Lastex entered the market and radically changed the way swimsuits were made. After 1933 or so, most swimsuit ads boasted of their use of snug-fitting Lastex.

My suit does not have Lastex, so even though this style of suit was made for most of the 1930s, the later ones (1934 and after) I found ads for all have lastex.

Be sure to read the endorsement of Hollywood designer Adrian. While he did not design this suit, Catalina was quick to draw a parallel between their made in California suits and the movie industry. And isn’t it interesting that “we ‘play to’ their skin tones rather than their hair,” when the movies were still all in black and white!

According to the label, Catalina suits were, “Worn by the Stars of Hollywood”. Later in the decade Hollywood designer Orry Kelly did actually design suits for Catalina, and the company changed the line to, “Styled for the Stars of Hollywood”.

 

In the early 1930s the back was often bared in evening dresses, and so the swimsuit had to also bare the back.

This logo is hard to beat!

Even though this is a swimsuit knit of wool, it is very different from the wool suits of the 1920s. The gauge of the knit is much finer than that used only a few years earlier, the bodice is lined, and there is a real attempt at shaping through darts and contours. This suit had to have been much more flattering that the heavy wool knits of the past.

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Vintage Miscellany – July 29, 2018

There are times when I run across on old photo and I just wish the people could actually speak to me. This picture was probably taken around 1915 on the occasion of a school or church play. And while none of the girls looks particularly enthusiastic about her budding acting career, the girl in the middle front seems to be a bit more annoyed than most. Did she resent being a bee, when some girls were picked to be flowers? Did labeling her thus lead to issues of self esteem? We can only wonder.

And now for the news…

  •   Here’s a nice article about the clothing of Marie Curie , even though the title is a bit misleading.
  •    Some of Marie-Antoinette’s jewelry will be coming up at auction.
  •    Jonathan Walford has written a nice history of the Breton shirt.
  •    Burberry burned millions of dollars of merchandise in order to keep the brand from being “devalued”. My favorite part of this article is their claim that the items were burned in an environmentally safe manner.
  •    An article claiming Queen Elizabeth was trolling her guest Trump with the wearing of her pins was, unfortunately, quickly debunked.
  •    When Lilly Pulitzer closed shop in 1984, it was thought that her entire archive had been destroyed.  But the fabrics were designed by Suzie Zuzek at Key West Fabrics, whose archive was preserved.
  •    It appears that the poor sales of the made-in-China Ivanka Trump clothing line was not limited to Canada. The brand has now been shelved.
  •   When was the last time you read or heard an historian being credited in a news story?
  •   The history and science behind the stiletto heel, revealed.
  •    You can buy a tacky souvenir New York tote bag all over the city for less than $20, but if you want the $2000 Balenciaga version, hurry before the law suit forces them off the shelves.

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