High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Weeks ago I posted about my trip to Atlanta to see the Oscar de la Renta exhibition at SCAD FASH and the Iris Van Herpen show at the High Museum of Art.  For some reason I neglected to show my other photos from the High Museum.  It was the first time I had been to the High Museum in years, and I was lucky in that they also had a special exhibition, Hapsburg Splendor, Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections.  That show has ended, but I still want to show you some of the incredible items they had on display, all borrowed from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

The painting above, by Gyula Eder, is of the Crown Prince Otto and Queen Zita arriving at the last Hapsburg coronation in 1916.  It was painted thirteen years after the fact, eleven years after the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been dissolved.  The young crown prince, or  Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius, as he was christened, lived until 2011, but never ruled.

At the end of WWI, the royal family was forced into exile, but someone took good care of their things, including the brocade and ermine outfit the four-year-old crown prince wore to his father’s coronation.

There were some spectacular clothes in the exhibition.  This poor photo of an truly outstanding dress can’t begin to show the richness of these royal clothes.  This dress was worn by Empress Elisabeth, or Sisi as she was often called.  The wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, she was known for her slim figure which was emphasized by the styles she wore.  Sisi was assassinated in 1898, and did not die immediately because her tight corset kept the stab wound from bleeding.

This 1905 court dress belonged to Princess Elisabeth Kinsky, who was lady-in-waiting in the Hapsburg court.  The train was detachable, which made the dress a lot more useful.

It wasn’t just the ladies who got to dress in fine clothing.  This jacket belonged to an imperial and royal chamberlain, around 1910.

And it wasn’t just the humans who got to dress in finery, as the horses were also decked in gold trimmings.  This horse and sleigh took up an entire display room.

The high also has a wonderful permanent collection of art and decorative objects.  I have focused in on the ones that are fashion and textile related.

Above is Alma Sewing, by Francis Criss, 1935.  We see Alma in her sewing shop, surrounded by her tools.  We also see Criss, reflected in the bulb of Alma’s lamp.

Two Ladies Testing the Water, by Jacob Wagner, 1891.  One lady is corseted, but the other appears not to be.

The Blue Mandarin Coat, Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, 1922.  This is a stunningly beautiful work, with the use of color and light.  The name of the model is, unfortunately, not known.

The High Museum has an impressive collection of American quilts.  This one Freedom, was made by Jessie Telfair in 1975.

I was thrilled and surprised to see this quilt, which I’ve posted photos of here in in the past in my review of American Quilts by Robert Shaw.  It was such a treat seeing it in person.

Is it just me, or does this snake seem to be smiling?  The maker of this circa 1875 through 1900 quilt is unknown.

In case you can’t tell because of the lack of perspective, this is a full-size chair.  Called Crochet, the chair is made from cotton crochet doilies dipped in resin.  Made by Marcel Wanders in 2006, I thought it was interesting that an item that was used to decorate chairs in the past had been used to actually make the chair.

And finally, the dog-lover that I am could not resist this huge portrait of a shaggy fellow.  I’m afraid I have lost the details on this work, but will replace this sentence once I can locate the information.

I must say that I loved my visit to the High Museum.  It is worth a full day of exploration, even without the special exhibitions.  My one concern is the high cost of a visit.  Tickets for adults are $19.50, and parking is an additional $10.  I felt like the price was worth it, but can’t help but wonder if the cost might keep some people from taking advantage of this great resource.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Museums

Vintage Miscellany – January 31, 2016

The bicycle did a lot to change the lives of women and to give them mobility.  Still, riding in that skirt with all those spokes simply looks like an accident waiting to happen!  The photo is not dated, but the woman is wearing the “uniform” adopted by modern women in the late Victorian, early Edwardian era – that of neat white waist and slightly shorter a-line skirt.

And now for the news:

2 Comments

Filed under Vintage Miscellany

Bradley Knits: Slip Into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors

I’ve been posting photos from these two 1920s catalogs on Instagram, and realized I’ve not even taken the time to write about them here.  Bradley Knitting Company is one of my all time favorite companies.  They had a very long and rich history, and there is still plenty of material left to make collection of it interesting.

Bradley Knitting Company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters, and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan as it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003 which is a real shame considering that today the repurposing of old mills is a thriving business.

My two new catalogs were a lucky ebay find.  One is a winter 1922 booklet, and the other is undated.  It is a bit later, and very likely dates from summer 1925.

The winter 1922 catalog features a lot of sweaters, but it also has accessories such as knit hats and scarves.  All the garments were modeled and photographed on living models, but it appears that they used some old-fashioned photoshopping for the finished pages.

Several years ago Richard York kindly sent to me some photos of his grandmother, Mabel Jennie Gross, who was a model for Bradley during the early to mid 1920s.  You can click through the link I provided to see these photos, which show Mabel in various poses.  It appears to me that the company making the catalogs colorized the photos of the models, and then arranged them in vignettes for each page.  A background was then painted in.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I love the fancy sweaters on the right, but of even more interest are the two at the bottom left.  These are jersey knit middies, a garment I’ve never seen.  The middy is usually made of  cotton duck or canvas.

The top photo looks like a group of young people on an outing in the snow, but my guess is that this is a composite picture with a fake background.

The later catalog is undated, but features mainly swimsuits.  The introduction has a hint: “For twenty odd years Bradley has been setting the style.”  The firm started in 1904, and the styles look to be right in the middle of the 1920s decade.

By this time, the knit bathing suit had pretty much taken over the swimsuit market.  The old fashioned swim dress with bloomers was simply not in step with the sleek 1920s look.

I have seen a lot of 1920s wool knit bathing suits.  Most have varying degrees of moth damage, and probably ninety percent of them are solid in color like the three at the top left.  Also fairly common are ones like the red model with the stripe at the bottom.

click to enlarge

But occasionally, a real masterpiece appears on the market.  Here are Bradley’s special models, all shown on Hollywood actors.  I have seen photos of the deck of cards suit shown on Anita Stewart at the top.  I wish it were mine.

These fancy suits cost between $8 and $9.50, as compared to the plain suits which started at $3.

click to enlarge

One of the big problems sellers of 1920s bathing suits seem to have is telling if a suit was made for a woman or for a man.  By carefully examining these photos you can see that the main difference is in the size of the armholes.  A woman’s suit will have smaller holes, while the tops of men’s suits were not as modest.  The skirt is still present on most men’s and women’s suits, but the plain trunk style is emerging.  Even a few styles for women, called the “tomboy” suit, were missing the skirt.

click to enlarge

It looks like the V-neck pullover had taken over as the style for sweaters by the middle of the decade.

I looked carefully at the faces of the models, hoping to spot Mabel, but I couldn’t make a positive identification.  I did spot one of the sweaters she was wearing, but in a different pose.  I suppose that the model could be Mabel.

8 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Winter Sports

1930s Chenille Bathing Suit Cover-up Cape

During a recent lucky streak, I ran across this fantastic cape, which is a bathing suit cover-up.  It is made from machine-made chenille, a fabric that started out as the product of a cottage industry in northern Georgia.  Based around the town of Dalton, Georgia, home workers began making hand tufted bedspreads to sell to travelers going south on the newly finished Dixie Highway.  A local textile mill, Crown Cotton, provided the base material, which is a heavy muslin-type fabric.  By 1910 the homeworkers were setting up stands along the highway to sell to the growing tourist travelers.

In 1917 a manufacturing process was set up. and some of the tufting was done by machine.  Hand tufting was still being done, but it was increasingly mechanized.  At first the product was just bedcovers, but by the 1920s some garments, such as bathrobes and beach wear, were also being made.

I can remember seeing the bedspread stands as a child traveling to visit relatives in the far western reaches of North Carolina and on the road to Atlanta.  Some of the designs were quite bizarre – wildly colored peacocks spring to mind.  And occasionally a stand can be spotted even today, but for the most part, the chenille factories converted to carpets years ago.

I can’t say a lot about the origin of the cape.  There is a small, handwritten label, that looks more like a collections number than anything else.  Could this cape have been in a collection before becoming a part of mine?  It is possible.

I do have two more chenille garments, one a bedjacket and the other a shorter cape.  None of them have  makers labels of any kind.

The neckline is gathered with a cotton robe tie.  There is an extra row of red chenille for decoration.

The back of the gathering.

I don’t have any photos showing a chenille cape, but I did find this jacket.  It is dated July 1939, Mountain Lake, New Jersey.

16 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Southern Textiles, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Currently Reading – Jean Patou: A Fashionable Life by Emmanuelle Poole

I’m not a collector of couture clothing, but that does not mean I can’t learn from the lives of the masters of it.  One French couturier whose work I have always loved is Jean Patou.  Patou’s rise in the fashion industry came about at the same time as that of Coco Chanel, and the two are often compared.  They had similar design aesthetics, and their clientele overlapped, leading to competition and mutual dislike of one another.

Of course today Chanel is a household name and Patou is barely remembered outside of the fashion history set.  If not for his famous fragrance, Joy, it is possible that the name Patou would be even more obscure.  And while volumes and volumes have been written about Chanel, little has been written about Jean Patou.  I was delighted to find this 2013 book by Emmanuelle Polle.

Patou’s work in fashion began around 1910.  By 1914 he had opened a couture house under his own name, but World War I intervened.  After serving in the war, Patou returned to Paris where his business was revived.  He soon became the darling of the modern woman.  Like Chanel, he realized life had changed for women, and they required easy to wear clothing that allowed them to move about their lives with freedom.  And he was an early designer of sportswear.

In 1925 Patou opened “Les Coin des Sports” on the ground floor of his couture house.  It was a place where women could go to shop for his sports clothes, which were then made to order.  He was popular with tennis stars Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills who often played against each other, both attired in Patou dresses.

Les Coin des Sports also made swimsuits, ski wear, and clothing for sports spectating.  The book is rich in photographs, not just of the clothing, but also of the original sketches and often with matching vintage photos.  The ski suit on the right can also be seen in the small sketch.

I had no idea that the Jean Patou archive still survives.  Patou unfortunately died in 1936 with his sister and brother-in-law continuing to run the business, which made clothing under a variety of designers until 1987.  Today Patou produces only perfumes.  But because the house never closed, the archive remains, and so there is a rich treasure of sketches, photos, documents, and even garments.

I was most amazed at these photos of Patou sweaters, which are folded across a rail.  They date from the 1920s.  The model on the left appears to be wearing the red and white sweater in the upper left.

Of course, Patou made more than sportswear.  He was also a master of beaded evening dresses, like the one above which is from 1927.

And here is the dress as worn by dancer Eleanora Ambrose.

I loved the close-up look that the reader is given of many of the garments featured.  This dress from 1926 is stunning, but the full length view does not tell the entire story.  It was only with the close-ups that I could see the beautiful textile and the intricate beadwork. In all, there were four photos of this one dress.

I’m really not a fan of huge, heavy books.  Measuring 12.5 by 9.75 inches, and weighing five pounds, it’s a bit hard to curl up in a cozy corner with this one.  However, the wonderful large photos of details more than make up for that bit of inconvenience.

The book is an English translation of the French original, and I must say that at times the writing seemed a bit odd to this American-English reader.  Added to that, the organization is also not what might be expected.  After an initial brief biographical sketch of Patou’s life, there was little adherence to any sort of timeline.

Some of the vintage photos in the book have been widely reproduced, especially those of his bathing suits, but most of the photos were new to me.  That is always a good thing.

Jean Patou: A Fashionable Life is a bit expensive, even at discount.  Even if you don’t buy this one, I do recommend tracking it down through your library.  It’s a fascinating look at a designer that you just don’t see every day.

15 Comments

Filed under Currently Reading, Designers

A Closer Look

I’m always confounded whenever I run across these tiny photos from the past.    They couldn’t have been of much use in the memory keeping department. This one is barely an inch and a half across, and other than a guy on a blanket and some people standing around, it is hard to tell what is going on.

Thanks to modern technology I was able to enlarge the photo to where we can see a bit more of the story.  The casual dress and the presence of the two coolers on the right made me think this is a picnic either getting started, or just breaking up.  Other than that, though, we have to just imagine.  Where is this mysterious sand bank?  Is a third man taking the photo?

In life, as in old clothes and vintage photographs, the more one looks, the more one sees.

I recently found a book at my fancy used book store, the Goodwill Outlet Center.  Actually, I find lots of books there, but this one was a bit different for me.  It was written by a local woman and was based on her blog.  The blog is about living a mindful life, a topic that seems to be really in favor right now, especially since so many people are spending more time being electronically “connected” and less time being connected to those around them.

To my surprise, I really liked the book.  The short chapters all had a bit of a lesson, complete with real life examples told with a sense of humor.  There was lots of great advice on how one can live his or her own life, without letting the negativity of the world determine life’s decisions.  It was fun reading, so I decided to check out the blog.  And because she is local, I played with the idea of contacting her to see if she wanted to get together for coffee or a drink.

As often happens to a blog after the writer publishes a book, this one was somewhat neglected.  But reading down several entries I was shocked by an entry.  The writer had gotten into a Facebook war with another person who was questioning the writer’s methods of child-rearing.  So how did this other person know so much about the writer’s child-rearing?  Because she has plastered it all over Facebook and Instagram.  I don’t see that it is my job to judge, but I can see why someone might comment that her methods are a bit unorthodox.  This is, after all, the Internet, and once it is posted, it pretty much becomes fair game.

But after going back and forth with this other person, the writer then put the entire transcript of the battle on her blog.  Her actions were pretty much the exact opposite of the advice in her book!  It seemed to be an odd course to take for a person who makes her living doing life-coaching and selling self-help books about dealing with unpleasant people.

Anyone who has a presence on the internet conceals and reveals things.  Sometimes it is the very nature of communicating by the written word that sets up what is revealed.  For example, I recently met another VFG member, and she told me she was surprised that I have a Southern accent.  This is not something I’ve intentionally concealed, as I think I actually use quite a few “Southernisms” in my writing.

It’s interesting to meet people you’ve known only online.  You get to see a whole new side of a person you think you know and you realize just how nice it is to have made a friend because you were able to connect through a common interest online, in my case, vintage clothing and fashion history.

I think I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on I’m sticking with my vintage and fashion friends.

8 Comments

Filed under Viewpoint

Late 1940s Shorts and Wrap Skirt

I recently ran across this skirt and a pair of matching shorts, and I bought them even though there are quite a few problems with the two pieces.  To be really honest, I wanted these partly because of the issues and my desire to analyze the set.  Using the questions from The Dress Detective, I wanted to hear the story these pieces have to tell.

To start with, there is a real possibility that a piece is missing.  By looking at sewing patterns and catalogs from 1940 through the 1950s, these sets often came with a matching blouse.  These pieces are home sewn, and there is no way to know if a matching blouse was actually made, but that is the way the pieces were marketed, and presumably, worn.

Here are some good examples from a 1940s brochure from Edwards Department Store in Rochester, New York.  In these photos the top and shorts are attached as one piece, but these were also available as shorts and top separately.

After World War II ended, fabrics became a lot more colorful.  Dyes had been restricted during the war, and I’m sure people were ready for a burst of color.  If you look at fashion magazines starting as early as the middle of 1945, you can really see what I mean.  Interesting designs and color combinations dominated.  In the case of my skirt and shorts you can see turquoise, a chartreuse-y yellow, and two shades of rust, printed on white and accented with black.

As mentioned, the set is home sewn, using simple techniques.  The sewer must have had one of those new-fangled buttonholers that attached to the machine.  The buttons on the skirt are mother of pearl, and they are well-worn.  They seem to be a bit old-fashioned for the piece.  Could they have been re-cycled?

There is a noticeable color difference between the shorts and the skirt.  The skirt looks hardly worn, but the shorts are quite faded.  What does that say?  The shorts were obviously washed more than the skirt, and so we can assume they were worn more.

There is another interesting clue on the shorts, a smear  of dried paint.  Could it be that after the shorts became either worn or not so fashionable (or both) that they were used to wear around the house for chores like painting.  It points to a long life of the shorts and skirt, and possibly a blouse, moving from cute outfit to work attire.

There is one last thing to point out.  At sometime the skirt was shortened as evidenced by the faded line.  During the last part of the 1950s skirt hems did rise, and so this could have been an attempt to make the skirt more fashionable.  Or it is possible this was done years later by a wearer of vintage clothing.  Either way, it is an interesting part of the skirt’s history.

13 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing