A Story in Five Pictures

Posted without commentary.

A series of Edwardian postcards, probably from Germany. The sender would mail one a day for a surprise ending with the last card.


Filed under Uncategorized

History Museum of Burke County, NC

I have really gotten fond of visiting local history museums. I never know what to expect when visiting a new-to-me one, and I have found that they can be anywhere from dismal to superb. A recent favorite was The History Museum of Burke County, NC. Founded twenty years ago, this museum has done a great job of organizing and presenting artifacts from the region. I was able to spend a good two hours with a volunteer docent who was not only knowledgeable, but was chatty and open to discussion about the displays.

Burke County is east of where I live, in the foothills of the Appalachians. It is located on Cherokee and Catawba land, which is acknowledged with artifacts from both nations. There is also a good display about the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain, which was not fought here, but in Burke County is one of the major mustering grounds for the Overmountain Boys who defeated the British and Loyalists who fought that battle. There is also a Civil War room, which seems to be devoid of sentimental “lost cause” memorabilia. And of course, there is the ever-present World War Two display.

I have visited enough history museums and have seen enough old guns to last me a lifetime. Not my interest, but a good museum has a good variety of stuff so that almost anyone can find things of interest. On this count, The History Museum of Burke County really delivers.

They have also done a great job of showing documentation. Nothing explains a garment like showing the original owner wearing in it. And what a great photo! (Please excuse the misspelled word!)

One mistake that I’ve found local museums sometimes make is that they fail to properly document items that come into the collection. It’s really hard to backtrack and try to figure out who gave what years later. But this museum has properly recorded acquisitions and they have a good policy of adding new things to the collection.

If you know anything about North Carolina, you know this was textile country. The US textile industry started in New England where the source of power, the fall line, was close to the centers of population. After the Civil War, manufacturers found they could produce textiles more cheaply in the South, close to the cotton fields and to cheaper labor. Steam power made being near the falls unnecessary. By the turn of the twentieth century textiles were king in North Carolina, especially in the central part of the state, the Piedmont.

Burke County is a good example. I have already written about Shadowline lingerie which was made there, but it is just one example. Glen Alpine is a village that was home to a sock factory, Glen Alpine Knitting Mills.

This is a sock machine.

Buster Brown was primarily a children’s shoe company, but they also had a line of clothing that was made in Burke County.

There are also quite a few garments worn by local people . This little girl’s dress was made for eight year old Elanor Hildabrand in 1884. She never got to wear it as she died of a nose bleed before the dress was finished. The dress was saved as a remembrance.

I’m not a fan of textiles behind glass, but this presentation woks okay for me.

This men’s bathing suit from the 1920s was in an exhibit on a local lake and state park. Nice, but the interesting thing to me was the catalog behind his hand.

It’s a 1923 catalog from Bradley Knit Wear. On the back cover it was stamped with the name of a local store.

Another garment with a local provenance was this wedding dress. It was worn in 1934 by bride Bina Rollins for her marriage to Wayne Hitt. Made by her sister Lillian, the dress is documented in the wedding photos.

I love a good athletic sweater, and sometimes we get lucky and find the name of the wearer inside. In this case, we even have a photo. Worn by cheerleader Mahala Powell in 1962.

This sweet little kid’s sailor suit was for a little boy. Unlike most of the artifacts here, this one had no information.

This dress has a very interesting history. It was made in 1947 for the wedding of Elvira Jane Holt. Originally the dress was white silk imported from France. During g the Civil Was the dress was shoved up the house’s chimney to save it from raiders in the area. The dress was later remodeled and dyed, supposedly with poke berries. I know poke berries, and the color is right, but how did they get itto dye so evenly?

The museum even has a portrait of Elvira Jane.

And what would a Southern Appalachian museum be without a moonshine still?


Filed under Uncategorized

Majestic + Warhol, Circa 1960

The power of the internet never fails to amaze me. I recently got an email from online friend Betts. She was sending an article she thought I’d be interested in concerning an exhibition of Andy Warhol designed fabric from the 1950s and early 60s. I knew he designed prints before his artist days, when he was a mere illustrator for magazines and ads and… fabrics.

What I wasn’t prepared for was spotting a fabric that I have had in my collection since 2010.

See the article at Studio International.com.

According to the exhibition catalog, this fabric dates to 1958 – 59. That makes sense. The former owner remembered that she bought it in the early 60s. The shirt was made by Majestic, which was primarily a maker of women’s blouses and shirts, back in the days when manufacturers often specialized in one type of garment. Interestingly, there is a Majestic shirt in this print in the exhibition, but the design is different.

I had always wondered what the fiber content of this shirt was, and the catalog cleared that up for me. It’s lycron, a long-forgotten synthetic. It looks like silk, but feels more like acetate. It’s wonderfully smooth.

Now I’m wondering how many more Warhol prints are out there. The book documents almost forty different prints, with some of them being printed in several different colorways. That nautical print in the article came in a smaller version and in different colorways. It’s one for the “in search of” list.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Blue Book of Silks de Luxe, 1923

Look hard at this cover illustration and you might see that it’s a depiction of a display in a silks trade show. Or maybe you don’t see it, but take my word that this is the Mallinson Silks booth at the International Silk Exposition in 1923. The book, or rather, magazine was probably given away in the Mallinson’s booth.

I found this recently at the Liberty Antiques Festival, and it reminded me why I love real world, as opposed to virtual, shopping. I doubt that none of my regular searches for sportswear related ephemera would ever have found this gem online. But in a booth in a show, I picked it up, due to the interesting design, and then the word “silk”. Still, I was not prepared for the treasures within.

There are thirty pages of the latest designs, all featuring Mallinson products. And while we don’t usually associate silk with sportswear, Mallinson used the popular sportswoman to great effect.

Yes, swimsuits, or rather, bathing suits, or sunbathing suits, were sometimes made of silk in the 1920s. I love how they styled this one with the scarf tied on her head, and the bathing shoes.

Silk for hiking? Yes, according to Mallinson, but in reality most hiking knickers of this era were made from cotton twill or wool tweed for cool weather. But with those shoes and white stockings, I suspect the “hike” was more like a walk around a park.

This white silk polo ensemble is just bizarre, and appears like it was worn as a movie costume. I hope so.

Of course it’s not entirely about sportswear. Many of the dresses shown feature more than a little of the “exotic”, Oriental”, and “Egyptian”, greatly inspired by the recent discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

Although we tend to think of the 1920s as an era of short skirts, in 1923 skirts were just a couple of inches above the ankle.

The Latest from Paris.

“The turban – much draped – in brilliant, scintillating silks – heralds the vogue of everything Egyptian,”

The back cover is even more colorful than the front.


Filed under Uncategorized

Nautical Flags Skirt, 1957

I had been looking for this particular skirt for years when last month I spotted it for sale on Instagram.

I first saw this one years ago in a 1957 Seventeen magazine, and then several years ago in the red and blue colorway mentioned in the ad. I wanted it, but it was sadly priced beyond what I was willing to pay. As I mentioned in a post in April, the prices of novelty print skirts are cooling somewhat. I was able to get this one at a price that I felt was fair to both seller and buyer.

My skirt is not identical to the one in the ad. The ad shows a pleated waist, while mine is gathered. It’s not uncommon to find fabrics from this era being used by more than one manufacturer. This might have even been available to home sewers.

The week after I got the skirt, I found this embroidered cashmere sweater. How could I resist? Again, decorated cashmere seems to have dropped in price, and this was a very nice deal.

I don’t talk much about prices here because I feel it is up to the seller to determine what they want moneywise. There has been some online chatter lately about sellers being “unethical” because they buy things cheaply, and then sell them for much more. I feel like if a seller has priced an item I want for more than I am willing to pay, then I will just have to wait and see if I can find the item later for a price that fits my budget. The truth is, there are very few one-of-a-kind vintage items. Most were mass produced by the hundreds, if not thousands.

I fear that cheaply made modern clothing has messed up how we think of the value of clothing in general. Cheap textiles and foreign production in which workers are not paid a living wage contribute to the problem. We need to be more thoughtful about the textiles we consume. I think a good starting place is to buy less, but of a higher quality. I mean, how many paper thin tee shirts does one need anyway?


Filed under Uncategorized

Separating the Artist from the Art

I am suffering from Karl Lagerfeld overload; since Monday’s Met Gala more ink about him has been spilled since he died in 2019. The theme of the Costume Institute’s major exhibition is Lagerfeld, and so he was the theme of the gala as well.

I want to start by saying that over the years, I really have loved Lagerfeld’s designs. His 2013 pre-fall metiers d’art show is my all-time favorite fashion show. You may remember it as the one with the Scottish theme, set in an old castle with swirling snow and mysterious atmosphere.

And so much of the work he did in the early 2000s was beautiful and influential. I remember gasping when I saw a couture suit from 2003 at the Mint Museum in Charlotte. The suit was deconstructed, and then reconstructed using gold mesh. Other designs in the same season looked like the tweed was melting toward the hem. The next year unfinished hems were everywhere.

Still, I was a bit perturbed when the Met announced this year’s theme. It’s not that Lagerfeld didn’t have a long and distinguished career. He did. But so much of what he did was based on the aesthetic of whatever line he was working on. He took the Chanel trademarks to whole new level, but at the end of the day, they were Chanel’s, not Karl’s. His clothes for Chloe looked like what one wanted from Chloe. But the clothes that bore the label that read “Karl Lagerfeld” were, to my eyes, a bit frumpy and boring.

I’m not the one who gets to determine who gets a one man show. That’s Anna Wintour’s job. She liked Karl, and so here we are, four years after his death with 200 of his best designs on view at the Met. I’ve seen photos, and can say it is stunning, even if so many of them are on ledges above eye level.

But it seems to me that when compared to the other subjects of single designer shows at the Met, Lagerfeld is just not in the same league. In recent years we have had Paul Poiret, Rei Kawakubo, Alexander McQueen, and Charles James. And the 2005 exhibition, House of Chanel, actually featured many looks from Lagerfeld.

One big debate in fashion exhibition circles has been, “Is fashion art?” Of course, the folks at the Costume Institute will give a firm yes to that question. The chief curator, Andrew Bolton goes to great lengths to give wordy, intellectual, interviews, and the overwrought show notes make even the most dedicated follower of fashion have crossed eyes.

So why, this year, does Bolton insist that this show is just about the clothes, and not the maker himself? Why has there been so much said to try and separate Lagerfeld’s persona from the clothing he designed?

I’m guessing that Wintour and Bolton thought that people have such short memories that we can’t recall what a disagreeable person Lagerfeld was. I’ll not go into all the ugliness that came out of his mouth, especially in his later years, but you can read any of the many articles written, questioning why the Costume Institute chose to honor a person who expressed so much hate. Did I mention he was Anna Wintour’s friend?

And even though Bolton insists that the show is not about Karl the man, there are traces of him everywhere. The exhibition has his shoes on display. Visitors are treated to a look at several dozen of his i-phones. The gift store is full of products that feature his image. People who paid the $50,000 to attend the Met Gala were instructed to be inspired by Karl, and to even channel him in their dress.

So what about the teachable moment? Why is the Costume Institute ignoring the elephant in the room? If fashion truly is ART, why can’t there be an honest conversation around the ugly human who created beautiful clothes?


Filed under Uncategorized

Shadowline Lingerie at the History Museum of Burke County, NC

On a recent trip to the piedmont of North Carolina, I stopped in at the History Museum of Burke County in Morganton. The museum is about to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, and for an institution with such a short history, I was really impressed. I’ll be showing off the entire museum later, but today I want to write about a company that was a major part of the Burke County story – Shadowline.

Shadowline was started in 1946 by Sherrod Salsbury, and the company remained in the hands of the Sherrod family until 2009. The company is still in business, but like so many American companies, the products are no longer made in the USA.

Shadowline gained a reputation for producing conservative, high quality nylon tricot lingerie. If a product sold well, it remained in production for years. I imagine they did not bother to try to compete with more fashionable lingerie companies like Vasserette. They did not have to. Shadowline had a loyal following. To many, it was simply the best money could buy.

My grandmother was a loyal Shadowline customer. For Christmas and birthdays, a slip or gown from Shadowline was sure to please her. When she left her home in her eighties to live with a daughter, in cleaning out her house we found dozens of Shadowline boxes with the contents intact, never worn. All of it was in her favorite color, pink.

Because the museum was in operation when Shadowline left North Carolina, they were able to take possession of some great artifacts, including samples, mannequins, sewing stations, and sales literature. They even have some of the original patterns.


Filed under Uncategorized