Vintage/Modern Mash-up Ski Pajamas

I’ve always got big plans for things to sew, but when it comes right down to it I’m very practical in my choices.  I recently found myself in need of a new pair of warm pajamas, so I went to my storehouse of fabrics to see what was suitable.  I’ve shown the pink and white ski print here before in an attempt to know for sure whether the fabric is new or is vintage.  Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten a definite answer, because some people say “vintage” and other insist it is “modern.”

I had only about half a yard of the fabric, but I decided that all I needed to do was pair it with some modern flannel in similar colors and theme.  That was easier thought than done because as we all know, good fabrics are getting harder and harder to find, and I simply cannot bring myself to buy fabrics online.

After searching for most of the winter, I came across the black with snowflakes design you see here.  I had almost given up the search when I found it stuck in a corner at a local quilting fabric shop.  They had a small selection of cotton flannels, and so I could not believe my luck.  It was exactly what I needed.

I make a lot of pajama pants for myself and my husband, so I planned to use my trusty New Look 6838.  (In case you don’t remember, this is the pattern where I located a marijuana cigarette stuck in the bottom of the envelope.)  I usually pair my pants with a soft cotton knit top for sleeping, but I also wanted to make a jacket from the two fabrics.  I did not have a pattern for what I was picturing, but it occurred to me that the plain bodice of a dress would work.  I took the bodice from a 1960s shirt dress, Simplicity 6435, and cut it a bit longer.  There were darts but I did not stitch them.  The sleeve is the one with the pattern, but cut longer.

All the edges I finished with contrasting bias.  Because this set will be getting a lot of wear and washing, all the seams and edges are completely enclosed.

Not a pretty shot, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Because there is so little difference in the front and the back of the pants, I stitched a little X the show the center back.

I’ve been wearing these for over a month now, and whether or not the ski print is vintage or not, there is a very big difference in the way the two fabric feel.  The ski print is very soft  but the snowflake is still quite stiff even after multiple washings.  Maybe that is due to the black dye, but it just seems that the ski print fabric is so much nicer.

I’ll not be treating you to a photo of me wearing my night clothes, but you can get an idea of how they look here on the fake half girl.



Filed under Vintage Sewing

Vintage Miscellany – April 19, 2015

This weekend my Instagram feed has been full of a London event, the Tweed Run.  Here in the US this type of event is generally called a Tweed Ride, as it is an event on bicycles.  The point is to dress in traditional biking attire, and that includes tweed jackets and knickers.  Women often dress in a version of the costume that includes a skirt.  It looks like a lot of fun, with a stop for tea and a picnic at the end.

*   It looks a lot more fun than the Lilly Pulitzer for Target launch, which was three hours ago as I write this at 11:00 am.  The Target website broke and racks in stores were swept clean in minutes.  There are already 600 hundred listings for the merchandise on ebay.  #LillyforTarget is trending on Twitter, and there are a lot of angry people criticizing both Target and the greedy ebay resellers.  I’m really scratching my head over the entire thing.

*   Inside Out: Revealing Clothing’s Hidden Secrets is a newly opened exhibition at the Kent State University Museum, in which visitors are given a rare look at the interiors of historic clothing.  Such a fantastic idea.

*  There was a sale of clothing and memorabilia from Gone with the Wind held yesterday.  As expected, the highlight was a dress worn by Vivien Leigh in the film.

*   A teacher and grad students at the Courtauld Institute of Art maintain an interesting blog.  On a recent study trip to New York they visited the archives at Conde Nast.  It’s an amazing collection of photographs and documents from the publishing company’s past.  One sentence broke my heart:

This is not to say that other contemporary fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar lack academic importance: more so that the material bound to each issue was not deemed worthy of preservation back then, in fact much of Bazaar’s archive – including prints by Richard Avedon, Man Ray and Louise Dahl-Wolfe – was destroyed in the 1980s.

*   Tartan Day, April 6, has come and gone, but this great article about the history tartan remains.

*   In this age of everything being shared on the internet, it might not be a good idea to react when others make light of your jewelry choices.  I do love the phrase “twitter tantrum,” though.

*   The question has been asked, “Should we continue to focus on what Hillary Clinton wears?”

*   And here’s why we should care about what Jaden Smith is wearing.

*   Lucky Brand messed up a discount code that allowed people to place orders for two pairs of jeans for 2 cents!  Of course when the mistake was noticed the company cancelled the orders.  And of course that angered the entitled consumers of the world.

*   How does one curate a cup of tea?

*  And finally, here is an interesting story about the relationship between advertisers and the media.  Buzzfeed was found to be removing articles from its site that put its advertisers in a bad light.  After some bad publicity, the articles were reinstated, but it does point out the power of the advertising dollar.

I’m approached all the time by people wanting me to feature their products on this blog, or to join their “rewards” program for sending my readers to the sites they partner with.   I understand people wanting to make a living at blogging, but when money starts changing hands, the blog then becomes a magazine with paid content.  To paraphrase Bill Cunningham, if you don’t take their money they can’t tell you want to say.  I am way past the point of letting others tell me what to say.


Filed under Vintage Miscellany

1930s Superose Outing Jacket

Last week I talked about the joys of finding a complete outfit.  Today I have just a single piece to share, an outing jacket from Supak and Sons of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  According to newspaper reports in 1954, the company had been making outdoor garments in Minneapolis since 1933.  In 1954 the company relocated to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.  This was during a time when many companies moved south to find a work force that was cheaper and that was not unionized.  Think of it as the first step in off-shoring.

I loved the jacket when I first saw it, but I’ll have to admit that it was the label that sold me on this one.

While this jacket was not labeled as a ski jacket, the company advertised itself as a maker of snow and ski attire.  I can just picture this pretty jacket on the slopes, with maybe dark green wool ski pants, or even brown ones.

I spend quite a bit of my collection time looking at how ensembles were put together in the past.  Ski jackets and pants were sold in matching sets, but the jackets and pants were also sold as separates.  It’s up to me to try and figure out what most likely would have been paired with this jacket by a woman planning a skiing trip.

The color is a bit too orange in this photo.

There is just a hint of extra fullness in the sleeve cap, which tends to say 1936 to 1937 or so.  The presence of a zipper is also within that time frame.

Here’s a nice feature – the pockets are lined in cotton flannelette which is much warmer than the acetate linings and pockets so commonly used today.

Added:  In 1945 the owners of Supak and Sons were listed in a trademark filing as  Henry Supak, Nathan Supak, Sophie Supak, Maurice M. Kleyman, and Thedore Ptashne.


Filed under Vintage Clothing, Winter Sports

New York Styles, Spring & Summer, 1912

This 1912 catalog is a bit early to be a reference for most of the things in my clothing collection, but after spotting it at a market recently I decided to buy it anyway.  First of all, it was quite cheap.  But more importantly, it is on the cusp of where my collecting starts, around 1915.  It never hurts to know about what came before the eras that interest one most.

I’m unfamiliar with the Greenhut – Siegel Cooper Company of New York, but just from looking at the catalog it appears that they sold nice mid-range clothing, primarily for women, but with a smaller selection for children and men.  A quick internet search was very enlightening.

I learned that Siegel-Cooper was a huge New York City department store, opening in 1896 on Sixth Avenue as part of the famous Ladies Mile shopping area.  In 1904 the business was sold to Joseph Greenhut, but the shopping district was moving uptown, and  Greenhut – Siegel Cooper was never really successful.  The business folded in 1918.  The large building was then appropriated for use as a military hospital.  Over the years the building was converted to loft space, but today it still stands and is again home to retail establishments.

The fashions of 1912 are very different from the WWI era clothing of just a few years later.  It was the era of the narrow-hemmed “hobble skirts”, a fashion hoisted upon the world by Paris designer Paul Poiret.  While the skirts above are not very extreme in the style, you can see how an almost floor-length skirt might need to be a bit fuller in order to actually walk in it.

The dresses on this page are for teen girls and very young women, and so the hems are a bit shorter.

To me, the most striking aspect of these fashions are the hats worn with them.  The “Most Stylish and Becoming Dress Hat” seen above is large enough to do double duty a a bed for a small dog.  I’ve not pictured them, but there were several pages of  “hair goods” which were designed to beef up the wearer’s own hair so the hats would not flop over.  The buyer had to send in a sample of her hair to ensure a proper match.

This was also the era of the lingerie dress.  Dresses offered ranged from $1.98 ($46.94 today) to $12.98 ($307.75).  The more elaborate the dress, the greater the cost.  The third dress from the left was made of embroidered net and was the most expensive lingerie dress in this catalog.

There was a page of bathing suits, some of wool, and others of cotton.  Not seen are the bloomers that were included with each dress.

While there was no mention of sports dresses or skirts, there were illustrations that suggested that certain styles were suitable for tennis and golf.

This great weskit or vest was not offered for sale at all.

There was a page of sweaters for sale.  Note the golf clubs and the tennis racquet.  These sweaters were considered to be a very casual style, suitable for sports and outings.  Today it is nearly impossible to find knitwear from this era.


Filed under Proper Clothing

Antique Fabric Swatches Need a Date

One of the reasons I keep returning to my local Goodwill Outlet bins is because I never know what will be found there.  It truly is a giant treasure hunt, with some people hunting for gold in the book bins and others hunting for silver in the toy bins.  Like me, there are those who are looking for textile treasures, so I have to really keep my eyes open and ready to spot something interesting.  On a recent trip I found a plastic baggie full of what looked to be at first glance, swatches of reproductions of antique fabrics.  I threw the bag in my buggy anyway to give it a closer look.

A closer examination showed that every swatch was different and they were all the same size.  A previous owner had written “$5″ on the baggie, and so these were left over from a sale of some sort.

While examining the pieces I noticed that on the backs were remnants of glue and even little scraps of paper.  These swatches had been torn out of a sample book, was my guess.

And one was still clinging to this piece of very old paper. At this point I was convinced that these swatches were actually antique fabrics.  My guess is that they were attached to a sample book or cards, and that someone removed them to use as quilt or crafting pieces.  That’s the sort of act that just breaks my heart, as it removes the object from some very vital information.  Who made these fabrics?  When were they marketed?  Are they American in origin?

It’s likely I’ll never know the answers to all my questions, but I’m sure there are some of you who can help me narrow down a date for them.  Using the information and photos in Eileen Jahnke Trestain’s book, Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800 -1960 I’ve placed them in her category of 1880 through 1910.  I’d like something a bit more precise.

I was amazed at the sharpness of the colors…

And the modern look to some of the designs.

There was even an early novelty print, in the form of card suits.

There were several prints that were made in different colorways.

About half of the swatches have a black background, but there are also some pretty, light prints in pink and white.

And then, as now, black and white prints were a favored combination.

So please, if you can shed some light on the age of these lovely little pieces, post and enlighten this mid-century girl.  I’d also like suggestions on what to do with them.  Should I put them back in a book where they belong?  Pactchwork is out of the question!


Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Southern Textiles

The Milliner and Her Hats

Sylvia on the right, 1920s


I received some more photos of  Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld, the designer behind the Suzy label, from her daughter.  It seemed a bit odd that I wrote about this important milliner and she was wearing a hat in none of the photos!  Thanks to daughter Susan, we can now see that Sylvia knew how to sport a hat.



1930s or early 40s


Late 1940s or early 50s


In the last photo we see Sylvia wearing an uncharacteristically fussy hat.  I wonder what she thought about the hat of the woman sitting across the table from her.  Now that’s a hat!

I want to thank Susan Novenstern again for all the information about her mother and for the fantastic photos of her. Her generous sharing adds to the historical record and helps eliminate confusion about all the Suzy millinery labels.

This points out once again just how important the internet has become in doing historical research.  Susan found my original post on her mother’s label after someone posted a link on her facebook page.  Others have found my posts after doing a Google search on a family member who was in the fashion business.  It is just amazing the connections that are being made today that were impossible in the last century.

For those of us who blog and who post in other places on the internet, we just never know who might be reading.  It’s exciting that information can be so easily found and shared.

Sorry that there are no links today, but I only had a few to share so I decided to wait a week before doing the post.   If any of you run across an interesting story about clothing or textiles, I always appreciate an email with the link .


Filed under Designers, Rest of the Story, Viewpoint

Vactor’s Out-door Girl Slack Trousers

This Vactor’s Out-door Girl trousers ad dates from sometime in the mid-1930s, judging by the style of the shirt, the style of the slacks (and the fact that the button instead of zip),  and the hair style.  I actually have a sewing pattern from the same time with a shirt that is identical to the one the “model” is wearing.  Another clue is that sanforization was patented in 1930 by Sanford Lockwood Cluett.  By the mid 1930s the process was being widely used to eliminate shrinkage in cotton fabrics.

I’d never heard of the D.C. Vactor company, but I was able to find out a little bit online.  Because the ad told me that the company was located in Cleveland, Ohio, I was able to attempt a Google search that produced some results.

The first mention I found of Vactor’s was in a 1909 Sheldon’s Manufacturing Trade magazine, a periodical for the “cutting-up trade”.  I’m assuming that was a funny double entrendre.  At least I hope so.  All I learned was that Vactor’s was a maker of pants, and was located on Saint Clair Avenue in what was once a manufacturing center in Cleveland.  By the late 1910s and early 1920s, there were numerous references to the company in various clothing manufacturing trade magazines.  The last reference I found to D.C. Vactor was that his widow made a donation to a charity in his memory in 1944.

The little swatches of fabric really help one visualize how the slack trousers actually looked.  The fabric is a twill and is quite lightweight, much lighter than denim.  This does not seem to be a fancy department store product.  The price of $2.45 ($43 in today’s dollar) plus the type of fabric seem to point to this being the sort of thing that might have been sold in a small town general store or a cheaper department store.

Ads like this one were mailed to prospective buyers at stores, or were dropped off by the thousands of traveling sales representatives who paid calls to stores to take orders for their companies’ products.



Filed under Collecting, Sportswear