The Answer

I hope everyone enjoyed puzzling through yesterday’s vintage item what-is-it.  There were some really good educated guesses.  As I pointed out, this item has more than one use,  and all of them were actually brought up in your comments.

from the March, 1898 Glass of Fashion

This is indeed a dickey, or as it was sometimes called, a shield,  to go under a child’s sailor dress.  I love what Christina wrote in the comments, so I’m just going to copy her explanation:

I think this is a dickie or shield to be worn as part of a sailor suit for boys and girls. The sailor suits were worn by boys from c1840′s but became very popular later in the era after Prince Edward dressed his sons in sailor suits. I don’t know exactly when this style of dickie or shield was first seen but this example might be from the early 1900′s. So, for girls they are often seen being worn under a middy blouse with a skirt and the boys outfit originally copied the seaman’s uniform of the Royal Navy and they wore trousers.

This is a shield, and it was not only worn by children, but  by women as well.  Becca found this excellent page from an early 20th century catalog in Google books. These sailor suits for women relaxed into the middy, so I’m going to count Hollis’s answer as correct as well.


Many of the bathing suits before 1920 were sailing inspired, and often the top was very much like a middy.  Yes, these were used as modesty panels on bathing suits, so Mod Betty gets a nice pat on the back as well!

Here again, you see the same anchor with a rope motif embroidered onto a shield.  Sailing motifs in general were quite popular.  Most middies have one either embroidered to the fabric, or attached as an applique or a patch.  I’ve seen the appliques advertised for sale for women who sewed their own middies or bathing suits.

I really thought all the medical guesses were interesting, so I went looking for some vintage photos of nurses.  Nurses before 1920 or so did often wear a collar of this type, but it was attached to their apron.  Funny, I had not thought of a nurse’s dress at all until so many of you mentioned it, and then I began to wonder if there wasn’t something to it!



Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

6 responses to “The Answer

  1. Ah! This was great fun, Lizzie. Loved reading all the guesses, making one myself, and seeing these period illustrations.


  2. vertugarde

    That is a lovely Little Boys’ Sailor Dress illustration Lizzie. You probably know that the rope and anchor is technically called a fouled anchor and the big collars on the boys’ sailor suit are called jumper flaps.

    Your journal is beautifully put together Lizzie. Thank you for posting the Q!



  3. mei

    Hi Lizzie! I was wondering if you help me with a vintage-related query…

    Do you know how big a middle-class woman’s wardrobe would have been in the 1930s or 1940s? How many dresses, slips, and hats were considered standard in a wardrobe? What about upper-middle/upper class? I think people’s wardrobes were smaller, but I don’t know how small they really were. I am curious.



  4. Mei, You’ve inspired a post! Stay tuned.


  5. Christina, no, i did not know those things, so thinks for sharing.

    And thanks you and Joan for the kind words.


  6. Gail

    I had wondered if it was an ecclesiastic collar to be worn by a clergywoman under a suit jacket or robe. Of course there weren’t very many clergywomen in the early part of the 20th century and the applique, while similar to one of the symbols used by the Methodist church, would not be used on such a collar.

    By the way, my great-grandmother was an ordained Methodist minister in the late 1880’s.


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