It’s nice knowing that people are thinking about me when they go in search of vintage treasures. Recently Beth at Retro Roadmap was out thrift shopping when a lovely vintage dress caught her eye. It was tweed, made in Ireland, but sold through a shop in Vermont. Then she noticed a detail about the construction – the dress had both a metal zipper in the back and two nylon zippers in the sleeves.
She immediately thought of my recent post on the advent of the nylon zipper, and because she can’t leave a great dress hanging unloved in a thrift, she took it home with her. Then, being the generous person that she is, she arranged to send the dress to me. The dress arrived today, and I’ve been consumed with figuring out the story behind it.
Thanks to a site called iPutney.com I was able to learn the story of Carol Brown. Born Lucy Caroline Brown in 1889, she became interested in Irish woolens during a bicycle tour of Ireland in 1926. She became friends of the Wynne sisters of the Avoca Handweavers in County Wicklow, Ireland. Carol began importing the woolen yardage which she sold through a shop in Boston. In 1937 she moved to Putney, Vermont and opened the shop in her home.
There she sold a variety of woolen goods – Irish tweed yard goods, woolen blankets and lap rugs, and handknit scarves, caps and sweaters. Her interest in natural fibers led her to expand into other fabrics from around the world, such as fine Swiss cottons and Thai silks. The shop was mentioned in a 1971 newsletter from the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women, in which the lap rugs were highly recommended!
Brown became a community leader and a patron of the arts in her adopted town. She died in 1990, just shy of her 101th birthday.
The dress dates from the late 1960s or early 70s. By then the nylon zipper had been around for around ten years, but as you can see, it was not universally used. It’s possible that the sewer opted for a metal zipper because of the heavy weight of the tweed. At any rate, it shows nicely how the use of the two types of zippers overlapped.
And what about that tweed? Isn’t it stunning?