Two Birds with One Stone – Zippers and Tweed

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?

15 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Vintage Sewing

15 responses to “Two Birds with One Stone – Zippers and Tweed

  1. Hooray! So glad it arrived safely! I knew it would go to a good home, and it was too cool to just leave there in the thrift store. If wool didn’t make me so itchy I “wool’d” have loved to keep it, the details in the way it was constructed were very impressive. Glad you were able to flesh out the history of it, Lizzie – you’re a wonderful resource for all of us!

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  2. edgertore

    i love this….and i have a hat that is almost the same wool exactly!

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  3. Clutching mah pearls! I can’t even see the whole dress, but I love it. The lining is also incredibly chic. Thanks for this awesome discovery, Beth and for sending it to Lizzie’s Carolina Research Emporium. How about we all take my time machine out for a spin and stop at Carol’s home/shop? I need a few new tweeds and a lap rug would suit my home, I’m sure.

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  4. Donna Bogert

    Breathless….

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  5. That tweed is absolutely beautiful!

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  6. Beautiful! Love the story behind it.

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  7. So great that you write about Carol Brown! Living in Vermont in the 60’s/70’s it was hard to come by beautiful fabrics to sew with. My mother made trips over the mountains to Carol Brown’s house to buy her tweed fabrics. As a teenager in the 70’s I loved her batiks and Indian fabrics. It was always a treat to visit Carol Brown. It was so cool that she included a woven label with your purchase. Thanks for the memories and a bit of history that I didn’t know!

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  8. pamela franklin

    I have a Carol Brown short sleeved, cropped,fringed down the front and lower edge, jacket. My mother had a friend who wintered in Florida where we live. She gave it to my mother in 1968. I have it now and wear it when we have a cold snap. I’ll be wearing it tomorrow. I just got it out and decided to google Carol Brown.

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  9. Graham Wynne

    So interesting to read this! I stayed with Carol and Laurie, her nephew, in Vermont in about 1972 while I was a visiting student from Ireland with a summer job in Boston. My great aunts Emily, Veronica and Winnifred Wynne ran the Avoca Handweavers having resurrected the business in the 1920’s after they returned from the first World War with no jobs and no prospects of husbands either. Carol was their USA agent and she visited Avoca most years on buying trips. She bought Irish handwoven products from other weaving firms but I think she had a soft spot for Avoca and their friendship endured for many, many years!

    I remember many cold and drafty lunches in the enormous dining room in Tigroney House in Avoca with just four of us at one end of a table that probably could have comfortably sat twenty! The three sisters worked very well together, each having her own strength in one or more areas of the business. One of their talents was how they combined colors that very often reflected what they saw in nature. The tweeds were almost indestructible and I’m sorry that I don’t have a vintage Avoca Handweavers jacket to wear in memory of them sometimes! They were wonderful, highly inteligent, versatile women – way ahead of their time in terms of “Liberation”. They never married.

    My parents, Pat and Una Wynne took over the business in 1959 (after Emily died and Win and V could no longer manage things due to age and declining health) and saved it from extinction. They kept it going as best they could, and continued to employ weavers until a property developer named Charlie Houlihan purchased Tigroney House, the land and the business. Soon after that the Hilliary and Donald Pratt bought the Avoca Handweavers from Charlie and with their brilliant business and design sense turned it into one of the best known brands in Ireland, now it is simply known as “Avoca”. There is not very much handwoven product made now in Avoca, Co Wicklow but the “Old stuff” is still much loved and used by thousands of people world wide who either bought it or were given items for wedding presents!

    I have quite a good collection of rugs and bed spreads from the last period of Wynne ownership and use several of the rugs to keep warm while watching TV!

    I hope there are still many who enjoy the amazing fabric. Perhaps some of it may be re- tailored to fit a new generation of aficionados!

    Graham Wynne

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  11. Rhonda

    I Just found a beautiful Carol Brown summer wrap with the same label today, in a thrift shop, in Laguna Beach, Ca with the most beautiful fabric ever. I googled her name and here I am. I would love to share a pic with you.

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