1920s Sacony Knit Sports Dress

One of the hard things about collecting antique and vintage sportswear is that so much of what was made did not survive.  These were clothes meant to be worn in rough conditions, and often times it really shows on the survivors.  Hiking clothes have impossible to remove stains.  Rubber swim caps and shoes have disintegrated over the years due to poor storage.  And wool swimsuits and other woolen articles are commonly full of holes.

Several months ago I was delighted to see the above dress on Instagram.  The poster was unsure as whether or not she’d be selling it, but eventually she did post it for sale.  There was a long line of interested buyers, but the relatively high price plus the presence of multiple moth holes discouraged most.  After a few emails back and forth, the seller and I came to an agreement as to price, and the dress became mine, holes and all.

As a collector, I’ve come to accept a few holes in older vintage woolens.  As long as they can be stabilized and do not detract terribly from the garment when it is displayed, I can deal with them, especially in a piece as rare as this one.  Because for every several hundred beaded 1920s frocks encountered, you might come across one sports dress.  And very few of those are knit.

The neck trim and the faux-ties were constructed separately and were then attached.  The very deep arm holes meant that a blouse had to be worn beneath.  I’ve paired it with a v-neck silk blouse I already had in my collection.

The dress was made by Sacony, which was a brand of S. Augstein & Co. The earliest reference I’ve found to S. Augstein was an entry in a 1918 Fairchild’s Womens Wear Directory, but I think the business was started earlier due to the fact that company namesake Siegmund Augstein died in 1913.  In 1920 Siegmund’s son-in-law, August Egerer, tried unsuccessfully to register the Sacony trademark, as it was judged to be too similar to another knit maker, Saxony.

In 1922 the business warranted a new factory and office building in Elmhurst, NY, where the entire operation including knitting and sewing were under one roof.  This is most likely where my dress was made.  The company continued as a maker of knit sportswear and swimsuits through the 1930s, but at some point, the products changed from being all knit, to being cut and sewn of woven fabrics.  Their niche was still sportswear.  I have several cotton pieces from Sacony made in the 1950s.

With details like this, I can forgive a few holes.  Okay, more than a few, but in the end it looks quite presentable.

Here’s a better view of the stitched-in pleats.  The skirt was wider than the bodice, and then was pleated to fit, forming the straight silhouette of the mid 1920s.

And here is the back neckline.

So when would the 1920s woman have worn this dress?  My guess is when she was playing golf.

20 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports

20 responses to “1920s Sacony Knit Sports Dress

  1. Congratulations on your find! I love the carefully thought-out color blends in the knit — such variety from just four colors! And the detail of a tan+white blend on the knit that binds the neckline — so much subtler than plain white and maroon. I’d love to see this on a body. Question: It looks as though the shoulder straps were cut separately(?)

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    • The shoulder straps are odd. There is a piece added that goes over the shoulder, as you can see in the front and the back views. Maybe the pattern turned out not to be long enough, and so was altered. Whatever, it happened at the factory and not after purchase.

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  2. Yes! Congrats! Never see a knit dress left especially from 20’s – and Sacony!

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  3. Justine

    Wow, it is amazing. Question though, if the son was unsuccessful in getting the rand trademarked then why does it say trade mark on the tag?

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  4. A sparkly flapper dress, however fabulous, is always a bit of a fantasy. Removed from reality. But a dress like this evokes an actual, living person, doing something we ourselves might do. Everyday clothes — whether humble work wear or fine sports wear — make vintage come alive, connecting us to the past through clothing. Dresses like this one are just so “real.” Can’t think of a better way to express it. I love it. Great find, Lizzie!

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  5. What a wonderful find! I really love that–I would wear a style like this today! The details are just lovely, as are the colors.

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  6. That’s a really cool find. I’m glad it’s found a home with you. Do you ‘quarantine’ new-to-you woollen items in your freezer or treat them in some way before putting them near the rest of your collection?

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    • I do freeze all woolens that come into my collection, especially those that are already damaged. There is some debate about how effective that freezing is in terms of killing any left over larva, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

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  7. So that’s what you are using Instagram for! I love the ties.

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  8. Christina

    I don’t think I have ever seen a knitted dress from that period with such deep armholes. Would like to see the underside of what looks like a turned back edge. Lovely pattern.

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  9. What an excellent, beautiful find! Knit + stripes + 1920s, it doesn’t get much better.

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  10. Jessamyn

    I wonder if you’re familiar with the felting method of conserving moth-holed wools that are meant for display only? There is a wonderful piece on it here — it might help, if the holes are bothersome.

    https://unframed.lacma.org/2013/12/25/winter-wool-and-moths-repairing-a-museum-grade-textile

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  11. Wow! This is amazing! I love the detail at the neckline and the coloring.

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  12. Pingback: Fashions on Ice and Snow (1940) | The Archival Eye

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