You want to know what makes a collector’s heart sing? The discovery of an object she never knew existed! The romper above has the Man O’War label, which I’d known only as a maker of middy blouses and gymsuits. But gymsuits weren’t made in cute cotton floral prints. So what’s the story?
Fortunately, the seller, Belvedere Vintage Wear had done her homework, and when she posted a photo of the romper on Instagram, she also posted the ad above. It came from a 1930 issue of The Dance Magazine, so it turns out this was a rehearsal garment.
The Man O’War label belonged to a Baltimore company, Branigan, Green & Co. According the the 1921 edition of The American Cloak and Suit Review, the company was recently formed as a maker of middys and gym attire. The owners were Edgar Green and Joseph Branigan, both of whom had worked for Morris and Co, the makers of Paul Jones Middys. I did however, find a reference to Branigan, Green & Co in a 1909 list of clothing manufacturers, under the category of middy blouses. Perhaps it is just the Man O’War label that was started in 1921.
In 1921, when the label was started, Man O’War was a household name, with the famous horse dominating racing in 1919 and 1920. Maybe Branigan and Green thought it would be a great name for their label, as it also had a nautical connection, being a type of ship. That is a ship on the label.
The structure is very similar to gymsuits of the period. It unbuttons at the shoulder, and the wearer steps into the garment. It is loose at the waist, but the illustrations in the ad show it being worn with a tie belt. For the photo I used a piece of bias tape, but a wider ribbon is needed.
The elastic in the legs is pretty much shot, so I’ll be replacing that. But that is pretty much all that this piece needs in order to made it dance-worthy.
This ad is from 1929, and featured Man O’War’s main product – gym attire. Maybe it was that by 1930 the middy was not as ubiquitous as it had been a few years before that caused Branigan, Green & Co to start branching out. By 1931 they were also producing a line of ski wear, Adirondack: the Real McCoy for Winter Sports, and miscellaneous sportswear under a label called Good Game. Over the years other labels were added. In 1955 they started a label for women’s and children’s sports separates called Sandpipers. As far as I can tell, the company lasted until 1969.