Category Archives: Collecting

1920s Girl Power Tin Box

I somehow usually manage to limit any vintage purchases to clothing items for my collection or to print resources that might aid in research.  But sometimes an object so perfect that completely encapsulates my interests presents itself, and so it becomes part of my “archive.”  In this case it is this 1920s tin lunchbox.

That may seem to be an odd object to add to a vintage clothing collection, but with a theme this perfect, how could I say no.  As the vendor put it, “I’ve never seen so much 1920s girl power on one item.”  Neither had I.

For I’ve seen a lot of sports-themed decorated items that were designed for teenagers, but the great majority of them were geared toward boys.  There might sometimes be a token girl, cheering her boyfriend football hero from the sidelines, or maybe a shapely teen in a swimsuit, but the baseball player, the golfer, the racing driver would all be male.

The graphics on my new box put the girls front and center, and put boys in a secondary role.  This is obviously an item designed for girls, but it has none of the pink-tinged soft Hello Kitty motifs of products that are designed for girls today.  These are real girls who enjoy sports.  They are not portrayed as masculine girls, but they are shown to be strong girl competitors.  They are not trying to be boys, but are enjoying the freedoms given to girls in the twentieth century.

Interestingly, it was this generation of American girls who came of age in the 1920s that was the first to grow up knowing they would have the right to vote.*  Girls were growing up better educated and knowing they had opportunities that had been denied their mothers.

I’ve been reading a book written for teenagers about the battle for women’s right to vote, Petticoat Politics, by Doris Faber, published in 1967.  It was the type of book that I loved as a girl.  It showed that our rights were gained by hard work and perseverance.

I’m somewhat perplexed by young women today who claim they are not feminists.  But I think it is because they do not have a strong understanding of the history of women’s rights and because they mistakenly think that to be feminist is to be anti-male.   Maybe they should look to the young women on my tin box as role models.

Cooperation, not competition.

Just because there are no boys at the swimming hole does not mean that they can’t look cute.

Not only can she drive the race car, she can do it in style.

This independent girl finished her needlework pillow and promptly took it for a spin in her canoe.

Presenting the most non-aggressive basketball players ever!

*  Some states, starting with Wyoming in 1869, had already written into state law the right of women to vote.  There was nothing in the US Constitution that did not allow women to vote, as voting rules were left up to each state.  By the time the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, most women living in the West already had the vote.  With the passage of the 19th amendment all states were required to allow women to vote.

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Filed under Collecting, Too Marvelous for Words, Viewpoint

Harper’s Bazar, 1924

Today most people consider Vogue to be the queen of the fashion monthlies, but there was a time when Harper’s Bazar (later Bazaar) was the equal of any other fashion publication.  It is always a great treat to find older copies of Bazar, but these three just happily landed at my doorstep.

Back in the winter reader Susan Maresco wrote to ask my if I’d like to take some 1920s magazines off her hands.  I have a feeling she already knew I’d say yes.  In a few days two packages arrived, packed full of magazines from 1924 and 1925.  Among them are issues of The Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and these three issues of Harper’s Bazar.

Susan explained that these magazines came to her from her 84 year old friend, Tish.  When her stepmother, Meta Redden Thomas, died around thirty years ago, Tish took the magazines from Meta’s home.

From Susan:

Meta was a highly educated black woman who was probably born in the 1890s.  She had a law degree from Howard University and a master’s in math from Columbia University.  She took her degrees and returned to her home town of Baltimore where she taught at Douglas High for 40 years.  She remained single into her 40s when Tish’s father, Clarence Young, asked her to marry him and help him raise Tish, an only child.  Clarence was a busy lawyer in Washington, D.C. and wanted his daughter raised right after his beloved first wife died when Tish was only 7.  He knew Meta and liked her, considered her a kind, bright, good person, so he asked her to be his wife.  She loved Tish and raised her right. 

I love how Meta wrote her name on many of the magazine covers.  Perhaps she loaned them to friends and wanted to make sure she got them back.

Many thanks to Susan for the incredible gift, and to Tish for sharing Meta’s story.

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Filed under Collecting

Vactor’s Out-door Girl Slack Trousers

This Vactor’s Out-door Girl trousers ad dates from sometime in the mid-1930s, judging by the style of the shirt, the style of the slacks (and the fact that the button instead of zip),  and the hair style.  I actually have a sewing pattern from the same time with a shirt that is identical to the one the “model” is wearing.  Another clue is that sanforization was patented in 1930 by Sanford Lockwood Cluett.  By the mid 1930s the process was being widely used to eliminate shrinkage in cotton fabrics.

I’d never heard of the D.C. Vactor company, but I was able to find out a little bit online.  Because the ad told me that the company was located in Cleveland, Ohio, I was able to attempt a Google search that produced some results.

The first mention I found of Vactor’s was in a 1909 Sheldon’s Manufacturing Trade magazine, a periodical for the “cutting-up trade”.  I’m assuming that was a funny double entrendre.  At least I hope so.  All I learned was that Vactor’s was a maker of pants, and was located on Saint Clair Avenue in what was once a manufacturing center in Cleveland.  By the late 1910s and early 1920s, there were numerous references to the company in various clothing manufacturing trade magazines.  The last reference I found to D.C. Vactor was that his widow made a donation to a charity in his memory in 1944.

The little swatches of fabric really help one visualize how the slack trousers actually looked.  The fabric is a twill and is quite lightweight, much lighter than denim.  This does not seem to be a fancy department store product.  The price of $2.45 ($43 in today’s dollar) plus the type of fabric seem to point to this being the sort of thing that might have been sold in a small town general store or a cheaper department store.

Ads like this one were mailed to prospective buyers at stores, or were dropped off by the thousands of traveling sales representatives who paid calls to stores to take orders for their companies’ products.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

An Engineered Novelty Print, 1950s

Click to enlarge

 

What you are seeing above is one of two halves of a print that was designed to be made into a circle skirt.  Circle skirts were a huge fad in the 1950s and into the early years of the 1960s, and there are dozens and dozens of prints to be found.  Many are an all over print that the sewer cut the skirt from in regular fashion.  Some were border prints that were designed to be made into gathered or pleated versions of the skirt.  One could even buy pre-printed pie wedges that were sewn together to form the skirt.

But this is the first time I’d ever seen an actual half circle printed onto the fabric.  I got this from another collector who I found through Facebook, of all places.  I’ve finally found a use for Facebook – finding stuff to buy.

I know I don’t have to explain why this print had to be in my collection.  The ski theme combined with a passion for novelty prints made it easy to set up a deal for this print.

According to the other collector, she got this fabric from a seller in the United Kingdom.  I already thought that the print had a certain European look to it.

What made this really interesting was that one of the two pieces was stamped with the rectangle you see above.  For the life of me I could not figure out what language this was, but sharper eyes at the Vintage Fashion Guild pointed out that this was actually in English.

WARRANTED DYED ______
APPROPRIATE _____ & SDC
STANDARD COLOR FASTNESS
____________AND WASHING

SDC is the Society of Dyers and Colourists, which is a British group that dates back to the nineteenth century.  That knowledge does not help date the fabric, but it does mean that it was made in the UK.

UPDATED, (but still open to interpretation!):

WARRANTED DYED TO
APPROPRIATE  8 SI & SDC
STANDARD  OF FASTNESS TO
LIGHT AND WASHING

Unlike the printed wedge-shaped skirt pieces that were made in the United States, there are no instructions printed on this fabric.  It is possible that it came with instructions on paper, but if so, they have been lost.

Novelty prints are having a bit of a moment in the vintage world.  I started buying travel themed skirts about twelve years ago, and I never paid more than $35 for one.  Now they are bringing three or more times that, and there are many collectors who are always looking for the rarer and more desirable designs.  High on the list are two skirts that were licensed from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.  Both skirts were of the printed wedge variety.

Also highly desired are skirts made from fabrics designed by artist Saul Steinberg.  There prints are not signed, but all are stamped  “A Regulated Cotton – Never Misbehaves” in the selvage.

Of course, being highly desirable means that these prints are now being reproduced.  The Lady and the Tramp print is being made as a border print, and at least two companies are making clothes from modern adaptations of Saul Steinberg fabrics.

To see examples of the printed wedge fabrics and to see vintage catalog pages of novelty prints, there is a great Facebook media set.

I had planned to turn the fabric into a skirt, but now that I have it I think it is more interesting as fabric panels.

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Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints

Mid 1960s Nautical Ensemble

It’s no secret that I love a nautical look, and I especially love a vintage nautical outfit.  The shirt and pants above are from the mid 1960s, and though they were not made together, the original wearer paired them for what I think is a perfect 1966 ensemble.

It’s certain that she could have not worn these to school because in North Carolina school dress codes did not generally allow the wearing of pants by girls until the early 1970s.  Instead, this was a fun time outfit, for a casual date or a picnic or just hanging out with friends.

The top is made of cotton poplin, white with blue sailboats and red directional abbreviations.  It has a band collar, a feature that was popular during the mid and late 1960s.

The shirt’s label is Shirt Tree, Designed by Lynn Stuart.  Lynn Stuart is little remembered today, but during the 1960s and 70s she was quite busy, designing and manufacturing both the Shirt Tree and Mister Pants labels.  Some of her designs can be found in McCall Patterns’ New York Designers series.  Present day designer Jill Stuart is her daughter.

I love the inverted pleat on the back.  It gives mobility without looking like a man’s shirt.

The pants were made to look like classic sailor’s pants with a double-button opening and drop front.  I somehow can’t see guys (other than sailors, of course)  going for this style, but it is possible these pants were made for young men.

McGregor primarily made sportswear for men, but for a very brief period, 1963 through 1968, they did have a line for women.  All the labels I’ve seen for that line read “Her McGregor”, but that really does not prove the point either way. Truth is, in the mid 1960s and into the 70s girls were appropriating their brothers and boyfriends clothing like mad.  Chances are the original wearer either stole them from her brother’s closet, or was shopping in the young men’s department.

It’s hard to tell from my photos, but the legs are very slightly belled.  Bell-bottoms were not quite the must-have pants that they would be just a few years later, but they were already being worn by the fashionable set.  Lynn at AmericanAgeFashion posted a great page showing the pants of 1964, and in it bell-bottoms were classified as a novelty look.

Nautical, right down to the anchor buttons!

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1930s Pendleton Toboggan Coat

To a historical clothing collector, one of the most exciting things that can happen is to find  one of the treasures in one’s collection in a vintage photograph.  I was happy to get this photo from reader Edgertor in my inbox last week.  The photo is of her grandmother, and was taken sometime in the early 1930s.  The coat looks to be a Pendleton toboggan coat, which was made by Pendleton in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

I’m lucky enough to have this model in red in my collection.   The Costume Institute at the Met has a black one, and the Pendleton archives also has tan and khaki versions.  All four are made from a textile called the  Glacier Park stripe.  The toboggan coat was also made in a pattern called Harding.  I’ve never seen an example except for photos from the Pendleton archive.

Unfortunately, it appears that the coat has not survived. The coat’s owner was a dairy farmer in Connecticut, and she died only a few years after this photo was taken.  The farm’s barn is still there, and maybe buried under a pile of hay, the coat might someday be found.  That’s my wish, at least.

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Filed under Collecting, Vintage Photographs

Barney and Berry Ice Skates

There are times when I spot something and I know that considering buying it puts me in a place where I’d rather not be.  That place would be in over my head.  Such was the case with these Barney and Berry skates.  I spotted them at Metrolina earlier this month and was tempted, but was so intimidated by what I did not know that I walked away from them.

Note:  Walking away from an item of interest at a flea market is not recommended.  It can lead to heartache and disappointment.  I know this for a fact.

I assume that old ice skates must be pretty common in the northern states and in Canada, but I rarely see them here in the South.  But I did keep thinking about them, as I was pretty sure they were from the 1920s or maybe the 1930s.

After meeting Marge I mentioned to her that I’d seen a pair of older skates but that I knew nothing about them.  She, being a northern mid-westerner, gave me a crash course in skates.  I would have taken her over to see them, but I was afraid she would think I was crazy for wanting to buy them.  Truth is, they looked pretty rough.

As you can see, I did go back for them.  I’ve spent the past weeks cleaning them and I’m happy with the results.  I’m not a trained conservator, and I can’t always work up to the standards that a large institution might, but my rule for cleaning and preserving is that I do not make any changes that cannot be reversed.  Leather dye might have removed all the appearance of scratches, but dye is not reversible.  Instead I opted for a good leather conditioner.

The biggest problem was with the metal lace eyelets.  They were very tarnished and gunky.  I almost went crazy cleaning each one.  I removed the laces (which look to be original to the boots), washed them, and re-laced the boots after all the eyelets were cleaned.  Finally, I stuffed the boots with cotton fabric to give them shape.

They are not perfect, but that’s not what I want.  The skates were used but not so much that they were in poor condition.  They are nice and sturdy, and are actually still wearable.  Note the bit of rust on the blades.  I decided to leave it, as buffing would have also removed the silver finish that had been applied when the skates were made.

I also did not clean that little buckle you see.  I may go back and give it a light buff.

Thankfully the skates were marked by the maker, Barney and Berry of Springfield, Massachusetts.  After a bit of digging, I did turn up a bit about the company.  The manufacture of skates by Everett H Barney began in 1864. According to some sources, he invented the metal clamp-on skate, a product that was the mainstay of the business.  They also made roller skates and signal cannons for yachts.

EH Barney was a well-known figure around Springfield.  He was himself an accomplished skater, and he was often seen near his Forest Park home, skating on the Connecticut River and a skating pond he built in the park.   Unfortunately Barney was judged insane in 1913, and died in 1916.  He left the bulk of his assets to the city of Springfield, with directions that his property was to be added to Forest Park.   The Barney skating pond still exists and is open for skating,

From what I have read, skates with the boots attached were first manufactured around 1920.  That, of course, would put my skates after that date.  Another clue is that the  Barney and Berry company was acquired by Winchester, probably in 1919.  I’ve seen 1920s ads showing skates that were labeled with both names, but I’ve also seen post 1920 ads and catalogs with just the Barney and Berry name.  My guess is 1920s.  Any thoughts?

Correction:  1864 (not 1964) was the beginning date of the EH Barney skate manufacture.

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes, Winter Sports