Category Archives: Collecting

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

1950s Golf Course Novelty Contour Belt

Ever so often I get something on my mind and off I go in search of it.  Lately I’ve been sharing (showing off) my collection of novelty print skirts on Instagram, and I started thinking about belts to go along with them.  Belts can be difficult to find, partly because they are not always easy to place a date on and search terms are often vague.

There is one type of belt from the 1950s that is generally easy to identify.  Designed to wear over the full gathered skirts of the era, these 1950s belts are often quite wide and are contoured to fit the waist.  My favorites are themed and are decorated with symbols of the theme.  I recently located the golf course themed one I’m sharing (showing off) today.  It was an etsy find, from seller South Side Market.

Though golf themed, this was a fashion item rather than a belt for active sports.  It was designed to fit tightly around the waist and would have been too constricting for actual play.

These belts were made in lots of themes.  Years ago I found one that has an airline theme.  South Side Market had a really super one that was magazine themed, but unfortunately for me it had already sold.  And probably the best one I know of is for sell at Poppy’s Vintage Clothing.  It has the names of French designers with dress forms.

These must have been a popular item at Saks Fifth Avenue, because I’ve seen quite a few of this type belt stamped with the store’s logo.  Two makers were Criterion and Calderon.

This selection of wide belts was pictured in the spring-summer 1956 Montgomery Ward catalog.  Though not decorated, these belts would have looked great with a simple blouse and a gathered skirt made from a fun printed cotton fabric.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

1920s Middy and Skirt in Lavender

I had been thinking about middy dresses ever since I found a book on the National Park Seminary for Girls.  In the book the teenage girls are all wearing what was an unofficial uniform for girls at many private schools.  One thing that I was interested in was that even though the photos in the book were printed in black and white, I could tell that the dresses were of various colors.

Most of the vintage middies that are found are white, but I have seen them in yellow, orange and navy.  Vintage ads and catalogs point out that various colors were available.

This ad from a 1922 Lombard catalog lists this middy dress in French blue, old blue, lavender, green, pink and tan.

Shortly after posting about the National Park Seminary, I spotted a fantastic lavender middy dress in the etsy shop Vintage Runway.  I just happened to know that the owner of this shop, Suzanne, was located fairly close to me.  After a few emails back and forth, I arranged to meet Suzanne and get the dress.

At this point I’ve got to say how much fun it is to meet up with other people who love vintage clothing and fashion history.  Suzanne and I sat and chatted as if we’d known one another for years.

Today I finally had a chance to spend some time looking at the dress and its construction. I had told Suzanne that it looked like it was professionally manufactured even though it had no label, but after a closer examination I’m sure this was made by an accomplished seamstress.

One big clue that this dress was home sewn was the presence of many hand sewn details, such as you see in these buttonholes.

The nautical-inspired patches look to be manufactured, but a fancy hand stitch was used to attach them.  It was possible to buy the patches and the white middy braid.

This ad is from a 1927 Charles Williams mail order catalog.

The arrow stitching at the corners of the pockets was also embroidered by hand.

Still, the quality of the work is such that the dress does not have that dreaded “homemade” look.  This was a sewer who knew what she was doing.

Fortunately, I know the name of the original owner of this dress.  She was  Blanche Nechanicky, who was born in 1907.  If she first wore the dress when she was fifteen, the year would have been 1922.  If you look at the ad from 1922 and compare it to my dress, you can see that my dress is considerably shorter than the dress in the catalog.

That makes sense, because after 1922 skirt lengths got shorter.  In an attempt to keep in style, it appears that Blanche shortened the skirt by taking a tuck in the underdress.

There is another line of stitching holes which might show an earlier alteration.  It’s interesting that Blanche did not make the skirt shorter at the hem.  Skirt lengths were in flux in the early 1920s and she wisely chose not to cut it shorter.  Besides, skirts have not always been shortened at the hem, but rather, at the waist.

It is possible that Blanche herself made this dress, though she would have been an exceptional seamstress to be a teenager. Luckily, Suzanne was able to share a bit about her.

Blanche was reared by her Czechoslovakian immigrant grandparents after her mother died when Blanche was two.  From her grandmother she learned sewing, crocheting, embroidery, and tatting.  After high school she attended Iowa State University where she majored in Textiles and Clothing.

Blanche went on to have a long career in home economics.  For much of her career she worked for the  New York State Education Department as the State Supervisor of Trade and Industrial Education for Girls and Women.  At other times she taught sewing, both to school girls and to adults in various sewing programs.  She never married, but traveled extensively.

It is a real treat knowing so much about Blanche.  So much of the clothing I’ve collected has long ago become separated from the history.  My thanks to Suzanne for sharing Blanche’s story.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

B.F. Goodrich Velvet Shoe Twins – Updated

On a recent vintage outing  I found the brown shoes in the photo above.  Actually, it was the shoe box that caught my eye, and the brown shoes were the prize inside the box.  I immediately thought of the orange shoes which I bought about ten years ago, which I was pretty sure were the same style.  With the exception of the laces and the color, the shoes are identical.

I love that the colors of the box are the orange and brown of the shoes.

I’ve tried to find an ad for the B.F. Goodrich Velvetie, but so far I’ve not found one.  My guess is that these shoes date from the mid 1950s to the early 60s.  (See update below)

Many times I see vintage items advertised as “unique” or “one of a kind.”  But unless a garment is couture, or is made by a seamstress or a tailor, then chances are the item was made in great quantities, and chances are that more than one example of any given garment has survived to the present time.

A good example of this is the novelty border prints that were so popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.  These prints were commonly made into gathered or pleated skirts, and it is pretty easy to locate multiple examples of the same print made into similar skirts.

Another example is the 1940s figural sweater.  These have become quite popular in recent years, with people looking for specific sweaters that they know exist.  Many of these are well documented in ads by makers such as Jantzen and Catalina, and collectors even find vintage photos of the sweaters being worn.  There is a wonderful thread on the VFG forums where these sweaters and ads are shared.

When I first started buying on eBay in 1997, I’d be really distressed to lose out on an item to a higher bidder.  But as time went on, I realized that if an item surfaced once, chances are there were lots more of them out there.  In my early ebay days, I was the runner-up bidder on a Dalton Scottie doggie intarsia sweater.  I would have bid higher, but the sweater was green, a color I rarely wear.  Ten years later, the very same sweater finally resurfaced, this time in black.   I bought it and wore it a few times, but now it sits safely in the Vintage Traveler collection.

UPDATE:  My favorite vintage researcher, Lynne, has emailed an ad for these shoes dated 1968, though she also found them mentioned in 1967.  I think it was the box that threw me, along with the soles of the shoes, which are that ridged crepe one sees so often on late 50s and early 60s casual shoes.  The shoes also came in black.  Many thanks to Lynne!

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes

My New Favorite Martex Design

Look familiar?  If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a month, then you’ll recognize this Martex design from a earlier post where I showed a modern dress that used a modified version of a Mid Century Martex print found on a linen towel.  I was delighted to get the same towel, but in blue in the mail the other day.

It was a gift from Mod Betty of Retro Roadmap, who had found the dress that sparked my original post.  Sometimes I think I ought to put Mod Betty (along with a few others who are always sending great leads my way) on the payroll.  But then I remember that there is no payroll, so MB ends up getting paid the same as I do.

I find the current obsession with mid 20th century design to be interesting, and a bit amusing.  Being born in 1955, I was surrounded with “modern” design.  When a generation that had not been as exposed to this design rediscovered it ten or fifteen years ago, I thought it a bit odd.  What was so commonplace to me looked fresh and exciting to their eyes.  And I can see that they were right.

I can’t see myself living in a house surrounded by the artifacts of my childhood, but I look at the Mid Century houses of so many of my online friends and I can easily see the appeal of the style.  I realize that I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by good design.  Well, except for the lamps, and I’m sorry, but the Fifties and Sixties saw the birth of some mighty ugly lamps.

I bet there is a black version of this one.

 

When  it comes to textile design, I really think that the designers of the 1940s through 60s were at the top of the game.  The simplicity of these Martex towels say “Cocktail Time” without the overly cutesy-ness of similar designs being made today.

Thanks so much, Beth!

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints

Lombard Blouses for the College Girl, 1918

Some time ago I wrote about two little catalogs that I had acquired.  They were from the Henry S. Lombard company, a maker of girls’ school and outing clothes.  I was recently pleased to add another Lombard catalog to my collection.  This one, from 1918, is the earliest that I have.

From the catalog:

“We want to again emphasize the fast that we are the original and only makers of the Genuine Lombard Middy Blouses and Suits.  We receive letters asking is our goods can be bought at other stores throughout the country.  They cannot.  We sell direct from Boston through this catalogue to the individual customer, with only one handling and one small profit.”

Lombard seems terribly eager to assure the buyer that this is the genuine article.  Surely there were not “fake” middies in 1918.

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Lombard advertised as selling yachting uniforms, and even if one’s “yacht” was only a canoe, these skirts and middy blouses were just the thing.  As you can see from the photos, they were also right for tennis, golf, and reading.

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Here we see more clothes for active sports, including breeches. “The great demand for a practical substitute for the skirt, allowing greater freedom of motion, had prompted us to design the Camp Breeches shown in the picture.”

The silk tie was available in several colors, including Wellesley Blue, Dartmouth Green and Vassar Rose and Gray.

The skirts and sweaters on this page seem to be good for classroom wear.

Coat model 212 is described as a trench coat, a term that came out of the war that was beginning to wind down in Europe.  Note how very different it is from a modern trench coat, but the wide belt and pockets do give it a bit of a military air.

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All the bathing suits on these pages were made from wool or cotton jersey knit.  Several of the models have “attached tights”, something I’ve never seen in an actual garment.  I love the variety of bathing caps they offered.  Model  83 is referred to as a “smart jockey bathing cap.”  Note the bill.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear