Category Archives: Collecting

From My Collection: Beach Pyjamas

After writing about beach pyjamas (or pajamas) yesterday, I thought I should show the examples I have in my collection.  The pair above is from the mid to late 1920s, as you can see from the narrow legs.  These are made from a very light and sheer woven wool, and I can’t help but wonder if there was originally a matching top or jacket.  I love how the deep waist yoke is a nod to the dropped waists of the era.

The fabric is really quite wonderful.  Believe it or not, these came from the Goodwill clearance bins several years ago.  I really could not believe my luck, as these are very hard to come by.

These crazy quilt pyjamas from the early 1930s were also a lucky Goodwill find.  At first the design looks to be completely random, but look closely and you’ll see that the maker of this garment carefully engineered the bodice, with the stripe effect mirrored in the hems of the legs.

All of the pieces are silk fabrics.  I doubt that this was ever worn, as the condition of the piece is so good, and there is no sign of neither shrinkage nor dye failure.

This last pyjama is also from the 1930s and was an ebay purchase of about ten years ago.  These have become so popular that I’d probably not be able to buy it today as the prices are much higher than what I paid.  It’s is really great, with the red and blue stripes being applied to the heavy muslin pyjama.  It was a much more practical garment for the beach than the rayon patchwork one was.

Yesterday the question came up about when to use pajama, and when to use pyjama.  Susan pointed out that the US spelling is pajama.  I used both versions of the word in yesterday’s post, mirroring the usage in the primary sources I was using.  Today, we use pajama for our sleeping garments, but pyjama is pretty much standard usage when referring to 1930s beach pyjamas.

Correction:  I originally wrote that the patchwork piece is made from rayon, but I double-checked, and the pieces are actually silk.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Vintage Fashion Complete

I’m really pretty good about saving emails that contain information that I way need to reference later on in life.  The problem is that I save them in about ten different folders across three email accounts and so it happens ever so often that I cannot find the email I need.  In this case it was an email from the author of this book, Nicky Albrechtsen, asking to use photos in a book she was writing about vintage fashion.

Since I’m not Getty Images, I pretty much let people use my photos in publications and in college papers, and even an occasional employee handbook.  All I ask is the proper acknowledgement.

I’ll admit I had forgotten about this project, and even after a kind reader emailed to say she had seen my name in the book, I was still a bit clueless.  But I ran across the book in my local discount bookstore, and I immediately remembered that this blog was listed as a source.  And a quick look at the credits reminded me that I’d given Albrechtsen permission to use photos of my Helen Bond Carruthers sweaters in the book.

Both of the above sweaters are mine, and I was properly credited.  How refreshing in a world where one’s photos are taken at will and pinned and copied and tumbled and even instagramed without a credit or link back.

And I was so happy to see that my blog was listed under vintage blogs that are about history, and not wearing vintage clothes.

I spent a great deal of time looking at the book, trying to decide whether or not to buy it.  You may recall that I’ve sworn off books that are about “vintage” rather than about fashion history.  But looking through the book, I saw that there was a lot more substance than I find in most books about vintage clothing.

In the end I decided not to buy it, but to instead come home and read online reviews.  They are overwhelming positive, but the best news is that the project was managed by Frances at Last Year Girl, a voice that I respect.  So now I’m leaning toward getting it, and not just because my ego was bolstered by the mentions.

So, do any of you readers have this book?  I’d love your opinions, privately, please.

And if you are reading, Nicky, thanks so much for letting me see my name in print.

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Filed under Collecting, Currently Reading

Miller’s Cowgirl Shirt and Karman Riding Pants

I bought this pair some time ago, and I’ve put off and put off writing about them because I’m so clueless about riding attire.  I found them at the Goodwill Clearance, and they were so cheap that I couldn’t resist.  I was pretty confident I could find extra information on the internet.  And as I’ve pointed out before, even clothing designed purely for sport will usually have a bit of “fashion” in them, whether in the colors used, or in the design details.

Actually, I’ve found very little about riding apparel on the net.  I do know that these were for Western riding, maybe of the sort one would wear at a show of Western skills.

The shirt has pearlized snap closures, and a ruffled bib and ruffles on the sleeve cuffs.  The small spread collar is meant to be worn open.

The shirt reminds me so much of a 1970s man’s tuxedo shirt with all those ruffles.  But the collar does not follow the trend toward large and pointed collars.  The fabric is cotton, and just look at that label.

As for the pants, they have that marvelous Western styling with the fancy yoke and big tab belt loops.  There is a metal side zipper.

There is no interior label, but they still have the paper tag attached to the outside.  These were made by Karman.

What was really throwing me off was the shape of the legs.  These look like typical 1970s bell bottom pants.  But then again, maybe they are just wide because they are boot cut, which allows one to wear the pants over the boots.

You can also see a bit of the construction in this photo.  The seams are pinked, and the top of the waist is finished with a strip of bias binding.  The leg hems are not finished, as the wearer would have them hemmed to fit.

The pants also have a paper tag that tells the fiber content and that gives us a WPL number.  WPL stands for Wool Products Labeling.  Unfortunately, the number is not of much use in this case.  All WPL numbers were distributed before 1959, but the date is not when the garment was made.  It merely means that the garment was made after Karman got their number, which was sometime in the 1950s.  There is a database where you can look up the numbers, but it is not useful in dating.  It will help with the manufacturer’s identification in cases where you have the number but not a maker’s label.

So, my verdict?  I’m leaning toward early to mid 1960s, due to construction details, like the metal zipper and the pinked seams.  I also think the label looks old fashioned to be used in the 1970s.  But I’m open to opinions, especially from anyone who has experience with this type of thing.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Mixed Messages – The Mini and the Midi

I’m not going to go into details about the great midi debacle of 1967-1970 because I wrote about it at length last year.  I wanted to show this set though to point out just how confusing the issue of dress length was at the time.

The set is from Ladybug, which might be surprising if you remember that label from the early to mid 1960s.  Ladybug, the junior division of The Villager, was known more for their conservative prints and preppy separates, not for pushing the fashion edge.  Maybe that is why they were hesitant to go full out midi, and instead compromised with the short/long look.

Without the vest, the dress looks a lot shorter.  It is a great little dress, made from wool tweed, or possibly a blend; this was the late 1960s after all.  The bias cut adds so much to the design, as does the leather trim.  But unfortunately, the leather is actually fake, and did not age well.

I can see that this is inspired by the work in leather and wool that Bonnie Cashin did for Philip Sills in the 1960s.  Unfortunately the real leather pieces of Cashin often did not fare any better than did this cheaper version.  Neither leather nor plastics age well without careful preservation.

I didn’t take a photo of just the vest, but I’m glad the set is still together so as to give an accurate picture of its story.  Without the matching dress, one would be tempted to place the vest later in the 1970s, as it is so reminiscent of Maude and her famous long vests.

And while I’m mentioning Ladybug, here is what comes to my mind when thinking of that label.  As I said, Ladybug was the younger version of The Villager, a brand famous for blouses and shirt dresses made of little prints.  Each Ladybug purchase came with a little stickpin in the form of a ladybug.

These pages are from a Ladybug catalog insert in a Seventeen magazine, 1965, and are very typical of what the brand had to offer.  It was the All-American college girl  look, which was fading fast in 1965 due to the Swinging London Mod girl look.

It does seem like so much of the study of  history is interconnected.  I’m currently reading Seven Sisters Style by Rebecca C. Tuite, a history of the clothing worn by the young women at the Seven Sisters colleges.  Villager and Ladybug were a big part of that look in the late 1950s and into the 60s.

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Filed under Ad Campaign, Collecting, Vintage Clothing

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