Category Archives: Collecting

1920s Printed Velvet Stole

The thing that keeps collecting old clothes interesting is that there is always something new that one has never seen before.  This stole is a good example.  The textile is a printed velvet, and the print looks like it is from the 1920s.  The problem is, I’ve never seen nor heard of evening stoles being used in the 1920s.  The black reverse side is a deep, plush velvet as well.

I’m still not sure what to make of this piece, and would appreciate any and all opinions and insights.  The tie you can see actually wraps around a button, which is wood covered in the black velvet.

I generally don’t acquire things of this nature, but I loved the print and truthfully, the price was too good to turn down.  And I’m always up for a good mystery!

UPDATE:  A good friend sent a French fashion illustration dated 1920 that shows a similar stole being worn as part of a cloak.  The patterned fabric IS the lining, as most of the commenters suggested.  Thanks to Lynne for coming through once again!


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Vintage Clothing

Wright’s Bias Fold Tape Sewing Books, 1931

I love finding the odd bits that were published by companies, giving ideas about how to use their products.  In this case it was Wright’s Bias Fold Tape, a product that is still being produced.  Today it is a poly cotton blend, and who knows where it is made, but in 1931 Wright’s made tape in silk and cotton, in solid colors and prints.  I tend to accumulate it and have a full rainbow of vintage bias tape, which I do actually use, mainly for Hong Kong finishes.

These two booklets, both published in 1931, show decorative ideas for using the tape.  It wasn’t just for seam finishing and edging.  To me the booklets are especially useful in seeing the types of things that were inspiring home sewers.

Both booklets had pages on decorating pajamas.  What is really interesting is that early 1930s cotton pajamas found today are very often trimmed with bias tape.  This suggestion was obviously a popular one.

Vintage sellers are thrilled when 1930s pajamas come their way, as they are hot items at present.  They are always listed as beach pajamas (or more likely, pyjamas) but I have a feeling that most of them were intended for sleeping or lounging.  But this was the 1930s, and I’m sure many pajamas saw double duty for both beach and bedroom use.

Another place where one sees bias tape used is on children’s clothing.  As most of it was made from cotton, bias tape was perfect to bind the edges and put a bit of decoration on the dress.

Who could resist a bias tape puppy dog?

Aprons and cotton house dresses were another common use of bias tape, though I can’t imagine any woman taking the time and effort to make the one in beige.

I love the floral decorations on that housecoat.

There were suggestions for home decoration.  According to the booklet, this motif is “a fanciful representation of the flight of the eagle.”

Both booklets had suggestions for making and decorating underwear.  This must have been too much trouble, as I really can’t remember ever seeing more than a few homesewn cotton lingerie pieces from this era, and certainly none that were this decorative.

I am always interested to see what things are called, as I’m afraid we tend to use the current names for clothing from the past.  The booklet calls the pink and lavender pieces “chemise combinations” and the two piece sets are called “shorts and brassiere.”

And what about those pink knees!




Filed under Collecting, Vintage Sewing

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Filed under Collecting, Too Marvelous for Words, Viewpoint