Category Archives: Collecting

Bradley High Quality Knit Garments – 1908

Bradley Knitting Company is one of those companies that no longer exists, but still its wares are well-known to vintage sellers and collectors due to the consistent release of consumer catalogs and their large volume of production. The company was renamed as Bradley in 1905, and so this 1908 is from the very early years of the company. At that date they were already producing the garments which made Bradley famous – sweaters and bathing suits.

You might have noticed the use of the word “coat” to describe what we today in the United States would call a sweater or cardigan. Bradley continued to use “knit coats” until the late 1920s when the catalogs switched to the more modern “sweater”.

I’m not familiar with the term, “pony jacket.” Could it have been appropriate for riding?

Even though sweaters were considered to be sportswear, the catalog stylist could not resist adding a bit of fashion with the huge hats.

I’ve seen this style of knit vest advertised as a golf vest. It would have been an excellent choice to wear for the sport because of the increased mobility of the arms which it would allow.

Bradley also made knits for men and for children. The cardigan above is very similar to what sweater companies made all through the 1920s, but it is a bit shorter in the body.

Heavy wool knits were very casual attire, and the association with sports was strong. I really love this baseball coat. I do wonder if the monogram was machine embroidered or if it was made separately and then attached.

In spite of the large, impractical hat (or is it a bow?), this little girl is dressed to play with her knit coat, short skirt, and softball.

Thanks to this catalog I now know that Bradley first made bathing suits in 1907.  Be sure to read the copy, as it is so unintentionally hilarious!

A note about men’s bathing suit styles: in 1908 men’s suits were still very modest, with the long top having a high neck and small armholes. The trunks are to the knees. By the 1920s the armholes and neck in men’s bathing suits were scooped, and the trunks were mid thigh.

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Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Sportswear

Button Collecting

When friend Liza asked if I wanted to go with her to see a button collection, there was no hesitation on my part. She said it was a great collection in a historic house, but nothing prepared me for what I was to see.

The collection belongs to Linda who does live in a fabulous Victorian house in a small town in north Georgia. Liza had met her on a tour of homes, and was invited back for a closer look at Linda’s stuff. And I say stuff because it’s not just buttons, but also antique and vintage sewing and knitting implements.I thought we would stay an hour or so, but Linda and her husband, Steve, were so gracious that one hour turned to four. And we still could have stayed longer.

These buttons were stored in an old dental case, which has lots of little drawers that once held dental tools. Now each drawer is packed full of buttons. All these plaid decorated ones came from the same estate.

Button collectors often make framed assemblages of buttons on a theme. Here are some of Linda’s dog buttons.

You may not be able to tell from the photo, but this cabinet was about ten feet high. It was custom built for a coin collector.  All the little drawers are full of buttons, with some of Linda’s yarn in the shelves beneath. Linda is a knitter, and she does beautiful work.

There were fancy wooden buttons…

buttons carved from nuts…

figural bakelite buttons…

sports themed buttons…

and plastic buttons.

These printed cloth nursery rhyme buttons are still on the original card.

Remember my post that told about the Muscatine, Iowa button industry?  Linda has a shell from there with the little blanks stamped out.

But it’s not just buttons. Linda also collects other sewing things, and has a wonderful grouping of pincushions and novelty tape measures.

This little sewing machine is a music box that plays “Buttons and Bows.”

Linda also has an enviable collection of antique ribbons and trims.

This trim is silk with silver metal bauble and embroidery.

Like any good button collector, Linda loves all sorts of miniatures. This is a hiking themed pin.

I loved this tiny terrier trimmed purse.

A knitter must also collect knitting aids. These string holders are by Holt Howard and are perfect for yarn.

I’m sorry this is so fuzzy, but I had to show it anyway. This is a silver yarn holder with a bracelet ring.  Beauty and function.

Thanks so much to Liza at Better Dresses Vintage for taking me along on this button adventure.

 

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The Rest of the Story – Collection Updates

It probably does not surprise any reader here that I keep a detailed list of things I hope to find. Most of these are items that would fill a gap in my collection, such as an important bathing suit style of which I have no example. For this type of thing I keep a close eye on sellers on Instagram, and I do regular web shop searches.

But much more often I find things through serendipity, in other words, I pull an item from the Goodwill bins. This scarf is an example. Scarves are a good find at my bins. I’ll never have to buy another wool scarf, as I have so many I’ve bought for my own use. Still, I can’t help but look at any that turn up in the bins.

Back in August I wrote about our trip to Berea and seeing the student weaving operation there. So yes, I was pretty happy to find this vintage Berea College Student Industries scarf in the bins last week. Wool scarves can be difficult to date, but something about this one points to the 1940s.

Some time ago I wrote about my desire to own a Catalina bathing suit made from California Hand Print fabric. These come on the market quite rarely, and they are never cheap, so I’ve been biding my time, waiting for the perfect suit.

Catalina did a great job of advertising these suits, and so most of the designs are well documented. At the top of my wishlist was this suit from 1951, and I jumped into action when Cheshire Vintage posted one on Instagram. So, another gap filled, much to my delight. Now to locate the men’s matching set!

 

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Filed under Collecting, Rest of the Story

AAGPBL – The All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League

Before anyone gets too excited, this uniform is a reproduction. I’ve been wanting an actual AAGPBL uniform for years, but the reality of ever finding one is quite small. There was a very limited number of them made to begin with, and many of these are rightfully in museum collections. Still, a girl can hope.

I found this reproduction at the Goodwill Dig. I knew it was not the real deal, being made in China of a cheap poly/cotton mix. But it was too interesting to leave behind. I contacted the AAGPBL website, and the nice people there told me that a company licensed the design to make these as costumes. And a search on Instagram shows lots of women dressed in this Rockford Peaches costume.

I added the bias binding belt, as the photos show a dark red belt.

The AAGPBL became famous due to the movie, A League of Their Own. I’ve written about the league in the past:

Started in 1943 by Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley in order to keep revenue flowing through Wrigley Field during the war [WWII], it was originally a softball league. The name was changed to baseball, and the rules were a mix of both games. Wrigley came up with the idea of the players wearing skirts with little bloomers beneath. He felt like skirts were more womanly.

He also mandated that the players could not wear slacks off the field, and they must always wear makeup and lipstick, and wear high heels when not playing. There were lots of rules, but the pay was good.

The league was started in 1943, and lasted until 1954. All the teams were in the Midwest, mainly in smaller cities, like Rockford, Illinois. Many of the cities that had teams now house uniforms and memorabilia in their municipal museums.  The Grand Rapids Public Museum has a nice collection of that city’s team, and last year curator Andrea Melvin wrote a great research report on it for the Costume Society of America’s journal, Dress. 

It’s not likely that one of these uniforms will turn up here in Western North Carolina, but then no one expected to find Vince Lombardi’s West Point sweater here either. A girl can hope.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear

Cole Cuts Newsletter for Cole of California

I recently added twenty-two copies of swimsuit maker Cole of California’s company newsletter from the 1960s to my archive. I have found old newsletters before, as it was a pretty common practice for large companies to share news of the company and workers this way. The pulp and paper factory in my hometown had a newsletter called Chips (get it; wood pulp made from wood chips). Puns must have been popular in naming newsletters, as Cole’s was called Cole Cuts.

Like most of the company newsletters I’ve seen, Cole Cuts was a gossipy, amateurish affair.  The covers were usually cut and pasted motivational content from other sources, but the interior content reveals a wealth of information about Cole and its workers.  The pay must have been fairly decent, because many of the employees took vacations across the country, and even to Europe.  Every month there was a listing of who was driving new cars!

Cole of California actually started as the West Coast Manchester Knitting Mills, a maker of men’s long johns. When the owners’ son, Fred Cole, joined the family business in the mid 1920s, he switched over to making knit bathing suits.  The biggest change came in 1936 when Cole hired designer Margit Fellegi to design bathing suits with a California/Hollywood look. In 1937 they added clothes to match the bathing suits: skirts, jackets, and dresses.

In each newsletter there is a profile of a long term employee. In telling this employee’s story, a lot of company history is revealed. For instance, one profile mentioned that in the late 1930s scraps of fabric left over from the cutting of the clothes were used to make matching shoes. Most interestingly, most of the workers profiled started working at Cole in 1942 or 1943. They joined Cole to make parachutes for the war effort, and ended up staying at Cole after the war work ended.

Also interesting is what the newsletter does not say.  In twenty-two issues I could find only one mention of Fred Cole, and that was in a profile of his daughter Anne Cole. I don’t have every issue, so surely his death in 1964 was mentioned, but by and large, he goes unnoted.

On the other hand, the designer Fred Cole hired to remake Cole’s image, Margit Fellegi, is mentioned in most issues. During WWII Fellegi designed the Swoon Suit. It was two pieces, and was held together with laces on the side of the trunks. No rubber was used due to wartime restrictions. My suit above is not a true Swoon Suit, but is a tamer post-war version.

In 1965, the newsletter compared the public’s reaction to the Swoon Suit to the most recent Fellegi creation – the Scandal Suit . The Scandal Suit was mentioned a lot in 1964 and 1965.

That’s Margit Fellegi on the left, along with assistant designer Barbara Meyer, in December of 1967. By that time Cole had five divisions, all with a design staff. Their top of the line was the misses department, along with sportswear and juniors, and two separate labels, Sandcastle and Sea Star. Sea Star was actually made for and sold by Sears.

From reading Cole Cuts and looking at the many photos of workers, I was amazed at the diverseness of the staff. In the tidbits about workers, it often mentioned from where the employee came. Cole had workers from across the globe and the USA. There were many Hispanic workers, especially at their plant in Pico. In fact, the news from Pico was printed in Spanish.

My newsletters date from 1964 to 1969. By reading carefully one can begin to see hints of big changes ahead. The newsletter above brags about automation coming to Cole, but over the years automation has led to the elimination of thousands of jobs in manufacturing. And in one revealing note from 1968, we can see the beginnings of manufacturing moving off shore. Two company executives visited Japan and Hong Kong “where they visited factories who are manufacturing certain items in our lines, and also looked for new fabrics…”

Cole of California was first sold in 1960, to Kayser-Roth. Since then it has changed hands several times, and today you can still buy a Cole bathing suit. I imagine that the folksy newsletter is long, long gone though. And I wonder what happened to their archive.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, World War II

White Stag Fun Togs in Topsail, 1955

Over the years I think I have written more about White Stag than any other sportswear brand. It’s one of my favorites, and I have quite a few pieces in my collection. Because their garments were so well made out of exceptionally sturdy fabric, much survives in excellent condition. Many times I’ve found pieces that I thought were never worn, only to examine them and find evidence of wear. If only clothing today held up as well!

A good example is a set I recently bought. There are three pieces – middy blouse, clamdiggers, and short sleeved jacket.  All look like they were made yesterday.

White Stag got its start as a maker of canvas items, and until the 1960s most of their clothing line was also made from canvas or sailcloth. Consequently, many of their items have a nautical flair. So much the better!

These pieces are made in a deep medium blue. I might even call it marine blue.

White Stag made these, or similar pieces for several years in the early to mid 1950s. The styles changed some, and the colors were updated, but other than that one could always find colorful pieces with a pop of white in the offerings from White Stag.

This ad is from 1955, but I could have used several others I have that date from 1951 through 1956.  Most of the items were in solid color sailcloth that could mix and match, but in 1951 they used a red, white, and blue stripe, in 1954 they made a print with fish, and in 1955, large polka dots were used.  And you can see that a stripe was also used in 1955.

High on my want list are the crew hats and the drawstring bag. The clothes are so easy to find, but the accessories are eluding me.

I found this set on Instagram, or rather, friend Robin found it and sent the photos to me. I love how my online friends help me spend money! Seriously, I appreciate every tag and lead that is sent my way. And I’d really appreciate it if someone would find that hat and bag for me.

I already had the middy blouse in turquoise.  It is a bit different, but basically it is the same design.

And for some of my favorite design details – side laces…

middy collar…

and adjustable tabs at the hem of the pants.

All of the pieces, including the turquoise top, have this label. I’ve not completely worked out the system White Stag used to label their goods, but most of the 1950s pieces made after 1951 have this or another blue label, pieces from the 1940s through 1951 often have a red label, and pieces from 1960s and later have a white label. This is not engraved in stone!

 

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Filed under Collecting, Made in the USA, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Motoring Goggles

One of the questions I get asked most often is how do I know the age of an item, especially if it is not a fashion item with all sorts of clues. The short answer to that question is that I do a lot of research in the manner of studying catalogs and magazines from the past. So many times it just comes down to good luck in spotting an item for which I have been searching.

One thing I’ve had on my list of things to buy was a pair of motoring goggles. Back before cars had enclosed seating, the driver, and sometimes even passengers, wore goggles to protect the eyes from the dust and dirt of the road. Sometimes even dogs wore them.

These belonged to Bud, who accompanied Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker in 1903 on the first auto trek across the US.

Since seeing Bud’s goggles at the National Museum of American History several years ago, I’ve wanted to add a pair to my collection. The problem has been with identification. I’ve looked at hundreds of pairs online, but mainly what is being sold as motoring goggles are actually industrial goggles.  Starting out I did not know the difference myself, and it has been only through careful study of period photographs and drawings that I knew what I was actually looking at.

Still, when I ran across this pair recently, I wasn’t sure. I left them in the flea market stall where I spotted them, and then came to my senses, went back for them, and got lucky that they were still there.  Still, I had doubts. They looked so flimsy, almost as if they were a toy version of goggles. But they were adult sized, so I took a chance on them.

They are made from a leather piece with glass lenses set into aluminum frames. The outside of the leather is made sturdy by a wire encased in the binding. An elastic string holds the goggles on the face.

It wasn’t until after I took these photos that I decided to get out any catalogs that might have motoring goggles. I got lucky on the first place I consulted, a 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

Here are two of the ten styles of goggles Abercrombie & Fitch offered in the catalog. And while I did not find an exact match for my goggles, you can see how mine are a sort of cross between two of the styles in the catalog.  They are close enough that I have satisfied my own curiosity about these.

 

 

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