Category Archives: Collecting

Tom Brigance Waterclothes 1970s Bathing Set

Having lived through the 1970s doesn’t make collecting the clothing from that decade easier. If anything, the waters are muddied by memories, some of which are not representative of the era. I once went to an exhibition that showed handbags from different eras, along with what women might have carried in each. I was loving the show until I got to the 1970s bags, and for some reason, the contents the curator had chosen seemed all wrong to me. After all, I was there, and I know what I carried in my bag.

But in some ways the more recent decades are easier to collect. For one thing, there’s more choice. And often the choices include high quality items at a reasonable price which in earlier decades would be priced out of sight. This set from sportswear designer Tom Brigance is a great example.

Brigance’s name isn’t as well known as some of his peers, like  Claire McCardell, Tina Leser, and Rose Marie Reid. But when it comes to beachwear, Mr. Brigance was hard to beat. He started out designing in Europe in the 1930s, but went to New York in 1939 where he designed at Lord & Taylor. Like so many others, his career was interrupted by World War II, but when the war ended, he returned to Lord & Taylor. In 1949 he opened his own design business, designing sportswear and swimsuits for various companies.

I have a Tom Brigance halter dress from the 1950s, but I’d had a Brigance bathing suit on my wishlist for some time. I was thinking that I wanted one from the 1950s, but when this set showed up on eBay, I changed my mind. I see this as a great representation of the type of things Brigance designed. He often used interesting necklines, and bare but covered lines.  The seller described this as being from the 1960s, and I didn’t disagree until I looked at the close-up photos. After all, it does that the mid 1960s Cole of California Scandal Suit vibe.

The soft interior of the bra section tells me this is not likely to be a 1960s suit. Until the early 1970s, most makers were designing bathing suits with rigid bras, and many even had boning. Things began to soften at the end of the 1960s with bras made of a bonded fabric that was soft but that held its shape. Many of these have deteriorated into dust. This suit simply has a shelf bra made of thick nylon.

The guessing game ended when I spotted this label.  The ILGWU switched to this label in 1974, using the colors of the American flag. Was this part of their campaign to get Americans to “Always look for the union label, it says we’re able to make it in the U.S.A.!”

Someone paid a lot for this set, though I don’t know exactly how much because the prices have been removed. And as you can see, it was never worn as the paper tags are still attached. I have detached the tags and have stored them, as the garments do not need any more exposure to the acidic paper.

As a buyer, I don’t expect sellers to always know everything about what they are selling. But the best sellers put in enough photos so people like me can make a determination on our own. That means lots of label shots. In  this case, I knew exactly what I was buying because of the union label.

5 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Designers, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

A Tale of Two Jumpsuits

Anyone who collects or sells old clothing will tell you that most old garments come with a flaw or two. Clothes were worn, and they were often improperly stored. To get a piece with no issues is a real treat.  I acquire pieces with that in mind, because sportswear was especially subject to rough wear.

I decided to buy the pajama jumpsuit above because of the outstanding textile design. This type jumpsuit, which was made from around 1930 through about 1935, was a bit of a fad, and as such, many of the ones I’ve seen are made from cheap cotton materials. This one is no exception, as the fabric seems to be a printed cotton muslin.

But the print was just so good, I decided to get this one from an online dealer.  From the photos in the listing I could guess the pajama had been shortened at the waist. I was right.

Can you see the lines of the old stitches I removed? This had been taken up five inches.  A former owner must have worn this as at shin-length, because I am 5’1′, and the length after removing the stitches is perfect for me.

This brings up the question of when is it best to remove old stitching, and when should it just be left alone. In this case the decision was easy, as the alteration completely changed the original design of the garment as it was intended to be worn in the 1930s.

And the shoddy state of the alterations was another consideration.  Sellers, this is not normal.

And the only reference to this mess in the sales listing was that there was a bit of hand stitching. I’ll say!  To be completely truthful, the seller offered to take the pajamas back, as there were other undisclosed issues, but I was so in love with the fabric print that I decided to invest the work in restoring it and to keep it.

There were also belt loops, which had been concealed in the alteration. I’m guessing that the belt was black, and I’ll be making a reproduction belt for display purposes.

I also recently acquired this 1940s jumpsuit from Susan at NorthStarVintage. She had seen the two other 1940s jumpsuits in my collection that I posted on Instagram and she wisely figured I might be interested in this one as well. (I know this is a woman’s garment because of the way the zipper fold laps, right over left)

I was especially interested in this jumpsuit because it was made by White Stag. I know that White Stag made WWII era workwear for women, as I have a wartime catalog. But the label used in the work attire was White Stag Function Alls. And the Play Alls label is not shown at all in the catalog.

So, where do these fit in? I’d like to think they are from around 1940 or 41, as companies were already starting to make military-inspired clothing for women.  After the US entered the war, it’s not likely that so much metal would have been used. The catalog shows buttons instead of zippers and snaps.

At any rate this jumpsuit shows signs of being used for work. I think the woman who wore this must have been an auto mechanic, as there are tiny little grease stains on the knees. I can see her on her knees changing a tire!

Interestingly, this jumpsuit was also altered at the waist, but this time, the garment was made longer. The waist band was removed and the double thickness of it was made single, adding about an inch and a half to the length.  The alteration was so well done that I didn’t notice it until I was giving the piece a close examination.

Not only did the alterer have to remove and reattach the waistband, the zipper section below the waist had to be removed and reattached. This was the work of an experienced sewer, and it has the feel of having been done in the 1940s instead of later.

Because of that, I’ll be leaving this jumpsuit as it is. It’s more important to me to have the jumpsuit as it was worn, rather than how it was purchased.  It’s a great piece of women’s history, and I love it just as it is.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Shopping, Sportswear, World War II

How I Collect – 1930s

Some time ago I posted photos of my 1920s collection, and now I’m sharing with you the 1930s. I post one of the ensemble shots once a week on Instagram, so if you are curious about what I have from the 1940s, you might want to check into Instagram.

The internet evolves quickly, and now it seems like people are more in tune with a site like Instagram rather than blogs like this one. I have no plans to abandon this blog, but the truth is that a lot of the content that would have been posted here ten years ago, I now put on Instagram. So I encourage you to check out my daily posts there. You might like it, as there are quite a few great fashion history posters there.

Above is a lovely nautical themed dress from the early to mid 1930s. The matching hat and gloves were a lucky online find.

This early 1930s dress is one of my favorites, even though it’s not sportswear. It’s all hand embroidered silk. I still remember spotting it at the sadly now closed Metrolina Flea in Charlotte.  I got the hat there as well. You can’t see them, but there are more flowers beneath the brim.

This linen dress came from the estate of a prosperous business woman in Thomasville, NC. Elizabeth Blair had a very nice wardrobe. The jacket is knit wool, made by Bradley.

This early to mid 1930s bathing suit is wool knit, and came from JC Penney. It was the last of a dying breed, as lastex and rayon were about to revolutionize the woman’s swimsuit.  The beach shoes are from France.

Before there was Rose Marie Reid, there was Reid’s Holiday Togs. This little jumpsuit was one of Reid’s early creations. And there are those shoes again!

I’ve had that sweater so long I can’t remember where I got it, but I know I found it in a thrift store.

In the 1930s sweaters for women left the gym and became street appropriate. And that jaunty hat is one of my favorites. I found it in a local consignment store.

One of the things I’ve found to be really hard to locate is older tennis attire. This one is especially nice because of the matching panties. The set is labeled, “Tennis Queen”.

Here you see one of my chenille pieces that I recently wrote about in my review of Southern Tufts. The bathing suit is a popular Jantzen model from 1937 called the Up-lifter.

In the early 1930s, wide-legged, one piece pajamas became a very popular item for resort and beach wear. This one was made by Vanity Fair, a lingerie company.

Pants also gained ground as casual evening wear, when made in luxurious materials like this velvet pair, and with legs so wide they could almost pass as a skirt.  Starting in the late 1920s there was a fad for “folkloric” embroideries, which you can see in the Eastern European style blouse and the Chinese embroidered sandals.

16 Comments

Filed under 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.

3 Comments

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.

 

21 Comments

Filed under Collecting

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!

 

13 Comments

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.

7 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear