Category Archives: Collecting

1920s California Sport Hat

If you follow me on Instagram then you have already had an opportunity to ohh and ahh over my new hat.  Well, it’s not exactly new, as it dates to between 1928 and 1930, though it has never been worn. And to make it even better, the original box was included with the hat. You may wonder how such things survive, but as someone who has had the pleasure of visiting several old stores that looked like they had been swallowed up in some time travel vortex, there are treasures like this still to be found.

I didn’t find this hat in a dusty old store storage room. It came from Dallas, Texas, from the shop of Vintage Martini. And thanks so much to Jonathan for spotting it and letting me know of its existence. Everyone needs friends who help them shop.

I thought it was rather humorous that at California Sport Hat was made in Milwaukee, so I spent some time googling. At first I got only ads for the brand, all dated from the late 1920s and very early 30s. When I added Milwaukee to the search I got a bunch of links to the Federal Trade Commission Annual Reports of 1930 and 1933.

Thanks to Google Books, these reports have been digitized and are available online. I had no idea that government reports could be so interesting. I could barely get past the cases of a maker of cotton shirts who made the consumer think their product was linen and of a men’s hatter who was taking old hats and refurbishing then, and then selling them as new. It seems like cheaters and those willing to stretch the truth to its breaking point have always been with us.

So what was the deal with California Sport Hats? There had been a complaint filed in 1929 by makers of hats located in California that the Milwaukee hats were false advertising, and even worse, cutting into their profits. There had been an earlier complaint and in 1928 the makers, Everitt & Graf, Inc., put the “Made in Milwaukee” line in the lining of their hats to try and fend off a lawsuit.  Instead, the line pretty much proved the case, and in 1930 the company was issued a cease and desist order from the FTC.

Everitt & Graf evidently complied with the order, as in 1932 the FTC closed the case. I didn’t find any ads for California Sport Hats after 1930, and I wasn’t able to find out what happened to Everitt and Graf.

The “Reg. U.S. Patt. Off.” line is interesting. I could not find any reference to either California Sport Hat or to Everitt & Graf in the Patent Office database. And it’s weird that there are two T’s in that abbreviation.

But regardless, what a peachy hat! According to the box, the color is Blush Rose. There’s a little turned down brim in the front, and the hat can be worn with a slight tilt.

The graphics on the box were used as evidence in the complaint. The illustrations of palm trees, which I’m pretty sure do not grow in Wisconsin, were pointed out as being associated with California, and were meant to deceive.

It really is the box that makes this set so special. By the 1920s Americans were benefiting from labor laws that allowed working people to have more leisure hours. And to be clear, this was not a high-end product. The  price tag is still present, and so I know this model retailed for $4. Part of the complaint against Everitt & Graf stated that their prices undercut the actual California makers, whose hats started at $5, with most costing much more.

And wouldn’t this hat be perfect paired with this 1920s knit sports dress?

 

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Keds Display Ideas. 1940

It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something. With the internet and companies tracking our every click, we are subjected to targeted ads everytime we open a digital device. Websites we visit are covered with display ads.  There’s nothing subtle about it.

Stores have always known that to sell a product, the consumer has to notice it. Store windows have been designed to draw people into stores, and once in the store, displays are set up to attract attention. It’s true today, and it was true in 1940,when the footwear manager of sales at Keds sent out a portfolio of suggested ways to promote Keds in windows and in the stores that sold them.

As you will see, there was a central theme that stores were being encouraged to emphasize. Can you spot what the theme is?

All the displays were built around several counter display cards like the two seen above. I’ll guess that the cards were a part of the display package that included my display booklet. The above display was titled Gardening and Leisure.

Vacation and Camp features a counter card with hikers. I wonder where they got that little tent.

Keds are also great for leisure hours, but who in their right mind thought doing laundry in a wringer washer was part of leisure? It’s obvious that Mr. Adman never did a load of washing in one of those monsters.

The booklet also had suggestions for the Kedettes line of shoes. Kedettes was still made of canvas, but were a step dressier than sneakers. Here’s the consumer is reminded that Kedettes go well with one’s playtogs, like that playsuit.

There was even a display suggestion for the piece goods department.  I really wish these photo were in color. I’ve seen these shoes in vintage magazine ads and they are so bright and colorful.

There were also suggestions on how to pair Kedettes with hosiery. Somehow I can’t quite picture these comfortable shoes paired up with a girdle and stockings, but then I’m looking at this through modern eyes and a more casual mode of dress.

So, if you were so busy admiring the photos that you forgot to think about the common theme, it is washable, here spelled out in washing powder. So that explains the washing machine in the leisure display, and the tub of cotton suds and tiny washboard.  I can’t imagine putting these shoes in a washing machine, as was implied, as a gentle hand wash is all I’d dare expose my Kedettes to!

Added 1941 ad:

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1940s Bowling Dress by Play Girl Fashions

High on my list of things-I-must-have was a 1940s bowling dress.  Now, thanks to the wonder that is Instagram, I have an excellent example of such a dress, brought to me by my newest favorite online vintage store, VeraciousVintageCo.

As far as active sportswear and how it was adapted from fashionable attire is concerned, it does not get much better than this dress. If you were to only see the front of the dress, you very well might think i is just a fashionable day dress from 1946 or 47. But the back with the chain embroidered team information immediately tells us this one was made for bowling.

But more interesting are the features that the designer built into the dress to make it suitable for bowling.  The cap sleeves are cut in one piece with the bodice, and for extra mobility the designer put a two-inch slit at the top of each one.

This one might be a bit hard to see, but it is a bias cut panel that goes from the waist to under the arm. Again, the purpose is to add the ability to move in the dress, as fabrics cut on the bias have a bit of stretch.

But what really sold me on this dress were the red side pleats that can be increased in size with zippers.

The zippers are nine inches long and zip up to add more fabric at the knees. When not playing, the wearer can zip them down for a trimmer look.

Not only is the label nifty, it is very useful in helping us learn a bit about who made the dress. Note the little R in a circle mark. That means that the trademark was registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. I looked up “Play Girl Fashions” and found no reference, but  then I found the company under just “Play Girl”.

According to the record, Play Girl dates to 1921 and was originally a line of girls’ dresses. The trademark was owned by the United Garment Company of Louisville, Ohio.

In 1921 G.H. Hess was, according to the 1940 US Census, twenty-six years old. It is possible that he owned or worked for United at that time, but there’s nothing in my quick research to confirm that. In the 1940 census he was listed as the president of a dress factory. There are lots of mentions of the company in trade publications throughout the 1940s and 50s, and there are also mentions of the factory in labor union publications, as the factory seems to have been unionized around 1954. The last reference I found to Play Girl Fashions was an ad for dresses in 1975. That year G.H. Hess would have been eighty years old.

We can also learn much from the embroidery on the back of the dress. The team was sponsored by the Rexall Drug Store in Glenwood, Minnesota. Note how the part that reads Rexall Drugs is slightly different in color. It’s a patch that covered up the original sponsor, Setter Drugs. I found plenty of references to Setter Drugs, which dates at least to 1928.

Unfortunately this dress does not have the wearer’s first name on the front as we see so often on bowling dresses and shirts. But, we do know her last name, Vegoe.  And there is one more hint. Leah of Veracious Vintage noticed that the wear’s initials, H.V.were inked on the back of the belt. Again, we hit a dead end. There is a Howard, and a Harold Vegoe, but none that we could find with a feminine name. So, help me out Vegoe family, up there in Minnesota.

And check out the collar.

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Catalina Culottes Plus Associated American Artist Print

I know I’ve said this already, but Catalina is my new vintage favorite. Much of their early work as a swimsuit maker was very inventive, using Hollywood designers in the 1930s and  incorporating hand block prints in the 1940s. In the 1950s Catalina used art designs from the Associated American Artists (AAA), as part of the general trend to incorporate art into textile design.

There are many things that made me want this garment. Though it looks like a skirt, it is actually culottes. I’m thinking that these “pants” could have passed as a skirt, and therefore entered spaces where the presence of women in pants – even culottes – was frowned upon. Each leg is almost a complete circle, and so the bifurcation is very well hidden in the draping of the fabric. I wonder if any high school girls were able to fool the dress code police with these culottes.

I was also interested because the seller, Cheshire Vintage, mentioned that this is a Soap ‘n Water print from AAA.  A quick look through my sources confirmed that this print dates from 1957. I was happy to find this print pictured in a paper by Karen Herbaugh of the sadly now closed American Textile History Museum.

All the AAA fabrics I’ve seen are well-documented on the selvage. Often included is the name of the artist, the year of manufacture, and the AAA identification. Even though my culotte legs are very wide, the selvages were cut off. Still, it is the same fabric that Herbaugh identified as AAA.

I was drawn to this piece also by the label. Catalina was known for making multiple garments out of the fabrics they used, so I’m hoping to find a few matching pieces.

The designer did a beautiful job of showing off this fabric to best advantage. I love how the stripes drape across the hips. Also, notice how the front placement of the stripes make it look as if this were actually a pleated skirt. The center back has the same treatment, with the zipper partly concealed under one of the pleats.

In case you are skeptical that these really are pants, here’s the proof.

 

The culottes are in new condition, never having been worn. There’s even a paper tag that is a bit of a puzzle. The fabric is obviously cotton, not a modern rayon blend. Somehow the wrong tag became pinned to the garment at some point.

 

 

 

 

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1950s Visit to the Art Museum Skirt

I really do love fabrics that pay homage to the arts, and I have wanted to add a garment in this print to my collection ever since I first saw it ages ago.  It dates to the 1950s, that great post-war period when there was a movement to involve art in textile design.

This movement actually has its roots in the days of World War One, when the American Museum of Natural History became involved in a project aimed at getting textile designers to use the museum’s artifacts as inspiration for prints. This movement died down in the 1920s, but it was not forgotten by one of the main proponents of the project, M.D.C. Crawford. Crawford was a collector of South American textiles, and was a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily.  As World War Two spread across the world, he again suggested turning to museums as a way to help designers cope with being deprived of inspiration from Paris.

After the war ended, the art as fabric torch was raised up by a new publication for the textile industry, American Fabrics. According to this magazine there was $780,000,000 Worth of Design Ideas…Free just waiting for textile designers in the works of art in America’s museums.

As a result there are many art-based textile print projects from the late 1940s and the 1950s. Probably the most famous one is Fuller Fabrics’ line called Modern Masters. This line was so important that Life magazine did a large photo essay on it.

I have never discovered what textile company made the print on my new skirt, and the selvage ends are missing. In a way it takes the advice of American Fabrics a bit too literally. However, the black background and the colorful renditions of the works make for a lovely design.

There are several things about the print that I found to be really interesting. First was the inclusion of ceramics. Like textiles, ceramics are sometimes placed in the category of applied arts, rather than fine arts, where most paintings and sculptures are placed.

(If anyone can help identify this piece, I’d be most grateful.)

Also interesting is the inclusion of an Asian work, The Great Wave by Japanese artist Hokusai. While most of the works used are European, it was nice having this famous Japanese work.

Vincent van Gogh is well represented…

… as are the Impressionists.

The 17th century Dutch painters are represented by Johannes Vermeer…

…and Pieter de Hooch.

And any good art course includes a little Goya.

 

 

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Catalina, 1970s Style

Over the years I’ve been very fortunate that friends have kept me in mind whenever they find sportswear I might be interested in. Such was the case of the swim bra and matching skirt above which was tentatively offered to me from a VFG friend as a gift because the bikini bottom was missing. I loved it so much that I took it, thinking the bottom would eventually turn up on ebay (which was pretty much the only place to look in those days).

You wouldn’t think there would be much of a market for the bottom half of a two-piece swimsuit, but look through the sales listings and you will see that quite a few are listed at any given time. For years I’ve had this set in mind while doing my regular Catalina search,  now not just on eBay, but also on Etsy and Ruby Lane as well. I finally got lucky, but not in the way I’d thought I would.

I recently located a matching one-piece suit. And it’s like a 1970s swimsuit version of the mother-daughter matching ensembles of the 1950s and early 60s. I say that because the two suits (and I say this without even seeing the bottom half of the bikini) were made to appeal to two entirely women. In 1972 or whenever these were made, I would have definitely worn the bikini, and I can see my mother in the much more covered up one-piece, though the print might have been a bit bold for her taste. It was certainly her style.

All the moms wore this style, with a modest front and this very deep scooped back. We all know about mom jeans, but I’ll forever think of this style as the mom bathing suit.

The one-piece looks great with the skirt. What you can’t see is a side split up to the knee in the skirt, which makes it possible to walk in such a narrow style. I can imagine this skirt took the original owner straight from the pool to the cocktail lounge.

There’s a bit of difference of color in the bathing suit and the skirt. It could be different dye lots that are responsible, but I tend to think that the one-piece just got more use and is a bit faded. It’s made of nylon, and yes, nylon will fade.

As would be expected, the same label is in all three pieces.

So my search for the bikini pants is not over, but I am really pleased to how have an addition to the set. I’m also still looking for an ad, so let me know if any of you stumbles across this in a 1970s newspaper or magazine.

I have always liked Catalina as a brand, but the more vintage Catalina clothing I see, the more I love it. They were really big into matching pieces, in swimwear and in casual sportswear.  In fact, I have another great Catalina piece to write about in the near future.

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Collection Organization Time

It’s been really busy around here, as I have been working on upgrading my collection records. While all of you have been busy watching Marie Kondo helping people declutter their homes, I’ve been busy making sure all my stuff and the information about each piece is readily accessible.

I recently did a card count (I have always kept a card for each item of clothing and for each accessory) and discovered that I now have over one thousand pieces in my collection. That’s not counting any of the paper items. I’ve been fairly conscientious about record keeping, but after reading the book in my photo above, Managing Costume Collections, I realized that much of what is known about each piece is either in my head or in an old blog post. So much of the supporting evidence I’ve collected (much of which has been emailed to me by many of you) is available only in files on my computer.

One of the things Louise Coffey-Webb pointed out is how fast digital systems change, and how quickly things like floppy disks become obsolete. This combined with a recent major computer failure has convinced me that hard copies are good. Actually, I’ve always thought that, but I have been too lazy and cheap to invest the time and money to make sure all the information I have about each item is stored together.

Several years ago I wrote about my storage and organization system. While all that still works for me, I have decided to add a physical file for each item. I’m starting with the newest acquisitions, and hope I can also work through my collection so that eventually most items have their own folders.

Every item has a number that starts with a year close to the time it was made and worn. I don’t have every year in the system, only those that end in three or seven, like 1943, 1947, 1953, and so on. My new skating sweater is from the early 1940s, so it is categorized as 43. The 1 means it is a garment (2 is for shoes, 3 is for hats, and so on), and the 29 means it is the twentieth-ninth clothing item for the early 1940s.

This number is used everywhere the sweater is referenced – on the folder, the file card, in the book of photos, and on a piece of twill tape sewn inside the sweater. Hopefully there is no way the information I’ve gathered about this sweater can be separated from the garment.

So, what goes in the file? So far I’ve got photos and information about the roller skating club from the yearbook of the school and an ad from the rink where the club held their meetings. I have the obituaries of the brothers who were the likely owners of the sweater. I’ve included the sales slip. On the front I’ve attached photos of the sweater, and have listed the contents. At the bottom of the folder is the date I blogged about it. Eventually I might find a catalog that shows my sweater style for sale. That will be added to the file. Hopefully I’ll get an email from a Przysucha heir, which will then go into the file. The possibilities are so exciting!

 

 

 

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