Category Archives: Collecting

Everyday Clothing

It seems as if “everyday clothing” is having a moment. Several weeks ago I posted a link to the New York Times article about the collection of everyday clothes at Smith College. Then last week there was a conference in the UK on the topic of everyday clothes. And the latest episode of the fashion podcast Bande  à Part  is also about everyday clothes.

One of the first questions that Rebecca and Beatrice of Bande  à Part  discuss is, just what is everyday clothing. It might be pretty obvious to some, but think of the population as a whole; one person’s everyday is another’s special occasion. For discussion here, I’d suggest that everyday clothing means the clothes the 99% of us wear everyday. It does not include couture garments and ballgowns. For the most part, it does not include the avant garde.

In  short, everyday clothes are the things that one does not expect to see in a fashion exhibition at the Met, or any museum that is dedicated to the idea that fashion is art. On the other hand, you would expect to see everyday dress in a history museum. And many museums, such as dedicated fashion museums, will often have both couture and more commonly worn garments in their collections.

Personally, I prefer the historical and cultural (as opposed to artistic) approach. Not to say that I don’t appreciate a stunning Dior gown, because I do. It’s enlightening for an everyday clothing collector like me to occasionally see the work of an artist like Dior. The truth is there are plenty of topics about everyday dress that need to be explored, but do we really need another book on Coco Chanel?

I still find the study of what women wore – and why they wore it – to be the most fascinating part of fashion history.  The choice of a couture ballgown is based on what one’s favorite designer has to offer combined with trying to stand out from the other couture-clad ball goers. But in 1922 the decision to wear a pair of knickerbockers to a fall picnic could be full of gender-bending anxiety.

I can vividly remember the first day I dared to wear jeans to school. It had been stressed to us in the sixties and seventies that young ladies wore dresses and skirts, and so it was hard to ignore the disapproving voices in my head. How much stronger must that message have been to girls in the early 1920s!

It doesn’t get much more “everyday” than the school girl’s middy. My matching set is linen and was worn by a college girl. But even families with few resources could buy cheap cotton middies or make them at home.

This knit sports dress was made by a moderately priced knitwear maker, Sacony.  The silk blouse was most likely made at home, and the California Sports Hat was sold through the Montgomery Ward catalog. Even though this ensemble is far from couture, it is still important as it shows a step in the increasingly casual way people were dressing in the 1920s.

Bathing suits were becoming a necessity, and they were available at many price points, from less than a dollar to more than twenty dollars. A woman needed a cover-up. but that could be borrowed from her own boudoir.

These two garments were probably beyond the budget of many 1920s women, but this would have been everyday wear for a woman who had a bit more to spend on her clothes.

And here is an example of a more aspirational garment. This is from French fashion house Babani, and would have been priced at a level that most American women could only dreamof.

I think it is great that historians are giving everyday clothing a closer look. What people wore is important in understanding the times in which they lived. It’s interesting to think of clothes as artifacts, and not just what one wore each day.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s fashion, Collecting, Museums, Viewpoint, Vintage Clothing

Shopping with the Vintage Traveler, Spring 2019

The weather here in the mountains has been so perfect that it seems like we’ve spent the last month sitting in our backyard, watching the birds. But a look through my photo files revealed some interesting things found locally and on the road that I loved but did not buy.

Above is a very large decal of a Corticelli cat that has been applied to a painted board. I have no idea what the reasoning was, but I can’t resist vintage thread memorabilia.

I spotted this pretty Jeanne Lanvin pochoir in a local store. If a pochoir has a little girl in it, it’s probably by Lanvin.

I loved this advertising sign for hooks and eyes. The puffed sleeves date this as circa 1895.

This is a shot from an antique mall in Jonesborough, Tennessee. I run across this hole-in-the-floor feature in old stores from time to time. I had the salesperson in an old country store tell me that the whole town knew the owner stood at the rail and watched for shoplifters.

This amazing sign was at Dodson’s Dig in Greenville, South Carolina. It had been on display in a restaurant, but the sign originally was above a  Greenville, Mississippi corset shop.

Dodson’s Dig is a fantastic place. It’s easy to get carried away playing, as Liza did here.

Art Nouveau girls are the best.

If I had a wall that needed covering, I’d be tempted to seek out the best fruit crate labels and have them framed.

This is an advertising poster (see husband’s fingers for size comparison). I got all excited until I saw the $17.95 price tag, because I knew immediately that it had to be a reproduction. And it was,

On a whim, I went to the Hillsville, Virginia Memorial Day flea market. I’ve written here about Hillsville many times, as I go to the Labor Day market every year. It’s a huge chaotic affair, and though it’s crazy and exhausting, I can’t resist it. I heard the spring market was not as large, but I was not prepared for the pitiful showing. To be honest, I found some great things, but we were on the way home after about three hours.

And finally, here’s one thing I did buy – a 1940s sailor boy pin. I love how he moves!

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Filed under Collecting, I Didn't Buy..., Shopping

Shopping with The Vintage Traveler at the Liberty Antiques Festival

We just returned from a trip to the eastern part of North Carolina, which is a very different world from the western part of the state where we live. Think beaches and tall pines and lots of water and marshes as opposed to mountains and rolling hills with rushing rivers and scenic vistas. In fact, the slogan for NC tourism used to be Variety Vacationland.

On the way home our last stop was the twice a year outdoor old stuff market at Liberty, NC.  I’ve been going to Liberty faithfully since 2005 and I’ve never been disappointed. The show has changed a bit in nature to reflect changing styles in home decorating. More on that in a bit. The show advertises that no new stuff is allowed, but many dealers ignore the uninforced rule. Still, it’s the best I’ve found in the Southeast.

So, here are the things I found interesting, but did not buy. First, the hooked Scottie rug above was a great temptation. Probably from the 1930s, he was a great example of that popular little dog, but I already have two Scottie rugs and do not need another.

There are several sellers who specialize in sporting collectibles, and I love looking through their things, even though the great majority is from male athletes.

I loved this photo. Are they tennis stars ot movie stars, or just stars in their own world? I promise to try and find their identities, so feel free to help me.

I really liked this skates case, but I was put off by the condition. What I really loved was that the woman appears to be wearing slacks, though it could be tights.

I spotted this pennant and my heart skipped a beat. I thought it could possibly be a suffragist’s item, considering the purple color. But no.

Instead it was from The Hub Clothiers in Ottawa. Right Clothing at the Right Price.

I spotted a 1928 yearbook from Appalachian State Normal School, which would become Appalachian State University. A normal school was actually a teacher education school, back in the days when most states did not require a teacher to have a college degree, but were starting to see the advantage in teachers having advanced training. My second grade teacher attended a normal school, and at some point she had to return to school to get a bachelor’s degree.

Thumbing through the book I saw immediately how the majority of the students were young women. There were enough men to have a basketball team, but they were not nearly as interesting as the girls’ team.

In 1928 the girls were still wearing bloomers, but they were above the knee. And how about those sleeveless knit jerseys? App’s colors today are black and gold, and I really hope the bits of color on these uniforms were gold as well. The socks are interesting. They are really more of a legging with a strap that goes under the foot, much like a modern baseball sock. I bought a pair of these years ago, hoping to find evidence that they were worn by women as well as men. Now I have it.

Public service announcement: Appalachian is pronounced  Appa-LATCH-un if you are referring to the university or to the southern mountains.

I love the tiny hatboxes that were given as Christmas gifts. A tiny hat within could be exchanged for an actual hat.

This creation was under glass, so my photo is not as good as I’d like, but this was the most charming little thing. The face is a real photo, but the rest is made from various textile bits. Even the striped stockings are cotton knit.

It might be obvious that the heart on the right is a pincushion, but what about the apple? Yes, it is also a pincushion, with a silk covering that is positively real looking. Even the stem looks real. Can you see the price? $110.

One seller had a pile of 1950s and 60s shoes, all in the original boxes and all labeled and dated.  I know that sounds like a seller’s dream come true, but the shoes within the boxes had signs of having been surrounded by acidic paper for fifty something years.

I’ve got to thank the people of the past who were considerate enough to save the original packaging. Imagine this as only the contents – a lipstick, brushes, and powder box – with no box and brochure. It’s not nearly as appealing.

Here’s a great little give-away item from United Woolen Mills. The flicker action no longer works, so the girl seems to be caught in a perpetual half-smile.

I’ll admit that at first this was St. Francis getting ready to bless the puppies, but then I saw the streamer and realized halos don’t have ribbon streamers. It’s a farm boy with the farm’s new pups.

I know it’s not called this any longer, but will Shabby Chic ever end? Just when I thought it could not get any nuttier, the passion for old bed springs is kindled in the home decorating obsessed heart. Along with springs, add the miscellaneous paint-pealing architectural element and old rusted out buckets.  And in a few years it will all be passé, I hope.

And I hope that little observation did not offend anyone’s taste, but I’ve come to realize that anytime words come out of a human’s mouth, another human is offended. So one should just go ahead and throw caution to the wind, firm in one’s knowledge of what is and is not tacky.

Finally, this great hat was not seen at the antiques show, but in the excellent Design Archive Vintage in Winston-Salem. Is this hat tacky? Possibly, but it is fantastic never-the-less.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, North Carolina, Road Trip, Shopping, Viewpoint

1940s Fashion Letterheads

Six years ago I ran across the correspondence of a clothing sales representative, most of which was rejection letters from firms with which he was seeking a position. I wrote about the letters at the time, but in looking through them recently I was really struck by several new thoughts.

Many of the letterhead illustrations included facsimiles of the labels the companies used. These could be useful not only in helping to date a garment, but also in identifying the maker of a certain label. In the case above, Miss Modern Playtogs, Ethel Lou Creations, and Nina Lou Frocks were all made by the Alton Garment Company of St. Louis, a fact that would be lost if not for documentation such as the letters.

Another important lesson from these letters is how widespread the manufacturing of clothing was in the United States. Fashion history tends to focus on New York (and no doubt, the fashion industry there was very important), with an occasional nod to the California and Florida sportswear makers, the junior dress industry of St. Louis, and the woolen manufacturers of the North and Northwest.

We are reminded that Dallas was another center for sportswear, and that Cleveland had a large knitwear industry. Not only was Saint Louis a center for junior wear, so was Kansas City. And I couldn’t help but notice how many different clothing manufacturing companies were located in Boston.

It’s interesting how the logos and fonts used by some companies looked old-fashioned for the late 1940s…

while others were definitely looking toward the 1950s.

The California companies were more likely to use “California lifestyle” imagery in their logos.

Companies that made clothing for children and teens were more likely to use images of dresses.

Teen and junior lines were more likely to use quirky fonts and design.

And whatever happened to the word frock?

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Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Curiosities

Dunlop Beach Sandals, 1939

Some time ago I found a pair of 1930s beach shoes from France, so I guess it was bound to happen that I find a pair from Great Britain as well. I would have been happy with just the shoes, but they came in the original box which was just the best icing imaginable.

I spotted these on Instagram (that great enabler of collectors) in the feed of @wideawakevintage. If you are not following her, do please, as she finds the most amazing stuff. After nearly breaking my neck to get to her etay store, I found the shoes were still there and so I purchased them. It was not until the package arrived that I found the box was included.

There’s a real plus to buying from sellers who are obsessed with the history of things. They are on the lookout for ads and such to help with the dating of the things they find. And Michelle of Wide Awake really went above and beyond the duty of a vintage seller, as she not only found an advertisement with my new shoes…

she also found this photo for sale on Etsy with a woman wearing the shoes! I love how she has paired them with ankle socks and a dress, proving that beach sandals are not just for the beach.

Okay, these are not one hundred percent exactly like mine, but they are pretty darned close.

It’s always great to see something I have in my collection in the actual context of it being worn. Ads are great, but it takes a real woman to put these shoes in a real situation.

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Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Shoes

How I Collect

One question I get a lot of is do I ever display any of my collection. The answer to that is, “No,” as I’m a collector, not a museum. But it did occur to me that if I were displaying my collection, I’d want to show it the way I collect. By that I mean that I don’t collect piecemeal, but rather, I collect as if assembling ensembles that might have actually been worn by a woman of the era.

I’ve been slowly taking photos of these ensembles and posting them on Instagram, but as I know many of you do not take part in social media, I thought I’d post them here as well. First up are clothes and accessories from 1915-1919.

Above is a 1918ish bathing dress. I bought it years ago in a local antiques mall that had it labeled as a child’s victorian dress. Nope.  There were no knickers, but that’s not a problem as I have several pairs of wool knickers from the same era. The cap was an eBay find from about 2007.  I can’t imagine finding one today. The boots also came from eBay, at about the same time. The Ayvad Water Wings came from the collection of a kindred spirit.

This is what the well-dressed post-Edwardian woman wore for tennis. The middy blouse was made by the  “Jack Tar Middy” brand. When I found it I was not sure the heart-shaped smocking was original to the piece, but I later found an ad showing the smocking. The sports skirt is unlabeled, and it has very deep pockets that are perfect for tennis balls. The boots are Keds. I need a hat.

The skirt and sailor blouse were another lucky eBay find from about twelve years ago. I think it was seamstress made, especially with the hand embroidery in dark blue. The hat is labeled “New York Hat Works” and has silk ribbons and a silk covered button on top of the crown. The handbag is linen fabric embroidered in silk and is most likely homemade.

This outing ensemble is one of my favorites, and as a special thanks to you Vintage Traveler readers, this one has not yet been posted on Instagram. This set started with the skirt, which was a gift some years ago from friend Amanda in Vermont. Like the twill cotton blouse, it is unlabeled. The rucksack was a lucky Goodwill find. It’s from Abercrombie’s Camp. The gauntlet gloves are stamped, “The Buccaneer by Speare” and I found them at a flea market. And again, I need a hat.

I’ll be posting more as I get them photographed. Next up are the early 1920s.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing

Paris-Designed Handbags from Montgomery Ward

Lately I’ve been attracted to ads that are shaped like the objects they are promoting. I’m sure there is a name for this, but it escapes me at the moment. I recently found this example of a handbag sales folder from Montgomery Ward.

The back of the folder even has the back strap handle printed onto the paper.

Open the “handbag” and you see the $4.85 Paris-designed handbags offered by Montgomery Ward. There is a variety of styles in various leathers, most being offered in more than one color. There were several designs in ostrich and French kid antelope.

Some of the clasps have marcasite ornaments, and one has crocodile trim. The “shell frames” seen on two designs are simulated. In all, they look to be quality products. The $4.85 price looks to be a tremendous bargain, but the US Inflation Calculator tells me the cost in 2019 dollars would be $71.69. That is still a good price for a quality handbag.

One thing my little paper handbags lacks is a date. From the styles I knew this dated to the second half of the 1920s, or maybe into the early 30s. But a close reading of the ad copy provided the exact answer.

Montgomery Ward dated the beginning of the company to 1872, so add fifty-six years to that, and I determined that the brochure dates to 1928.

Another part of the ad copy reveals a bit of how the fashion industry operated at the time.

Created from original Models, hurried to us by our French Fashion Correspondent, and copied for us by an American Manufacturer whose name stands for the best in fine Leather Goods.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities