Category Archives: Collecting

Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company Blouse

I rarely buy incomplete garments, but this one was rare enough to make an exception.  I didn’t feel too bad about the bloomers being missing, as I do have several pairs from the same era.

I wasn’t able to locate much about the Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company. Most of the sources were ads in women’s colleges’ newsletters and in sports magazines. The earliest reference I have found is from 1909, but I’m quite sure my blouse is a bit older than that.

The company also made bathing suits, and I found one suit labeled “Columbia Bathing Suit Co.” It was pretty much identical to the Columbia gymsuits I found online.

The addition of this second label helps to narrow the date a bit. The National Consumers League was chartered in 1899, which you can read on the label, in the circle. I’ve seen several Columbia gymsuits with this label in online collections, several being dated to before 1899. Even museums make mistakes!

I’m quite sure that my blouse is from around 1905, or possibly a bit earlier. You see the styling of the typical blouse of that era, with the blousy front and slightly gathered sleeves.

The waist buttoned to the bloomers, the waistband of which would have covered the brown cotton facing that holds the buttons. The buttons are made of glass.

The opening in in the front, with hook and eye closures on the shoulder, and a line of buttons running diagonally to the waist. These are concealed by the deep tucks.

Like many gymsuits and bathing suits made before 1920, this one is made from wool. It’s a very light, open weave wool, but terribly scratchy. Girls must have loved it when cotton became the favored fabric of gymsuit makers.

There is a modern Columbia Sportswear Company. I could find no connection between the maker of my blouse and the current company.

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Filed under Collecting, Gymnasium

Edwardian Divided Skirt

The world is reopening, whether or not Covid-19 is under control.  I’m a bit conflicted, as it seems like the more people are out being “normal”, the greater the likelihood is that we’ll again find ourselves in lockdown again this fall. I have discovered that antique shops are a good compromise between staying home completely and jumping into a swimming pool with 100 strangers, yelling about our right to party.

So, after getting my hair cut for the first time since February, I went to an antique mall in a nearby town, as a little treat for myself. I had never been there before, so I didn’t have any expectations. As I walked up the aisles, I saw ahead a booth that clearly had clothing. Ten years ago I’d have been all excited, but so many booths in antiques malls are now selling modern clothing that I really didn’t get my hopes up.

But, praise be, there were old clothes in this booth! I immediately spotted a pair of old black cotton exercise bloomers. $12! As I grabbed them, I took a quick look around the booth, and then I saw it – an Edwardian divided skirt. This is the garment women wore for hiking, for camping, and for horseback riding. It’s an all-purpose sports garment, with a big secret.

That secret is that the skirt is actually a pair of pants. Unbutton the front panel, flip it to the right, and you are now wearing culottes.

For years women had been wearing some sort of pants under their skirts for sports. The divided skirt was a late Victorian innovation that allowed the wearer to switch from one to the other with the changing of a few buttons.

Even buttoned to expose the pants, the garment could pass for a skirt.

These were sold by the Standard Mail Order Company of New York  City.  There are digital copies of catalogs from that company all over the internet, so I will be doing a bit of searching for my divided skirt.

This was not a product unique to Standard. My 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog has a very similar style  for sale for $12.50 to $20  dollars. According to the inflation calculator, that would have been  $320 to $512in today’smoney. Perhaps Standard was a bit more accessible to the less-than-rich.

And I’m guessing it was more affordable, as I have in my collection of vintage photos various women wearing the garment. It was such a great innovation, which allowed women to ride a horse astride, to safely ride a bicycle, and to romp freely through the woods, Can’t ask more of a garment than that.

My divided skirt shows a lot of signs that it was worn a lot. It’s missing a button, and there are a few small rips around some of the buttonholes. The hem you see with the darker thread is not original. Either the original wearer was very short, or she shortened the skirt in the mid 1910s when fashion dictated a shorted skirt. Either way, it’s a part of the skirt’s history, and will remain.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Shopping, Summer Sports, Vintage Photographs

How I Collect – 1940s, Part 2

Today I continue with my tour through the 1940s. Women started wearing overalls for outdoor work in the late 1930s, but the garment really caught on during World War Two. They were great for gardening and other yard work, but women must have really loved the comfortable overalls, as I have quite a few vintage photos showing women wearing them for leisure.

By the 1940s shorts were being worn on casual occasions, but I’ve also seen photos and magazines ads of shorts being dressed up with the addition of a jacket.

Opps! I used the same hat twice!  Cotton became common in use for bathing suits in the 1940s. This one is a woven twill, but is lined in cotton jersey.  The palm tree cape is made from chenille, probably made at one of the many chenille businesses in North Georgia.

The matching shorts and tee shirt were made by Jantzen, and you can see the original sticker on the shirt.  Thinking about color is so interesting because if you look at many vintage garments you can start to see what colors were popular during different eras. My cute little hexagon shaped bag and the sandals are a perfect match to the green of the tee and shorts.

This golf dress has a label called “American Golfer”.  Women were increasingly turning to skirts, culottes, and even shorts for golfing, so American Golfer began advertising their dresses as good for streetwear.

During the last years of WWII, bathing suit makerCole of California began producing some of the barest bathing suits to date. One was a two-piece similar to this one, but the front of the pants were attached to the back using cord woven through eyelets. Cole ran ads with the suit juxtaposed with a paratrooper, as much of Cole’s production was in making parachutes. Was the assumption to be that they used parachute cord in the bathing suit?

This outfit symbolizes the lucky find. I was rummaging through a box of old damaged clothes at a flea market when I pulled out the playsuit. It ran through my mind that there was most likely a matching skirt originally. Sure enough, the skirt was at the bottom of the box. The sandals came from an old general store in West Asheville, NC. For years the elderly owner went to the store, in spite of the fact that no new merchandise had been added since the early 1970s, and there was stuff still dating from the 40s. There was a big box of shoes, all dumped together and a bit of digging produced this pair, at the original price of $6. I used to frequent the place until the owner became too ill to work. Some years later there was a water line break, the place flooded, and most of the remaining contents went to the dump.

To me, this is the perfect picnic dress. It was designed by Sophie Gimbel, the in-house designer at Saks Fifth Avenue. The shoes were brought back from the Far East by a soldier returning home after WWII.

I love this dress so much, and it has a local (Asheville, NC) label.  The red and white bits are applied flowers, each with a pearl button in the center. The handbag has a lucite Scottie dog clasp!

I am finishing up the 1940s with a truly lousy shot of a beautiful set from the estate of Mary Jane Hefner. Since this was most likely part of her college wardrobe I paired it with a football themed scarf, also from Jane’s estate. Jane had several slacks sets, all in immaculate condition. Was it because slacks on girls were not acceptable at her small town college (meaning the pants didn’t get a lot of wear), or was she just very careful with her clothes? It’s likely a combination of both.

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How I Collect – 1940s

As I’ve stated before, How I Collect is a series I’ve been posting on Instagram. I’ve worked my way up to the 1940s, though I haven’t photographed everything in my collection. I have quite a few ensembles from the Forties, so I’ll be showing them in two parts. My apologies if you follow on Instagram, as you have already seen these. And I’ve included links to older posts about some of the garments.

This early 1940s ski suit has a Sonja Henie label. The ice skating star had her name on both skating attire and ski suits in the late 1930s and into the 40. The little pin is a souvenir of a live Sonja Henie skating show.

I wish this were a Sonja Henie ice skating dress, but no, the label is Gail Burke Classics. Still, it’s pretty nifty with the felt appliques and the green taffeta lining. Ice skating enjoyed a surge of popularity in the late 1930s and the 1940s due to the influence of Henie’s movies and live skating extravaganzas.

By the late 1940s, wool gabardine had pretty much replaced  heavy, thick wool as the favored fabric for ski attire. This suit has a reversible jacket. The nylon cap has a little skier on the front emblem.

It’s not all sportswear, but I also love the types of clothing that would have appealed to a sportswoman. Claire McCardell fits that bill perfectly. The scarf is a champagne motif, and the shoes are a lucky Ferragamo find from years ago.

I’ve written at length about the curious case of the 1940s Alpine fashion fad. Some trends really do defy understanding, in retrospect.

I’ve also written about this piece, a World War Two era siren suit from England. It was a lucky buy from an auction house that thought it was a ski suit. Here I explain why it’s not appropriate for skiing.

I bought this Gilbert Adrian suit years ago on ebay. I actually wore the jacket when I went to an exhibition on Adrian with friend Liza. I was terrified I’d ruin it, so I had to change before I went out to eat lunch.  The shoes are from Swiss maker Bally.

For the most part I do not collect lingerie, but I do love a great pair of pajamas especially when there’s a trio of Scottie dogs embroidered on the pocket. I’ve had these since the 1980s. I bought them back when I actually wore a lot of old clothes. It’s a miracle they aren’t covered in coffee stains.

I love this great bowling dress so much, and so I was thrilled to find the red and white bowling shoes to match. It’s enough to make a collector’s heart sing.

Slacks were already beginning to gain in popularity in the late 1930s, but WWII really made pants-wearers of many American women. The sweater is from Bradley, and is made with a cheap blend of reprocessed wool. The shoes have not a bit of leather, as the uppers are velveteen and the soles are a synthetic rubber.

The handbag is a Chimayo handwoven bag. I found it in the Goodwill bins! That was a very lucky day.

Next will be some nice summery ensembles.

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Filed under Collecting, Winter Sports, World War II

Kirness Sisters, Jerusalem, Jacket

I haven’t bought a lot of things lately due to first one thing and then another, but I did get this pretty cross-stitched rayon jacket about a month ago. I spotted it on Instagram, where it was love at first sight. After it came I put it on a hanger and put it where I could just admire it for a while.

Today I finally took a closer look, and did a bit of searching for the makers, the Kirness Sisters. I knew about this shop, but I really didn’t know much about the sisters. A general search brought up a few garments, all hand embroidered with a Middle Eastern look. There were caftans and robes and dresses. Most of the sellers listed them as being from the 1910s or 1920s.

In the July 12, 1934 Palestine Gazette I found a notice where the business had registered as a partnership. The two owners were Esher and Lida Kirness. Their business was the manufacture and selling of the arts and crafts of Palestine.  I found no other mention of Esher, but Lida married Alexander Avraham in 1937. All the other sources were written in Hebrew, so this is pretty much it, for now.

Photo form the Tim Gidel Collection, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Luckily, this photo of the exterior of the shop survives. It was taken in 1936 during the time Palestine was under British administration.

The earliest reference I found to the Kirness Sisters was the 1934 partnership registration, but that does not necessarily mean that the business actually began in 1934. Most of the clothing I have seen with the label do look to be from the 1920s, especially the dresses. I suspect that my jacket is from the late 1920s or the early 1930s.

Here is the jacket again, this time taken before I took a close look at the interior. Compare it to the photo at the top. Can you see where an alteration was made?

If you guessed “sleeves” then you are correct. The sleeves had been shortened and made more narrow.  The person who made the adaptation, possibly the original owner, went about it in a way so that the changes were not obvious. It was not until I turned it inside-out that I saw that the sleeves had been shortened about two inches. Not only that, the sleeve seams were taken in to make the sleeves more narrow. Could this have been to update the sleeves to a more narrow 1930s look?

But this is the outside.  The alternations can barely be detected. My scissors are pointing to the seam there the sleeve was shortened. Also look just below the tip of the scissors t see one of the places where the sleeve was  narrowed.

Because the alteration was made without cutting the fabric, reversing the change was easy.  Only a crease was left to indicate the alteration.

I know that many people wear old clothes, and that in order to make them fit sometimes alterations are needed. If this is you, then please do like the alterer of this jacket did. Make any changes so that they can be reversed. That means to not use scissors.  I’d also say that reversing alterations is easier when the stitching is in a slightly different color thread than the garment. I almost went blind removing black thread from a black garment.

Here’s the label in case you are ever lucky enough to run across a Kirness Sister garment. I’m thinking that would be more likely if you are in the UK, as most of the examples I located online were from sellers in the UK.  There’s good reason for this, of course, as the British were still operating under the idea that they had the right to be in Palestine. There was a large British presence in Jerusalem.

The crossstitch is so beautiful, and it shows the marks of a skilled embroiderer. Today people might sound the cry of cultural appropriation concerning garments like this one, but you have to remember this was made by a person in Palestine for the tourist trade. It’s similar to buying Native American jewelry from the maker. It helps the local economy and supports craftsmanship.

This came from the beautiful shop of Madame E Vintage at etsy.

 

 

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Filed under Collecting, Designers, Uncategorized

Two Early 1960s Blouses – Emilio Pucci and Haymaker

Several years ago I wrote about a ski themed blouse by Emilio Pucci. This is not it.

This is the Pucci blouse, as it was photographed by the seller, Erawear Vintage. I had always regretted not buying it, so when the similar blouse at the top of this post was put up for sale, I decided to add it to my sports-themed collection, even though it was not the real thing.

Actually, the blouse has a pretty good label, Haymaker.  Those of us who were around in the 1960s might remember Haymaker. It was a label owned by the David Crystal company, the company that also owned Izod, and which held the American license for Lacoste crocodile shirts. Haymaker made mainly sportswear and business attire for women. I’ve looked all over, and I can’t find a connection between Haymaker and Pucci, but the Haymaker blouse can’t be an accident.  The two shirts are just too similar.

The Haymaker blouse has Sestriere in script as part of the border.  The Pucci blouse has various Alpine ski resorts in script as part of the design.

There are no actual skiers on my Haymaker blouse. It’s made of a very nice rayon, while the Pucci is silk.

I was happy to find a different Pucci blouse with a ski print. It’s a bit plain to be a typical Pucci, but not all his early work was bold and geometric.

It also has the name of, I presume, a ski resort, but I can’t quite figure it out.  I do love how the script forms the tree.

The back really is fun, with a variety of crazy skiers working their way to the hem.

One of the best skiers is this mermaid. What’s really interesting is that Pucci also made a sports themed dress that used a mermaid. You can see it on the old post.  In fact, the design of the dress fabric is very similar to my Pucci blouse in that both have a small overall scale.

If I remember correctly, the Pucci sold by Erawear did not have the Emilio name in the print. Mine, does, as you can see above.

Pucci is so representative of the late 1960s and the 70s aesthetic, but I love these early examples more. I love how he showed one of his passions – skiing – in the print. I may not be typical of what we today envision as “Pucci”, but how clever are these print?

 

 

 

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Filed under Collecting, Designers, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, Winter Sports

Mitzi’s 1920s Photo Album

I’m calling this new-to-me 1920s photo album Mitzi’s Album, because Mitzi the Boston Terrier is the only person identified in the entire book.  Mitzi’s owner, above, is scattered throughout the album, along with several faces that became familiar while taking a deep look at this great book.

Like so many photo albums I’ve studied over the years, this one appears to have started out as a memento of a specific trip – in this case a stay at a fishing camp sometime between 1922 and 1924. But after the vacation photos were all glued in, Mitzi’s owner decided to add some earlier photos, and then some from around 1926. I know this, of course, because of the women’s clothing.

There are lots of photos of the vacationers holding the catch of the day.  I believe these came from an estate in Wisconsin, so that might explain all the warm looking clothes in what appears to be summer or fall. I hope you can see her shoes. They look like Mary Janes to me. Women were just turning to pants for leisure, and the idea of appropriate footwear had not quite caught up with the more “mannish” attire. I see this over and over in 1920s photos.

Here’s the photo album owner again. She is standing in front of what looks to me to be a summer cabin. The middle class had really taken to the idea of a summer place, and many built cabins or cottages on little plots of land on a lake front, beach, or river bank. There are still many of these still existing across the US, especially in the East and Midwest.

I guess we would call her dress a housedress. Can you see why so many women found dressing in the 1920s to be a challenge? Not all women were John Held-ish flappers.

Women were just beginning to boldly wear knickers without a skirt over top of them. The woman on the left looks like she put together an ensemble of knickers and a sweater, but the girl on the right is wearing a matching ensemble that looks to be made of velvet or another piled fabric.

I can see why the girl in the dress from the previous photo opted out of this one. I would refuse to get that close to a snapping turtle myself. And I find myself wondering what’s in the bottle.

If she can wear the pants, he can wear the dress. There were several photos of this mock proposal and courtship.

I’m pretty sure this is the same woman as in the photo above. I want that bathing suit. Badly. Note how the cap has the white stripe trim as well.

Another great bathing suit is worn by the woman who captured the turtle.

What is it about a striped skirt on holiday? These must have been very popular, as I have photos of quite a few women from around 1905 to 1925 wearing them.  And the woman on the right (recognize her as the female suitor?) shows what it took for a woman to look fantastic in the 1920s. One needed to be slim, and have a sense of what worked on her body.

Back in town, we see Mitzi’s owner and the male bride again. I can’t figure out who the young woman on the left is, but her outfit is really nice.

Mitzi’s owner must have had some old photos she didn’t know what to do with, so into the album they went. This one was taken in the 1910s.

After that, things get really random. Again, here’s an excellent illustration of how 1920s fashion favored the slim, and also the tall. See how skirts were creeping toward the knee?

I can’t tell that these two women have any relation to any of the other photos. So, were slacks so unusual that one would ask two women wearing them to pose for a photo?

And finally, I just love this photo of a woman taking a ride in an aeroplane. Her first, perhaps?

I got this from Circantiques, my new favorite etsy store.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting, Proper Clothing