Category Archives: Collecting

1920s Embroidered and Smocked Frock

Any vintage seller who has been in the business more than a few years will tell you that vintage clothing is subject to fads.  One year vintage wearers want 1950s full-skirted dresses, and the next they might move on to 1970s disco attire.  If the comments on Instagram can be believed, one of the hottest items right now is the “ethnic-inspired” smocked and embroidered dress from the 1920s.

This type dress fits in well with the 1920s fascination with the exotic, something I’ve written about in the past. While there were sewing patterns for the dresses, they were also made abroad. I’ve seen them with labels from Czechoslovakia and the Philippines.

To be honest, I’ve never been able to determine exactly when these dresses were made, but the general consensus seems to be from the mid 1920s and into the early 1930s.  If you look at the placement of the waistline on my dress above, you can see that it’s not exactly the stereotypical 1920s silhouette, as the bodice is shorter than expected.

I spent a pleasurable morning looking through 1920s magazines, and the closest I found was this illustration for a 1926 Vogue sewing pattern.  Witness2Fashion posted several examples, also from 1926.  Fashion illustrations did tend to exaggerate the silhouette somewhat, but even so, my example has a longer skirt as well as the short bodice.  By the late 1920s the waistline was inching upward, and the hemline downward.

Another hint that my dress is later 20s or even 1930 is the little bit of shaping in the waist. There is even an opening in the side to allow for easier dressing.

Quite unbelievably, I found this dress at my local Goodwill bins.  It’s not in perfect condition, but the design of the dress lessens the impact of the problems.  Here you can see that some of the red threads have come loose at the neck. That was a very easy fix.

Not so easy to deal with was a small rip on the upper back. To stabilize the tear, I encased it in organdy and then basted the three layers together. While the tear makes the dress unwearable, it would not detract from the garment if it were to be displayed.

You can see some staining in this photo, which a few gentle handwashings removed.  I also had to do a bit of smock repair.

One of favorite things about this dress is how the dots vary in size, and how the pattern of them on the skirt is the reverse or that of the bodice.  And all the dots are hand embroidered.

Today we think of smocked dresses as being just for little girls.  What a shame!

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Late Victorian Bathing Costume

The great bulk of my collection dates after 1915, but I’m slowly educating myself about earlier sportswear, and I’ve begun to acquire a few pieces.  This late nineteenth century bathing suit is my latest.  I bought this one mainly because most of the ones I’ve looked at over the past year are black, so a different color was a plus.  I’ll probably eventually buy a black one, if I find one with great design that is in good condition.

Condition is a major problem with antique bathing suits, as they were for the most part, made from wool.  Besides the fact that moths love them, they were exposed to salt water and who knows what else.  So while this suit photographs and displays well, it has the sort of issues one might expect from a well-used garment that is around 120 years old. In this case, I decided I could live with more damage than I would on a more common garment.

The bathing suit is made up of two pieces, the blouse and bloomers combination, and a matching skirt. This was pretty much the makeup of women’s bathing suits until the second decade of the twentieth century, when the shrunken bloomers were covered by a skirt that was attached to the top.  From there the bathing suit kept getting smaller, and smaller and…

The lighter color tie is attached at the shoulders.  It covers a placket, under which is a row of buttons.

The modesty panel attaches to the collar with buttons on one side, and is permanently attached on the other.

The braid, which is green, was sewn on by machine, and looks to be professionally done.

The braid also decorated the sleeves, the waistband, and the hem of the skirt.  The weight of it helped to keep the skirt from riding or blowing up, thus saving the wearer from extreme embarrassment.

The damage is much more apparent on the back.  There are a number of moth holes, and the waist band is torn.  I’m guessing that the owner had gained a bit of weight, and the band simply ripped from the stress.  The buttons are for attaching the skirt.

Note the fullness below the waistband, which is the top of the bloomers.  I’ll get back to that in a minute.

This bathing suit came with a bit of a mystery attached – an extra piece that was originally part of the garment. It is a slice cut from the skirt. At some point the suit was altered to make the back of the skirt less full.  And while there is only one piece, there is evidence that two pieces were cut out.

This is the inside of the skirt, showing where I think the piece was removed. The most obvious sign is that a different color of thread was used.  On the left you can see that the thread matches the fabric, but the newer seam is stitched in white.  On the front, the original seams are so perfectly matched that it is hard to see them.  On the two new seams, the braid is off somewhat.

There is also white stitching where the skirt is gathered into the waistband.  So the back of the skirt had quite a bit of fullness removed.  But why? It probably has to do with changing fashion.

The image above is from 1898, from The Glass of Fashion. Even though a garment like a bathing suit might not be considered “fashion”, you can see the trends of an era in the shape and the details. Even though this is a dress, it has a lot in common with my bathing costume, with the gored skirt having a flat front and a full back.  The bodice is also similar with the pleats and gathers attached to a yoke. And don’t forget the puffed sleeves.

The bathing suit above is from an 1899 Delineator magazine. You can see how similar this one is to mine, with the tie, sailor collar, puffed sleeves and band at the hem.  This basic style remained popular over the next fifteen or so years, with gradual changes being made to reflect changing fashion.  The bodice became droopy in front, the gathers disappeared and smooth, full gores replaced them.

In period illustrations, bathing costumes are frequently pictured in beautiful colors, but photographs from the same time tell a different story.  The overwhelming majority of bathing suits for women were dark, either black or navy.

There are a few other problems with my suit.  Someone shortened the waist by about three quarters of an inch by making a tuck right above the waist.  I haven’t decided if I’ll remove it, but I probably will just leave it.  Most of the original buttons have been replaced, but buttons of this era are easy to find so I’ll probably replace the newer ones. The elastic in the legs of the bloomers has completely lost its stretch.  I’ll probably just leave it.

It was fun analyzing this piece.  Unfortunately, I know nothing at all about who the original owner was, but I do know she had a very appealing bathing costume.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Seahorse Silk Blouse: Tache, Rue de Castglione

I realize after looking at this photo that I should have taken the time to try and do a better job of showing just how lovely this late 1940s or early 1950s blouse is. I’m hoping the details will show the special-ness of it.

Every so often the question will arise on vintage clothing chat board, “What makes a garment museum quality or museum worthy?” There’s no easy answer to the question, and it depends on the museum and the collection housed within. For example, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art might turn up its nose at a rather plain mid-nineteenth century dress made and worn by a woman in Kansas, but that same dress might be an important part of a museum that interprets the history of that state.

When it comes to adding something to my own collection, I have several things to think about. “Museum quality” isn’t one of them, but “collection worthiness” is. An item has to not just fit into my theme of sports and travel wear, it must fill a spot that is currently empty, or it has to be a better example of something I already own.

Blouses from the post WWII era are quite common, and I already have a few, including a navy one in rayon, so unless one is pretty special I’m not going to be interested.

I love the under-the-sea theme of the embroidery with the seaweed and seahorses.  But notice also the quality of the embroidery.  This is tambour, which is done with a hook. There is also a machine which can produce a good tambour facsimile, and I’m not enough of an embroidery person to be able to tell the difference. I’m guessing it is machine work because it is just so tiny.  I can’t imagine it being done by hand, but expert embroiderers are magicians.  All I can say is that the work is beautifully done, and the back is neat and lovely as well.

This is the arm opening, and you can see the tambour that is applied to the band that secures it.  Also note the button, which is starburst-cut mother-of-pearl.

I sort of wish the blouse were actually this color, but this is just my camera playing tricks again.  The blouse is navy.  But I included this shot because I wanted to make sure the row of tucks would be noticed.  You probably can’t tell, but they are actually stitched by hand.

This blouse was meant to be tucked into a skirt or slacks, and to help keep it looking neat, there is a series of eight tucks (in addition to these decorative ones) all around  the waist.

The label reads “Tache, Paris, 6 R. de Castiglione. The Rue de Castiglione is a shopping street that connects the Place Vendôme to the Tuileries Gardens. It’s a nice area of the city.  Unfortunately, I have found nothing at all about Tache.  I assume it was a store that sold pricey goods. Today, it appears as if there is a spa located in the space, which is across the street from a Weston Hotel.

As would be expected on a garment of this quality, there is a mixture of machine stitching and hand finishing.  The hem is hand stitched, as are the bindings at the neck and arms.  The machine-stitched side and shoulder seams are finished with a hand overcast stitch.

I also consider condition when deciding on a purchase.  I can deal with a bit of less-than-perfect-ness, especially if the garment is really good. Rarity also is considered.  I’d want a 1960s sportswear piece to be almost perfect, but I’m willing to be a little less picky when it comes to a piece from the 1910s. In this case, the condition is very good, with one light spot and a tiny repaired hole.  There are also some seams that have come loose.  Those I’ll fix with basting.

This was an item I spotted on Instagram, from Ballyhoo Vintage Clothing.  Sellers, if you are not on Instagram, you might be missing opportunities to sell your stuff.

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Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing

1957 Jantzen Junior Dealer’s Catalog

A lot can be learned from old catalogs.  This one from Jantzen was not made for the consumer, but for the merchants that would be buying Jantzen products for their stores.  This particular catalog is for junior clothes, and I’m sure there were others for clothing for men, misses, and children.

Of course there were plenty of swimsuits.  After all, Jantzen was primarily a swimsuit company.  But what is interesting is how much of the catalog is devoted to other sportswear.

But before I get to the sportswear, I want to focus in one the swimsuit on the left.  This model was the “Holland Check” Sheath, with retailed for $10.95.  (Add in inflation, and this suit would be $93.50.  Jantzen was not cheap.)  In the late 1950s, and into the early 60s, plaids and checks were very popular.  This catalog features several plaid designs.

You can’t really tell what the plaid looks like here, but I do admire the way the designer used the print as part of the design.

Here you see the Holland check as trim on shorts and in a sleeveless top.

Even more Holland check in Bermudas, and as the trim on a blouse…

and on pedal pushers.

And best of all, here is the same check in a fabulous reversible cap.  The check was available in white with red, blue, brown, or black.  I’d never heard of “Holland Check” but it looks an awful lot like Prince of Wales plaid.

A store would pick which pieces to sell and it’s very unlikely that any one store opted to sell the entire line.  I can remember shopping in department stores in the late 1960s and early 70s, and it was common for stores to be selling the same brands, but to be offering entirely different pieces.

As a collector, it is nice seeing all the options available in the same print.  It’s hard enough finding great old sportswear garments, but how challenging it would be to try and assemble all the pieces of a particular line.  Unless one gets lucky, that is, the way I did with a matching line from Tabak of California.  

There was a real “Italian Look” evident in many of the garments.  The influence of Emilio Pucci, perhaps?

There were also references to the nautical influence, as in “Tars ‘n’ Stripes”.

And here’s even a nod to the ever popular middy blouse, though for some reason they chose to spell it “midi”.

Because these were junior swimsuits, targeted toward a teen consumer, Jantzen offered “Accents”, a bra pad.  The description of most of the swimsuits in this catalog mention that there is “space for ‘Accents” bust pads” in the suit.  I’ve got to wonder if there was an actual place in which to insert these pads.  Anybody know?

 

 

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Man O’War Dance Romper, 1930

You want to know what makes a collector’s heart sing?  The discovery of an object she never knew existed!  The romper above has the Man O’War label, which I’d known only as a maker of middy blouses and gymsuits.  But gymsuits weren’t made in cute cotton floral prints.  So what’s the story?

Fortunately, the seller, Belvedere Vintage Wear had done her homework, and when she posted a photo of the romper on Instagram, she also posted the ad above.  It came from a 1930 issue of The Dance Magazine, so it turns out this was a rehearsal garment.

The  Man O’War label belonged to a Baltimore company,  Branigan, Green & Co.  According the the 1921 edition of The American Cloak and Suit Review, the company was recently formed as a maker of middys and gym attire.  The owners were Edgar Green and Joseph Branigan, both of whom had worked for Morris and Co, the makers of Paul Jones Middys.  I did however, find a reference to  Branigan, Green & Co in a 1909 list of clothing manufacturers, under the category of middy blouses.  Perhaps it is just the Man O’War label that was started in 1921.

In 1921, when the label was started, Man O’War was a household name, with the famous horse dominating racing in 1919 and 1920.  Maybe Branigan and Green thought it would be a great name for their label, as it also had a nautical connection, being a type of ship.  That is a ship on the label.

The structure is very similar to gymsuits of the period.  It unbuttons at the shoulder, and the wearer steps into the garment.  It is loose at the waist, but the illustrations in the ad show it being worn with a tie belt.  For the photo I used a piece of bias tape, but a wider ribbon is needed.

The elastic in the legs is pretty much shot, so I’ll be replacing that.  But that is pretty much all that this piece needs in order to made it dance-worthy.

This ad is from 1929, and featured Man O’War’s main product – gym attire. Maybe it was that by 1930 the middy was not as ubiquitous as it had been a few years before that caused Branigan, Green & Co to start branching out.  By 1931 they were also producing a line of ski wear, Adirondack: the Real McCoy for Winter Sports, and miscellaneous sportswear under a label called Good Game.  Over the years other labels were added. In 1955 they started a label for women’s and children’s sports separates called Sandpipers.  As far as I can tell, the company lasted until 1969.

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Henry S. Lombard Yachting Uniforms, Circa 1910

I’ve written quite a bit about the middy blouse over the years, and about Lombard in particular.  It’s a garment that continues to fascinate me, and it has been on my short list of things to study in-depth whenever I miraculously find myself with unlimited time.  But until then, I’ll continue to park my findings and thoughts here.

I think what is really interesting about the middy is how it started as sailors’ attire, was adapted to clothing for children, morphed into high fashion resort and yachting wear for women, was adopted by all classes of women for bathing attire, became the uniform for college girls, and continues to make a fashion comeback every so often.  It has a long and ever-changing history, and it is still associated with the original wearer – the sailor.

This is the fourth Lombard catalog I’ve added to my collection, and it is the oldest.  Unfortunately, it is not dated, but the style of the hair and clothing places it to around 1910.  As far as the company is concerned, I’ve found very little about it.  The front of the catalog proudly proclaimed that Henry S. Lombard had been in business since 1855, but it is highly unlikely that the company was manufacturing women’s ready-to-wear.

I was able to find a reference to Lombard in an 1861 list of Boston merchants and makers.  The company was listed as dealing in “fancy goods.”

The next reference I found to the company was in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology magazine in 1895. There was an ad for Lombard that stated they sold “Yachting Outfits of Every Description.  Duck trousers, Outing clothes, Sweaters.”  We can safely assume that the ad is for men’s clothing, as at the time the students at MIT were mostly male.  At any rate, trousers would not have been made and sold to women in 1895.

In 1895 the making of  ready-to-wear for women was still in the early days of development.  By 1910, there were hundreds of makers of women’s blouses, or waists, and skirts and simple lingerie.  It this time Lombard was still making and selling uniforms for yachting officers and crews.  I found an ad for these in a 1911 issue of Yachts and Yachting magazine.

In my 1918 and 1920s Lombard catalogs, there is a wide selection of not only middies, but also skirts, bloomers, knickers, and breeches.  In this earlier catalog there are only two styles of skirts offered.

Nowhere in this little catalog is the word middy used to refer to the blouses. It is called a yachting blouse, or a sailor blouse.  By 1918, Lombard was calling this type blouse a middy.

I found quite a few ads for Lombard blouses in college magazines.  Both Vassar and Barnard ran ads in 1912.  And the catalog specifically mentions the “college girl” on almost every page.  It’s clear who their target customer was.

And finally, a lovely red coat and cap, or you could order the set in navy, or several different plaids.

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Wes-Mor Sure-Grip Shoe Cleats

If you have been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while you know that I’m a collector of women’s sportswear.  But I also am always on the lookout for items that relate to clothing and sports, but don’t really qualify as garments.  The Wes-Mor Sure-Grip Shoe Cleat falls into that category.

If you are ever bored, spend an hour or two on the Google Patents site.  Some of the oddball ideas will amaze and delight.  And what is fun is to actually find a product like mine that has the patent number right on the box.  Talk about making research easy!

Knowing this product was protected under patent number 2103472 led me straight to the patent and the accompanying drawings from the inventor, John Lascari.  He filed for the patent in  July, 1937, and the patent was granted in December of the same year.

According to the patent:

This invention relates to a shoe cleat and more especially to a device designed to be attached to boots, shoes or the like, to prevent slipping or sliding upon slippery surfaces such as those of ice or wet floors.

An object of this invention is to provide a device of this class which may be readily attached on, or detached from, the sole of a shoe when desired.

To test out the claim of “may be readily attached on, or detached from, the sole of a shoe when desired,” I tried the cleats on a pair of my own shoes.  I had my doubts, as the metal piece seemed to be quite stiff, but as you can see, the cleats worked perfectly.

In an era when most people could not afford to have special shoes for golf or hiking, this was a clever solution to the problem of smooth soled shoes.

Because the patent date is printed on the box, we know that the cleats cannot be dated to before early 1938.  The illustration of the woman on the box seems to show clothing from the late 1930s or early 40s.  There was a trademark application made for Wes-Mor by the Morrone Mfg. Company of Westerly, Rhode Island.  According to that application, the name Wes-Mor was first used in 1945.  I have found, however, that the “first used” date on trademark applications is often incorrect, as it is so often based on the applicant’s memory of something that happened years earlier.  So, my guess on the date is 1939 through 1945.

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