Category Archives: Collecting

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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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

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.

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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.

 

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