Category Archives: Curiosities

Catalina Contures, 1960s Key to Confidence in Swimwear Comfort

Here’s one to be filed under “Things I found while looking for something else.” I could also put it under, “Things I didn’t know existed.”

Not that I didn’t know about “falsies” or bust pads; I just didn’t know that Catalina made these for swimsuits back in the 1960s. And considering how much time I spent  between 1965 and 1972 devouring Seventeen and Teen magazines, You’d think I’d have known every product that was marketed to my demographic (otherwise known as the teenager).

I have a fairly decent selection of Seventeen and other fashion magazines from the 60s, so after I found this item, I decided to revisit the magazines to see if I could spot an ad for Contures. I was pretty sure that I’d come up empty, as I felt sure I would have remembered seeing this product, and especially if the mermaid packaging was featured in the ads. And I was right, there were no Contures ads to be found.

From reading many online ads for vintage Catalina bathing suits, it does appear that many of their styles were made with pockets in which to insert the pads. I’m still trying to figure out how that would lead to “confidence in swimwear comfort”.

Looking at this product and the language used to sell it, it’s no wonder so many young women developed (and unfortunately still develop) body image issues. I do hope that all of you who have girls and teens are teaching them that their bodies are not objects that need correcting. Well, unless they have scoliosis or some other medical condition.

It’s really quite remarkable that these have survived at all, much less in the original box in a plastic bag. It’s obvious they were never used. Maybe the buyer had a moment of clarity and decided her breasts were fine as is. I like to think that’s the case.

The condition of the pads is amazing. They look like new, which is surprising considering they are made from a spongy synthetic substance and were wrapped in a plastic bag for fifty years. I have re-homed them in a muslin pouch, after wrapping them in acid-free tissue. Maybe that will help them last another fifty years.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Summer Sports

1960s Susan Gail Original Handbag

I’m not really a big handbag collector, but when I find one that really is interesting, I might capitulate and add it to the handbag shelf. This one from the early 1960s is a good example. I was hooked by the little golden clothespin clasp.

Who could resist? A woman is only so strong in the face of such a novelty.

It wasn’t until I got this bag home that I realized it has another interesting feature – it coverts from a handbag to a shoulder bag. The strap snaps so that it can be lengthened.

This got me to asking myself a question. I was sure that the bad was from the early 1960s, but were women wearing shoulder bags during that time as well? I had always associated the longer straps with the late 60s and the 70s. So I went on a search through my vintage magazines, starting about 1958.

What I discovered was that shoulder bags were being shown for a short time starting in 1960. Maybe my bag was an attempt by Susan Gail to test the shoulder bag waters, but with the assurance that if it turned out to be a mere fad, the bag could still be used.

I was hoping to find ads for Susan Gail goods, but I failed in that attempt. I did find an entry for the company at Bag Lady U.

The Bay Lady mentioned the Susan Gail accordion structure:

The Susan Gail Accordion bag design results from the unique interior frame design. A series of folds in the gussets are not attached to the metal frame and expand wide when open. 

As you can see, my bag has this design feature.

I went on an internet search of other Susan Gail bags. What I found was that the company did a tricked-out copy of the Gucci bamboo handle bag. They also made bags that look suspiciously like the Hermes Kelly. That’s pretty sad, because my bag is pretty nifty, proving that being creative and original beats being a copycat any day.

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Filed under Curiosities, Fashion Issues

Brigitte Bardot Bra from Lovable, 1960s

When French film star Brigitte Bardot chose to wear a gingham dress for her second wedding in June of 1959, she couldn’t have known how she would become so associated with that fabric. The dress was pink and white, but that didn’t keep Lovable from using blue and white gingham in a Bardot endorsed bra top.

The dress itself was widely copied, and still is today by companies that make modern “vintage” looks. When the sexiest actress in France chooses a fabric, the whole world takes notice.

I posted a photo on Instagram, and a reader commented that this was actually the top to a bathing suit, and that she had the entire set. The word “bikini” on the label does tend to suggest that there was a bottom piece, and that it was intended as a swimsuit.

Loveable was a bra company located in Atlanta, and I have written about it in the past. It’s a great story, and if you haven’t read my old blog post, it might make you feel good to do so. I have never encountered a Loveable bikini before, but who could resist the opportunity to produce a garment which featured Bardot?

I was happy to get the bra with the original paper tag intact, but even if it were missing, Lovable kindly put Bardot’s name on the label.  So many times the connections are lost when the paper tags are removed.

The Lovable Brassiere Company is no more, and Bardot is now known more for her animal rights activism than for her career as an actress. But somehow the connection between Bardot and gingham lives on.

This bra came from Ballyhoo Vintage, one of my favorite online vintage shops.

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The Fairmont Anti-glare Shield – 1920s Sunglasses

For a while now I’ve been looking for some driving goggles. The problem with finding a pair is that I had to first educate myself on what was actually being made and worn for driving in the early days of the automobile. I’ve been collecting photos and catalog pages, but the minute I went to etsy to look at what was available, I became confused.

First of all, not all sunglasses are goggles, and not all goggles are sunglasses. Second, is Steampunk still a thing? Almost every pair of goggles I found were tagged steampunk.  And not all older goggles were meant for motoring. Many were intended for workers who needed eye protection, such as welders.

So what’s a goggle-desiring girl to do? I’ve learned to look at only the listings that have the original box. The great majority of the ones I found were made by the Willson Products Company of Reading, PA. They made eyeglasses, and then branched off into industrial eyewear. A lot can be learned by looking at the information on the boxes. I’ve determined that the great majority of goggles offered for sale on etsy are welding goggles.

But somewhere in my searching, I came across The Fairmont Anti-glare Shield.  Due to the presence of the fantastic box, there could be no question but that these are women’s 1920s driving and sun glasses.

I hope you can tell that the tinted plastic covers only about half of the surface inside the rims. The rest is open. The rims are almost half an inch tick, and are transparent as well.

I tried these on, and was actually surprised at how well I could see through them. The transparent rims distort the vision somewhat, but without them the field of vision would have been too narrow.

I was delighted to see this patent number. The US Patent Office database is completely online and searchable.

And here is the drawing that was submitted with the original patent application. The inventor was Jacob Hillson of Newton, MA. The patent was granted in February of 1925, and by November the Fairmont Optical Manufacturing Company of Boston was advertising the new product in newspapers and magazines nationwide.

The ad above was in the November 1925 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.

You’ll be happy to know that these glasses also worked when boating.

I’m really happy with these rare 1920s anti-glare shield glasses, but the search for goggles from the early days of motoring goes on.

And for all you dog lovers, here are Bud’s goggles. Bud accompanied Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker as they drove across the country in 1903. These are in the National Museum of American History in Washington.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler: Atlanta

As any good trip does, my recent visit to Atlanta involved a bit of shopping for old stuff. Just as a good exhibition is a learning experience, so is a bit of browsing antique markets.  So here’s a bit of what I saw, but did not buy.

I’m not too sure about the practicality of a ceramic flask, but I thought the one above was cute, even if the Scottie was a bit pudgy.

I first did a bit of looking in Chamblee, a town that has been overtaken by the urban sprawl of Atlanta. For years the place has marketed itself as a destination for vintage and antique shoppers, and there are still several very good antique stores there. However, I was really dismayed to find two of my old favorites gone, one a victim of gentrification. What used to be an Aladdin’s cave of treasures is now a cafe and a “design center”.  Still, there was more than enough to spend several hours of looking.

You would think that the bathing cap above would have gone into my shopping cart, but I’m afraid it was a victim of age and deterioration. The rubber was brittle and there were bald spots. A real shame, as this one was really great.

I really blew this one. I was so bummed about the store across the street being gone that I had a hard time concentrating on the good stuff. This is just a great pin, with the DC-3 plane and the two parachutes. What was I thinking?

This was rather cute, and I do love the nautical look, but I had to pass due to the amateurish appearance of the design.

Nothing amateurish about this coat, though. The first tip-off that this was a Bonnie Cashin design was her signature stripe used for the lining. Then there are the turn-lock closures, and the leather trim, and it all adds up.

That stripe is often found in Cashin’s work for Coach. This coat was labeled “A Bonnie Cashin, Sills and Co.”

Click to enlarge.

Besides Chamblee, I was able to fit in a quick trip to the monthly Scott Antiques Market. Scott’s has never been my favorite market, as it tends to cater to the decorator rather than the collector. But there are some very good vendors there, and I have found a few treasures over the years. I wasn’t in the market for a handbag, but this seller also had hankies, including a terrific Tammis Keefe that I did buy.

For those of you who were inspired by the Met gala this year, one seller has you covered when it comes to Christian iconography.

Here’s help for the fashion indecisive in the form of a game.

All that was left of this salesman’s kit was the suitcase.

Most of Scott’s is held inside, but there are also spaces for people to set up outdoors. The seller uttered those magic words, “Feel free to dig.” Unfortunately, most of the stuff was from the 1980s and later.

There were vintage bargains to be had. This dress was an incredible $48.

These were framed fashion sketches made for Laura Ashley in 1970. They were really fantastic, and had price tags to match.

The vintage traveler in me wanted these LV suitcases.

I am a real sucker for crazy quilts, and this is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. That spider is the absolute best!

And here is part of the reason I don’t make much of an effort to go to the Scott Market more than every three or four years. The market opens at 9 am, but for the first hour many of the vendors are still not open. And this was on the second day of the show. For someone like me who needs to get on the road to home, this is a big inconvenience. Sellers! If you are at a show to sell, you need to be there so I can your stuff.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, I Didn't Buy..., Road Trip, Shopping

Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation, c. 1915

Click to enlarge

One of the great joys of the Goodwill Outlet bins is the over-abundance of books. I never leave the place without a stack of them, most of which I read and then pass on or re-donate. A while back I found an interesting volume, Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story. Of course it went into my cart, because as the subtitle promised, it was full of wonderful illustrations.

There’s no date on this book, but the Leslie-Judge Company published an annual Caricature starting around 1895. Several of the illustrations in this particular book are dated 1915, and so my guess it is from that year, or perhaps a year later.

The sporting life was a popular theme. Maybe it’s because members of the leisured classes were a bit of an easy target for humorists of the day. I’ll admit that the humor is often dated, and would leave many modern readers scratching their heads. But I’m in it for the pictures, not the jokes.

There are lots of illustrations of people swimming, and the bathing suits are incredibly modern for 1915. From what I’ve seen in the many circa 1915 photos I’ve examined, most women at the beach were still in long, woven wool or cotton bathing suits, not the sleek knit ones seen above.

This one is especially skimpy. Do you suppose the man is her father and is getting ready to lock her in the bath house?

Here the young women are still wearing their schoolgirl middy blouses. This was a common look for tennis and golf. Notice that girl with the tennis racket is wearing a headband to control her hair.  As I wrote earlier, this is a look associated with the 1920s, so it seemed a bit early for this style to appear in print. I knew that the look was popularized by tennis star Suzanne Lenglen, and a quick google search found a 1914 article showing Lenglen wearing the famous bandeau.

Click

Just as interesting as the sporting pictures are those showing well-off people at leisure.

Here we have three elegantly dressed promanaders…

and three more (bulldog included) who would rather be, well anywhere but on that boring boardwalk.  But these illustrations show how the fashion silhouette of 1915 was showing big changes over the previous years. The skirts are shorter with considerable fullness. And it seems obvious to me that stripes were very popular for seaside wear.

You do have to look at period illustrations with a questioning eye. Drawings are often exaggerated to make a point, as we see in the skimpy bathing suit drawing above. But look carefully, and you just might learn something, as I did with the tennis headband.

 

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Filed under Curiosities, Currently Reading, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Y’s and Other Y’s, Converse College, 1901

I seem to have a new-found knack for finding antique yearbooks from women’s colleges. I don’t “collect” them, but the illustrations are just so marvelous, and they add a lot to the types of information gathering I’m doing on women’s sportswear. My latest find is from Converse College, located in Spartanburg, SC, and founded in 1889. Converse is still open, and is still a woman’s college, though they do have a co-ed graduate program.

Y’s and Other Y’s is like other yearbooks I’ve seen from the early 20th century. It a mixture of a record of the school’s activities combined with a literary journal of sorts. It’s illustrated with both photographs and drawings, most of which are signed A.C. Coles.

A.C. Coles was Annie Cadwallader Coles, and she was a junior in the spring of 1901. After Annie graduated in 1902, she went to New York, where she contiuned to study art privately. She eventually took up permanent residence in her hometown, Columbia, South Carolina. She never married, and made her living painting portraits of prominent Columbia residents. Annie died in 1969.

For Y’s and Other Y’s, Annie drew a series of sports girls, featuring the athletics of Converse College.

At first glance one might think these drawings were made by Charles Dana Gibson, as they are so much in his style.

Interestingly, even in the drawings that depicted girls engaged in activities which would have required bloomers, there is not a single trace of them in any of the drawings.

At least the skirts were shown shortened.

The photographs of the sports teams also obscure whether or not the team members were wearing bloomers under those skirts. Please don’t miss the girl at the very top, holding the ball in profile.

Or maybe there is a tiny trace of a bloomered leg there in the front row.

I found an obituary for Annie Coles, thanks to the wonders of the internet. From it:

A small woman of spare frame, Miss Coles was an early advocate of healthy diets, some of which have recently come into vogue, and she was a believer in physical fitness. She walked almost everywhere she went in Columbia, and she attributed her ability to continue painting into her 80s to diet and physical exercise.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing