Category Archives: Curiosities

Fashion Goes Around and Comes Around

I really didn’t think I’d be writing about sweaters in April, but much of the northern United States has had a bit of snow, and it is even predicted here in the southern mountains later this week.  The way I see it, anytime is right for a fantastic sweater like the one above.  I took this photo at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC several years ago.  Even though this was a sports piece, the sleeve style is pure fashion, and dates this fabulous sweater to the mid 1890s.

You would think that such an extreme style would have had its moment in the sun, never to be seen again, but it seems to me that all fashion is at sometime recycled.

I spotted this 1980s sweater recently at the Goodwill Outlet.  The puffed sleeved sweater was not unusual in the 80s; I had one myself.  What I found to be most interesting was the tight lower part of the sleeve.  My photo is sort of pitiful, but imagine this sweater on a body.  Though not nearly as extreme, the effect would be the same as the 1890s sweater.

I don’t think I would have not made the connection if not for my recent reading of Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa.  Suddenly I’m seeing 19th century influences everywhere.  It just goes to show the power of reading, and looking at lots of wonderful old photographs, to improve one’s eye.

In the latest issue of Dress – The Journal of the Costume Society of America, there was a tribute to Joan Severa, who died in 2015.  Colleagues often referred to her as “Joan Perservera” because once started, she would simply not give up on a project.  Seeing as how she spent almost twenty years working on Dressed for the Photographer, I’d say it was a very accurate moniker!

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Filed under Curiosities, Sportswear

Design Inspiration at Louis Vuitton

I posted this on Instagram, and then decided that I wanted to write a bit more about it.  This is actually two photos.  The top is an illustration from 1921, and the bottom is a currently for sale wallet from Louis Vuitton.  It is pretty apparent where the LV illustration originated.  In fact, the Louis Vuitton website says that the decoration on the wallet came from a 1921 ad:

Ideal gift, this witty and colorful limited edition, inspired by an historical advertisement from 1921, pays tribute to Louis Vuitton’s travel heritage.

After seeing this design last fall (and thinking how perfect it would be for a vintage traveler…) I had the drawing stuck in my mind.  Louis Vuitton recently had an exhibition showing many old travel bags in vignettes with vintage clothing appropriate for travel back in the days before travel became such a hassle.  I couldn’t make it to Paris to see the exhibition, but I did pull out a fantastic book that shows one hundred LV travel cases, 100 Legendary Trunks, just to get another look at those fine old travel pieces.

And that is where I found the inspiration drawing.  The book was not entirely clear, but I’m pretty sure this was not from an advertisement, but was actually a header for a story on auto travel.  The caption reads:

“Du Voyage en Auto, a P.F. Grignon drawing that appeared in the review Femma in 1921.”

All I could gather from my brief searches what that Grignon was an illustrator, something that could have been assumed anyway.  I am totally unaware of what copyright laws are in France, but in the US, any copyright on the image would have expired.  And I’m pretty sure that a company like Louis Vuitton has a legal department that advises in such matters.  Still, I wish that Louis Vuitton would have identified P.F. Grignon on their website where the wallet is being sold.

I could not help but see the similarities between the Grignon illustration and the one I use for my own blog header.  That illustration also dates to 1921, and is from an advertisement for a defunct car company, Jordan.  I searched the original carefully for a signature, but there is none. Because this illustration predates 1923, the copyright has expired. Prior to 1923, copyright protection of a work expires seventy-five years after the first authorized publication.  Still I wish I could credit the artist who made this lovely work.

 

 

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1950s Sports Car Themed Belt by Calderon

This belt that I recently bought from Carla and Carla on Etsy was chosen for my collection because of two things.  It fits into a general travel theme and it can be paired with my 1950s novelty print skirts. I’m always looking for this type of belt, especially those featuring travel or sports.

I’ve seen these novelty belts advertised as being from the 1950s, 1980s, or even 1970s.  I can see why there is confusion, especially with the 80s.  During that era belts were wide, and were often contoured to fit the waist.  I’ve even seen similar belts from the 1980s that were decorated with African animals or faux coins.  But this one is from the 50s, or maybe the early 60s, when novelties were very popular.

The maker is Calderon.  I don’t know a thing about the company other than they made belts and handbags at least from the 1950s through the 1980s.  Oh, and that they made a high quality product.  My belt is stamped “Handmade” and it has features that would not be seen in lower quality belts.

Note the little leather patch.  These are glued over the metal pieces that hold on each metal motif.  Also, notice how nicely the back of the buckle is lined in leather.

In this photo you can see how the belt curves to fit the bottom of the waist.  A belt this wide, just under two inches, would be uncomfortable if it was cut straight and had to sit on the middle of the waist.

If I were the type to go crazy with a theme, I might pair this belt with this skirt.

I’m always looking for similar belts, so if you happen to spot one, please don’t hesitate to let me know about it.  But don’t bother with this one on 1st Dibs, as I’ve been looking at it lovingly for quite a while now.  And I’ll be looking at it for a while longer until someone lists one on etsy for a bit of a lower price!

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing

1930s Chenille Bathing Suit Cover-up Cape

During a recent lucky streak, I ran across this fantastic cape, which is a bathing suit cover-up.  It is made from machine-made chenille, a fabric that started out as the product of a cottage industry in northern Georgia.  Based around the town of Dalton, Georgia, home workers began making hand tufted bedspreads to sell to travelers going south on the newly finished Dixie Highway.  A local textile mill, Crown Cotton, provided the base material, which is a heavy muslin-type fabric.  By 1910 the homeworkers were setting up stands along the highway to sell to the growing tourist travelers.

In 1917 a manufacturing process was set up. and some of the tufting was done by machine.  Hand tufting was still being done, but it was increasingly mechanized.  At first the product was just bedcovers, but by the 1920s some garments, such as bathrobes and beach wear, were also being made.

I can remember seeing the bedspread stands as a child traveling to visit relatives in the far western reaches of North Carolina and on the road to Atlanta.  Some of the designs were quite bizarre – wildly colored peacocks spring to mind.  And occasionally a stand can be spotted even today, but for the most part, the chenille factories converted to carpets years ago.

I can’t say a lot about the origin of the cape.  There is a small, handwritten label, that looks more like a collections number than anything else.  Could this cape have been in a collection before becoming a part of mine?  It is possible.

I do have two more chenille garments, one a bedjacket and the other a shorter cape.  None of them have  makers labels of any kind.

The neckline is gathered with a cotton robe tie.  There is an extra row of red chenille for decoration.

The back of the gathering.

I don’t have any photos showing a chenille cape, but I did find this jacket.  It is dated July 1939, Mountain Lake, New Jersey.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Southern Textiles, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

The Easy Way to Design Fabric

You “borrow” designs from people who know what they are doing.

I know some readers must think I’m beating a dead horse whenever I make a post like this one, but it honestly astounds me every single time I run across a print that is so obviously copied.  In this case a cheap line sold at Target had a print that is based in part on a Liberty of London print, Ianthe.  The classic Liberty Art Nouveau print, Ianthe was developed over one hundred years ago.

fake

real

 

This is even more interesting because Target actually did a collaboration with Liberty of London five years ago.  This piece is not part of the joint venture, as those pieces were clearly marked Liberty for Target.

And while most clothing designs cannot be copyrighted in the United States, fabric prints are subject to copyright protection.  Of course that does not mean copying does not happen, as we have seen many, many times.

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Filed under Curiosities, Viewpoint

Ad Campaign: Lovable Bra, 1951

To be honest, this post is not so much about the ad than it is about discovery.  In this case, it is the story of my discovery of the Lovable Brassiere Company of Atlanta, Georgia.  And while I’m not a collector of lingerie (though I do have a few pieces in my collection) I’m always interested in a good story about the clothing industry.

It started when I found this book Woman in Atlanta, at my local Goodwill Outlet.  How could I not love the photo on the front?  And I knew that co-author Susan Neill used to be a fashion and textiles curator at the Atlanta History Center, so I put the book in my shopping cart.  As it turns out the book was an outgrowth of an exhibition at the museum in 2004, Gone with the Girdle, an exhibition I had seen and loved. There are photos of some of the clothing in the exhibition along with 150 years of photos of the women of Atlanta.

Courtesy of the Ida Pearle and Joseph Cuba Archives of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

While I loved seeing all the photos and learning much about Atlanta history, one photo stood out – this image of workers of the Lovable bra factory in Atlanta, circa 1940.

Established in Atlanta by Jewish businessman Frank Garcon in 1914, Lovable Brassiere Company became “the world’s leading producer of popular priced bra fashions.”  Beginning in the 1930s, Lovable fully integrated its factories and lunchrooms.  The company was progressive for its wages as well; workers received $9 per week, $4 above the national average.  Lovable’s marketing was aimed at both white and black consumers, though all the advertising featured white models.

For those not familiar with the Jim Crow South of the early to mid twentieth century, that might not seem like such a big deal.  But consider that in many places having black and white workers together in the same workplace was just not allowed.  In South Carolina, usually the only black workers at textile mills were outside workers such as the men who loaded trucks.  One of the excuses made for not hiring Blacks was that white people would not work along side them.  Mr Garcon proved that wrong by paying a higher than average wage.  I had to know more about Mr. Frank Garcon.

A big obstacle to internet searches for old companies is that they often have a common word as the name of the company.  Searching “lovable” brings up all sorts of odd links, but knowing the name of the owner and the place where the company was located really helps narrow things down.  In this case, I was able to find out quite a bit about Frank Garcon and Lovable, but there are still plenty of unanswered questions.

Frank, who was a native of Poland, met and married his wife Gussie (from Austria) in New York City.  The couple moved to Atlanta where Frank found work in the undergarment industry.

Many of the online sources I found date the founding of Lovable to 1926 instead of the 1914 stated in my book. It’s not possible that Garcon started the business in Atlanta in 1914 because the move to Atlanta did not happen until after son Arthur was born around 1916.  It’s likely that the firm that Frank worked for was started in 1914 and that Frank did not acquire it until 1926.  This is conjecture on my part.  The answer is probably in the Breman Museum archive, which has oral histories from the Garcon family.

This led me to do a trademark search for Lovable.  Interestingly, the US Trademark database lists 1932 as the beginning of the use of the Lovable trademark, and it lists the owners as Frank and Arthur Gottesman.  Ancestry.com revealed that Frank Gottesman changed his name to Garcon at some point after 1940.  Arthur was the oldest son of Frank and his wife Gussie.

Lovable remained a family business with son Dan taking over from his father, and his son Frank II after him.  They company maintained a cutting factory (with the sewing being done in Central America) in the Atlanta area until it closed in the late 1990s.  Things went bad for Lovable in 1995 when Walmart, their largest customer, changed the terms of their agreement, which made it all but impossible for Lovable to make a profit.  They closed in 1998.

Even though the details of the Lovable Brassiere Company seem to be somewhat sketchy, one thing is for sure.  Frank Garcon was able to look past the accepted social “rules” in order to do the right thing.  That’s a really nice legacy for a company to have.

 

 

 

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Filed under Ad Campaign, Curiosities, Currently Reading

Hart Schaffner & Marx Style Book, 1909

I usually don’t buy items that are concerned strictly with men’s clothing, but I’m sure you’ve guessed that I was seduced by the cover image of this little catalog from men’s suit and coat maker, Hart Schaffner & Marx.  They call it a style book, as it was not strictly a catalog.  I’m guessing that men’s stores mailed these to customers, as this came with the original envelope.

There are several things that I found interesting about this little booklet.  First, the cover image is more of a life style statement than an indication of what HS&M has to offer. There is no sportswear at all in the style book.

The second interesting thing was the use of women in the booklet.  I’ve looked at hundreds of catalogs that are selling only women’s things, and I can’t remember there ever being men just hanging out in the illustrations.  Sometimes there are children, and an occasional pet, but not men.  But in this little style book for men, women are used, mainly as background props.

Here we have not only the dear old mother cooking a turkey for her sons, we also have a kitty prop.

Here’s one that was a bit unexpected: a woman rabbit salesperson.

I can’t figure out if the woman in this photo is the man’s wife, or merely an admirer.  Perhaps she’s eavesdropping, trying to find out if the man is buying a toy for his son, but hopefully, a nephew.

There’s no doubt about this one.  He’s the man of the house, and there’s the nanny holding the heir.

Even nuns were utilized as background props.

Care about dress and appearance is not a small matter; the clothes illustrated here are made for the man who cares to be correct.

Mother has strayed and is busy looking out to see while father minds the heir.

Not all of the illustrations used women as props.  Here we see the faithful, but sleepy canine companion.

And I saved the best for the last:  a bell-ringing Santa Claus.

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing