Category Archives: Curiosities

White Stag Tyrolean Style Jacket

This great jacket ticked off several boxes on my things to look for when adding to my collection list.  Vintage White Stag – check.  Tryolean inspired garment – check.  Great color combination – check.  Interesting historical detail – check.

It’s not often that I get such a solid confirmation of the date of a garment, but here it is.  And even more interesting is the ability to put this jacket in a specific time and place.  So many times the garments I find have been entirely divorced from their histories.  And while I don’t know the name of the woman who wore the jacket, I do know about its place attachment.

Wheaton College is in Illinois, and it has a long history of supporting social reform.  It was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and enrolled both black students and women in a time when such was rare.  Wheaton was established in a time when many schools of higher learning were founded by religious organizations, and Wheaton retains its Christian focus to this day.

I’ve written before about the interest in Germanic clothing styles in the years leading up to World War II.  I even have another piece from White Stag that shows this trend.

White Stag has its beginnings in a canvas tent company owned by Max and Leopold Hirsch and partner Harry Weis.  When Max’s son Harold Hirsch returned home from Dartmouth College, he brought back his love of skiing, which was just catching on as a recreational sport.  The company began producing ski clothing in 1929, and in 1931 the line was named White Stag, the English translation of Weis Hirsch .

The Germanic roots of this jacket are obvious.  One could wear it to Oktoberfest today and fit right in.

There are several questions I’d like to ask about this piece.  Did White Stag make the jackets specifically for Wheaton college, or was the discovery of the jacket by someone at the college a happy accident.  Are there others, or is this just one girl’s project?  Could these have been for a club?

Here’s one more little special detail.  The pockets are lined in red.  The label is from the United Garment Workers, which was the union for people making ready made tailored products like coats and suits.  I’ve got to wonder if that number can be traced in any way.

I found this great piece through the weekly VFG feature, Fresh Vintage, where members share their latest finds that are for sale.  This jacket came from Amy at Viva Vintage Clothing.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Vintage Clothing, World War II

Mountaineering in Short Skirts, 1904

I recently ran across these two prints that are dated 1904.  To someone who knows about fashion in the early twentieth century, this would seem like a very improbable skirt length for the time.  But they reminded me of the words of outdoorswoman, Annie Smith Peck, who wrote in 1901:

“…Men, we all know, climb in knickerbockers… Women, on the contrary, will declare that a skirt is no hindrance to their locomotion.  This is obviously absurd, and though a few ladies have climbed mountains like the Matterhorn in extremely scanty and abbreviated skirts, I dare assert that suitably-made knickerbockers… are not only more comfortable but more becoming… A scant skirt barely reaching the knee and showing the knickerbockers below, such as some ladies have worn, is as ungraceful a costume as could be devised; and for a woman in difficult mountaineering to waste her strength and endanger her life with a skirt is foolish in the extreme.”

While these pictures seem to show the women in leggings rather than knickers, the outfit is pretty much as Annie described it.

The imaginary women in the prints are also shown as if they were wearing corsets.  What did Annie have to say about that?

“It may not be necessary to add that no one should climb mountains or even hills in corsets.  One must have the full use of the lungs, and the loosest corset is some impediment to the breathing.  As ordinarily worn they are impossible.  Moreover, they greatly increase the heat, impede circulation, and promote rush of blood to the head.”

Images of women participating in sports were popular in the early 1900s.  Artists like Coles Phillips and Howard Chandler Christy were known for their sporty, but still very feminine, women.  This artist seems to be sexualizing the women somewhat, with the posing and the slender legs.

I think the signature is T T Pollock, but I could not find a reference to that name, nor to Polleck.  Maybe someone will recognize it for me.

No skirts for Annie!

Update:  Researcher extraordinaire Lynne has discovered that the artist was Homer Polleck, though some references have his name as Pollock.  He lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, and died in 1917.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Curiosities, Proper Clothing

Associated Fabrics Corporation, 1939 Creations for the Dance

Dance costumes are a bit out of my area of knowledge, but I just can’t resist a book of fabric swatches.  Today, you would not find a fabric store located at 723 Seventh Avenue, as it is along Times Square, but in 1939 I’m sure a lot of Broadway costume designers patronized Associated Fabrics as it was so convenient to the theaters.

What is remarkable is that Associated Fabrics is still in business, though the company is now located in New Jersey.  They still are a supplier of theatrical fabrics, and according to their website, they now specialize in Spandex.

Associated Fabrics was founded in 1928, not an especially great time for a new business.  They somehow weathered the Great Depression and eventually became the largest theatrical fabrics company in the world.

I always learn something new when looking through a great old vintage reference like this catalog.  Tarletane is, evidently, a starched, net-like muslin.

Metallic and lame’ fabrics were very popular in the 1920s for evening wear, but you don’t see them as often in clothes of the 1930s.  My guess is that they were expensive to produce.  None of the “sparkle fabrics” above are true metallics.

These sparkles are fantastic.  The glitter was just glued on, but whatever glue they used still has staying power.

For even more sparkle, Associated offered sparkle shapes and tape that the costumer could apply to an otherwise plain fabric.

Just look at the range of colors available in duvetyne.  Duvetyne is brushed on one side, like flannel, and these samples appear to be made from cotton.

Yes, these are real silk.

And here’s a selection of rayon.

But probably the most interesting page in the catalog contains no swatches at all.  According to the Associated Fabrics website, just before WWII they were the first company to offer florescent fabrics in the USA.  Here you see the concept, where the fabric was printed to look one way under regular lighting, but under UV lights, a different pattern appeared.  This must have been amazing for audiences in 1939!

 

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The Trickle-down Effect

I don’t believe in trickle-down economics, but I do believe in trickle-down fashion.  In his fall, 1965 collection, Yves Saint Laurent included six dresses that were an hommage to artist Mondrian.  One of the dresses was on the cover of French Vogue in September 1965, and by February there was a sewing pattern available from Vogue patterns.  None of that is surprising, but what is a bit of a revelation is how quickly this dress made it to the mass market.

All of the items in today’s post are from the spring and summer 1966 JC Penney catalog.  This was a catalog that was in homes by the beginning of the season, and so was surely in the works before the end of 1965.  The decision to knock-off the idea must have been made soon after the styles were first shown.

Not only were the styles directly copied, they were also adapted to other garments like tops and skirts, and different colorways were used, apart from the primary colors plus black and white seen in the Yves Saint Laurent originals.

There were even styles for little girls, including accessories.  What about that handbag, and those sunglasses, and that triangle scarf?  A fifth grader was less than nine dollars away from a couture look costing thousands.

 

The Mondrian dress was available in sizes as small as a little girl’s three.

Some of the ad copy referenced Mondrian, while others did not.  Yves Saint Laurent was not mentioned, of course, but some of the copy did mention that this was a look straight from Paris.

It would be interesting to actually see one of these dresses and to examine how it was made.  The YSL originals were pieced, but I suspect these were made from fabric that was printed with the color-blocking, or maybe even with the color blocks and black stripes applied on top of the white base.  At $6 for a woman’s dress and $3.90 for the child’s, it does not seem possible that the time intensive process of piecing would have been feasible.

The trend was short lived.  There were no Mondrian/Saint Laurent designs in the fall winter 1966 JC Penney catalog, and none the following spring either.  If you were to find a vintage ready-to-wear dress of this style, I think it’s pretty safe to say it would be from 1966.

I’ve got to wonder if women wanted to continue wearing these dresses, seeing as how they were so connected to one specific season.  I’m pretty sure that anyone who made the Vogue version wouldn’t have easily given it up, as the pattern was pieced, and was quite difficult to make.  But at $6, I’m betting a lot of the mass market models went straight to the back of the closet.

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Filed under Curiosities, Designers

Collis Improved Cushion Ankle Support

Sometimes I don’t know how I manage to run across the forgotten and obscure bits of sportswear history, but I’m glad I do.  In this case, it was an item I had no idea even existed – an ankle support.  But HippieSewingMama had it for sale on ebay, and I somehow located it, and now it’s a part of my collection.

For all athletic purposes, though I suspect that even large ladies would not have been using this to help out in a football game.

The support is actually a soft brace, sturdy enough to actually help someone suffering from wobbly ankles.  It’s made from a strong cotton, and is padded.

Henry James Collis of Taunton, Massachusetts made  his first ankle brace in 1906, but the original design was rejected by the patent office as a very similar brace predated his.  He was eventually able to get his patent (note that my box reads “Design Protected”) and over the next few years he continued to patent improvements to the original design.

My ankle support does not have the vertical lines shown as numbers 14 and 15 in the drawing.  These were pockets for “removable stiffening strips” and I imagine many of them were actually removed as the idea seems a bit uncomfortable to me.

The view from the front.

I’m not sure how long Collis made his ankle supports, but here they are in a 1935 Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods catalog.  According to this ad, the removable stiffening strips were reeds.  Like I said earlier, uncomfortable!

I have found out very little about Henry James Collis.  He was born in Great Britain in 1873, and died in Massachusetts in 1960.  He held patents not only for ankle supports, but also wrist supports, padded skate straps, an improved watch fob strap, and billfolds.  A search on ebay turned up several canvas items with a H.J. Collis label, including a fishing creel, a game bag, and a holder for fishing flies.  In other words, Collis was a manufacturer of canvas sporting accessories.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear

Shopping with the Vintage Traveler

When the going gets tough, the tough shop for vintage.  As usual, I spotted some really interesting things.  The table croquet set above is complete in the original box.  I am guessing that it dates to the 1880s, but could use some help narrowing down the date.  Click the photo to get a better look at the beautiful label.

In the same store was this cracker box lid.  I loved the big dog carrying the basket of crackers for the child.

Child clothing experts, is this a girl or a boy, or is it impossible to tell?

Progressing through time to the 1940s, I loved how a very fashionable woman was being used to sell Skrip ink.  “Individuality with Color”

This early 1940s (or very late 1930s) sure has shades of  Scarlett O’Hara wearing the drapery.  Gone with the Wind was released in 1939, and of course fashion was influenced.

WWII era instruction book for making hats, or rather, “Fascinating Toppers.”

If I were not so fascinated with clothing, I think I’d collect Edwardian books just for the decorative appeal.  1907

Tammis Keffe is probably remembered more for the whimsical hankies she designed in the 1950s, but she also did work for household linens companies.

Will you have that cocktail on ice?

I’m sorry about the quality of this photo, but windows are impossible when the sun is shining.  I simply could not pass up a vintage sewing themed window, spotted in an antique store.

Even more vintage sewing.  I’ve been tempted to actually buy and use one of these folding sewing stands.

I must have had sewing on my mind.  This box is covered with a Grandma Moses print.  In the 1950s the Riverdale Fabric Company made home furnishing fabrics using Moses’ paintings as the print.

Spotted in a photo album, this photo of a woman circa 1930 was of interest because I own a similar pyjama.

All this talk about shopping has put me in the mood for a trip out to the stores.  Who needs Black Friday!

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1940s Hat with Everything

So when the mood of today’s hats seem frivolous it may be a kind of singing in the dark, the expression of an effort to put a bit of gaity into a world burdened with problems.

It might seem that the above words could have been written today, but actually the year was 1943.  The world was embroiled in a horrible conflict that required the citizens of the world to be brave, and to present a brave face even in the midst of fear.  Teacher and writer Grace Margaret Morton wrote the words in her book, The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance.  They sum up perfectly the view many women both in the US and Canada, and in Europe took in response to fear and grave danger.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past several days looking at fashions from the 1940s, with a focus on the top and the bottom – the hats and the shoes.  By 1943 women’s shoes were terribly practical, with oxford styles and mid to low heel heights prevailing in the fashion magazines.  Colors were very limited, with most styles available only in black and brown.

Hats, on the opposite end of the scale, were fanciful and they varied widely in style.  Most prevalent was a modified form of the fedora, but women could buy hats in almost every shape and form imaginable.  Berets and turbans, tiny tilt hats that hovered over the eyes, and towering toques that had to be shaped on a stiffened form were available.

The difference in shoes and hats was based somewhat on the materials used to make them.  The leather for shoes was in short supply, but hats could be made in many different fabrics, most of which were not rationed.

As a sportswear collector, I do not seek out fancy and elaborate hats and accessories, but when I run across something really great, that I feel helps tell a story, then I can’t resist adding it to my horde.  Such is the case with this hat.

It has a little bit of everything.  The general shape is that of a Juliet cap, a form that was popular with young American women and teens.  But the creator didn’t stop with the addition of sequins and ribbon.  To the lower back of the cap, a looping fringe was added, perhaps simulating longer hair.

But what really sold me on this hat was the cut-out heart on the back of the cap.  This hat was a real attention-getter!

My new hat has three labels – the size, the store, Scherman Fifth Avenue, and a New York Creations label.  I could not find any concrete information about Scherman, but most of the hats I found for sale with the label were from the 1940s and early 1950s.  There was also a hat label for Eugene Scherman from the same era.  In addition, I located a reference to a E.H. Scherman hat shop located on West 37th Street in 1922.

I have no way of knowing at present if the three different references are related, but the search continues.  I would appreciate any information any reader might know or run across about Scherman.

 

The most extreme hats of WWII were those worn by French women.  To learn more about how the French used hats as a protest against German occupation, listen to this Missed in History podcast with fashion historian April Calahan.

 

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing, World War II