Category Archives: Curiosities

Real Silk Costume Color Harmony Charts for Spring & Summer 1925


I have gone on and on about color, and finding this 1925 color chart has just made me more determined to learn more about historical colors.  This one was produced by Real Silk Hosiery Mills, which used it to help consumers pick out the correct color of stocking.  Real Silk was like Avon, being sold only through representatives who called on women at home.  Their slogan was “From Mill to Millions.”

The color consultant and fashion director at Real Silk was Miss Katherine Harford.  As you can see, she was formerly with Harper’s Bazar, but it does not tell us what her job there was.  The only references I could find to Miss Harford were in Real Silk ads.

Unfortunately it appears that one/third of this folder is missing.  In other examples I’ve found there was another section labeled “Street”.  Still, there is enough here to give us a good idea of fashionable colors in 1925.

In today’s anything goes world women might find the advice of how to match costume, hose, shoes and accessories to be a bit quaint.  But in 1925, the showing off of one’s legs was a big deal, one that many women were still unaccustomed to doing.

If you are up on internet social causes, you might have noticed the “nude” color.  Today most people have come to recognize that people are not all the same color, and one “nude” does not fit all.  The same thing goes for “flesh.”

Of course, in 1925 it was okay to use such terms as “Indian Skin” and “Mulatto”.  Sometimes when I feel discouraged about the lack of progress in our own society, I can always look to the past to see that in some areas, at least, improvement has been made.

But societal issues aside, we can see on this chart some of the best and most popular colors of the mid 1920s.  Salmon, of course, as orange was so much in favor, but also Bluet, Blush Rose, and Melon.  I find it interesting that black is not in the evening costume category, as it had really gained in favor.

I look for old color charts, and buy any that are dated and reasonably priced.  Thread and needlework companies also did color charts, but I’ve found they are rarely dated.  Maybe they didn’t change the colors so often, as needlework requires a large range of colors, many of them not of the mode.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities

Super Find Becomes Albatross Becomes Happy Memory

I recently found a stack of wonderful old linens at my favorite shopping place.  As so often happens, a load of donations go in after the closing of an estate, or maybe a move to a smaller house.  Anyway, I sometimes find the entire contents of the linen closet, and that usually means at least a few great novelty prints.

This souvenir tablecloth from Cuba was the best of a really sweet group of printed tablecloths.  These tablecloths were very popular in the post WWII era, and I imagine that most homes had at least one – a Christmas theme cloth perhaps.  I still have the one my mother used on our holiday table.

Tablecloths were also a great vacation souvenir, and I’ve seen printed ones with destinations from Alaska to Florida and beyond.  Most that I’ve found are not labeled, but I know of one company, California Handprints, that made novelty and printed tablecloths.  My guess is that this one, though sold in Cuba in the 1940s or 50s, was actually made in the USA.

I was really happy to find the Cuba one, especially after checking the prices on Ebay.  So I took a few photos, wrote up my listing, and put it on Etsy to sell.  I also posted a photo on Instagram, where a fellow vintage travel enthusiast saw it.  She emailed with the great news that she and her husband are traveling to Cuba soon.  I clicked over to review my listing, but found it had disappeared.  After a long search, I discovered that Etsy had deactivated the listing.

That was a bit puzzling, but the next day I got an email that stated that the tablecloth was in violation of the US embargo against Cuban products!  I sent an email back explaining that the tablecloth was made before the Cuban Revolution and the embargo.  It was probably made in the US, and then imported to Cuba where a tourist bought it and brought it back to the States.  In other words, it is not an illegal Cuban product.

No matter, as the diligent people at Etsy can’t take a chance that the selling of my tablecloth might be the very thing that allows the Cuban government to break the (already weakened by US law) embargo.  So my option was to stick it on eBay where there are several similar ones up for sale.

But it just left a sad feeling, with my happy find turning into a problem.  I had to find a way to break the evil spell cast upon my innocent tablecloth.  So now the tablecloth is on its way north, to the lucky Beth who will soon be traveling to Cuba.

And by the way, the email from etsy’s legal department asked me to please keep our email exchange a secret.  They are probably embarrassed for the world to know that legal communications are headed with “Hi there” and are signed with a first name only.  Seriously.

But enough of that!  I’m not one to hold a grudge so instead of making fun of Etsy Legal, let’s look at the great details of this print.  Aside from the sleeping guy under the sombrero in which the designer got his Latin American countries confused, the print is full of references to the fun things one would encounter in the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics.”

Cruise ships! Tennis! Skiing! Rum! Sailing!

Dancing! Show girls! Tobacco fields!

And a whole corner of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay!

I have opened my annual Etsy pop-up shop, in which I try to make a few bucks to support my collecting habit.  I sell vintage sewing patterns and other vintage finds from the past year that I’ve decided not to keep.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Shopping

Variations on a Theme: Bloomers

Sometimes when I go on the hunt for vintage clothing, a theme appears.  Last week the theme was bloomers.  I first spotted this gymsuit with bloomers.  It has a nifty feature.

How about that!  Convenient, but I’m betting the girl who had to wear this suit hated it, and especially hated the drop bottom.

That girl was Margo Kellow.  The gymsuit was made a a company that is new to me, Pennco, or the Pennsylvania Apparel Company.

No sooner had I spotted Margo’s green suit than I saw these big black bloomers flapping in the wind.  I’m pretty sure that the vendor thought they were funny, and she seemed genuinely surprised when I asked the price.  The other shoppers then began to have a few laughs at my expense.

No matter, as I know a great pair of bloomers when I see them.  These are very long, and quite old, probably Edwardian.  Note the use of an overlock stitch.  Yes, the overlock was used this early, having been invented in the 1880s.

It’s very possible that these bloomers once had an attached blouse, as the waist band stitching has been removed.

It was not all gym attire, however.  This is an apron made in the shape of bloomers, which mirror the woman in the print.

Cute, no?

When I returned home, a package was waiting.  In it was yet another pair of bloomers, these a bit later than the top pair.  I got these from my new favorite etsy shop, Poor Little Robin.  Again, we are lucky to have the name of its original owner, Martha Wilson.

All these bloomers got me to thinking about my next research project.  I’m getting a pretty good selection of gymsuits, and so I’m going to be working on a timeline of the changes made in girls’ gym attire over the years.  Hopefully I will have enough information to write a paper for presentation at Costume Society, but if not, I can still post my findings here.

Later on I may be begging for help in the form of your family photos.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Shopping, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Girls Will Be Boys

Several years ago I ran across Women in Pants by Catherine Smith and Cynthia Greig.  What I loved about the book was the great variety of photos showing women in pants, from homesteaders who adopted pants as a practicality, to actresses who played male roles, to women who dressed in men’s clothing just so they could have a joke photo made.  Ever since reading the book I’ve been on the lookout for antique photos in which woman were dressed as men, and last week I finally found one.

There was no information at all on the back of this photo, so we can only guess at the intent of the two women who are dressed as men.  And they are dressed as men, not as women who have taken to wearing pants on a regular basis.  With their hair stuck under the hats, and the stance of men with hand in pocket, this seems to be a photo made purely for the fun of it.

Whatever the motivation, it does make for an interesting image.

Interestingly, two people I follow on Instagram also posted antique women dressed as men photos this past week.  One was a family photo in which the poster’s grandmother was one of the women.  It was identified as a photo that the young women had made as a lark.

The other one was a find like mine, with no identification.  The poster assumed that the women were dressed as men because they were transgender.  And while I cannot say with certainty that she was wrong in this assumption, it is much more likely that the women were merely having a fun time making light of the opposite sex.

I think that when it comes to the past, it is easy to assign the knowledge of today’s world when confronted with an unexpected image like Edwardian women dressed as men.  In history it is really easy to take two plus two and come up with five.  I know I’m often guilty of making inaccurate assumptions about the past, but the more I see and the more I read, the better I’ve gotten about seeing the past only through the lense of the past.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing

1960s Beach Bag That Might Be from Coppertone

If you were around in the 1950s and 60s then you probably are familiar with the Coppertone Suntan Lotion slogan, “Don’t Be A Paleface!”  Billboards and magazine ads showed the little girl with her tan line being exposed by an enthusiastic spaniel.  I recently ran across this beach bag, and immediately thought it was a Coppertone item, probably a premium of some type.

On closer examination though, the word “Coppertone” is nowhere to be seen, though there is a bit of a copyright symbol at the bottom of the girl’s right foot.

Weirder still is the image on the other side of the bag.  It shows a woman in a rather modest bikini, and a very exuberant man in matching trunks.  Still no Coppertone logo, though there is a little bottle of suntan lotion on the blanket.

It does look a lot like a Coppertone bottle.

To add to the mystery, there is another version of this bag that does have the word “Coppertone”, and that was somehow associated with the Olympics.  The bag does not reveal the year, but I’m guessing 1964 or 1968.

Since I bought this, I’ve seen ones like it for sale online, and the listings all use the Coppertone connection.  The ad and image were so well-known, that maybe the actual word “Coppertone” was thought to be unnecessary.

Note the squirrel photo-bombing my first photo.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Summer Sports

Adrian Firebird Dress, 1940s

Don’t get too excited for me, because this is not my dress.  It is in the shop of Guermantes Vintage.  This is a fantastic dress, but it gets even better because there is also a great story attached.

It all started when Guermantes Vintage posted photos of the dress on Instagram.  Jan always has the most incredible stuff, and so she has over 33,000 followers who stay tuned to see what her latest find happens to be.  A day or so ago, one of the persons tuning in was @jupeculotte, who is fashion historian Caroline Rennolds Milbank.  Guermantes posted the photo above, which @jupeculotte recognized as an Adrian dress she has examined in the collection of the Smithsonian.  What makes this so fantastic is that Guermantes’s dress is missing its label, and so she did not know until Caroline commented on the photo that she actually had an Adrian dress.

Caroline then sent to Germantes the documentation on the dress she had photographed at the Smithsonian.  Above you can see the photo of the Smithsonian’s dress, along with the card from the museum catalog.  No doubt that this is the same model dress.

What is really interesting is that another person, Melissa of @meloovintage had this dress years ago, and it too was missing the label.   Could it be that the labels were sewn in a spot that was uncomfortable for the wearer?  Maybe the apprentice sewing in the labels did a poor job and they came loose and were lost?

And this is why I love Instagram.

With all the unpleasantness one encounters on the internet, it’s wonderful knowing that the fashion history and the vintage people seem to be in it for all the right reasons.  Sharing knowledge in this way helps educate us all


Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Viewpoint

1940s White Stag Belt with Pouch

I just could not bring myself to call this a fanny pack, and it would have been wrong of me to do so.  The pouch on a belt concept really caught on sometime in the late 1980s (if memory serves me correctly) but this pouch on a belt dates to probably the early 1940s.  It’s a great example of a find that I didn’t know I needed until I spotted it on Etsy.



I’ve based my dating on two things.  First, the label is very similar to one I found as part of a 1941 White Stag ad for ski clothing.  After WWII, the White Stag label in ski togs was red with white lettering.  The only time I’ve seen the above logo which is so similar to my label is in that 1941 ad.

Just as important is the Alpine folkloric motif embroidered on the belt.  I’ve written about this in the past, and the next few paragraphs are adapted from an old blog post.

Even though the US was inching toward war with Germany in 1941, there was a vogue for clothing decoration that was similar to that of German, Bavarian, Tyrolean or Swiss motifs. This has always struck me as being a bit odd, especially after it was clear that the US was going to war with Germany, and these clothes were so reminiscent of German folk dress.

In his book Forties Fashion, Jonathan Walford explains that in the 1930s, the Nazi German leadership actively encouraged the wearing of  Germanic folk costume, and the dirndl-wearing blonde German ideal commonly appeared in German propaganda images.  The use of Alpine-inspired details even appeared in Paris in 1936.

In looking at American fashion magazines, I’ve seen Alpine fashions featured as early as 1935.  Most often I’ve seen clothing from the Austrian firm, Lanz of Salzburg, used. Lanz was started as a maker of traditional Austrian folk costumes  in Austria in 1922 by Josef Lanz and Fritz Mahler.  By the mid 1930s they were exporting clothing to the  US, and in 1936 Josef Lanz opened a branch of Lanz, Lanz Originals, in New York.

As  the US moved toward war with Germany, these clothes continued to be popular.  Interesting, Lanz advertised in magazines such as Vogue and Glamour throughout the war, but in their ad copy, there is never any reference to the fact that the clothes are so similar to German folk dress.

But why did this style continue to be so popular in the US?  I  have some theories.  First, “ethnic” fashions of all kinds were gaining in favor in the late 1930s.  Magazines did features on South American clothes, and Mexican and tropical prints were popular.  The dirndl skirt was used with lots of prints, not just with Alpine embroidery.

Also, these fashions were already in women’s and girl’s closets.  It stands to reason that in a time of shortages that a garment that would “go with” what the shopper already had would be desired.

If you want a deeper explanation, then you might consider the theory that enemies tend to copy their foes in dress, a form of cultural imperialism.

But all historic and cultural explanation aside, I wanted this because I have a small capsule collection of the Alpine motif garments, and this was a nice addition to that group.  I also have a 1940s gray with red trim ski suit.  What luck!

Thanks to IKnowWhatImWearing on etsy for such a great addition to my collection.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Winter Sports, World War II