Category Archives: Curiosities

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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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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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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1920s or 1930s Barefoot Dancing Sandals

People who have never attempted to sell online seem to have the idea that it’s an easy way to make a buck. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Selling old stuff online is hard for many reasons, but I’m only going to address one of them. And that is that there are so many old things than even experienced sellers run across objects they look at and just scratch the head in puzzlement.

The seller of the shoes above listed them as circa 1900 leather bathing shoes. I knew that was not correct, but what exactly are they? I could see why the seller thought they were bathing shoes, as they really do resemble them in some ways, but I’ve never heard of them being made of leather. After seeing the listing several months ago I forgot about the shoes, but the purchase of a 1929 gym attire catalog revealed the identity of the mystery sandals.

Of course that started a mad scramble to try and re-find the listing, but I had not bookmarked it, and so I was just out of luck. Or so I thought. Last week as I was searching for bathing shoes, these popped up again. Three clicks and they were mine.

The story is made even happier because I have a very similar pink and white gingham dancing romper as illustrated in the catalog, right beside the dancing sandals.

The dancing sandals look rather sad without feet to fill them out. I am so glad I spotted these and was able to add the proper context back to the object.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Gymnasium, Proper Clothing, Shoes

Maid of the Mountains, 1912

The minute I spied this book in a local consignment store I knew I was onto something good. But what?

As it turns out, Maid of the Mountains is a cross between a high school yearbook and a literary journal written by the girls at the Southern Seminary of Buena Vista, Virginia. Unlike the slick yearbooks of today (and even of the 1920s), This one appears to be entirely written and produced by the students of the school. The printing was done at a local press, and the photos were glued into the book.

The advances in education for girls played a major part in the movement toward equal rights for women. Schools like Southern Seminary produced a generation of women who were used to being leaders. And in the form of athletic attire, these women were used to wearing pants.

Athletics were a big part of what was happening at schools like Southern Seminary. The yearbook has pages for the baseball team, five different basketball teams, a tennis club, and a riding club. There was a boating club, but they must not have had a swimming pool, as swimming is not mentioned.

There’s not a photo of the baseball team, but a drawing by student May Wichelhausen shows the proper attire of athletic turtleneck sweater and bloomers. The basketball uniforms was similar with sweater (with SS logo) and bloomers.

Bloomers were not worn for tennis. Instead the girls wore the already traditional white skirt and middy blouse.

Two of the girls have words printed on headbands. I’ve tried enlarging them and have no idea what the one on the left reads, unless it is USS something. The one on the right seems to read “… George Do It”. It’s a mystery to me.

The younger girl at left in the back row is wearing the huge bow that was favored by teens at this time. One of the theories of how the 1920s flappers were so named came from the bows that were worn by them during adolescence.

The girls of the riding club wore a hodgepodge of garments, but all seem to be riding astride wearing divided skirts. I was surprised that not all were wearing hats.

This is part of a photo of the freshman class. All these girls were wearing the schoolgirl middy with a skirt right above the ankles. We can also see another flapper bow.

Contrast the freshmen with this photo of the yearbook staff, a group of juniors and seniors. No more middies for this adult-looking bunch…

except for when participating in boating club, of course.

The seniors and the superlatives all got an individual photo included. This portrait of senior Miriam Conklin was typical of the demure pose most girls struck.

But none of that for Miriam Thompson. She was voted most athletic, and to prove it she posed in her sweater and looked directly at the camera. She and her sister Virginia went on to college at Newcomb College, and Miriam eventually became Dr. Thompson, and a faculty member of Limestone College in Gaffney, SC where she was professor of mathematics. She retired in 1969.

Southern Seminary eventually became Southern Virginia University. The original building, the former Buena Vista Hotel, is still used as the school’s Main Hall.

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I Didn’t Buy… Two 1940s Sewing Pattern Counter Books

I spent Friday at the Liberty Antiques Festival, a show that always seems to produce some amazing things for my collection and “archive”. Fashion books are very high on my radar, and I was feeling especially lucky since finding a 1934 Butterick counter book the evening before at one of my favorite vintage stores, Design Archives. But something about this one looked off.

I moved it and when I did I saw there was another one below it, and I also realized the problem. These two books were much too fat. Realization set in, as I’d seen this unfortunate phenomenon before. These were used as scrapbooks.

Sure enough, these two books contained page after page of miscellaneous newspaper photos from the 1940s. Someone spent a lot of time with the scissors and the paste.

I have nothing at all against scrapbooks. So many of them are charming relics of a person’s life, or a stage in it. That type of scrapbook is an important historical document. But a good look through these revealed nothing about the person who collected all these clippings. It seems to be just a visual compilation of the news of the day, both local and national.

The question came up when I posted these photos on Instagram as to what happens to out of date counter books. I can remember when I was in high school in the 1970s that the local Belk’s store would save them for the home ec classes. I’ve also seen people’s names written across the cover , claiming them when a newer book replaced it. There was one such 1952 counter book in my husband’s grandmother’s stuff.

To a kid in the 1930s and 1940s when resources were tight, getting one of these books must have seemed like a real prize. Can you imagine how many of these books ended being cut up for paper dolls? And this is not the first time I’m seen them used as scrapbooks. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Simplicity one is the exact same one I spotted in 2008! The scars and scratches all match up.

I did have a moment of insanity when it occurred to me that I might be able to somehow clean these up using a miracle glue remover. But then I thought about how many hours such a project would take. So I left them behind, as I had done nine years ago.

 

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Update: 1920s Gingham Romper

I posted my thoughts about this 1920s romper back in June. One of the things I wrote was this:

So rompers definitely were a thing for women, at least in the 1920s and 1930s. Still, I don’t agree with calling a gym suit a romper, no matter how much the garment is similar.

But then last week I found a real shocker in a 1926 high school yearbook.

These are the girls of the Gainesville Athletic Club at Gainesville High School in Florida. Could it be these were the actual basketball uniforms? It is hot in Florida, so maybe they adapted the usual bloomer suit into a light cotton garment.

I do need to make sure you notice that the suits are not identical, though they do seem to be made from the same fabric. And what’s with those belts?

It does pay to keep an open mind when it comes to the past. The minute we start saying “never” and “always” we run into trouble.

I also want to give a big thank you to all the kids over the past one hundred years who worked tirelessly on the yearbook committee. I don’t collect yearbooks, but anytime I run across an older one I always thumb through it to see if I can spot anything interesting. This time I was really rewarded.  Along with several yearbooks dating from the 1920s through the 40s, someone donated a series of photograph albums from the same years to Goodwill. It all ended up in the bins, and while I didn’t buy any of it, the guy who put them in his cart kindly let me photograph some really great photos.

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Filed under Curiosities, Gymnasium, Proper Clothing, Rest of the Story, Sportswear