Category Archives: I Didn’t Buy…

What I Didn’t Buy: Betsey Johnson Sweater, 1980s

There are several reasons I did not buy this Betsey Johnson sweater.  First of all, my collection stops around 1975, and this sweater dates from sometime in the 1980s.  It has the distinctive “punk” label which was used for about eight years, starting in 1978 when Betsey formed her own business.

More importantly, I did not buy this sweater because I do not like it.  Even if I collected the 80s I would not have bought it.  And that brings up the question of “taste” and where it fits into a collection.

When  I first started collecting I would buy anything I found that I thought was “important.”  I can tell you that for me, collecting that way led to a lot of mistakes.  It was not until I began to narrow the focus of my collection that I was able to chose a garment based on its merits, rather than the label.   And to me, part of the charm of an old garment is that it pleases me, aesthetically.

That is not to say that every item in my collection is beautiful, but given a choice between two similar objects, I know that my personal taste will play a part in which one I choose to add to my collection.  I recently met a seller who had dozens of late 1950s and early 60s casual women’s shirts.  I have been looking for some to pair with my novelty print skirts.  Because the shirts were all deadstock, the condition of all was equal.  I went almost entirely by which ones I liked when picking the ones I wanted to buy.

And this leads me to another thought – the mistaken idea that just because an item is old, it somehow has added worth.  I see a lot of old clothes, and so many of them are just ugly, to my eye anyway.  Others are poorly made, and yet others are in horrible condition.  These things might not matter if the item in question is an 1818 pelisse belonging to Jane Austin, but in a 1978 polyester dress from K-mart, they do definitely matter,

Sometimes I’m just amazed at how much clothing from the past has survived.  I grew up in a home where if an item wasn’t useful, it was sold for charity, so I’m often astounded to read about people who find houses with rooms full of multi-generational clothing.  I’m glad they do because it allows me to be very picky.

12 Comments

Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – Tie Quilt

Last week I found a good reminder that your grandmother was reusing out-of-date materials and clothing to make something that might be useful, and she didn’t even have Pinterest to inspire her.  In this case, someone took a bunch of old ties and made a lap quilt.

Sometime in the early 1950s men started seeing a shift in tie design.  Ties became longer and more narrow, and the colors and designs became much more conservative.  What looked right to men after returning home from WWII now looked a bit clownish.  I’m sure that many men did like my Uncle Corky and just left the crazy ones on the tie rack.  When he died there were dozens of great 1940s ties buried under the somber 1950s and 60s ones, and there were even a few new 1970s polyester ones on the very top.

But some clever quilter saw patchwork material when looking at these old, unstylish ties.  I’m pretty sure this was made in the 1950s because of the type of rayon that was used for the backing.  Maybe it was a gift for the original owner, or maybe the maker collected them from friends who would no longer wear them.

I look at something like this today and realize that as far as monetary value is concerned, the seller of the quilt would be better off having the ties intact. But it’s hard to criticize the maker of the quilt, and she (or he, possibly) would never have dreamed that anyone would ever be caught dead in these again.

I see dozens of old ties in practically any thrift store I visit.  They are rarely older than the 1970s, but some of them are made from fine silks.  I’m not a quilter, but I’ll admit I’ve been tempted to collect then just so I’ll have a project in case I ever get snowed in for two weeks with no electricity.  And I always look at ties in thrift stores in the hopes of finding a Liberty Tana lawn one.  I always get them because those long strips of bias fabric come in handy for various projects.

That one with the swordfish is pretty nifty.

Nothing says “classy” like big old green and orange gems.

Do you know a steel-working man?  There was a tie for him.

 

23 Comments

Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – Late Edwardian Shoes

I’m pretty sure this needs very little explanation, but I have a bit to say nevertheless.  As you can see, the shoes were in very poor condition to start with, and I’d not have bought them anyway, but using those plastic zip ties on an old object is a crime against vintage!

To be fair, it was really the stand that was for sale with the shoes just thrown in, and I guess the seller just did not want them to get separated.  Still, it seems a very odd way to display items that are for sale.   The end result is that shoes that were already pretty much gone are now crunched up and completely gone.

Instead, what if there was a bit of polish to make them look their best, with nice tissue stuffing to give them shape?  Add some ribbon ties and they might even make a charming display.

I’m not really too upset about these poor old shoes, but it does concern me that a visitor to this shop might see this display and think it is a good idea.   Who knows what might be zip tied in the interest of convenience?

2 Comments

Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – Wool Bonnie Cashin Coat

I lucked into a vintage pop-up shop on the streets of Asheville yesterday, and as I was hurriedly pawing through the racks this coat appeared.  I was pretty sure it was a Bonnie Cashin for Sills, and sure enough I found the label in the side of the coat.

I went for the price tag and was shocked to see it priced at $8, and then I noticed the words, “As is.”  Not a good sign.

It didn’t take long to find the reason for the cheap price.  At the hem of the coat the leather had pulled loose from the wool in several places.   In addition there were places where the wool was a bit worn looking, and the lining, which was jersey knit, was riddled with holes.

For a few minutes, my mind was working through the problems, and I had myself convinced that I could save this beautiful coat.    It would involve removing the leather binding at the hem, cutting off an inch or two, and reattaching the leather.  I actually did this with a Pendleton coat a while back, but the bulky textured wool of this coat would be trickier than the smooth Pendleton.  And then there were all those holes to mend, and some reweaving to boot.  Then it occurred to me that my entire wardrobe consists of cool colors with only a piece or so of pink and orange, and no yellow at all.  I decided to leave this coat for someone who would love it, mend it, and wear it.

The wool was really special.  It could possibly be one of the Bernat Klein tweeds that Cashin is known to have used.

The only closure was a leather tie slightly above the waist.

A real heart-breaker, this one.

But all was not lost.  At the same sale I found a really special piece, which I’ll be showing off next week.

18 Comments

Filed under Designers, I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – Woolrich Tweed Knickers

One old American label that I’ve neglected is Woolrich.  It was founded in 1830 by immigrant John Rich, who built a mill in Pennsylvania and proceeded to make woolen products for outdoors workers.  Over the years they became leaders in the buffalo check business, selling to hunters and other outdoorsmen.   They also made blankets and motoring robes.

At some point in their long history they began making men’s shirts out of the wool that was woven in the Woolrich mill.    This was more of a casual wear shirt rather than something a man might wear in the field.  They also began making casual wool jackets for women.

Later, probably in the 1970s, the company began to diversity its products.  Instead of making all the Woolrich clothing from Woolrich fabric, they, like many other American companies, began to add imported goods to their product line.  In 1980 they started a woman’s label, “Woolrich Woman.”

I can’t say when exactly Woolrich changed from a strictly sportswear company to more of a fashion company.  And I use the word “fashion” quite loosely.   It’s more like conservative clothing for people who like the woods, though I’ve seen that the company has recently upped its game.

As for the knickers that I did not buy, there are several reasons they stayed in the big blue bin and did not make the leap into my shopping cart.

The first problem was the condition.  You can see a hole near the knee in the top photo, and there were several other holes, some repaired.

I thought it was interesting that the legs closed with velcro instead of buttons.  Look right above the velcro and you can see where the velcro has caught the fabric.

Velcro was invented in the late 1940s, but it was not really used until the 1960s.  Even then it was not a common closure.

This is the label, which was first used in 1965.  As far as I can tell, it was used into the 1990s.  I’m basing this on listings on Etsy and Ebay, but the clothing is hard to accurately date due to the unchanging, conservative nature of it.  Due to what I’ve observed, my best guess is that the label changed to a similar, but dark blue label in the early 1990s.

A really nice feature of these knickers is that they have a double seat.  Also, the pockets are functional.

But I didn’t buy them because of the condition, and also because it was my gut feeling that these were from the 1980s.  My interest pretty much stops with the mid 1970s.

However, I did find and buy another pair of vintage Woolrich pants.  There were men’s trousers, made from a very heavy wool herringbone.  A former owner had cut them off quite short and did not hem them.  Thank goodness I am also quite short, and after a good hem the length will be just right for me.

They are a little too big in the waist, but being men’s pants they are easy to alter. The waistband is faced, and the center back seam is easy to stitch to a smaller size.  I’ll probably remove the suspender buttons.

These have the same label as the knickers, and they are so classic that I’d have a hard time accurately dating the,  I’m guessing early 1970s due to the flat front and the width of the legs.

For comparison, this is the label that was used in the 1950s and up to 1965.  Note the R (registered) symbol.  This trademark was registered in 1949.  This label is from a pair of very heavy wool hunting pants.  They are my snow pants.

Woolrich is still is business today, but most of the things with their label are imported.  They are still making wool fabric in the mill, and I wish they would follow Pendleton’s example and offer more products made from their wool.  They do have a hipster label, Woolrich Woolen Mills, where many of the products are made from their cloth in the USA, but they are not promoted as being so on the website sales pages.  Not only that, there are three different websites, two of which do not tell if the items are imported or domestic.  But I’ll forgive then, just because of these:  Cute Woolrich Wool Ballerina flats.

16 Comments

Filed under I Didn't Buy..., Made in the USA

What I Didn’t Buy – Victorian Jacket

My area of collecting (and knowledge) pretty much starts around 1915, and anything earlier is just a mystery to me.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t take the time to look at and examine the odd piece of antique clothing that might show up in my local antique malls.  You just never know when there might be a Worth label or something insane like that sewn inside.

Well, unfortunately, the label was not Worth, but there was a label, which you don’t always see in antique clothing.  This one reads “Allemus, Philadelphia, Pa.”  I’ve come up empty in a search for this store or maker, although there were quite a few people with the Allemus surname living in Philadelphia in the late 1880s.

But I thought the jacket and its details made it interesting enough to show here.  It was a combination of cotton velvet and a plain weave wool.  The  cording was applied in an intricate pattern.  The inside was lined in an off-white silk that was completely shattered.  In fact, there were bits of silk on the floor below where the jacket was hanging.

In the late 1960s and early 70s when some crazy kids were starting to become interested in wearing old clothes, this would have been a real prize.  Today I can see it as part of a Steampunk ensemble.

There were only two unfortunate holes on one sleeve.

This looks like a very labor (and time) intensive button to me.

This was priced at $10, which I thought was a real bargain.  But I wasn’t tempted.  I’ve learned how to say no to all kinds of lonely old clothes hanging forlornly on wire hangers in antique malls.  It has taken years for me to get to the place where I can actually say that!

23 Comments

Filed under I Didn't Buy..., Shopping

What I Didn’t Buy – Bonnie Cashin Leather Coat

I spotted this coat from across the antique mall, and I immediately knew what I “thought” it was.  The distinctive green/yellow, the turn lock closures and the leather all added up to Bonnie Cashin.

It was great finding out that I was correct, but then Cashin’s work is easy to spot once you’ve been exposed to it.   Even though Cashin designed for quite a few different companies, she had several “trademarks” that she incorporated into many of her designs.  Closures for jackets and handbags were often turn locks.  She incorporated dog leash latches in belts, bags and garments.  Her leather clothing was often oddly colored, with colors tending to be citrusy or mossy.  It was, in fact, the color of this coat that had me convinced that it was by Cashin.

Probably the two most famous firms that Cashin designed for were Philip Sills and Coach.  She worked for Sills from 1952 until 1977, and for Coach from 1962 until 1974, so for twelve years she was designing for both companies.  Her work at Sills was originally designing leather coats and jackets, but Cashin was soon mixing wool  tweeds with leather and suede.  Some of her handbags at Coach also used wool mixed with leather.  The kiss-lock change purses that she put on the outside of her Coach bags began showing up as pockets on her clothing.  She was a real mix and match artist.

Bonnie Cashin is considered to be one of the great American sportswear designers.  Her clothes were practical and sporty, and suited the casual lifestyle that Americans were embracing after World War II.   She loved garments that had multiple uses, and she all but invented the idea of layering clothing.

If you have a garment with Bonnie Cashin’s name on it, then it was designed by her.   She never entered into any licensing agreements and she never employed assistant designers. Today, Cashin’s designs often look so modern as to make a casual observer of her work ask, “What’s the big deal?” But actually, that’s the point. Cashin’s work was so influential that today her innovations are commonplace.

If Cashin’s work is so great, then why did I not buy the coat, you might be asking.  It all has to do with condition.  Women who bought Cashin’s coats must have loved them because most of the ones I’ve ever encountered for sale have been in terrible condition.  This one was no exception.

Over the years I’ve had several Cashin pieces, all of which I long ago passed on to another collector.  After seeing this piece it began to strike me as odd that I – a collector of sportswear – do not have an single example of Bonnie Cashin’s work.  This was a problem I had to fix.  Tomorrow I’ll show off the solution.

 

11 Comments

Filed under I Didn't Buy...