Category Archives: I Didn’t Buy…

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!


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.



Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – The Park Antique Tennis Racket

I’m sure you have spotted the problems with this elderly tennis racket, but I still was almost a victim to its charms.  It just stands to reason that a collector of sportswear would be attracted to the corresponding sports equipment, even if they would just be props.  I’ve been tempted before, and I’ve resisted, just as I resisted this great old racket.

Click to see the great logo.

The maker was Wright & Ditson, a sporting goods company started by baseball player George Wright and businessman Henry Ditson in 1871.  The company was bought in 1891 by Spalding, but the Wright & Ditson name was used until the 1930s.  Some sources say the the Spalding company bought up other sports equipment companies  and then continued to use the name of the acquired company in order to give the appearance of competition to consumers.  Today there is a “vintage” sports shirt company that uses the Wright & Ditson name.

The best I can tell, this racket was made in the very late 1800s, or in the first decade of the 1900s.  The oval shape was introduced around 1885, and a 1910 catalog shows an up-dated form of the tennis-player logo, so I’m pretty sure it dates within that range.


Filed under I Didn't Buy..., Summer Sports

What I Didn’t Buy – 1960s Evening Bag

I went on a little vintage hunt yesterday and spotted this pretty little evening bag.  It is green suede, not exactly a material one might associate with date night, but the diminutive size and the interior of the bag make this the perfect bag for a dinner date.

The bag has two openings, at top flap, and at the bottom.  The top opens like an envelope.  But it is the bottom opening that is so interesting.

The latch pulls back to expose the interior.

Along with a mirror, there are spaces for a compact, lipstick and cigarettes.  Really nifty.

So why didn’t I buy it?  I guess the main reason is that I already have a very similar bag made in black satin.  And as much as I loved this one, I couldn’t justify the purchase as I’m really trying to concentrate on casual wear.   At $32 I was tempted to buy it and use it myself, but I never wear green.

Still, it does point out what a great buy vintage evening bags can be.  They are often in fantastic condition because most women didn’t use them as much as a day bag.  They are plentiful in antique stores because it seems that women held on to them.  Makes you wonder why anyone would buy a new bag when the vintage ones are so sweet.



Filed under I Didn't Buy..., Proper Clothing

What I Didn’t Buy – Vintage-looking Handbag

I spotted this handbag in an antique mall recently, and I wasn’t fooled for a second.  From the thick clunky double chain to the plasticy faux-leather everything just screamed “NEW!”  But there was something about the details that made me take a second look.  Someone was clearly inspired by the work of Bonnie Cashin for Coach, circa 1964.

Well now, that makes perfect sense.  Isaac Mizrahi has long named Bonnie Cashin as one of his own design heroes, along with Claire McCardell and Geoffrey Beene.

One thing I like and admire about Mizrahi is that he does have a great sense of where fashion has been.  He knows his fashion history and does not mind pulling from it.  Early in his career, back in the 1980s, he was criticized for pulling a bit too much; that many designs were more Beene than Mizrahi.  Using the Target handbag as an example though, you can immediately see the influence, but not for a moment would anyone who knows her work be deceived into thinking she was the designer.

There is a big difference between inspiration and copying.   Copying is easy. You look at a design and reproduce it.  But inspiration involves taking the best feature of a previous design, and infusing your own sense of aesthetic  and creating something new.

I’ve been thinking about copying because I’m considering a huge sewing challenge – that of making a copy of a Chanel jacket.  Encouragement is greatly appreciated!



Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – 1940s Cowboy Print Skirt and Blouse

My dad used to joke that my mother’s middle name was “Go” and now my husband makes the same joke about me.  But a more appropriate name for me would be “Stop!”  That because I can’t pass by an antique store without stopping.  Seriously, it’s a miracle I ever get to a destination.

My trip last week was no exception.  I had plenty of stops scheduled on the way to West Virginia and on the way home from Washington.  Actually I had too many stops planned, but more about that later.

One thing that caught my eye was this great little top from the 1940s.  I hope you can tell that the print is a bucking bronco with a cowboy flying over the fence.  I pulled the top from the rack and checked the price.  It was a bit more than I wanted to pay, but then I realized there was another piece – a skirt.  The price became more in line with what I would have expected, and I started contemplating a purchase.

I never let myself get too excited about a piece until I check it over for condition issues.  At first glance this looked pretty good.  There was an open seam in one armhole, which is an easy fix.

But then I noticed what looked to be bleach spots on the skirt.

That was problematic, but was still not a deal breaker.  Then I looked at the buttons, and that is what changed my mind.

There was only one button left, and the others had been torn away with gaping holes left in their place.  I put the set back on the hanger and left it for someone who could love it as it was.


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

What I Didn’t Buy – 1950s Esso Skotch Kooler

These photos are so poor that I hesitated about putting them up.  But I have a little point to make, and they do at least show the product and the problem.

For a very long time I’ve wanted this map of the USA cooler, made by Skotch Kooler for Esso sometime in the 1950s.  I want one because I have this crazy love for old tin maps, and I can remember this cooler from my childhood.  It’s a fairly common thing; I run across them all the time.  The problem is that they are always either rusty or the graphics have faded.  I’m wanting one in excellent condition, mainly because I want to use it.

I spotted this one hanging in a mall, but even before I’d seen the price – $39.99 – I’d ruled it out. I just can’t live with that much rust.  I thought the price was too high, especially given the condition, but a quick look on etsy put this in line with what people are asking online.

Oh, well, someday my cooler will come in.


Filed under I Didn't Buy..., Vintage Travel