Category Archives: Proper Clothing

Au Bon Marché Sports Clothes Catalog – Early 1930s

 

Most of my collecting involves USA made fashion and industry, but sometimes one just has to look at other influences to see the entire picture.  If you are looking at the 1960s fashion scene, you can’t ignore what was happening in London.  And even though sportswear is very often best exemplified as American, you can’t ignore the influence of Jean Patou and Coco Chanel in France in the 1920s and 30s.

Au Bon Marché dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century and was the first grand Parisian department store.  It is still open as Le Bon Marché.

My catalog does not have a date anywhere, but it is from 1931 or 1932. It is full of the delightful things that make one want to pack up the automobile and head for the closest sandy beach.

The front cover folds out and the wares are displayed in a panorama with that sandy shore in the background.  All the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The men and boys are still modestly attired in their tank suits (swimming briefs were soon to make their appearance, though).  What is really interesting is item number 14. This is the earliest example I’ve ever seen of a woman’s two piece suit that bares the midriff.

As expected, all the bathing suits are made from wool knit.  What I found to be interesting is that three of the women’s pyjamas  -17,25, and 29 – were also made from wool jersey knit.  Only number 21 was made from the cotton duck cloth one would expect to find here in the States.  The robes or peignoir du bains, were all made from terrycloth.

 

Number 24 seems to be as risque as the two piece.  I’ve love to see how much of the front is exposed.

And how about the rubber swim cap the little girl in number 28 is wearing?  Scottie dogs on a swim cap!  Actually, all the caps are pretty incredible.

 

The man in his blouse et pantalon pour la peche ou le bateau could only be a Frenchman, no?

 

Be sure to notice how one could change the angle of the large umbrella in the center by moving the pole to a different hole.

 

I’ve wanted a portable gramophone ever since I first saw Sabrina and Humphrey Bogart pulled his old one out of the closet to take on his boating date with Audrey Hepburn. And while I’m fantasy shopping,  I’ll also take that picnic basket.

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Currently Reading: Women in Pants

Dear Readers, I am having some problems with my computer, and so I’m not able to make any new posts. While we are waiting for a miracle cure for my old HP Touchsmart, here is a post from five years ago.

I’ve been reading this book, Women in Pants, for the past day or so, and I’ve got to say how much I really loved it.   Ironically, I almost didn’t buy it; in fact had passed on it several times.  You see, I was prejudiced against it for several reasons.  First, there are more photos than there is print.  That is usually a bad sign for me, as I love great old vintage photos, but I like a  little information served up with them.  It’s been my experince that books full of vintage photos usually are just about what you see.  And that leads me to former objection number two, which was this book is pretty much the collection of one person, author Catherine Smith.  Again, I’ve really come to suspect books of this type as being long on images, short on info.

I’m happy to say that I did take a chance on the book, and I was terribly wrong about it.  Smith and Greig present a well researched, beautifully illustrated book on the subject of women who literally wore the pants in an era when it was almost completely socially unacceptable to do so.  The photos Smith and others have collected are accompanied with insights gleaned from many primary sources, which are quoted liberally throughout the book.

While the book shows women wearing pants in the expected ways – college girls in bloomers playing basketball, stage actresses dressed as men during performances – there are some really interesting and off-beat photos of women dressed as men lovers and even all female weddings with half the women dressed as men.  And then there are the women adventurers dressed as men as they flew aeroplanes and scaled mountains.  Fantastic stuff!

As a collector of old photos of women in sportswear, I’ve looked through thousands of vintage photos.  Usually the older ones just get a quick glance from me, but now I’ll be looking for the crooked mustache and the too large suit coat!

And here are some of my favorite women in pants:

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Filed under Currently Reading, Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs

New York Styles, Spring & Summer, 1912

This 1912 catalog is a bit early to be a reference for most of the things in my clothing collection, but after spotting it at a market recently I decided to buy it anyway.  First of all, it was quite cheap.  But more importantly, it is on the cusp of where my collecting starts, around 1915.  It never hurts to know about what came before the eras that interest one most.

I’m unfamiliar with the Greenhut – Siegel Cooper Company of New York, but just from looking at the catalog it appears that they sold nice mid-range clothing, primarily for women, but with a smaller selection for children and men.  A quick internet search was very enlightening.

I learned that Siegel-Cooper was a huge New York City department store, opening in 1896 on Sixth Avenue as part of the famous Ladies Mile shopping area.  In 1904 the business was sold to Joseph Greenhut, but the shopping district was moving uptown, and  Greenhut – Siegel Cooper was never really successful.  The business folded in 1918.  The large building was then appropriated for use as a military hospital.  Over the years the building was converted to loft space, but today it still stands and is again home to retail establishments.

The fashions of 1912 are very different from the WWI era clothing of just a few years later.  It was the era of the narrow-hemmed “hobble skirts”, a fashion hoisted upon the world by Paris designer Paul Poiret.  While the skirts above are not very extreme in the style, you can see how an almost floor-length skirt might need to be a bit fuller in order to actually walk in it.

The dresses on this page are for teen girls and very young women, and so the hems are a bit shorter.

To me, the most striking aspect of these fashions are the hats worn with them.  The “Most Stylish and Becoming Dress Hat” seen above is large enough to do double duty a a bed for a small dog.  I’ve not pictured them, but there were several pages of  “hair goods” which were designed to beef up the wearer’s own hair so the hats would not flop over.  The buyer had to send in a sample of her hair to ensure a proper match.

This was also the era of the lingerie dress.  Dresses offered ranged from $1.98 ($46.94 today) to $12.98 ($307.75).  The more elaborate the dress, the greater the cost.  The third dress from the left was made of embroidered net and was the most expensive lingerie dress in this catalog.

There was a page of bathing suits, some of wool, and others of cotton.  Not seen are the bloomers that were included with each dress.

While there was no mention of sports dresses or skirts, there were illustrations that suggested that certain styles were suitable for tennis and golf.

This great weskit or vest was not offered for sale at all.

There was a page of sweaters for sale.  Note the golf clubs and the tennis racquet.  These sweaters were considered to be a very casual style, suitable for sports and outings.  Today it is nearly impossible to find knitwear from this era.

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Circa 1960s Golf Set by Serbin

One of the difficult things about collecting clothing is that often one finds just part of an ensemble.  As a collector of sportswear that often does not matter, but it is always a treat to find an outfit in its entirety.  Having the top or the skirt of this set would be nice, but it is so much better having both, plus the matching belt.

Serbin was founded in 1943 by brothers  Lewis and John Serbin in Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1951 Lewis Serbin moved his family and the family business to Florida.  There the company focused on golf wear and casual dresses.  The Serbins had a daughter, Marianne, and I’m guessing that she is the Mari*Anne on the label.  At some time she married and her name was Marianne Serbin Friedman.

The quilted skirt is covering a pair of shorts made from the same fabric as the top.  It feels to be a cotton/poly blend.  The buttons are a type that was popular in the late 1960s, ball-shaped plastic covered by a matte paint. There is a nylon zipper in the shorts and in the back of the top.

The belt matches the bias trim on the top and the skirt.

I have not firmed up a date, but my best guess is late 1960s.  Besides the buttons, there are other clues.  The A-line shape of the skirt was a popular one at that time, as was the cotton/poly fabric.  I’ve not shown any of the interior details, but the seams are pinked instead of serged.  That tends to mean a manufacture before the mid 1970s when the serger became widely used, but it pays to remember that smaller companies could not always invest in the latest machinery.

Novelty prints are really more associated with the Seventies than they are the Sixties, but when it comes to golf wear, anything goes.  Any other thoughts?

And I’d sure love to hear from the Serbin family.

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1950s Golf Course Novelty Contour Belt

Ever so often I get something on my mind and off I go in search of it.  Lately I’ve been sharing (showing off) my collection of novelty print skirts on Instagram, and I started thinking about belts to go along with them.  Belts can be difficult to find, partly because they are not always easy to place a date on and search terms are often vague.

There is one type of belt from the 1950s that is generally easy to identify.  Designed to wear over the full gathered skirts of the era, these 1950s belts are often quite wide and are contoured to fit the waist.  My favorites are themed and are decorated with symbols of the theme.  I recently located the golf course themed one I’m sharing (showing off) today.  It was an etsy find, from seller South Side Market.

Though golf themed, this was a fashion item rather than a belt for active sports.  It was designed to fit tightly around the waist and would have been too constricting for actual play.

These belts were made in lots of themes.  Years ago I found one that has an airline theme.  South Side Market had a really super one that was magazine themed, but unfortunately for me it had already sold.  And probably the best one I know of is for sell at Poppy’s Vintage Clothing.  It has the names of French designers with dress forms.

These must have been a popular item at Saks Fifth Avenue, because I’ve seen quite a few of this type belt stamped with the store’s logo.  Two makers were Criterion and Calderon.

This selection of wide belts was pictured in the spring-summer 1956 Montgomery Ward catalog.  Though not decorated, these belts would have looked great with a simple blouse and a gathered skirt made from a fun printed cotton fabric.

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Bowl to Stay Slim, 1958

Growing up in the 1960s, I can remember bowling being a very big deal.  The leagues that met weekly to compete were an important social function for many people in my community.  My parents didn’t bowl, but the parents of a friend were in a league so I often went with them to the lanes.  I learned to bowl (badly) and was never any good at it, but as I said, the social part of it was really the point.

In 1958 Brunswick, a maker of bowling supplies, published this booklet that was aimed to encourage women to take up the sport.

Bowling is a graceful, rhythmical sport.  A fun sport that’s not strenuous yet so good for the figure.

Marion Ladewig really was a professional bowler.  Here she is on What’s My Line? where she actually stumped the panelists.

The booklet is full of photos of attractive – and slim – women bowling, intermingled with dieting tips and how to score the game.

Here we have Mrs. Ladewig helping a young woman pick out a ball.  One thing I did not realize is that “Shoes are made for both right and left-handed bowlers…”  I’m left-handed, and I can’t ever remember being offered left-handed shoes.  Not surprising since I always considered myself lucky if they actually had the right size for me.

Of course the booklet would not be complete without an ad for Brunswick equipment.  I was especially interested in the shoes, mainly because bowling shoes can be a bit of a problem to accurately date.  I’d sure like a pair of the Princess Brunswick, in red, please.

The back cover has one last reminder, that bowling is a fun activity for the entire family.

In my bowling file I found another booklet, which is less soft-sell, more sports-minded.  I only picked it up because it is labeled “Compliments of Misty Harbor.”  I thought that was an odd sponsor considering Misty Harbor was a maker of rain coats and jackets, not something one would wear while bowling.

And once again, here is the bowling team from 1956.  I find it interesting that all the advertising booklet women are wearing skirts and dresses, but the real bowlers are outfitted in slacks.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Shoes, Winter Sports

National Park Seminary: A School for Girls

The book I’m sharing today is enough to make me clean house a bit more often.  That’s because I found this one among my husband’s books which are usually in a bit of disarray.  The root of the problem is that we are both book lovers, and we have outgrown the two floor-to-ceiling shelves that cover two entire walls in his office.  We’ve decided to add more shelving, and so we are sorting through books, and that when I turned up A School For Girls.

The National Park Seminary was a private two year program for young women of means.  When this book was published in 1924, the school was being called a junior college, but in reality it was more of a finishing school.  There were several courses that girls could take, all of which were heavy on the arts and on homemaking skills.  There was also a four year high school program.

National Park Seminary, commonly referred to as The Glen School, started life as a hotel.  When the hotel failed in 1894, the property was purchased and converted into the school.   The facility was spread over ninety acres and consisted of around thirty buildings, many of which were connected by covered walkways.

In 1924 the school seemed to be on firm footing, but the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression  took a heavy toll on the school.  It barely remained open, and in 1942 the school was closed when the US Army bought the property.  It was established as part of Walter Reed Army Hospital as a rehabilitation  facility for disabled soldiers returning from WWII.

My husband does not remember where he got the book, but he does know why he bought it.  He was stationed at Walter Reed in the early 1970s.  The research facility in which he worked was located near the old school, and he and his co-workers would regularly go to the cafeteria there.   By that time the facility was severely underfunded by the army, but Tim still remembers the buildings as being quite grand.

The army eventually closed the Forest Glen facility, and it fell into disrepair.  Today it is being restored, and the old school and hospital is now being converted to condos and apartments.  A Google images search shows both the decay and the newly restored buildings, and is quite amazing to look at.

The book seems to a catalog of sort for prospective students.  It outlines the courses, lays out the rules, and brags about the facility and the clientele.  As expected, the school was quite expensive, with a basic charge of $1375 ($19,100 today), but with many additional charges, including up to $100 ($1400 today) per course.  Girls had to have five references in order to be considered for admission.  Any girl who turned out to be a “difficult case” was “…promptly returned to her home.”

The book is full of photographs of the school and of the girls.  After a while the photos, which are obviously staged, start to look alike, and I’m guessing that the same girls were used over and over.

I’m sure that by now you have noticed that all the young women are wearing very similar dress.  While not a true uniform, each girls was instructed to have:

Four dresses cut after the style of the two-piece sailor dresses.

There was a Dress Circular that was supplied to the mothers of applicants that laid out in detail the particulars of dress that was accepted at the school.  In addition to the four middy dresses, my book gives a few general dress requirements:

Three simple dresses to be worn at evening dinner and Sundays at home.

One evening dress for formal parties.

One topcoat or a tailored coat suit for trips to Washington.

All jewelry is forbidden…

Unfortunately, the book does not go into detail about athletic wear, but the pictures pretty much tell the story.

This shows Indian club exercise in the gym.

Several sports teams were pictured, all wearing the identical middy and bloomer combination that we see in use in the gym.

But for riding, the proper attire was a riding jacket and jodhpurs.

Note the covered walkway.

And the middy dress worked well for tennis.

Finally, I want to share one of the courses that was offered in the home economics department – Laundry.  At first I wondered why a girl who could afford to go to an expensive finishing school would need to know how to do the laundry.  Silly me!

An interesting course that ought to be taken by any girl who would intelligently supervise such work in her own home.  Many an expensive article has been ruined because the necessary caution or advice could not be offered by the inexperienced housewife.

 

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