Category Archives: Proper Clothing

Bradley Knitwear 1920s Ski Suit

If you have been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while you already know that Bradley is one of my favorite vintage brands. Bradley Knitting Company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, and was established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters, and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan as it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.

When I first spotted this set on etsy, I was confused because at the time it was made (late 1920s or very early 30s) Bradley was making only knits, and from the photos in the listing, these pieces looked to be woven. I was pleasantly surprised to get the set and to find they were actually knit.

Yes, this is a knit, though it is hard to tell from this photo. Another interesting thing about the top is the use of the zipper. Even if this dates from 1930 the use of the zipper in a garment is a very early example.

These little black arrow accents were not knit in; they are appliqued on top of the garment. You see this feature quite a bit in late 1920s bathing suits in a nod to the geometric designs of Sonia Delaunay, perhaps.

The straight bodice of the top is another hint to the date of the set. After 1930s jackets became shorter, often ending at the waist. This piece still has the long straight look of the late 1920s.

And what is an old wool garment without a few moth nibbles. I’m showing you this because here you can actually tell that this garment is knit, not woven. I also want to draw attention to the overlock stitching where the collar is attached to the bodice. There are some vintage sellers who insist that you don’t see overlock before the 1970s, but that is simply not true. It was commonly used on early sweaters and other knits, having been invented in the 1880s.

A bit more applique is found in the bands at the sleeve cuffs. And what about that tassel!

 

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Winter Sports

Cool Notes Sneakers, Circa 1963

I’m really picky when it comes to adding things younger than I am to my collection. There really is a lot of stuff left over from the 1960s and younger, so a collector can afford to wait until  something really special comes along. As a rule of thumb, the younger the object, the better condition I want it to have. A pair of Keds from 1923 can have a bit of wear, but I want  a pair of sneakers from 1963 to be in excellent condition.

I first spotted these on the Instagram feed of @jessamity and I knew I had to have them. I have an early 1960s set of separates from Tabak of California, that came from the estate of the designer, Irene Saltern, that are a gray and white stripe. These shoes could not be more perfect to go with those separates.

I don’t have a firm date on the Tabak pieces, but stylistically, they date to the early 1960s. I can be a bit more certain about the shoes. I’m pretty sure they came from 1962 or 1963.  The story is in the turned-up toe.

This is from a 1963 advertisement for a pair of Daniel Green slippers. I had saved it because I have these slippers in pink. What was it about 1963 that made women want to wear a vaguely Asian-looking toe on their shoes?

I don’t have a definitive answer, but it is useful to get an idea of what else was happening in the world that might have inspired the look. In 1962, Jackie Kennedy went on a tour of India and Pakistan. Also in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia was released. Eastern culture was on people’s minds, and this looks to me as a fuzzy sort of Asian look.

To show just how fuzzy, the Daniel Green slippers were advertised as “Bangkok… Oriental opulence in a brocade slipper…” and the color was described as “Ming” blue.

I have not been able to turn up any information about Cool Notes, but these are a pretty inexpensively-made product. My guess is that they were made for the teen market.

There is one more hint on the box. These were sold at a store called Masso’s. I’ve found a Masso’s that was located in Plainville, Texas. I could not determine if the store is still in operation.

As always, additional information about Cool Notes would be greatly appreciated.

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Filed under 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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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing

Pajamas from 1930 Montgomery Ward

One of my chief interests continues to be how women transitioned into pants in the twentieth century. One part of the story is pajamas (pyjamas). Today pajamas were pretty much for sleeping and lounging, and that’s how they started out in the 1910s. But by the middle of the 1920s pajamas were being worn on a very limited basis in public. Someone discovered that pajamas made a very effective beach cover-up, and so pajamas moved from the boudoir to the beach.

The first reference I’ve found to pajamas being worn in public is from 1925. The January 15, 1925 issue of Vogue declared:

“All the shops are showing the new and brilliant beach pyjamas, so successfully worn at the Lido – so daringly sponsored by one lone Newport leader last summer. Will they – or won’t they – be seen at Palm Beach? Poiret, for one, declares that they will. But customs are very different at the Lido and at Palm Beach, and it is unlikely that their popularity will be as great in this country as in Italy.”

So 1924 pretty much is the starting point for the wearing of pajamas at the beach. And while Vogue seemed to think not much would come of the trend, Best & Company ran an ad for beach pajamas in the same Vogue issue.

“The Lido Pajama is the latest thing for beach wear. These have wool jersey trousers and a smart little mandarin top of bright patterned rubberized silk banded in Jersey.”

I recently found two catalogs from American mass merchandiser Montgomery Ward, one from 1925 and the other from 1930. It’s interesting to see how this one company featured pajamas in the two years. In 1925, there was only one pair of pajamas offered in the catalog, and they were obviously just for sleeping, with the top being pretty much just a short nightgown.

But five years later the picture was quite different. I found six different sets for women, and several more for teens. All were available in multiple color combinations.

The top and pants pictured above are typical with the combination of a solid color and a matching print. The ad reads, “Of mercerized Front Page Cotton broadcloth, whose fine quality is quite in keeping with the excellent tailoring of these pajamas. The printed blouse , finished with collar and pert bow of plain color, tucks slimly into plain colored trousers, whose smooth-fitting yoke, pocket, and cuffs of the print lend contrast.”

Remember, the year is 1930, but one can already see the return of the natural waistline in this set.

There were several sets that also had matching robes. Again we see the emphasis on the waist and a contrast of colors. “What gay flower effects are achieved in these pajamas – designed especially for Ward’s. Of printed Wendy batiste in popular tuck-in style, with front yoke and elastic in waist at back. Cuffs and yoke of trousers contrast in plain white, as do the yoke and tie of the blouse. The lounging coat, of Peter Pan cotton pique, has a flower print just the color reverse of the pajamas, adding to their air of smartness.”

Probably the most interesting set is the one above. Unlike the others, this ensemble was located with the day dresses instead of the lingerie. They refer to it as a “kitchenette ensemble”. The copy even refers to wearing these in public.  “Fashion’s last word in nonchalant Kitchenette Pajama Ensembles – not only for house but flower gardening, boating or beach. The smart world revels in it!”

Also fun to note are the solid color inserts below the knees on the trousers. This is showing that pants legs are beginning to widen, a feature that really does help separate the Twenties from the Thirties. In a more fashion-forward publication, you might already be seeing much wider pant legs in 1930.

 

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Design Study Collection at the University of Cincinnati

Another highlight of the CSA (Costume Society of America) was a visit to the University of Cincinnati department of design. There we viewed the department’s historic design study collection. One thing to keep in mind is that a study collection is not the same as a museum collection. The clothing in a study collection is meant to be closely examined and even touched by students and researchers. The clothing in a study collection is often not perfect, nor is it “museum quality,” a term I don’t completely approve of, but which seems to best describe my meaning.

The clothes were arranged roughly in chronological order, and started with the later nineteenth century. Above you can see some of the earliest items in the collection.

It made me happy to see an early twentieth century bathing suit in the mix. The skirt is just draped over the shoulder, but you get the idea. There’s really nothing special about this particular bathing suit. It appears to be homemade using cotton trimmed with rick-rack. It is completely typical of what women wore to go to the beach 120 years ago, and so is an important object for students to see and study.

If you look closely at the arm hole area, you will see that this sweet little 1920s frock is badly damaged. The damaged area has been stabilized, but this dress could never be worn or displayed. But, as a learning tool it is valuable. Many of the older items in the collection did have condition problems, but the newer items were of a higher quality and condition.

I can’t help but think that a vintage clothing seller would leave this collection feeling really sad. Many of the garments were in great, and wearable, condition.

This Castillo for Lanvin piece was interesting. The label is significant, but the garment was one piece – the short jacket –  of a two-piece dress ensemble. It was one of the few couture pieces in the collection.

For the most part, the items from the 1960s and younger were nice, high-end ready-to-wear. There’s a little Pucci, some Bill Blass, and that sort of thing. Nothing earth-shattering, but great stuff to show the techniques and skill of garment makers in the 1960s.

One of my favorite 1960s dresses was this one by Teal Traina. Traina’s name is somewhat forgotten these days, but he sure knew how to cut an interesting dress.

This is a buttonhole detail from a 1960s Christian Dior New York coat dress. This was one of the ready-to-wear lines that the Dior company produced in cities other than Paris. How else could a student get such a great look at the types of detailing that made high-end ready-to-wear so special in the days before so much out-sourcing?

I don’t have anything clever to say about this Stephen Burrows dress except that I love him so much.

And I don’t have to say anything clever about this one, because the donor said it all!

The garments in the collection were donated, many from the original owners. Often times families contact museums to see if they want some old clothes, but most of us don’t have the types of things that enhance museum collections. A good alternative for donation might be the design collection at a local collage.

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1920 Sports Sweater

This sweater is a real survivor. It’s almost 100 years old, and it has managed to escape the scourge of vintage knits – the moth. I see a lot of these sweaters in old photos from 1915 through 1922 or so, but they are very rarely actually found on the vintage market. Several years ago I let one get away, and I vowed to buy the next one I found that was not held together by a few threads.

It took a while, but finally this beauty came my way. It had everything I was looking for – a great color with contrast, excellent condition, and it was made for a woman (front laps right over left). And who could resist those pockets?

This style was made for both men and women, as shown in this illustration from the 1921 Bradley Knits catalog. The only thing my sweater is missing is a label, but it could have been made by Bradley. Or maybe not, as there were many producers of wool knitwear during this time period.

The details are so nice, and add to my love of the cardigan. This sweet little pocket flap really makes me happy.

The buttonholes seem to be made by hand, using the matching wool yarn. I’m not sure why my colors are all over the place. The sweater is not this purple.

Besides the green stripes, notice the knit-in stripes of red.

And finally, a reminder that the overlock machine was not invented in the 1970s. The overlock was commonly used on sportswear, even earlier than this sweater.

 

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Filed under 1920s fashion, Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Winter Sports

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