Category Archives: Proper Clothing

Abercrombie & Fitch Summer Sport Styles 1939

I’m always happy to locate a catalog that features women’s sports clothing, especially when it’s from a company like Abercrombie & Fitch. This newest acquisition is from 1939, and I also have the winter 1938 edition. These are the only two I’ve ever seen, so I have no idea how long A&F put out this particular catalog.

If I ever get around to building that time machine, one place I definitely want to visit is the A&F flagship store that was located on Madison Avenue at 45th Street in New York City.  That would be true adventure shopping!

The copywriter lays it out straight – don’t expect frou-frou at Abercrombie & Fitch. But that does not mean the the clothing sold by A&F in the spring of 1939 was not fashionable.

The move toward the very strong shoulders associated with the 1940s had already begun, and you can clearly see it in the sleeves of these rayon and linen frocks. Insead of shoulder pads, the 1930s designer used deep pleats at the top of the sleeve to create the desired width.

By the end of the 1930s, fashionable length in tennis dresses had been abandoned in favor of shorter skirts that increased the players’ mobility.  I love the zipper in the sleeve of the dress on the left. I’ve never seen this feature in a blouse or dress. Usually what is seen is the split sleeve on the right. Both free the arms to make for a better swing.

The dress in the center is the same as the one on the cover. The buttons not only can be unfastened to allow the player to have a wider stride, according to the catalog it “unbuttons down each side so it may be laundered easily.”  All these dresses are available only in white.

Golf attire did not adopt the shorter skirt like the tennis dress. Golf does not require the long stride of tennis, and golf and country clubs tended to be very conservative spaces.  Only one of these dresses was available in white, as color was standard on the golf course.

It’s always amazing to realize how much more conservative swim and beachwear was in the late 1930s than in the late 20s and early 30s. All these suits except the one in the middle are made from woven fabrics, and most likely they all have zippers down the back.  The willowy beach pajamas of a few years earlier have been replaced with slacks.

Riding attire depended on where one was riding. The look on the left was appropriate  for Western ranch wear. The riding coat and jodhpurs were more suited for Eastern wear.

Here we have a selection of clothing for boating. The slacks suit in the middle was made from denim, but the one on the right was constructed of waterproof silk. It was also available in cotton sailcloth.

This page was titled, “Country Compromise”. One could wear her shorts and her skirt too. The set on the left is called an exercise suit, and comes with shorts beneath the skirt.

As much as I love the clothes, I’ll admit that this page of accessories is my favorite. Number 4 is a beach bag from Paris, and that’s a watch set into the wooden lid. Number 6 is described as lastex panties, to wear under sports clothing. And number 11 is a pouch to hold one’s golf incidentals.

 

 

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Filed under Advertisements, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

1918 Fleisher’s Knitting & Crocheting Manuel

The reason that old sayings tend to endure is that so often they are true. In this case, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” applies.  This dull brown cover gives little hint of the treasures within.

At over two hundred pages, the Fleisher’s Knitting and Crocheting Manuel is more than a basic how-to book. First of all, it’s an advertisement, as Fleisher’s was a brand of yarn. It’s also a book of knitting and crocheting patterns with garments for the entire family. And best of all, it’s a time capsule.

In 1918 the USA was involved in the Great War, now known as World War 1. There were a dozen patterns for garments and accessories for the man in service. Many were easy to make, and I’m sure many clubs and groups were busy making  Service Sweater, Type “C”, or mufflers and socks.

This cap and face protector and muffler in one was called a helmet, and was often mentioned in magazines of the period as a prized possession of many doughboys.

I learned how to crochet in high school (it was, after all, the crafty Seventies) but I really had no idea that so many stitches were possible beyond the standard single and double crochet, and the popcorn stitch. My eyes have been opened to the wonders of crocheting.

There’s a whole range of sweaters, all photographed in the out-of-doors – on the beach, in boats, on a woodsy walk.

One thing I really love about this book is how there are piece charts for many of the sweaters.

It’s not all sportswear. There are quite a few patterns for bed jackets, shawls, and “kimonos”. Even the bed jackets are called kimonos.

In 1918 it appears that the sizes of knitting needles and crochet hooks were not standardized.  Fleisher’s helped to solve the problem by numbering the metric diameter of each tool. I’m not sure that still applies because I measured my 10.5 knitting need and it has a diameter of  7mm.

One could either crochet or knit a tam.

By 1918 the middy blouse was wildly popular. I love the middy influence in this sweater.

While most of the sweaters have a waistband or belt, and definitely have an early Coco Chanel look, this one is looking forward to the more streamlined  Twenties.

Now, if only my skills were as good as these designs, I’d be making a sweater instead of just writing about them.

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Filed under Fashion Magazines, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Textiles

The Land and Water Hat and the Mash Hat, Circa 1880

This item is actually a small poster, meant to be displayed in the hat or the sporting goods department of a store. It’s not dated, but various clues point to a date of around 1880.

I spotted this on eBay and talked myself into buying it mainly because the hats were designed to be worn by both men and women. In a time when clothing was strictly divided as being either for men or for women, I thought it was so interesting to have this example of two very early unisex hats.

The seller had found an ad for the hats in an 1882 issue of Clothier and Furnisher, a journal for the garment trade. Besides helping to nail down the date of the poster, the ad gives the names of the manufacturer, Topping, Maynard & Hobron, which was located at 667 Broadway in New York City.

For the benefit of our numerous correspondents and the trade in general, we would announce that the Land and Water Hats are made in scarlet, butcher blue and white and sell at $9.00 a dozen.

The Mash Hats are made in scarlet, butcher blue, navy blue, seal brown, brown mixed and white. Price $12.00 per dozen.

They are just the thing for the sea shore or mountains, and in fact for all athletic sports.

Handsome lithograph show cards go with the goods.

Without the ad, I would have assumed that the Mash Hat and the Land and Water Hat were one and the same. But look closely and you can see that some of the hats have a very wide brim but others have a smaller one.

The woman tennis player is wearing the Mash Hat, and the man has just lost his Land and Water.

The woman sailor and the poor man taking a dunking are wearing the Land and Water, while the guy holding the rudder is wearing a Mash Hat.

The women’s clothing helps to date the poster. Both are wearing the Natural Form, or Princess line, with just a hint of the bustle that came back into fashion in 1882.

I love the woman painter with her somewhat awkward pose.

I would guess that the great majority of these posters got cut apart and ended up in scrapbooks, as scrapbook making was a big Victorian craze. It’s a miracle this one survived, and in such beautiful condition.

According to a 1919 obituary for Benjamin Hobron in The American Hatter, the company was formed in 1868 along with Howell Topping and Frederick Maynard as partners. The partnership was dissolved in 1896, with Hobron going into the soap business and the other two keeping  in the hat trade. It appears that the firm finally closed in 1911 when Topping died.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing

Award Sweaters from Octonek, 1946

I just received this catalog from a company of which I’d never heard, the Octonek Knitting Company of Seattle. It was a gift, and a very welcome one! My thanks to Mary of @pdxsquared. A friend of hers was cleaning out her mother’s things when this was found, and they just wanted it to go to a good home. And it did.

I have been able to find a little information about Octonek. It was founded in 1913 by J.H. and Theresa Breece. In a 1915 business register their products listed were wool knit items, including  sweaters, cardigans, golf vests, and hosiery.  A 1935 advertisement in a hiking club publication  listed “Knitted suits and dresses, sweaters, wool socks, mittens, caps for skiers, caps, and gloves”. The last print reference I located was in a 1950 Seattle University Spectator newsletter, in which bathing suits were also advertised.

There was a little about the company inside the catalog. Most surprising was that Octonek would make a sweater to order, made to the customer’s measurements. This would be very useful for very short or very tall or very large persons who could not find knits to fit.

We also get a glimpse into the factory, which I love seeing.

Again, we can see Octonek’s willingness to tailor their product to the buyer’s specifications.

As with other garments, the sweaters openings for girls lapped right over left, and those for boys lapped left over right. That, along perhaps with size, is often the only clue as to the gender of the former owner.

I love the term yell leader. Was that a regional thing? Here in the South I’ve only ever seen and heard them referred to as cheerleaders. And yell kings, dukes, and queens are new to me terms as well.

Octonek also made wool chenille emblems, and because they used the same yarns as the sweaters, they were guaranteed to match.

 

 

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Filed under Advertisements, manufacturing, Proper Clothing, Winter Sports

1940s French Bikini

I love bathing suits, and I have become very picky about the ones I chose to collect. The early French bikini above is the sort of find that keeps me excited about collecting.

When I say early, I mean late 1940s. In 1946 designer Jacques Heim released his tiny two-piece and called it L’ Atome. Shortly afterward, Louis Réard designed what he called the Bikini. Both suits were tiny and showed the navel, and even though Heim’s was released slightly earlier than Réard’s, the name Bikini stuck.

A 1940s bikini has been on my want list for a long time. They are rare  in the USA, as the suit was just too skimpy for most American women of the post-war period. Last year an example by Heim came up for auction. I crossed my fingers and made the biggest bid I could, hoping it would fly under the radar of other collectors. It did not, and in the end sold for almost $10,000. This was a bit over my budget.

But then the suit above came into my life. I first spotted it on the seller’s Instagram (Skirt Chaser Vintage), and then bought it when it came up for sale.

Many of the early French bikinis laced and tied at the sides. This was not new, as several American swimsuit makers used this feature on their larger suit briefs during the war. Daring bathers could buy the suit a bit snug and then lace loosely to show a bit more skin.

The French took the idea to a whole new level. Some of Louis Réard’s suits were actually string bikinis, with no sides at all – only the string ties.

The map of France print is a great touch. The fabric is interesting, and unexpected. It’s a cotton textured barkcloth, more suitable for curtains than a swimsuit. But this was after the war, and fabric production was not back to pre-war levels. One used what one had.

I came up completely empty when attempting to find out anything at all about the label, Lavog. If anyone has any information about it, I’d be forever grateful.

In 1948 Holiday magazine printed an amazing photo-essay on the changing bathing suit. Leading off the article was this photograph.  The caption reads:

Such brief suits, unfortunately, are not ordinarily for sale. They must be custom built for custom-built girls like Sandra Spence.

The essay features other two-piece suits, but all have navel-covering shorts. It would be another fifteen to twenty years before the bikini really caught on in the US.

 

 

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

Jantzen Catalogs, 1958

I recently found two Jantzen catalogs for retailers from 1958. Actually, they are from the Canadian division of Jantzen.  By the 1950s Jantzen was an international company that had manufacturing plants all over the world. I don’t know if there were major differences in the products made in the United States and those made in other countries, but my guess is that most of them were similar.

I love how the catalog shows all the garments available in each line. I would be happier if the photos were in color, as the item descriptions for this print are not of much use, reading simply, multicolor.  It’s interesting that the bold black stripe is vertical on the skirt, but horizontal on the pants.

Look carefully at the details. The collar of the black blouse is made from the print fabric. And the legs of the shorts and pedal pushers has the diving girl logo. I’ve never seen the logo on anything other than bathing suits.

Some of the lines had many more pieces. This is the Sailor Stripe Group, which was available in red, blue, brown, and black with white stripes.

Retailers could purchase Jantzen-branded garment forms and other display materials such as the poster you see to the right.

A big trend in late 1950s sportswear was the use of plaid or tartan. The tartans used were Black Stewart, Black Watch, Clooney, and Menzies.  Judging by the existence of so many of these bathing suits today, the plaids must have been very popular.

The plaid trend continued for Fall ’58. Jantzen had a large range of separates made from wool and from Viyella, a combination of wool and cotton. There were seven different tartans in the fall offerings.

The catalog also featured many different wool sweaters. Jantzen started as the Portland Knitting Company, and though the wool bathing suit was no longer the choice of most swimmers, the knitting mills were busy making wool sweaters and dresses.

The fall catalog has a more distinctly Canadian flair, with the Totem pole on the cover, and a curling cardigan for sale inside the catalog. I can help but wonder if the same sweater was offered for sale in the US, but marketed simply as a sports sweater.

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Filed under Fashion Magazines, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

How I Collect

One question I get a lot of is do I ever display any of my collection. The answer to that is, “No,” as I’m a collector, not a museum. But it did occur to me that if I were displaying my collection, I’d want to show it the way I collect. By that I mean that I don’t collect piecemeal, but rather, I collect as if assembling ensembles that might have actually been worn by a woman of the era.

I’ve been slowly taking photos of these ensembles and posting them on Instagram, but as I know many of you do not take part in social media, I thought I’d post them here as well. First up are clothes and accessories from 1915-1919.

Above is a 1918ish bathing dress. I bought it years ago in a local antiques mall that had it labeled as a child’s victorian dress. Nope.  There were no knickers, but that’s not a problem as I have several pairs of wool knickers from the same era. The cap was an eBay find from about 2007.  I can’t imagine finding one today. The boots also came from eBay, at about the same time. The Ayvad Water Wings came from the collection of a kindred spirit.

This is what the well-dressed post-Edwardian woman wore for tennis. The middy blouse was made by the  “Jack Tar Middy” brand. When I found it I was not sure the heart-shaped smocking was original to the piece, but I later found an ad showing the smocking. The sports skirt is unlabeled, and it has very deep pockets that are perfect for tennis balls. The boots are Keds. I need a hat.

The skirt and sailor blouse were another lucky eBay find from about twelve years ago. I think it was seamstress made, especially with the hand embroidery in dark blue. The hat is labeled “New York Hat Works” and has silk ribbons and a silk covered button on top of the crown. The handbag is linen fabric embroidered in silk and is most likely homemade.

This outing ensemble is one of my favorites, and as a special thanks to you Vintage Traveler readers, this one has not yet been posted on Instagram. This set started with the skirt, which was a gift some years ago from friend Amanda in Vermont. Like the twill cotton blouse, it is unlabeled. The rucksack was a lucky Goodwill find. It’s from Abercrombie’s Camp. The gauntlet gloves are stamped, “The Buccaneer by Speare” and I found them at a flea market. And again, I need a hat.

I’ll be posting more as I get them photographed. Next up are the early 1920s.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing