Category Archives: Proper Clothing

Mervin Knitting Mills Circa 1905 Catalog

I’ve not been very lucky lately in the sportswear ephemera department, but then this catalog appeared on eBay. It’s precisely the type of thing I love  as it shows how women began wearing ready-made sportswear in the very early days of women’s ready-to-wear. It’s hard for us today to imagine, but until late in the nineteenth century there pretty much was not a women’s ready-to-wear industry. Cloaks and mantles – overgarments that did not need precise fitting – were the first to hit the market, and by the late 1890s, women could buy waists, skirts, and undergarments.

There’s no date to be found on my Mervin Knitting Mills catalog but a close examination of the models shows they are all sporting the S silhouette so popular in the Edwardian era. I did find one ad for Mervin, from 1909, and those sweaters all had a longer and leaner line, in keeping with how fashion was changing. So my best guess is around 1905.

Mervin made and imported a large variety of knit goods for women and children. We’d call the garments shown above cardigans or sweaters today, but Mervin Mills marketed them as knit blouses.

In many of the photos the models are holding golf clubs. Being knit, golfers must have really enjoyed the freedom a knit provided.

Many of the images of women golfers of this era show them wearing a double-breasted vest like the golf vests above. The only one I’ve actually ever seen was in an exhibition at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, several years ago.

Taken at Fashioning the New Woman: 1890 – 1925, DAR Museum, in 2013

Mervin Knitting Mills even offered a knit middy, perfect for table tennis.

Knit toques like these are commonly seen in photographs of the era, but are very rare these days.

Knit skirts like these do make it to the modern market on occasion. They are usually sold as petticoats, and I’ve seen them in period catalogs as petticoats. It would be a shame to hide those stripes though, don’t you think?

This garment was listed as a “kimona” coat. It looks a bit fancy for the golf course.

Witness2Fashion has been looking at the different terms given to various forms of lingerie in the 1920s, many of which have changed meaning or are no longer in use. Well, here’s a term I’ve never seen before, the pony coat. What makes the cardigans above pony coats? I have no idea.

Just in case some descendant of Max M. Myres is looking for information, he was the owner of Mervin Knitting Mills. located in New York City on Broadway at the corner of Broome Street. Today a Madewell clothing store occupies that address.


Filed under Proper Clothing, Winter Sports

1920s or 1930s Barefoot Dancing Sandals

People who have never attempted to sell online seem to have the idea that it’s an easy way to make a buck. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Selling old stuff online is hard for many reasons, but I’m only going to address one of them. And that is that there are so many old things than even experienced sellers run across objects they look at and just scratch the head in puzzlement.

The seller of the shoes above listed them as circa 1900 leather bathing shoes. I knew that was not correct, but what exactly are they? I could see why the seller thought they were bathing shoes, as they really do resemble them in some ways, but I’ve never heard of them being made of leather. After seeing the listing several months ago I forgot about the shoes, but the purchase of a 1929 gym attire catalog revealed the identity of the mystery sandals.

Of course that started a mad scramble to try and re-find the listing, but I had not bookmarked it, and so I was just out of luck. Or so I thought. Last week as I was searching for bathing shoes, these popped up again. Three clicks and they were mine.

The story is made even happier because I have a very similar pink and white gingham dancing romper as illustrated in the catalog, right beside the dancing sandals.

The dancing sandals look rather sad without feet to fill them out. I am so glad I spotted these and was able to add the proper context back to the object.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Gymnasium, Proper Clothing, Shoes

1933 – 1935 Beach Ensemble

One of my biggest splurges of the past year was this four-piece beach or sailing ensemble. After years of building a collection, I’ve learned that it’s better to wait for really special things to come to the market instead of buying a lot of miscellaneous bargains. This set is a good example of what I’m saying. I spent more on it than I normally spend on acquisitions, but it was such a great addition to my collection that I just could not resist.

Here are the first two pieces – a playsuit/bathing suit, and a rope belt. The neck with those fabulous nautical flags ties with the same rope as the belt. The belt buckle is plastic, and it is a small miracle that the thing has survived eighty something years.

I was hoping the flags spelled out a secret message, but I could not find a corresponding message for each flag.

This is also the case for the buckle, or at least I could not find it in any of the charts. Maybe I’m asking too much of an already fabulous article.

The pants could be added for a more covered up look. You might have expected the pants to be more like traditional sailor pants with the front flap and two rows of buttons, but the designer was too creative for that.

Instead she gave us one row of buttons on the side front, with a diagonal line to the crotch. You can’t tell from my photo but the opening actually drapes and overlaps an interior piece, and there are straps (barely visible on waistband) that wrap and button. It’s such a great design.

The last piece is a little red jacket, which by itself would look rather plain. But with the flags draped over the neckline and the belt buckle directly below, no other decoration was needed.

Unfortunately, the bathing suit is not in perfect condition. It obviously got much more wear than the other pieces, and there is an area of damage right on the front. When I received this the holes looked much worse, but I did a temporary repair in which I stitched the visible fabric to the lining.  In an interesting twist, I would never have been able to afford this had it been in perfect condition. The trick is to balance fabulousness and rarity with condition. The fact that there were four coordinating pieces really adds to the scarcity. I often see bits and pieces of former sets that have lost their mates. It’s sad, actually.

Can you tell this is a knit? It’s a very finely knit rayon and looks quite similar to the good nylons used by better lingerie companies starting in the late 1940s. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between knit rayon and the later nylon, and I’ve seen 1930s knit rayon mislabeled by sellers as nylon.

Dating was made easy due to the single label present. This is the label used when products were made in accordance with the National Recovery Act, or NRA. The act was instituted in 1933, but was found to be unconstitutional in 1935, so there is only a three year window in which items with the NRA eagle symbol could have been made.





Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

A 1960 Ski Marriage

I hope you weren’t expecting wedding photos, as this is a different type of marriage. It’s a marriage of objects that started life in the same place, were separated, and are now reunited.

I found the plaid parka three or four years ago in an antique mall here in North Carolina. For a while it actually resided in my own closet, but I was afraid to wear it because it was so pristine. So for over a year it sat, waiting for a companion to make it complete. Then, out of the blue, I got an email from my friend Hollis of Past Perfect Vintage. She had a pair of ski pants that she thought I might be interested in. After seeing photos, I knew I was interested. I had found (or rather it found me) the mate for my parka.

A bonus was that the pants were unworn, and even had the original hangtag attached. And look at the little White Stag logo charm.

Here you see that the parka has the same charm as the zipper pull. I’m not sure how long White Stag used the charm, but I have only seen it on garments from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Also in the category of Things I Don’t Know, is the issue of labels. Up until around 1960 White Stag used blue or red labels.

At the same time, the colored labels were replaced with a white label with gold lettering. It’s likely that the use of the labels overlapped. It’s also possible that the pants are a year older than the parka, but the blue is identical and the match is perfect.

Both pieces are very well made, as is seen in White Stag active sportswear of this era. But not long after these pieces were made, things began to change at White Stag. I once had a conversation with a former executive of the company who told me that sometime in the 1960s White Stag decided to go in a more “fashion” direction. The ski wear became more about looks than about function, and was eventually just phased out.  If you see White Stag items from the 1970s and later, you will see what he was talking about.

But my set is functional for outdoor sports. The parka is lined in waterproof nylon, and the hood fits tightly to the head without affecting visibility. There is a drawstring at the hem so it can be adjusted to suit the wearer. And all the pockets are deep and are zippered.

The pants pockets are also zippered, and the hems of the pants are slightly flared to allow one to easily pull them on. And there is a wide elastic strap to hold the legs securely under the boots.

As Hollis said to me when I got these, it really does pay to let people know what you collect. I’ve gotten a lot of great items from sellers who have learned my collecting needs. And check out Hollis’s shop and Instagram. She sells some of the best vintage clothing on the net.

A note about my photos. I know they are bad. I have lost my “good” camera, and I obviously have not mastered the art of smartphone photos. Please bear with me!


Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing, Winter Sports

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!



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.


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.


Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing