Category Archives: Rest of the Story

Updates – The Rest of the Story

I never imagined that I’d buy a magazine called Western Horseman, but the price was cheap and there were those magic words: “Western Wear”.  So I picked it up, and when I got home I began to really look through it.  I’ve stated before that I really don’t know much about riding attire, but I am willing to learn, and this magazine from 1966 seemed like a good place to start.

My reward for taking a chance on this magazine was swift.  A while back I asked for opinions about the age of a Miller & Co.  western shirt and Karman pants I had found.  The blouse is very much like the one in the middle in the above photo.  I’m happy to say that several readers identified it as mid 1960s, and they were right.

The copy reads, ” Candy… magic comes to western sportswear in the form of Miller & Co.’s new ice cream colored, matching ladies’ and girls’ sets.”

As for the pants, I did not get an exact match, but there were similar styles all through the magazine.  What looked to be bell-bottom legs, are in fact described in the volume as “the new bell bottom style.”

Some time ago (2010!) I wrote a post about one of the theories of why young women in the 1920s were called flappers.  One of the theories is that the name came from the hair bows that preteens  and younger teens were wearing in the decade of the 1910s, as seen in the girl on the right.


This weekend I came across the above ad from 1915, advertising clothing for the hard-to-fit girl of 12 – 16.  It is obvious that the term “flapper” is describing a girl, not a crazy, Charleston-dancing, cigarette-smoking twenty-something woman.

Last week I heard from a woman who had worked for the Vera Company.

I worked at The Vera Companies, first as an intern starting in 1983 and left in in 1990 …Manhattan Industries was bought by Salant Corp (Perry Ellis International) but The Vera Companies stayed intact until after her death in 1993…it is sometime after that The Tog Shop bought the company.

This information changes the way the Vera story is often told, with the company essentially closing in 1988.  I appreciate this important correction.

And finally, here is my semi-regularly scheduled mention of social media.  Every week I get several invitations to be friends on Linked-in.  I did join Linked-in for a very short time, and then I deleted my registration because I could not see how I could use the network.  For some reason, it still has me a a potential contact for people, but I cannot respond to all the requests because I’m not a member and I cannot log in.  So, the short of it is, if you have contacted me through Linked-in, I’m not ignoring your request; I simply cannot reply to it.

On the other hand, Instagram continues to be a constant source of interesting things and fascinating people.  There is a growing community of fashion history people there, and if you want to join us, I’ll be happy to send you a list of my favorite accounts.  I’m using it more and more as a mini-blog, posting things that are interesting, but don’t somehow deserve a post here.


Filed under Rest of the Story

Schiaparelli for Catalina Swimsuit, 1949, Part II

Click to enlarge


In reading about the Schiaparelli for Catalina swim suit I recently bought I discovered that, according to an advertisement, that this suit was the “Official Swim Suit of the Atlantic City Miss America Pageant.” That sent me on an internet search to see if I could actually find photos of the contestants wearing this particular suit.  When I came up  empty I just assumed that it was Catalina suits in general that were the official suit of the pageant.

To my surprise and delight, I got the above photo in my inbox last night.  Julie of Jet Set Sewing saw my Schiaparelli suit and thought it looked familiar.  Then she realized that a photo of the 1948 contestants wearing the suit was hanging in her home.  Julie’s husband found the photo in a shop in Paris.

As you can see, it is the Schiaparelli swim suit, but with the addition of the Catalina flying fish logo.  And even though this was the 1948 Miss America contest, the suit was not made commercially until the next year.  Thus, all my searches for “Miss America Catalina 1949” brought up a different set of swim suits.

Even though the power of Google is great and it so often leads us to the correct information, it makes me happy that it was a friend who provided the breakthrough on this one.  Thanks, Julie!

Click to enlarge



Filed under Curiosities, Rest of the Story, Sportswear, Summer Sports

The Milliner and Her Hats

Sylvia on the right, 1920s


I received some more photos of  Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld, the designer behind the Suzy label, from her daughter.  It seemed a bit odd that I wrote about this important milliner and she was wearing a hat in none of the photos!  Thanks to daughter Susan, we can now see that Sylvia knew how to sport a hat.



1930s or early 40s


Late 1940s or early 50s


In the last photo we see Sylvia wearing an uncharacteristically fussy hat.  I wonder what she thought about the hat of the woman sitting across the table from her.  Now that’s a hat!

I want to thank Susan Novenstern again for all the information about her mother and for the fantastic photos of her. Her generous sharing adds to the historical record and helps eliminate confusion about all the Suzy millinery labels.

This points out once again just how important the internet has become in doing historical research.  Susan found my original post on her mother’s label after someone posted a link on her facebook page.  Others have found my posts after doing a Google search on a family member who was in the fashion business.  It is just amazing the connections that are being made today that were impossible in the last century.

For those of us who blog and who post in other places on the internet, we just never know who might be reading.  It’s exciting that information can be so easily found and shared.

Sorry that there are no links today, but I only had a few to share so I decided to wait a week before doing the post.   If any of you run across an interesting story about clothing or textiles, I always appreciate an email with the link .


Filed under Designers, Rest of the Story, Viewpoint

Suzy USA Hats

Over three years ago I posted photos of a hat I’d found that I at first thought was made by Madame Suzy, a Parisian milliner.  I pretty quickly came to the realization that I was not correct, but until now I did not know who the Suzy who made my hat was.  The problem is there was not just one Suzy hatmaker in the mid twentieth century, there were actually quite a few.  Besides Madame Suzy, I’ve found Suzy Lee of California, Suzy Michelle, Suzi of California, Suzy et Paulette, and Suzy B.

Last week I had the good fortune of hearing from a woman named Suzy.  She is the daughter of the milliner who designed my hat, Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld, who sometimes went by Midge.  It was she who formed Suzy hats sometime in the 1930s.  I’ve had several emails from Suzy in which she has told me about the hats that were designed by her mother.

Sylvia was born in 1909 in New Jersey.  When she was sixteen she went to work in the millinery business of her father, Nat Whitman.  When she was twenty she married Nathan Seigenfeld whose family was in the clothing business.  In fact, Nathan’s mother was a sister to Anna Miller and Maurice Rentner who owned the companies that gave  Bill Blass his start in the 1950s, and of which he became owner  in the 1960s.

With husband Nat Seigenfeld, son Alan, and daughter Suzy, 1944


Sylvia and Nathan’s daughter Suzy was born in 1938, and around the same time, they began the millinery, which was also named Suzy.  Suzy really didn’t know which came first, the daughter or the millinery, but she suspects that the business was born first.  The showroom was located at  417 Fifth Avenue, right across the street from Lord & Taylor.  There Sylvia gave showings of her hats to buyers from major department stores from across the country.  The workrooms and shipping departments were in the back of her showroom.

Sylvia and Family, Homecoming on the Queen Mary, 1950


Suzy can remember her mother going to Paris every year on the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth.  She visited the Place Vendome and Rue de la Pais.  Paris inspired her designs.  Sylvia made all sorts of hats – hats with veils, straw hats,  pillboxes, snoods, and cloches.
Suzy has confirmed that my hat is one of her mother’s, as it does have the label that she used.  My hat is made from jersey, as was another Suzy hat that I found in an online listing.
I want to thank Suzy for sharing her mother’s story and photographs with me.  It is so important that we continue to find and document the stories of people from the past who played such a major role in the history of American fashion.

Sylvia in Florida, visiting her parents, 1940s

Vintage photos copyright Susan Novenstern.  Do not copy.


Filed under Designers, Rest of the Story

Updates – The Rest of the Story

Image courtesy and copyright of Beth Walker.


Some time ago I posted about how a lucky reader had found three Brooke Cadwallader Christmas scarves.  As luck would have it, Cadwallader’s great-nephew, David Noyes,  recently commented on the post:

Brooke Cadwallader was my great uncle. I worked with him in his factory, Casa de los Gallos S.A. as a teenager.  I hand-inked the opaques for the silk screens. He was a meticulous craftsman who insisted on perfection from himself and from everyone else, but he was also a kind and generous man who infused everything he did, including his art and his business, with wry humor. He treated his employees like family.

He never copyrighted any of his designs and they were freely imitated -if not stolen- for decades. Leopard skin print? Originally by Brooke Cadwallader. Rattan print? Originally by Brooke Cadwallader. Toile wallpaper print? Originally by Brooke Cadwallader.

When he lost his factory and business due to bureaucratic laws and a crooked accountant, he burned all of his screens, stock fabric and most of his designs before vacating the premises.

When he passed away some 30 odd years ago, I settled his estate (being the only one in my family with Spanish) and I have all of his sample books, many neckties and a number of shirts made from his fabrics.

It was a delight learning more about Cadwallader from someone who actually knew him.

Images copyright and courtesy of Suzanne Williams


Here’s another look at Blanche Nechanicky’s 1920s middy dress.  Reader Nancy very kindly looked for information about Blanche on, and she hit the motherload!  Because of her unusual name and because we knew the year of her birth, Nancy located Blanche in census records, in city directories, and on ocean liner passenger lists.  There are even yearbook photos. According to the 1929 Iowa State University yearbook, The Bomb, she was majoring in home economics, as were all the other young women on the page.

Remember this Liberty Tana lawn blouse I made last summer?  I heard from Richard Reynolds at who told me the story behind my fabric.

The fabric is a special one to me and my wife Lyla as it is actually about us, it’s a portrayal of guerrilla gardening in London with us both in it from Liberty’s spring summer 2013 collection. Liberty even called the fabric Richard and Lyla.  On the Liberty blog, and for sale online.

I always love learning more about the topics discussed here, so please email or post when you can add the rest of the story.


Filed under Rest of the Story

Updates – The Rest of the Story

It’s been over a year since I posted photos of this fantastic ski themed vest (or waistcoat in certain parts of the world) from Balmoral Knitwear.  This week I was contacted by Mike at Balmoral who wanted to use the photo on their website’s history and heritage page.  How could I say no?

I was enchanted by this piece of folk art that I saw at the Mint Museum in Charlotte last month.  The maker was “Granny” Kate Clayton Donaldson of Marble, NC, where she was a contemporary of my paternal grandparents.

I recently found a little book from 1946 titled Tar on My Heels, that contains lots of little interesting stories about North Carolina.  I was happy to find a short piece on and this photo of Granny Donaldson.

Mod Betty shared her visit to the Peabody Essex Museum to see California Design 1930 – 1965.  One of the items on display was this Cole of California swimsuit that was thought to be a tie-in with the Esther Williams film, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Susan of Witness2Fashion ran across Williams’ autobiography at her library, and sure enough, there she is in a publicity shot wearing a very similar Cole of California suit. To quote Susan:

Her suit has a more complex skirt than the one in the exhibit. The book is a good read — and rather frank about her love life — but full of surprising information. Her working relationship with Cole of California led to her selling 50,000 Cole swimming suits to the US Navy for the Waves to wear! In case the photo isn’t clear enough, she says she liked this Cole suit so much that she wore it in three movies and put it on all the chorus swimmers, too. What I learned: when posing for a photo in a bathing suit, always stand on your tippy-tippy toes! And never dive 50 feet into a pool while wearing an aluminum crown — she broke her neck, because no one realized it would enter the water differently from the smooth crown of a human head. As I said, a good read.

1960's TANNER of North Carolina Dress, Floral Maxi Dress, Tropical, Island Dress

I think one of the most underrated clothing brands from the past was Tanner of North Carolina.  They produced some seriously nice dresses, like this one sent to me by Rosa’s Vintage Finds.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who sent cards and who helped spread the word about Magda Makkay’s birthday surprise.  She was so touched by the well wishes, and I thank all of you for being so kind as to help me make her day special.


Filed under Rest of the Story

Updates – The Rest of the Story

It’s time again to share a few post updates.

Several weeks ago I posted a bathing suit that I remember being from around 1970.  Above you can see a sewing pattern that I recently found showing a very similar style.  It is dated 1969.

Remember this I. Magnin California themed Pucci blouse?  Sharp-eyed reader Jason spotted the same blouse at a Pucci show in Como, Italy.  The exhibition had a vintage photo of the I Magnin store windows in 1955 in which  this Pucci print in a scarf was displayed.  The exhibition catalog dated the blouse to 1955 as well.

Here is the back of the blouse as seen in the exhibition catalog.

I recently showed off some color cards I found from Lily Mills in Shelby, NC.  Reader Susan of Witness2Fashion wrote that she told her friend, Kate who is a weaver about the post.  Kate wrote back to say that she had just bought some vintage Lily yarn which she loves to use in the items she make.  You can check out her site to see her beautiful weaving.

It’s been three years since I visited the workshop of Stuart Nye in Asheville, but the post I wrote continues to get comments from the many Nye jewelry fans.  I was happy that Nye’s daughter recently found the post and made a comment.

I mentioned a new book, The Lost Art of Dress by Linda Przybyszewski.  Lynn has an excellent review of the book on her blog, AmericanAgeFashion.


Filed under Rest of the Story