Category Archives: Road Trip

A Night in the Cotton Mill

On a recent roadtrip, we decided to spend a night in the Brookstown Inn in Winston-Salem, NC.  What made this choice easy to make was that the Brookstown was once the home of the Salem Cotton Manufacturing Company and the Arista Cotton Mill.

The Salem part of Winston-Salem was established in the eighteenth century by the Moravians, a Protestant group  that had settled in Pennsylvania, but then expanded  into North Carolina.  The group prospered and became involved in a number of money-making enterprises, including establishing a cotton mill in 1836.  The primary name in this and the later mill, the Arista, was that of Fries.  One of the thirty investors in Salem Cotton Manufacturing Company was Francis Fries, who became the superintendent of the mill.

It’s interesting that even though much cotton was being grown in the South in the early nineteenth century, the finished products of yarn and cloth were made elsewhere.  Most Southern cotton was sold to manufacturing companies in the Northeast and in Great Britain.  Until the development of the steam engine, it was not viable to try manufacturing in the South because the fall line, which was needed for water power, was far from the centers of population.  Even with steam power, cotton manufacturing was slow to come to the South.  It seems that most people were just satisfied with the system that was in place.

But the Moravians were entrepreneurs, and were willing to take a risk on cotton production.  Unfortunately, the enterprise was not successful.  Francis Fries left the company to form the Salem Woolen Mill, and in 1850, the cotton mill was sold.  It went through a succession of owners, but eventually  the building was converted into a flour mill.

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In 1880, the son of Francis Fries, also named Francis, decided to take another go at cotton manufacturing.  By that time, cotton mills were springing up all over the South.  The Arista Cotton Mill was a typical vertical operation, with one floor for cleaning and carding the wool, another floor for spinning it into thread, and finally, the last floor was for weaving.  It was built next to the old Salem Cotton Manufacturing building, which was still producing flour.

After the turn of the twentieth century, the two companies merged, with cotton chambray, also known as Salem Jeans, being the primary product.  I couldn’t find a firm date for when cotton production ended, but one source said the 1920s.  By the 1940s the buildings were being used as a tobacco warehouse, and in 1970 the complex was bought by the Lentz Transfer and Storage Company.

In 1976 Lentz was in need of more space, and so a wrecking company was contracted to tear down the old buildings.  Instead, the owner of the wrecking company recognized the historical significance of the buildings and  through a series of negotiations, the buildings were saved.  Adaptive restoration began, and in 1984, the Brookstown Inn opened in the buildings.

The inn has a very nice historical display in the lobby, with old photos and reproductions of newspaper clippings and documents.  You can see a very small part of it above, and for a better look, the inn’s website has posted some pictures of the exhibit.

I, of course, loved the Fries family photos.  This one was taken at Watkins Glen, New York.

You can sort of see how the Salem Mill building has changed over the years, even though my photo was taken from the west, and the old photo shows the building from the east.  Note the lean-to addition in both photos.  I could not take my photo from the east because the Arista building now stands in the way.

There are abandoned textile mills all over the south.  More and more people are seeing the value in these old buildings, and they are being made into shopping spaces, apartments, and inns like the Brookstown.   What I really love about the Brookstown Inn is how they continue to tell the story of the Salem and Arista Mills.

 

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Filed under Curiosities, North Carolina, Road Trip, Southern Textiles

Nashville: The Rest of the Story

Nashville is one of those cities that changes depending on where you are standing.  You can be on one corner and it is a completely different city two blocks over.  This is Honky Tonk Row, and I pretty much bet that anyone who has never been to Nashville would think this is what the city is all about.  Actually, this is only a little over two city blocks.  One block past this area is a park on the Cumberland River, and three blocks up the hill to the left and you are in the middle of the Tennessee state government.  A couple of miles to the southwest and you are at Vanderbilt University.

That said, this is what tourists go to Nashville for.  By late afternoon this area was bumper to bumper tourists.  Because the three sites we wanted to visit were in this area, we had to take in a honky tonk or two.

Every restaurant/bar/honky tonk had a live band, and the place was noisy.  It was also a lot of fun.

Besides the Tennessee State Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame, we wanted to see the Johnny Cash Museum.  As you might imagine there was a lot of black suits, though many of them were far from plain, as you can see above.  Most of the stage costumes from Cash and his wife June Carter were from the 1970s , during the time he had a TV variety show.  As such, Carter’s costumes were, frankly a bit too polyester for my taste.

Interestingly, there were no clothing items from early in June Carter’s career.  The dress above is vintage early 1960s, but it was worn not by Carter, but by actress Reece Witherspoon when she portrayed Carter in the 2005 movie of the relationship of Cash and Carter, I Walk the Line.

I’ve been meaning to rewatch that film because of an interesting mend on the arms of the dress.  Can you tell that there are multiple rows of machine stitching?  I suppose a supporting fabric was put beneath and then the dress stitched to it.  There was no attempt to hide the mend, and I’ve got to wonder if the dress was damaged while filming.  Or perhaps, the film was cleverly edited to hide the mends.

Even Cash’s boots were black.  These were custom made boots from Acme Boots.  He was pictured in Acme ads in the early 1980s.

Between the Honky Tonks and cowboy boot stores, there are a few gift shops. When traveling to a new place I have to always go into at least one so I can find the “gift” that is unique to that city.  These cowboy boot socks might just be that unique item.

Or maybe these Elvis pajamas are the thing, but I’m betting you can also pick these up in Memphis.

But back to the real purpose of the trip – vintage clothing shopping.  I didn’t take many photos of the big sale I attended because I was too busy looking, and I have no idea how I got a photo without other buyers in it.  This was a tiny, tiny bit of this massive sale.  It had been a very long day (and wait) and so by the end of it I was exhausted.  I did find enough wonderful things to have made the trip worthwhile, and I’ll be sharing them from time to time.

There are some places we’ve traveled to that we return to again and again.  Nashville is not going to be one of them, that is unless another big sale comes along.

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Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee

If you follow my Instagram, then you know that we went to Nashville last week.  It’s only a four hour drive, but not being fans of current country music we had never made the trip.  When the liquidation of the inventory of a huge vintage clothing shop was announced, I decided we now had reason enough to cross the mountains into Tennessee.

But a trip is never just about shopping when there are museums to be seen.  When in Nashville, one must pay homage to the Country gods at the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The place is huge, with permanent exhibits and temporary exhibitions.  It’s a lot to take in, but I thought the story of the development of country music was well told.  I’m not a fan of current country music, but the history of the genre was fascinating.  Simply put, country began as a mix of Appalachian folk, Black gospel, and cowboy tunes.

I had forgotten how much a part of my life country music has been until this visit.  My father was a big fan of both country and folk music, and by the time I was ten I knew every Johnny Cash song by heart.  As kids we thought it was pretty corny.

Country music is often referred to as Country and Western, and the “western” influences are many, especially in the way country performers have dressed over the years.  There were cowboy boots galore in the museum, all of them ornately decorated.  Above are pairs that belonged to Roy Rogers (yellow) and Dale Evans (blue).

There were quite a few items from the famous “singing cowboys” from the movies of the 1930s and 40s.  Early items, like the Roy Rogers shirt above, were quite plain, but as time went on performance costumes got more and more ornate as the stars took their cues from rodeo stars who had been influenced by the look of the Mexican vaqueros.  All this evolution of style would make a fascinating study!

By the late 1940s, many country stars were buying from Nudie Cohn, the Rodeo Tailor.  Nudie (born in Russia as Nuta Kotlyarenko!) gained a reputation for customized suits and boots and his influence cannot be understated.  He was as much a star as the men and women he dressed.

Here is Nudie’s sewing machine.

While Nudie became famous for his highly embroidered and bespangled suits, one of the most familiar suits on display is this one he made for Hank Williams.  The music notes are applique, and look carefully to see that they extend down the sides of the legs.

And don’t miss the Roy Acuff cloth flour sack.  Acuff was from East Tennessee and was instrumental in the popularization of Appalachian folk melodies as a part of country music.

Many performers used their professional clothing to capitalize on the popularity of a particular song.  Nudie made this suit for singer Hank Snow after his big 1952 hit, “The Golden Rocket.”  I assume the song was about a train.

This Nudie jacket was made for Ray Price, who was billed as “The Cherokee Cowboy.”  Price did grow up on a Texas farm, but I could not find any reference to him actually being Cherokee.

These blue suede shoes belonged, not to Elvis, but to Carl Perkins, the writer and original singer of the song.

If you were ever lucky enough to attend an Elvis concert, you know about the scarves.  Elvis’s manager, Col. Parker came up with the idea of Elvis handing out printed scarves to crazed fans during his performances.  When I saw him in Asheville in 1975 (the time when he put a bullet through the TV at the motel where he was staying) he must have given away over a hundred of them.  Stupid and shy me missed out.

One of my favorite pieces was this Mel Tillis jacket, which was made by another famous tailor to the stars, Manuel Cuevas.

There weren’t as many costumes from women singers, and I was, frankly, disappointed in what the museum chose to represent Patsy Cline.  Many photos of her performing show her in full-out cowgirl with fringe costumes, though she also performed in rather ordinary dresses of the day.  Cline died in 1963, so it is interesting that she was performing in slacks, even if they were gold lamé with matching boots.

The guitar suit belonged to singer Don Gibson, a Western North Carolina native, and singer of “Oh, Lonesome Me.”

This costume puts me in mind of a cowboy super-hero, but it is actually another song-inspired suit.  Nudie made this ensemble for Hank Garland, who wrote the Red Foley hit, “Sugarfoot Rag.”

The museum has a special section to celebrate Merle Haggard, who died back in April.  Haggard had a very troubled childhood, and was in and out of juvenile detention centers, and later, prison for a variety of offences.  He was actually in San Quentin in 1958 when Johnny Cash performed there.  Hag managed to get his life on track, and by the mid 1960s was a moderate star.  He had a string of major hits in the late 60s including “Mama Tried” and “Okie from Muskogee” (one of the all time hilariously ironic recordings ever).

To me, Merle’s best years were the “Outlaw Country” 1980s when he performed with Willie Nelson and others.  He played in Asheville in 1983 was was arrested after the show for consuming alcohol on the stage.  I still have the tee shirt I got at the concert.  During his induction into the Hall of Fame, he quipped, ” I thought you had to be dead to get in here.”  I do love Hag.

Dottie West’s outfit above was designed by that master of bling, Bob Mackie.  The boots were made by Di Fabrizio, the bootmaker who made boots for the rock group, Kiss.

And of course, there was a black suit from Johnny Cash.  We also visited the Johnny Cash museum where we saw even more black suits.

In the 1960s, the lines between country and rock continued to be blurred, a process that began with Elvis and Carl Perkins in the 50s.  By the mid 60s, rock singers were going to Nashville, and there is a special exhibition called “Nashville Cats” that focuses on the give and take nature of rock and country at that time.  Many songs of that period just cannot be put into a special box labeled “country.”

A  good example is Gram Parsons.  Here is the Nudie suit he had made for the cover of the album The Gilded Palace of Sin in 1969.  Those are pills, poppies, and marijuana plants.  I guess Gram was into drugs. (Thanks to Janey Atomic Redhead for identifying the poppies.)

By the late 1970s, old style country music was out of style.  Country singers were less flashy, and a lot less “folky”.  Dwight Yoakum ,  with his nouveau honky tonk style was making no headway in Nashville in the established country music industry, so he went to California where he released his first album in 1986.

What really makes Yoakum interesting is his look.  He went to Manuel Cuevas for his jackets which he paired with torn and repaired jeans decorated with Mexican silver conchos and a tuxedo shirt left hanging out.  It was a throw back to the spangled costumes of a few decades earlier, but at the same time, seems to predate the torn jeans look by quite a few years.  In fact, Kanye West wore a similar look to the Met Gala this year.

And finally, I really loved that the Country Music Hall of Fame had a little area where kids (of all ages) could design their own country outfit.

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Vintage Shopping with the Vintage Traveler

Once again, it’s time for a little shopping trip, this time to antique stores in east Tennessee and along I-26 in South Carolina.  Above you see what could possibly be the most interesting girdle produced in the 1960s.

Lilli Ann is a well-known (and coveted) label in the vintage world.  Most desired are the high quality suits and coats from the 1940s and 50s, but the company produced some interesting clothes in the 60s as well.  In the mid 60s and into the 70s they made some great dress and coat ensembles in a nice polyester knit, sort of mod for the married set.  This vest is made of wool knit and is made in Hong Kong which seems to put it in the early 60s.  I’m sure there was originally a matching dress or skirt.

That’s a lot of design.

The over-flowing hat basket is a commonly found feature of antique malls.  This one gets extra credit for being a double.

This is a close-up view of a 1890s bodice.  The fabric is velvet, and is beyond beautiful.

There were several Vested Gentress dresses at one store.  This one is a classic, with Briney Bear the dog and his nemesis, Pedro the parrot.

In 1919 the US Army had not quite given up on the horse.

This Caribbean themed fabric was interesting.  It was in three pieces, all the size of feedsacks, but it was rayon instead of cotton.  There were even stitch holes like are seen in deconstructed feedsacks.

Collier’s Weekly often featured sports on their covers.  I love that she’s reading a book titled, How to Ski.

This is a late 1930s dress for a preteen girl, which shows that even a ten-year-old wants a fashionable sleeve.

As long as I live I will never understand why anyone would cut up an old crochet piece so she can hot glue it to a pair of vintage (and almost antique) boots.  These are canvas, of the type made by Keds, though I’ll admit I was too upset to even look for a label.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, Evening in Paris was considered a cheap gift given by boys who were beyond clueless.  I do have to admit that this set from probably the early 50s is pretty nifty.

This bag is by John Romain, which looks to be an attempt by that company to keep up with the times.  Romain bags were popular in my area in the mid 1960s, but nobody was carrying them by the 70s.  Funny, though, to see a handbag with a piece symbol.  By that time it was all about the shoulder bag.

Cute Scotty dog sighting, but I was strong and left the pair for another dog lover.

And finally, possibly the largest item I have ever seen for sale in an antique store, a late 1940s Pontiac Silver Streak.

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High Style at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Part II

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High Style is one of those exhibitions that has a surprise at every turn.  The black (actually dark green, but it looks black)  dress is by Elizabeth Hawes, and it was dubbed “The Tarts” dress by its creator.  Dating from 1937, it was thought to be suggestive, with that arrow pointing toward the breasts.  On the back of the dress there is a purple arrow that points downward to the butt.

The white and black dress was designed by Madame Eta Hentz.  Lynn at American Age Fashion recent wrote about visiting the Madame Eta archive at the FIT library.  Interestingly, one of the garments Lynn showed was the dress above, so I really enjoyed seeing it.  One thing I’d not noticed in the photos I had seen of this dress  is that the over-lapping “wings” were semi-detached, and so there would have been a bit of movement in the design.

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The exhibition was not just about dresses; accessories were well represented.  All the hats above are from milliner Sally Victor.  The hat in the middle looks like an elaborate braided hairstyle and dates from 1937.  The red and green hat at the right had the green jersey forming a turban in the back.

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Even sportswear can be high style, especially in the hands of Bonnie Cashin and Carolyn Schnurer.  The plaid ensemble is from Cashin, and looks as if it could be from the late 1960s.  The date is actually 1943, which shows how Cashin remained true to her design aesthetic throughout her career.  Note the little matching spats.

Carolyn Schnurer designed resortwear based on textiles she found in her international travels.  The two garments above were from her “Flight to India” collection of 1950.  You can see the Indian influence in the sari-like draping and in the textile.

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I hate that this photo is so blurry, as this ensemble from Claire McCardell is so wonderful.  The striped hooded top is made from jersey, while the skirt is cotton poplin.  The hooded coat is reversible, with one side being jersey, and the other brown poplin.  No wonder her designs were so popular.

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All three dresses above were designed by Gilbert Adrian.  The two on the left show how Adrian worked with unusual colors combinations, much in the way an artist would.  The tiger striped dress reveals Adrian’s roots as a Hollywood designer in a design that would have been right at home on an actress.  Actually, all three dresses belonged to an actress, Adrian’s wife, Janet Gaynor.

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Here are more hats from Sally Victor.  On the left is one of the hats Victor made based on the art of Mondrian, and next to it is one with Matisse-like cutouts.  The hat that looks a bit like an upside down pie crust was actually called the “Airwave” and was designed for First Lady Mamie Eisenhower in 1952.  The First Lady had the hat in several color combinations (the lining being in a contrasting color) and it was available to the public as well.

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Most of the designers represented so far in my tour have been women, but men designers were featured as well.  The dress on the left was designed by Geoffrey Beene around 1965.  Would it be too matchy-matchy to have worn that Sally Victor Matisse hat with this dress?  Look carefully at the hem to see that it was scalloped, and that it was lined in bright pink.

The dotted bubble hemmed dress with the red coat was designed by Arnold Scaasi in 1961.  Next to it is a 1955 silk evening dress from James Galanos.  That dress looked to be so light that it would be blown away in a slight breeze.  And finally, there is a pants for evening ensemble by Norman Norell, a revolutionary idea in 1970.

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One of the highlights of this exhibition was the inclusion of quite a few garments from Charles James along with the digital deconstruction videos that were developed by the Met for the big Charles James show in 2014.  These videos incorporated x-rays of the dresses which showed the complex structure of the garments, as well as pattern pieces that magically formed the finished garment on display.  It was highly effective.

Two of the celebrated “Four Leaf Clover” gowns were on display.  As with some of the other dresses, this one had no visible means of support, and you could see the interior of the bodice.

I’m not much of a lace-wearer, but for some reason I love seeing techniques of lace application.  The way the lace was molded to the dress was truly amazing.

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Another highlight of the James display was the inclusion of some of the original working  muslin patterns.  On the left is one of his ribbon dresses, a development of an idea he had gotten from a stash of wide antique ribbons he found in Paris.  On the right is his pattern in muslin.

The pieced “ribbons” on the right continue around to the back of the dress where they come to a point, with the back pieces fitting neatly under the front.  High style, indeed!

If you are planning to see High Style at the Cincinnati Art Museum, I suggest that you plan for the whole day.  To see High Style, taking your time and taking in all the information presented takes at least two hours (unless you were in the tour groups that breezed through in twenty minutes).  Plus, the rest of the museum is really great.  I was there four hours and could have stayed longer.

Admission to the Cincinnati Art Museum is, incredibly, free, though parking is $4.  They do have a nice gift store, and I’m sure they depend on it to help support the museum.  I bought the companion book  to the exhibition at the museum though I knew I could have gotten it cheaper through Amazon.  I consider the extra price to be a donation.

 

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Hillsville, VA Flea Market, Fall 2015

Last week I went to the crazy place that is the Hillsville Flea Market.  I’ve been going to Hillsville for about ten years, and every now and again I swear off it.  But I keep going back, because among all the crazy is so much vintage wonderfulness.  It’s really not the best for old clothes, but I also find patterns and vintage fabrics.  So, what did I see that was interesting , but that I did not buy?

The drawing above is a puzzle.  Is her looking back on his college days, or is he looking forward to them?  He looks quite young, but is that a cigarette in his hand?

Here’s the dream of every person who sews: shears that cut all the way to the points.  And if you do not sew, you probably wondering why that is such a big deal.

I love old gambling boards, or punch boards, especially when they have a woman skating as the illustration.

Oh, for the simple days of Walt Disney World, when there was just the Magic Kingdom, and it was amazing.

This is my dream luggage.

As I said, Hillsville always has great textile sellers.  This one, a Key West Handprint by Zuzek, is for Jacq.

I just can’t seem to get away from quilts.

This poor old calendar from 1924 was trashed, but oh, so pretty.

I couldn’t tell if this basket backpack was newer, or just in fantastic condition.

I love 1950s red plaid objects, and when I spotted this one I couldn’t imagine what it was.

It’s a traveling cutlery set!  I’m thinking maybe I should have bought that one.

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Emilio Pucci in America, Georgia Museum of Art

Emilio Pucci skiing at Reed College in the uniform he designed for the ski team there, 1937. Special Collections, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College.

Yesterday I took a museum day.  The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens had just opened a new fashion exhibition and I was anxious to see it.  The topic was Emilio Pucci, who needs no introduction from me.  What many might be surprised to know is that Pucci actually attended the University of Georgia in Athens after transferring from the University of Milan.  He then went on to Reed College in Oregon.

As the title tells us, the exhibition was not a comprehensive study of the career of Emilio Pucci, nor was it a history of the company.  It was about how the Italian Pucci had relationships with American institutions and companies.  The exhibition is quite small, and there are a few gaps in what was displayed, but overall it gives an excellent view of Pucci’s American relationships.  Photos were not allowed (although there was no sign stating such, and it took getting my hand slapped to find it out) and the photos supplied for press do not show any of the clothes as they are displayed, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to use your imagination somewhat.

Probably the best known collaboration between Pucci and an American company was that with the lingerie company, Formfit Rogers.  Throughout the 1960s and into the 70s Pucci designed undergarments and sleeping attire for Formfit.  On exhibit was a panty girdle, and four matching lingerie pieces in blue.

Braniff hostess modeling in a pink Pucci uniform holding an umbrella standing in the front part of a jet engine. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Between 1965 and 1974, Pucci designed uniforms for the stewardesses of Braniff Airlines.  The ensembles included everything from head to toe: hats, scarves,dresses,tunics,pants, leggings, shoes, and boots.  Archival photos show that the stewardesses were allowed to mix and match the pieces, though the staff was provided with clothing that corresponded to various activities and which involved two in-air clothing changes.

Braniff hostess wearing a pink Pucci uniform and a bubble helmet standing in front of a Concorde airplane at the Paris Airshow, 1967. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

The exhibition had this tunic, and it also had the plastic bubble hood.  Archival photos show that the women often wore the tights with a solid dress.

Group photo of early Emilio Pucci hostesses uniforms for Braniff. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas

Group photo of early Emilio Pucci hostesses uniforms for Braniff. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas

The bubble hood was only used for a short period because of its tendency to malfunction.

My favorite outfit from the exhibition was a circa 1955 two-piece swimsuit and matching cape that Pucci designed for Canadian-American swimsuit designer Rose Marie Reid.  The print was a tiny Venice theme, and while I could not find a photo of it online, there is a similar Reid piece for sale.  That set just went to the very top of my wishlist.

I was really hoping that there would be some of the very rare pieces that Pucci did for White Stag in 1948.  They did have the copy of the Harper’s Bazaar in which the pieces were shown, but no actual garments.  And there was no mention of the mid 1950s collaboration between Pucci and the McCall’s Pattern Company, nor was there any mention of the patterns he did for Vogue in the 1960s and 70s.

Even though this exhibition was quite small, I’m glad I took the time to go see it.  The clothing was very well presented, and the lighting was good enough so that the details could be easily examined.  It is well worth a drive if you are in Georgia or the western Carolinas.

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