Category Archives: Shopping

Legendary Philadelphia Department Store – Wanamaker’s

A trip to any big city is not complete without a visit to some wonderful shopping emporium of the past. In Philadelphia, that means Wanamaker’s.

As much as I hate the blandness and standardization that Macy’s represents in today’s shopping culture, I will admit that they have done a reasonably good job of preserving parts of the old department stores they have taken over. I saw this in Chicago in the old Marshall Field store, and was delighted to see so much shopping history in the old Wanamaker store in Philadelphia.

John Wanamaker really was a ground-breaking merchant, though the interior of his store looks quaintly old-fashioned to visitors today. No matter, as it is the past that took us to  Macy’s/Wanamaker’s.

The store that stands today was opened in 1911. It has an open court, and on one end a giant pipe organ, acquired by Mr. Wanamaker from the 1904 World’s Fair in Saint Louis, is installed. In the courtyard is a Philadelphia landmark, the Wanamaker Eagle.

The eagle was also a relic of the Saint Louis Fair. Wanamaker bought it, and even reinforced the floor beneath it so it could be safely displayed. People shopping would use the centrally placed eagle as a meeting place, and “Meet me at the eagle” became part of Philly vernacular.

Macy’s has a sign beside the eagle that tells about the tradition and a bit of the eagle’s history. They even have someone on staff who is very familiar with the store’s history in case one has unanswered questions.

When linens designer Tammis Keefe designed a hankie for Philadelphia, she used the interior of Wanamaker’s and included the famous phrase.  This hankie was a gift from Mod Betty, who lives in the Philadelphia area.

You know I adore a good mosaic, and so I loved this one found in one of the entrances to the store.  John Wanamaker made sure a customer knew it was his store.

I’d like to report than that Macy’s in Philadelphia still retains some of the great customer service Wanamaker’s was famous for. But our experience was quite the opposite. Tim found himself in need of more reliable walking shoes so we thought while we were already there, it would be a chance to quickly pick up a pair. He found shoes that suited him, but unfortunately we left without buying them. There were people working in the shoe department, but we just couldn’t interest any of them in assisting us. Old JW must have turned over in his grave.

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Shopping with The Vintage Traveler

I spent much of October on the road, attending a Costume Society of America symposium, spending time with friends, and doing a bit of  history-themed touristing. But I was able to fit in a bit of shopping in between visits to historic sites and fashion exhibitions.

My guess is that the 1940 card above was designed to help children learn to sew on buttons.  I love how one of the croquet balls is square.

Before there were tanning beds, there were sun lamps. I remember these well, and I can promise you that sitting beneath one is nothing like the box graphic implies.

I am a sucker for an old home workshop-made lawn lounger. This one is obviously inspired by an ocean liner deck chair.

I hope I left enough of the surroundings in the photo so that you can tell how large this book is. Actually it is a catalog of car tires, and was used by some teen as a scrapbook.  The stylish cover was the best thing about it.

“Are you coming?” asks the lovely woman on her sidesaddle. And is it just me, or does the horse look s if it is levitating?

This one was a real heartbreaker, as I thought I’d found another movie star hanger for my small collection. Actually, this was originally a hanger, but it is now only a very damaged prop in a display of hats in an antique mall.

Okay, this is not a Scottie, and I’m not particularly fond of tea, so why was I so tempted by this cute little pot?

I photographed this ad mainly because I wanted to remember the name of this new-to-me brand. It was framed…

as was this magazine cover.  I’ve never understood the market for ads and illustrations pulled out of vintage magazines, mainly because the magazines are so interesting. But seeing these framed, I can see how they would make for cheap but attractive wall decor.

I’ve seen a lot of these old fashion prints with bits of fabric and lace added, but this one is probably the most elaborate ever.  I love how the white dress extends off the printed surface.

This close-up look shows just how much work went into this.

This little girl’s middy was just adorable. I have to make myself not buy things like this, though I could probably justify this purchase by using this to show the relationship between children’s dress and the athletic wear of older girls and women. Still, I do not need to go out on another tangent.

I loved this so much that I tried very hard to justify its purchase. Can you see that it’s a satin evening bag attached to a bracelet? So clever!

The symposium was really excellent, but the presence of a marketplace with six vintage dealers was the icing on the cake. Dealers, if you ever get the opportunity to set up and sell at a CSA event, take it. I was not the only clothing obsessed collector present.

 

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When Casual Corner Was Cool – 1973

We all remember Casual Corner, don’t we? Twenty years ago it was the blandest of all the boring shops at your local shopping mall. But if you are old enough, you can remember when Casual Corner was young and hip.

I can remember very clearly the Casual Corner at McAllister Square Mall in Greenville, South Carolina. When I was a kid we drove down to Greenville occasionally to outlet shop and to visit cousins. By the early 70s we added McAllister Square to the mix. Shopping malls were a new thing, and Asheville didn’t even have one yet, so all your modern shopping happened on trips to Greenville or Atlanta.

Casual Corner was first on my list of places to browse. I can recall buying only one item in all the years I loved the store because most of what they carried was over my budget. But once they were having a really great sale, and I bought a printed sheer cotton blouse, with purple and pink romantically entwined flowers. I could have made this myself, but it was a big treat having a blouse from my favorite place of sewing inspiration. I wore it until it fell apart.

By the time Casual Corner closed in 2005, it was more of a store for career women. Most of the inventory was their own brand of goods. But in the 1970s Casual Corner carried lots of brands that are remembered fondly by girls of the Seventies – Whiting and Davis bags, Organically Grown, Levi Strauss, Sweet Baby Jane, and Happy Legs were just a few of them.

I was pretty happy to run across this catalog from the 1970s on eBay. It’s just the sort of whimsy I associated with Casual Corner. There is no date anywhere, but from the beginning I was convinced this was from 1973, the year I started college. More on that later. First, the clothes…

I’m not going to make many comments about each page, as these clothes pretty much sum up what young women and girls wanted to wear in 1973. It was all about nostalgia and if you don’t see the 1940s in these designs, then look again. From the platform shoes to the puffed shoulders, 1973 was all about the idea of the 1940s.

Were the pants legs really that wide? Well, no, but we thought they were, especially as they swished around the tall platforms, making us look six inches taller.

There was also a bit of a cartoon vibe to 1973. And this was before smoking became such a touchy subject. I wouldn’t have blinked at the smoking image on this “wrappy satin top with angel sleeves.”

Here’s more 1940s in the form of a turban, mixed with a bit of a 1920s biplane.

Wrap sweaters were also very big, and stayed in style for the next few years. I made my own, having access to great chunky knit fabric in the knitting mills’ outlet stores.

Here’s another reference to smoking, and the Camel logo is also a bit of a 40s throwback. We all thought people who smoked Camels had to be WWII vets.

My heart skipped a beat when I read the description of the cardigan at the bottom of the page. It’s the 1970s sweater of my dreams.

I really enjoy the tourist sweater too, with scintillating strips and city names (New York, Miami, San Francisco) knitted in lurex.

Could that be the start of the leisure suit? And that sweater at bottom? I had similar ones in every color. We loved the Fair Isle look.

When I got to this page I knew I had an image to confirm the dating of the catalog. The Charlie Chaplin bag was made by Whiting & Davis, and the story goes that this bag and others that featured silent screen stars had to be pulled from production due to copyright infringement. Because of that, the bags are pretty rare today, plus the fact that they cost $20, which was a lot of money then.

I knew I had an image of this bag in a 1970s Seventeen magazine, but rather than head to the magazine stacks, I took the shortcut of an internet search. What I found was surprising. Several websites dated this bag to 1976. The more I looked and read, the more I realized this is a case of information being copied and re-copied from the same original source.

All that sent me to the magazines stacks – the place I should have gone to in the first place. I started with 1973, and there was the photo I needed, in the November, 1973 issue of Seventeen.  This confirms that my catalog is indeed from 1973.

As for the 1976 date, the only way that could be true is if Whiting & Davis re-released the bag that year. I tend to think not, but I’m open to being corrected.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler – Fall 2018

I love fall, not because of football or because of the cooler weather, but because of all the great vintage buying opportunities. I do have priorities. The photos in this vintage shopping segment all come from the Asheville Flea for Y’all, the Hillsville, VA Flea Market, and the Liberty, NC Antiques Festival. Three different shopping experiences, all with their charms.

I spotted the little sewing chick at the Flea for Y’all. I then saw another one (or maybe it was the same) at Liberty a month later.

I try really hard to limit myself to the categories that I already collect, but this 1970s Delta Airlines shirt was a big temptation,

An interesting name for a business, don’t you think?

A seller had several of these French Spanish days of the week towels. I had to remind myself that I have enough linen towels to last my lifetime.

I had a set of sewing cards when I was very young. Someone must have known I would spend a lifetime stitching. These, alas, were unused. What a missed opportunity.

After spending the summer reading about quilts, I have to stop and examine every one I encounter. This is from the 1930s or 40s, and would be considered a scrap or strip quilt. I love how the maker stuck to the blue color scheme.  These scraps are mainly cotton, and many are from feedsacks.

Moving on to Hillsville, Virginia, which is a flea market held on Labor Day weekend. It is a true flea market, with a combination of great old stuff and crafts and guns and common junk. In short, it is not for everybody, and only the thought of all the wonderful things found here in the past keeps me going back.

This is the fabric of my dreams, and from time to time it comes up for sale as a 1950s gathered skirt. This was the back of a quilt which was very much used and washed.

That sweet baby bib looks to be from the 1930s. And on the right is the gift we all need but don’t know it – a hankie shirt.

This interesting image of a woman swimmer is on a fan, circa 1915. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a bathing cap with a feather.

I’m not sure how many different designs were made for feedsack bags, but there had to have been thousands. I liked that this one still had the label that identified it as being from a flour mill in Asheville. And what’s more, I’ve had this same feedsack fabric.

I love old button cards, especially those that show you what they will look like after you sew them on a shirt.

To compare with the cotton 1930s quilt above, here is a similar concept, but in rayon fabrics from the 1940s and 50s. I love the added touch of the embroidery.

And finally, this past weekend I went to the Liberty Antiques Festival. It’s kind of hard to criticize this show, as it’s about as good as it gets around here. They advertise there are absolutely no reproductions allowed at this show, but I’m afraid this is not the case. At least three sellers had nothing but new stuff made to look old.

One of my very favorite vintage sellers, the great Nanette, was there. I’ve known and bought from her for many years, and she still has one of the best booths around.

What I love about Liberty is the chance to see things that just don’t make it to the average antique mall.

I know they must be at every garage sale in New England, but 19th century hatboxes are very rare in the South. There are some Southern-made ones, as the MESDA collection has a few. This one, as expected, was labeled as being from Maine, and was priced at around $500. One with a Southern provenance would have been more, and it would have sold very quickly.

 

 

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Shopping with The Vintage Traveler – Summer 2018

If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a while you know that these “shopping” posts are actually looking and not buying posts. I’m not sure why some people seem to think that shopping actually means spending money.  I tend to look at shopping trips as research. One doesn’t have to buy in order to learn. And I’m always seeing something that is new to me.

There is one particular show I try to attend every year just because the vendors there often have things that I don’t have the opportunity to see every day. The Antiques Market at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia,  has sellers who specialize in regional antiques. And I know that for some odd reason the rest of the country seems to believe that every cabin in the Appalachians still had looms in service until the 1980s, that is simply not the case. Hand weaving was pretty much a lost art in this area (as it was in the rest of the USA) until it was re-discovered in the 1930s and was revived as a way to make money off the tourists.

So, I really don’t think that over-shot coverlets like the one on the left are any more common here than in any other area along the east coast. I did find an early one several years ago at the Goodwill Outlet, bit I’m pretty sure that was a one-time deal.

The cover on the right looks like a piecework quilt, but it is actually a woven coverlet.

I also spotted this gem in Abingdon. It’s a sort of fancy patchwork sampler with the patches sewn to a background piece.

This basket was made entirely of stitches.

These are not in my line of collecting, but I love decorated stockings so much. Just the thought that so much work went into something that was not meant to be seen, that the beautiful hand embroidery was simply for the joy of having nice things, makes me happy.

This shawl was spotted in a really great antique mall (Bryant’s) in Otto, NC. It’s one of those places where I always find interesting things, like a spiderweb lace shawl.

Colonel Cotton Blossom looks a bit familiar, but all Southern “colonels” tend to resemble one another. At any rate, I love finding vestiges of the once-great cotton industry of the South.

This is proof that I do not buy all the Scottie things, thank you very much!

I am sorry to say that I have forgotten the name of the maker of this crossword dress. It was one of the big makers of casual dresses in the 60s, and isn’t it amazing?

I almost bought this 1930s tabletop tennis set, which was mint in the box and complete. And cheap. But I’m trying to stay focused.

Go-go boots for the pre-teen set. Vinyl, and certainly not meant to last for fifty plus years.

Coca-Cola advertising often has the best depictions of girls in sporty attire. I hope she has on tights under that skirt and those socks.

I paid a visit to Kate DiNatale Vintage in Greenville, SC. She always has the best stuff, including these Halston sandals.

Yesterday I decided at the last minute to go to a “vintage” market in Asheville. The show was put on by a group that does this type of thing all over the country. There were quite a few vendors, many of whom were selling crafts or new stuff that has an “old” look to it. I think we are to the point in the evolution of the word “vintage” that it no longer means “aged”. Looking old is good enough, as evidenced by the masses of people who were there snapping up the faux-tiques.

I have nothing at all against new stuff that looks old. I realize that some people would rather have a reproduction printed tea towel or tablecloth than to use an old one from a stranger’s linen closet. My problem is in the use of the word “vintage”, which to me implies that the stuff being offered is old.

In the end I felt like Alice who tumbled into a rabbit hole and ended up in a beige and black Pinterest-land. Beige and black pennant banners, beige and black pillows with cutesy sayings, beige and black painted furniture.

I will say that in spite of my irritation at the situation, I managed to find a few things for myself from the few vendors of authentic old stuff, including an adorable Scottie key ring and a 1940s letter cardigan with the athlete’s name embroidered on the inside. So, at least it wasn’t an afternoon wasted.

 

 

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Reunited – A 1930s Pajama Set

Two weeks ago I went to a great street market in the nearby town of Hendersonville. They have this little antiques fair every year, but I usually forget about it, and that’s a shame because I do seem to always come up with some interesting old stuff there.

The thing with general antique markets of this sort is that they don’t tend to attract vintage clothing sellers. But that does not mean you can’t find clothes there; it means you have to work a bit harder to find them.

Rule number one is never fail to rummage through a basket of linens. It may look like a basket of white embroidered pillowcases from the top of the pile, but there might be treasures lurking below the pillowcases and faded linen tea towels.

It was in one such basket that I found the above pair of mid 1930s satin pajama pants. A continued search did not produce a matching top, however. I got the vendor’s attention and asked the price. She gave a figure that was well within my budget, so I indicated that I’d take them.

Then she said the words that always make a collector’s blood run cold: “I had the matching top, but have misplaced it.”

She went on to explain that it could be in a box to be taken to Goodwill, or it may have already been donated. She bought the set in a box lot along with two 1920s fancy dresses, and she really had no idea that the pajamas might be of interest to someone. Not that I blame her for that. It’s impossible to know everything about everything, and vintage clothing is not really her thing.

She went so far as to call home to see if her husband could find them in the donate box, but he could not locate them. So I left her my email address and she promised to let me know if the top turned up. Several days went by and I was sure I’d not hear from her, but miracles do happen in the collecting world! She found the top in a box earmarked for eBay sales.

She sent a photo and I agreed to buy it, and several days later it arrived in the mail. It was even better than I’d hoped, but I’m convinced that there was a third piece – a plainer top for actual sleeping, as opposed to this top that is more for lounging. At least I’d not be able to sleep with those big knot buttons!

The satin is a much richer blue (she called it Pepsi blue) than my photos suggest. The fabric is nice and heavy, and I suspect it is a high quality rayon, but it could be silk. I’ll be doing a burn test to find out.

Based on several hints, I’ve dated these at about 1933 – 1935. The sleeves show the unmistakable influence of Letty Lynton with the  fullness. The shape of the pants legs and the dropped crotch also hint to a mid 1930s date of manufacturer. And the pants are closed with a series of snaps instead of a zipper, though zippers are not always used in lounging attire.

I really love the suggestion of a middy collar.

Lingerie is not, for the most part, on my list of things to collect. The exception is pajamas. They played an important role in the pants for women story, and as such, are one of my favorite things.

 

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler

Every once and a while I’ll go shopping. I try not to buy all the stuff, so here are the interesting bits that did not make it into my collection.

I usually won’t look through the never-ending stacks of sheet music that seem to inhabit every antique store in the land. But if there are just a few, I will take a peek because something you get interesting glimpses of period attitudes toward dress. I think I can safely say that this artist was a little too eager to portray the nakedness seen on beaches in the late 1920s.

If only we could all blame weight gain on an over-eager Scottie!

This Hush Puppies shoe rack was rather neat. If I were a collector of men’s shoes I’d have bought it.

Is there no end to the designs that came out of the Enid Collins studio? Just when I think I have seen them all, another one pops up. This one is called  “Posy Picker”, and it had a bargain price tag.

And here are even more Scotties, proof that I do not buy them all.

I really couldn’t decide on whether or not this bag is actually older than a few years. The basket itself looked to be newer, but the shell decorations looked older.

The graphics of the late 1960s always make me smile.

I posted this photo on Instagram and there we lots of people there feeling nostalgic about Fiorucci. There wasn’t a Fiorucci store in Western North Carolina so I missed that whole scene.

Yes, women did climb the Alps in skirts. Not every woman was Annie Peck.

This nice old majorette uniform had some issues, and I was glad because that kept me from caving into an impulse majorette uniform buy.

This lucite and metal bag with butterflies was really great, and it was, I thought, very under-priced. If you are a person in search of an affordable collecting hobby, I’d like to suggest evening bags. I’ve been noticing a drop in prices for some time, but at a show I went to last week the prices were insanely cheap. Supply exceeds demand.

If you grew up in the South then you are probably aware of the unique advertising of Rock City. They would pay farmers to let them paint “See Rock City” on their barn roofs, and you can still buy the concept in the form of a birdhouse. My family went to see Rock City around 1966, and it was the biggest thrill.

Okay.

Beacon blankets were made in this area, so they are commonly seen. Still, it’s nice to see one that still has the original paper label.

Wicker handbags were very popular in the mid to late 1960s, and this has to be the cutest one ever.

 

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