Category Archives: Sportswear

Vactor’s Out-door Girl Slack Trousers

This Vactor’s Out-door Girl trousers ad dates from sometime in the mid-1930s, judging by the style of the shirt, the style of the slacks (and the fact that the button instead of zip),  and the hair style.  I actually have a sewing pattern from the same time with a shirt that is identical to the one the “model” is wearing.  Another clue is that sanforization was patented in 1930 by Sanford Lockwood Cluett.  By the mid 1930s the process was being widely used to eliminate shrinkage in cotton fabrics.

I’d never heard of the D.C. Vactor company, but I was able to find out a little bit online.  Because the ad told me that the company was located in Cleveland, Ohio, I was able to attempt a Google search that produced some results.

The first mention I found of Vactor’s was in a 1909 Sheldon’s Manufacturing Trade magazine, a periodical for the “cutting-up trade”.  I’m assuming that was a funny double entrendre.  At least I hope so.  All I learned was that Vactor’s was a maker of pants, and was located on Saint Clair Avenue in what was once a manufacturing center in Cleveland.  By the late 1910s and early 1920s, there were numerous references to the company in various clothing manufacturing trade magazines.  The last reference I found to D.C. Vactor was that his widow made a donation to a charity in his memory in 1944.

The little swatches of fabric really help one visualize how the slack trousers actually looked.  The fabric is a twill and is quite lightweight, much lighter than denim.  This does not seem to be a fancy department store product.  The price of $2.45 ($43 in today’s dollar) plus the type of fabric seem to point to this being the sort of thing that might have been sold in a small town general store or a cheaper department store.

Ads like this one were mailed to prospective buyers at stores, or were dropped off by the thousands of traveling sales representatives who paid calls to stores to take orders for their companies’ products.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

Circa 1960s Golf Set by Serbin

One of the difficult things about collecting clothing is that often one finds just part of an ensemble.  As a collector of sportswear that often does not matter, but it is always a treat to find an outfit in its entirety.  Having the top or the skirt of this set would be nice, but it is so much better having both, plus the matching belt.

Serbin was founded in 1943 by brothers  Lewis and John Serbin in Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1951 Lewis Serbin moved his family and the family business to Florida.  There the company focused on golf wear and casual dresses.  The Serbins had a daughter, Marianne, and I’m guessing that she is the Mari*Anne on the label.  At some time she married and her name was Marianne Serbin Friedman.

The quilted skirt is covering a pair of shorts made from the same fabric as the top.  It feels to be a cotton/poly blend.  The buttons are a type that was popular in the late 1960s, ball-shaped plastic covered by a matte paint. There is a nylon zipper in the shorts and in the back of the top.

The belt matches the bias trim on the top and the skirt.

I have not firmed up a date, but my best guess is late 1960s.  Besides the buttons, there are other clues.  The A-line shape of the skirt was a popular one at that time, as was the cotton/poly fabric.  I’ve not shown any of the interior details, but the seams are pinked instead of serged.  That tends to mean a manufacture before the mid 1970s when the serger became widely used, but it pays to remember that smaller companies could not always invest in the latest machinery.

Novelty prints are really more associated with the Seventies than they are the Sixties, but when it comes to golf wear, anything goes.  Any other thoughts?

And I’d sure love to hear from the Serbin family.

7 Comments

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

Mid 1960s Nautical Ensemble

It’s no secret that I love a nautical look, and I especially love a vintage nautical outfit.  The shirt and pants above are from the mid 1960s, and though they were not made together, the original wearer paired them for what I think is a perfect 1966 ensemble.

It’s certain that she could have not worn these to school because in North Carolina school dress codes did not generally allow the wearing of pants by girls until the early 1970s.  Instead, this was a fun time outfit, for a casual date or a picnic or just hanging out with friends.

The top is made of cotton poplin, white with blue sailboats and red directional abbreviations.  It has a band collar, a feature that was popular during the mid and late 1960s.

The shirt’s label is Shirt Tree, Designed by Lynn Stuart.  Lynn Stuart is little remembered today, but during the 1960s and 70s she was quite busy, designing and manufacturing both the Shirt Tree and Mister Pants labels.  Some of her designs can be found in McCall Patterns’ New York Designers series.  Present day designer Jill Stuart is her daughter.

I love the inverted pleat on the back.  It gives mobility without looking like a man’s shirt.

The pants were made to look like classic sailor’s pants with a double-button opening and drop front.  I somehow can’t see guys (other than sailors, of course)  going for this style, but it is possible these pants were made for young men.

McGregor primarily made sportswear for men, but for a very brief period, 1963 through 1968, they did have a line for women.  All the labels I’ve seen for that line read “Her McGregor”, but that really does not prove the point either way. Truth is, in the mid 1960s and into the 70s girls were appropriating their brothers and boyfriends clothing like mad.  Chances are the original wearer either stole them from her brother’s closet, or was shopping in the young men’s department.

It’s hard to tell from my photos, but the legs are very slightly belled.  Bell-bottoms were not quite the must-have pants that they would be just a few years later, but they were already being worn by the fashionable set.  Lynn at AmericanAgeFashion posted a great page showing the pants of 1964, and in it bell-bottoms were classified as a novelty look.

Nautical, right down to the anchor buttons!

14 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Harlequin Print Top from Catalina

Catalina is another of those great old sportswear companies that I love to find.  It was located in California, a fact that the company used in their branding.  Many of the labels brag that Catalina was a “California Creator,” and that their products were “Styled for the Stars of Hollywood.”  In the early years they were mainly a maker of bathing suits, but they moved into sportswear by the 1940s.  Especially great were the figural design sweaters they made.

I found the blouse above several weeks ago, and I’ve spent some time thinking about it.  If not for that exaggerated collar, it is pretty typical of the late 1950s and early 60s.  But that crazy collar might make someone assume that this is a product of the 70s.

It is not.  Collar aside, this shirt dates from that period of time – the late 1950s and early 1960s – when people had an ongoing love of all thing Italian.  That included harlequin prints, Sophia Loren and Emilio (Pucci) of Capri.

harlequin-inspired designs from Emilio (Pucci) of Capri from a 1957 McCall’s mini-catalog

 

Besides the styling and the fabric, the label points to an early Sixties date.  This blue label was only used for a short time at Catalina, and while I don’t know the exact dates, all the garments I have ever seen with it date from the late 1950s or early 60s.  You can see a lot of Catalina labels on the VFG Label Resource.  While the Resource does not always lead to an exact dating, it is invaluable in giving a general idea of when a particular label was used.

The rolled short sleeves and the squared-off hem with side vents are commonly seen features in casual clothing of this era.

13 Comments

Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1920s Middy and Skirt in Lavender

I had been thinking about middy dresses ever since I found a book on the National Park Seminary for Girls.  In the book the teenage girls are all wearing what was an unofficial uniform for girls at many private schools.  One thing that I was interested in was that even though the photos in the book were printed in black and white, I could tell that the dresses were of various colors.

Most of the vintage middies that are found are white, but I have seen them in yellow, orange and navy.  Vintage ads and catalogs point out that various colors were available.

This ad from a 1922 Lombard catalog lists this middy dress in French blue, old blue, lavender, green, pink and tan.

Shortly after posting about the National Park Seminary, I spotted a fantastic lavender middy dress in the etsy shop Vintage Runway.  I just happened to know that the owner of this shop, Suzanne, was located fairly close to me.  After a few emails back and forth, I arranged to meet Suzanne and get the dress.

At this point I’ve got to say how much fun it is to meet up with other people who love vintage clothing and fashion history.  Suzanne and I sat and chatted as if we’d known one another for years.

Today I finally had a chance to spend some time looking at the dress and its construction. I had told Suzanne that it looked like it was professionally manufactured even though it had no label, but after a closer examination I’m sure this was made by an accomplished seamstress.

One big clue that this dress was home sewn was the presence of many hand sewn details, such as you see in these buttonholes.

The nautical-inspired patches look to be manufactured, but a fancy hand stitch was used to attach them.  It was possible to buy the patches and the white middy braid.

This ad is from a 1927 Charles Williams mail order catalog.

The arrow stitching at the corners of the pockets was also embroidered by hand.

Still, the quality of the work is such that the dress does not have that dreaded “homemade” look.  This was a sewer who knew what she was doing.

Fortunately, I know the name of the original owner of this dress.  She was  Blanche Nechanicky, who was born in 1907.  If she first wore the dress when she was fifteen, the year would have been 1922.  If you look at the ad from 1922 and compare it to my dress, you can see that my dress is considerably shorter than the dress in the catalog.

That makes sense, because after 1922 skirt lengths got shorter.  In an attempt to keep in style, it appears that Blanche shortened the skirt by taking a tuck in the underdress.

There is another line of stitching holes which might show an earlier alteration.  It’s interesting that Blanche did not make the skirt shorter at the hem.  Skirt lengths were in flux in the early 1920s and she wisely chose not to cut it shorter.  Besides, skirts have not always been shortened at the hem, but rather, at the waist.

It is possible that Blanche herself made this dress, though she would have been an exceptional seamstress to be a teenager. Luckily, Suzanne was able to share a bit about her.

Blanche was reared by her Czechoslovakian immigrant grandparents after her mother died when Blanche was two.  From her grandmother she learned sewing, crocheting, embroidery, and tatting.  After high school she attended Iowa State University where she majored in Textiles and Clothing.

Blanche went on to have a long career in home economics.  For much of her career she worked for the  New York State Education Department as the State Supervisor of Trade and Industrial Education for Girls and Women.  At other times she taught sewing, both to school girls and to adults in various sewing programs.  She never married, but traveled extensively.

It is a real treat knowing so much about Blanche.  So much of the clothing I’ve collected has long ago become separated from the history.  My thanks to Suzanne for sharing Blanche’s story.

26 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1930s Northbilt Ski Pants

In the 1930s skiing was a relatively new spot in the US, having become popular only in the 1920s.  After winter resorts and ski slopes were developed it became obvious that women especially were going to need clothing specifically for the sport.  It just was not practical to try to make one’s way down a mountain wearing a 1920s skirt, or even knickers that ended at the knee.  By the early 1930s companies were making full length wool ski pants for women, another great example of how active sportswear led to women adopting the wearing of pants.

Even though these ski pants were made to be functional in the snow, a woman wearing them would still want to look her best.  The waist and hip area is slim and quite fitted, with little extra bulk.

And what a nice curve there is to the side button opening.

The leg cuffs are made of a knit wool for a close fit.

And for the key to your room at the lodge, a little patch pocket was included.

These ski pants were made by the Northbilt company in Minneapolis.  According to the US Trademark site, Northbilt was first used as a brand name in 1919.  The last reference I can find to the company was in 1962.  As always, additional information about this company would be appreciated.

Here is a page from a 1936 Montgomery Ward catalog showing their selection of women’s ski pants, which are very similar to my pair.  Note that one pair has  “slide fasteners” – zippers – at the cuffs and the waist.  Button closings were slowly being replaced.

4 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Winter Sports

Lombard Blouses for the College Girl, 1918

Some time ago I wrote about two little catalogs that I had acquired.  They were from the Henry S. Lombard company, a maker of girls’ school and outing clothes.  I was recently pleased to add another Lombard catalog to my collection.  This one, from 1918, is the earliest that I have.

From the catalog:

“We want to again emphasize the fast that we are the original and only makers of the Genuine Lombard Middy Blouses and Suits.  We receive letters asking is our goods can be bought at other stores throughout the country.  They cannot.  We sell direct from Boston through this catalogue to the individual customer, with only one handling and one small profit.”

Lombard seems terribly eager to assure the buyer that this is the genuine article.  Surely there were not “fake” middies in 1918.

Click to enlarge

Lombard advertised as selling yachting uniforms, and even if one’s “yacht” was only a canoe, these skirts and middy blouses were just the thing.  As you can see from the photos, they were also right for tennis, golf, and reading.

Click to enlarge

Here we see more clothes for active sports, including breeches. “The great demand for a practical substitute for the skirt, allowing greater freedom of motion, had prompted us to design the Camp Breeches shown in the picture.”

The silk tie was available in several colors, including Wellesley Blue, Dartmouth Green and Vassar Rose and Gray.

The skirts and sweaters on this page seem to be good for classroom wear.

Coat model 212 is described as a trench coat, a term that came out of the war that was beginning to wind down in Europe.  Note how very different it is from a modern trench coat, but the wide belt and pockets do give it a bit of a military air.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

All the bathing suits on these pages were made from wool or cotton jersey knit.  Several of the models have “attached tights”, something I’ve never seen in an actual garment.  I love the variety of bathing caps they offered.  Model  83 is referred to as a “smart jockey bathing cap.”  Note the bill.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear