Category Archives: Sportswear

Late 1930s Bowling Shoes and the Bruno Athletic Shoe Manufacturing Co.

On a recent trip we were delighted by the hotel’s basement rec room, which included a two lane bowling alley. Growing up in the 1960s it seemed like everybody bowled, at least on a casual basis when there was nothing else to do. The bowling alley in my little town was always busy. But times change, and the alley went under. And even though I collect sportswear, I have few bowling pieces in my collection.

But we had so much fun bowling that I was inspired to go looking for some vintage pieces to fill the bowling void. What I discovered is that great garments are very expensive, but the shoes seem to be a bargain. So unsurprisingly, I now have three new pairs of bowling shoes. The clothing will come, but I’m going to have to spend a bit more time looking.

I’m okay with that. One can – and did – bowl in any comfortable and casual clothing, but bowling shoes are a specialized item that can greatly enhance one’s game. So maybe the shoes are actually more important than the rarer-than-hen’s-teeth two-toned gabardine bowling dresses.

I’ve had to educate myself on the ages of bowling shoes. They are not “fashion” items, but as in most cases of sports attire, you can find fashion influences. In the case of the shoes shown here, I had a bit of help with the dating. The seller got these from the original wearer’s daughter, who is now in her late 70s. The daughter knew these were the bowling shoes her mother had worn as a teen in the late 1930s. That was a great starting place.

I then went looking for photographic evidence on the WWW. I didn’t find what I needed, but in the meantime I ran across a catalog from the Bruno Athletic Shoe Manufacturing Company in Manchester, Ohio. There’s no date on the catalog, but the illustrations of mainly men playing various sports are typical 1930s. All I could really find was that the company was owned by Mike S. Bruno. All the information I could find locates the company in Cincinnati in the mid 1940s. Mike Bruno was described as “late” in a 1954 marriage announcement of his son, Joseph. That’s it, so I would appreciate any additional facts about Bruno.

I also found a very similar design in a 1935-36 Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods catalog.

I would imagine that this basic design remained in place for some years. In both catalogs the shoes were described as made from elk leather.

The soles are suede, or more likely, buckskin. The heels have a rubber finish, for additional control over the slide of the foot.

Bruno was primarily a maker of ice and skate boots, but they also manufactured bowling, baseball, and basketball shoes. They also advertised the “Bruno Magic Toe Stop”, guaranteed to keep the toes of your skates from developing those unsightly toe wrinkles.

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1960s Kleinert’s Beach Bags

Things seem to come in bunches, as I recently found two really great Kleinert’s beach bags from the 1960s. Kleinert’s was/is a maker of rubber products, and so was a big player in the swim accessories market. I’ll share more about the company at the end of this post.

The bag above is canvas that has a layer of rubber fused to it. You can see it on the left along with the label. This bag dates to 1963.

I can say that with certainty as I found it in a catalog from 1963. In the description it is mentioned that the bag was also available in black, white, and tan.

The second bag is, according to my guess, a bit older, and may possibly date from the late 1950s. I love the design of this one, and the fact that it was never used and still has the hangtag.

When not in use, this bag stores flat. When being used, it takes the shape of a diamond.

The tag had a great late 50s or early 60s look. When was orange combined with pink hip? That might help nail down the date on this one.

This bag has the same label (with the addition of the copyright symbol) and the same rubber lining as the 1963 duffel. It looks like the rubber is degrading, but that is actually the original cardboard liner.

The following history is copied from a post I wrote in 2011.

Kleinert’s was started in 1869 as I.B. Kleinert’s Rubber Company .  The owner,  Isaak Kleinert, started the company to produce his many inventions, all consisting at least in part of rubber.   The company’s fortune seems to have been made on the dress shield, little rubber crescents, covered with cotton, that were basted into the underarms of one’s frocks.  In the days before antiperspirants, these little shields saved many dresses from ruin, and many misses from embarrassment!  I’ve found many vintage dresses with the dress shields still in place.

But Kleinert’s was not just about dress shields.  According to the Kleinert’s website, Isaak Kleinert also invented the shower cap, rubber baby pants, and the shower curtain.  For many years they also made rubber swim accessories, such as bathing caps, shoes and totes.  They even produced a limited line of swimsuits.  I’ve seen Kleinert’s ads for rubber-lined swim caps as early as the 1910s, and they were made at least into the 1960s.  But by the 1970s, the swim cap was old-fashioned, and rarely worn except by grandmas and competitive swimmers.

This business is still in operation, still making shields and other moisture protection products.  And, quite nicely, still made in the USA.

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1960s Alfred Shaheen Pants Set

The Alfred Shaheen name is very familiar to vintage clothing collectors, especially those who love the sun dresses and bathing suits of the 1950s. The business was based in Hawaii, where Shaheen expanded his father’s clothing manufacturing business in the post WWII period, capitalizing on the new fad for Hawaiian shirts.

From my little history at the VFG Label Resource:

At first he used fabrics brought in from the US mainland, but he soon realized that profits would be greater if he printed the fabric in Hawaii. He set up Surf ‘n Sand Hand Prints to print the colorful Hawaiian fabrics. His handprinted textiles were based on the flora and fauna of the Hawaiian Islands, along with Hawaiian traditions and authentic tapa cloth designs.

Shaheen produced not only the fabric, but they also manufactured clothing made from it. Shaheen was known for their sexy sarong dresses and swim suits, Hawaiian shirts and halter dresses with full skirts. The company closed in 1988 when Alfred Shaheen retired.

Shaheen not only used Hawaiian themes; the design studio was also was inspired by the rich multicultural population of post war Hawaii. Even the label took on a decidedly “exotic” look.

The set looks, at first glance, to be from the 1950s. I think we can all see Lucy Ricardo wearing this for casual entertaining. But the label is one that is most commonly seen in the 1960s. To confirm the date, the pants have a nylon coil zipper, which was introduced to the American market in the early 1960s.

The pants legs are very interesting. In 1960 pants were still tapered to the ankle, but then they became straight before blooming into bell-shaped legs in the late 60s. Without the pleat my pants are very straight, but the presence of the pleat sure does hint of things to come.

The collar, too, seems to predict the short-lived fad for the Nehru collar in the late 60s. But in this case I’m guessing it was just the company’s love of the “exotic” that led them to use a collar that is more associated with India than Hawaii.

Even though permanently attached care instructions were not mandated by law in the USA until 1972, the presence of a label like the one above does not mean the garment was made after 1972. Many manufacturers were already sewing simple care labels like the one in my pants long before the law went into effect.

You may have noticed the wonderful condition of this set. I can only imagine that it was bought by a woman who was under the spell of her tropical surroundings, and that when she returned home to Tennessee, the set was just too, well, exotic.

 

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Sportswear Innovation – Culottes, 1930s

One of my latest finds looks like a dress, but the skirt is actually culottes. I first spotted this on Instagram and then I stalked the listings of LittleStarsVintage until she listed them. We don’t think much about culottes these days unless they are undergoing one of the many revivals of the style.  But in the 1930s, culottes were news.

In 1930 pants were being worn more and more by women, but they really were still mainly for sports, the beach, and the home. Wearing pants on the street shopping was still frowned upon in most places.

In 1931 Elsa Schiaparelli designed and made a culotte skirt and she actually wore it on the streets of London. I’m so glad that moment was documented. The same year she made a pair for tennis star Lili de Alvarez who was roundly criticized for wearing them in a tournament.  These photos are from Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli by Dilys E. Blum. I highly recommend it.

I think Schiaparelli’s pair looks like beach pyjamas that have shrunk to just below the knees. By 1931 the straight legs of the pyjamas of the 1920s had morphed into wide-legged bell-shaped legs. Could that have been Schiaparelli’s inspiration for the shape of her culottes?

My pair dates to the second half of the 1930s, and is made from a cotton print of coins. The red rick-rack is a casual touch, and marks this as a dress that might be perfect for a picnic or as a house dress. A very brave woman might even wear it to the market.

A machine stitched hem pretty much confirms this was a commercially manufactured garment. The seller had previously sold a very similar dress which had a size tag, something this one does not have.

It also has machine-made buttonholes which points to a manufactured product.  I can’t help but wonder why black thread was chosen.

Besides the culotte skirt, this dress has another feature that makes this appropriate as sportswear – a pleated sleeve. I love this sleeve, which I first encountered in an early 1930s blouse pattern.  Sleeves made in woven fabrics often have a stiff and uncomfortable feel, but this sleeve is loose and airy without looking frilly or silly.

Culotte patterns were also available to the home sewer.  This Hollywood pattern is not dated, but the original owner wrote “May 12, 1936” on the envelope.

And I refuse to believe that anyone has legs that long!

 

 

 

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Late Victorian Bathing Costume

The great bulk of my collection dates after 1915, but I’m slowly educating myself about earlier sportswear, and I’ve begun to acquire a few pieces.  This late nineteenth century bathing suit is my latest.  I bought this one mainly because most of the ones I’ve looked at over the past year are black, so a different color was a plus.  I’ll probably eventually buy a black one, if I find one with great design that is in good condition.

Condition is a major problem with antique bathing suits, as they were for the most part, made from wool.  Besides the fact that moths love them, they were exposed to salt water and who knows what else.  So while this suit photographs and displays well, it has the sort of issues one might expect from a well-used garment that is around 120 years old. In this case, I decided I could live with more damage than I would on a more common garment.

The bathing suit is made up of two pieces, the blouse and bloomers combination, and a matching skirt. This was pretty much the makeup of women’s bathing suits until the second decade of the twentieth century, when the shrunken bloomers were covered by a skirt that was attached to the top.  From there the bathing suit kept getting smaller, and smaller and…

The lighter color tie is attached at the shoulders.  It covers a placket, under which is a row of buttons.

The modesty panel attaches to the collar with buttons on one side, and is permanently attached on the other.

The braid, which is green, was sewn on by machine, and looks to be professionally done.

The braid also decorated the sleeves, the waistband, and the hem of the skirt.  The weight of it helped to keep the skirt from riding or blowing up, thus saving the wearer from extreme embarrassment.

The damage is much more apparent on the back.  There are a number of moth holes, and the waist band is torn.  I’m guessing that the owner had gained a bit of weight, and the band simply ripped from the stress.  The buttons are for attaching the skirt.

Note the fullness below the waistband, which is the top of the bloomers.  I’ll get back to that in a minute.

This bathing suit came with a bit of a mystery attached – an extra piece that was originally part of the garment. It is a slice cut from the skirt. At some point the suit was altered to make the back of the skirt less full.  And while there is only one piece, there is evidence that two pieces were cut out.

This is the inside of the skirt, showing where I think the piece was removed. The most obvious sign is that a different color of thread was used.  On the left you can see that the thread matches the fabric, but the newer seam is stitched in white.  On the front, the original seams are so perfectly matched that it is hard to see them.  On the two new seams, the braid is off somewhat.

There is also white stitching where the skirt is gathered into the waistband.  So the back of the skirt had quite a bit of fullness removed.  But why? It probably has to do with changing fashion.

The image above is from 1898, from The Glass of Fashion. Even though a garment like a bathing suit might not be considered “fashion”, you can see the trends of an era in the shape and the details. Even though this is a dress, it has a lot in common with my bathing costume, with the gored skirt having a flat front and a full back.  The bodice is also similar with the pleats and gathers attached to a yoke. And don’t forget the puffed sleeves.

The bathing suit above is from an 1899 Delineator magazine. You can see how similar this one is to mine, with the tie, sailor collar, puffed sleeves and band at the hem.  This basic style remained popular over the next fifteen or so years, with gradual changes being made to reflect changing fashion.  The bodice became droopy in front, the gathers disappeared and smooth, full gores replaced them.

In period illustrations, bathing costumes are frequently pictured in beautiful colors, but photographs from the same time tell a different story.  The overwhelming majority of bathing suits for women were dark, either black or navy.

There are a few other problems with my suit.  Someone shortened the waist by about three quarters of an inch by making a tuck right above the waist.  I haven’t decided if I’ll remove it, but I probably will just leave it.  Most of the original buttons have been replaced, but buttons of this era are easy to find so I’ll probably replace the newer ones. The elastic in the legs of the bloomers has completely lost its stretch.  I’ll probably just leave it.

It was fun analyzing this piece.  Unfortunately, I know nothing at all about who the original owner was, but I do know she had a very appealing bathing costume.

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1950s Golf Dress – Babe Didrikson Golfer by Serbin

Some time ago I heard from Marianne Serbin, who was part of the family that owned the clothing company Serbin, and later, Serbin of Miami.  In her letter to me she mentioned that at one time famed athlete Babe Didrikson designed golf dresses for Serbin.  Since then I’ve had this line on my shopping radar, and finally, last month, I found a really great example.

Marianne did not mention when exactly Didrikson worked for Serbin, and it’s likely she does not know, as she would have been a child at the time.  But it is pretty easy to narrow it down to a range of just a few years.  First, Didrikson died in 1955 from cancer which was diagnosed with in 1953.

The length of the dress is quite long, and so the earliest it could be is 1948 or so.

The label reads just Serbin, instead of Serbin of Miami.  The company moved to Miami in 1951.  That may indicate that the set predates 1951 and the move, but that’s not guaranteed.  My 1960s golf set from Serbin does not mention Miami either.

I did find two ads online for Serbin golf dresses from 1949.  Actress Jane Russell is the model, but there is no mention of Didrikson.  It stands to reason that , as a very famous athlete, her name would have been in the ad as well. (The hunt continues.  I’ll update if I find a Serbin-Didrikson ad.)

My best guess is, then, 1950 through 1952.  But more important than the actual date of this dress is what we can learn about how fashion was adapted to fit a specific activity, in this case, golfing.

One of the first things to consider in making a golf dress is the sleeve.  Tight sleeves just won’t do, but in the early 50s most women on the golf course were just not ready to go sleeveless. In order to allow the arms full range of motion, golf dress sleeves were often pleated, and in this case, you can see that there are also buttons to give even more flexibility.

An interesting side note – this type of pleated sleeve appears to have started in the 1930s.  In the early 30s it was often seen on fashionable dresses.  So which use came first, the fashion or the sport?  I have no idea.

When unbuttoned, the sleeve is open all the way to the shoulder.

Another must-have feature on golf dresses was a pocket or two.  I really love how this breast pocket was cut on the bias.

I somehow neglected to take a full-length photo of the back of the dress, so take my word for it that this pocket is on the back, not the front.  It’s large enough to hold a ball, a glove, and a couple of tees.

One thing that made me buy this particular dress was that the belt was present.  So many times in old clothes the original belt is missing.  I didn’t realize until the dress arrived at my house that the belt is actually attached to a large flap in the back.  The flap obscures a large opening and the looseness of it allows for good air circulation.  It also makes the dress more flexible in the upper back.  Ingenious.

Here you can see the back opening.

Another interesting feature is that the dress has a front zipper that extends to the hem.  The zipper is actually a separating one, so this dress is very easy to put on.

Even with all the features that make this a dress for golfing, a woman could also have worn this dress for regular, casual wear.  It fits right in with what was stylish in 1950.

My Dad had a golf tournament  in Miami Beach which was Babe’s first win after her cancer and he presented her with a trophy topped with a diamond studded metal golf ball..quite a thrill for everyone.  Marianne Serbin.  Photo courtesy of Marianne Serbin.

I’m always amazed to learn of how so many otherwise famous people from the past also have a link to the fashion world.  Today, of course, it is just another way for a celebrity to make cash off his or her popularity.  But even a hundred years ago celebrities were being approached by companies eager to add a bit of  star power to their products.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Christina, I have a bit more to share.  Didrikson’s autobiography is online, and in it she mentions the deal with Serbin.  She won the British Ladies Championship in 1947, and after that win she was able to sign contracts with quite a few companies, including Serbin.  Later in the caption of a photo she mentions the ongoing deal with Serbin.  This was in 1955.

Christina also found photos of Didrikson wearing what looks to be a dress very similar to mine.  The year is 1950.   Thanks Christina!

UPDATE: Liza has found an ad in a newspaper for Didrickson/Serbin golf dresses dated March 30, 1949.  Thanks Liza!

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1957 Jantzen Junior Dealer’s Catalog

A lot can be learned from old catalogs.  This one from Jantzen was not made for the consumer, but for the merchants that would be buying Jantzen products for their stores.  This particular catalog is for junior clothes, and I’m sure there were others for clothing for men, misses, and children.

Of course there were plenty of swimsuits.  After all, Jantzen was primarily a swimsuit company.  But what is interesting is how much of the catalog is devoted to other sportswear.

But before I get to the sportswear, I want to focus in one the swimsuit on the left.  This model was the “Holland Check” Sheath, with retailed for $10.95.  (Add in inflation, and this suit would be $93.50.  Jantzen was not cheap.)  In the late 1950s, and into the early 60s, plaids and checks were very popular.  This catalog features several plaid designs.

You can’t really tell what the plaid looks like here, but I do admire the way the designer used the print as part of the design.

Here you see the Holland check as trim on shorts and in a sleeveless top.

Even more Holland check in Bermudas, and as the trim on a blouse…

and on pedal pushers.

And best of all, here is the same check in a fabulous reversible cap.  The check was available in white with red, blue, brown, or black.  I’d never heard of “Holland Check” but it looks an awful lot like Prince of Wales plaid.

A store would pick which pieces to sell and it’s very unlikely that any one store opted to sell the entire line.  I can remember shopping in department stores in the late 1960s and early 70s, and it was common for stores to be selling the same brands, but to be offering entirely different pieces.

As a collector, it is nice seeing all the options available in the same print.  It’s hard enough finding great old sportswear garments, but how challenging it would be to try and assemble all the pieces of a particular line.  Unless one gets lucky, that is, the way I did with a matching line from Tabak of California.  

There was a real “Italian Look” evident in many of the garments.  The influence of Emilio Pucci, perhaps?

There were also references to the nautical influence, as in “Tars ‘n’ Stripes”.

And here’s even a nod to the ever popular middy blouse, though for some reason they chose to spell it “midi”.

Because these were junior swimsuits, targeted toward a teen consumer, Jantzen offered “Accents”, a bra pad.  The description of most of the swimsuits in this catalog mention that there is “space for ‘Accents” bust pads” in the suit.  I’ve got to wonder if there was an actual place in which to insert these pads.  Anybody know?

 

 

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