Category Archives: Sportswear

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Outdoor Sports and Pastimes, Peck & Snyder, 1886

I’ve tried limiting my collecting to 1914 and later, but I can’t turn down an opportunity to learn about older sportswear, and to occasionally to buy a piece.  I recently ran across an 1886 catalog by sporting goods company Peck & Snyder.  I didn’t know a thing about the company, but thanks to the internet I can tell you that  Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder opened their business in New York City shortly after the end of the American Civil War.  Their claim to fame is the introduction of the baseball card, which they first mass produced in 1869.

The catalog is quite large, and includes both sporting goods and  other amusements like magic lanterns and costumes for fancy dress balls.  Most of the products are geared toward men, and while there are things for women, one has to look for them.  What is most interesting is how women are portrayed in the catalog.  The illustration above is typical in that women engaged in leisure activities, even more active ones than lying in a hammock chair, are dressed as they would be for other, more formal activities.

I guess a lady never lifts her feet onto the hammock.  I’m just wondering how she kept from sliding out of it!

But it wasn’t just women who were wearing regular attire while exercising.  Note that the man on the bicycle movement machine is wearing a vest.  At least he is not having to wear a corset.

It might seem odd that there were exercise machines available for home use in 1886.  I imagine these were purchased by the very affluent.  I know that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville (built by one of the Vanderbilts) has a gym with all kinds of equipment.  That house was built in the 1890s.

The Biltmore House also has a two lane bowling alley.  Peck & Snyder sold balls and pins, though the Biltmore ones came from the Brunswick bowling company. Again, note the clothing, especially of the woman who is getting ready to roll her ball.

The catalog does have illustrations of women wearing proper gym attire.  Ironically, they do not sell it, though there are quite a few pages of men’s athletic clothing for sale.

Those shirts might look like the form of a woman, but they are men’s “quarter sleeve worsted shirts” meaning they were made from worsted wool.

Some of the shoes are unisex.  Here is a selection of tennis shoes.

Peck & Snyder included quite a few pages of skates, both roller and ice.  The bicycle craze was just getting started, so there were only two models, both with the big front wheel.

There were pages of wool, silk, and cotton stockings and tights, which seem to be for men.  I found this interesting because I recently found a very old pair of striped wool stockings that I felt had to have been a sports piece.

Women’s gym outfits like the one above are very hard to find, but there is one in the up-coming Karen Augusta sale.  I wonder how one did jumping jacks with all those layers?

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear

Comparing Details as an Aid to Dating Vintage Clothing

Collecting sportswear has a particular challenge in that it does not always follow the fashion of the era.  This is especially true in something like riding breeches that were made for a particular purpose, and thus had to be functional.  Sometimes the collector has to look beyond fashion to come up with a reasonable date for an object.

I have three pairs of riding breeches and jodhpurs.  In order to put them in their correct time period, I have to rely on the details and construction techniques.  I’m not an expert in the history of riding pants, but using what I do know about fabrics, construction, and fashion, I was able to put a date on each pair.

The oldest pair I have is the pair above.  These jodphurs have the full thighs that you would expect to see before stretch fabrics came into use.  The fabric is a sturdy cotton twill.

These pants close using buttons on both sides of the hips.  The buttons are of a type that I commonly see on clothing from the 1910s and 1920s.

The insides of the knees is reinforced with an extra layer of twill fabric.

To keep the pants legs from riding up, there is lacing on the outside of each leg.

These jodphurs actually came with a matching coat which had this label.  The Emporium was in business from 1896 until 1996, which does not help, but the style of the label certainly does.  My best guess for this pair is 1917-1925.

The second pair of jodphurs are also made from cotton twill.  The shape is very similar to the first pair.

These have a hip button closure as well as two leather buckles.  The buttons are plastic, and are a type commonly seen in the 1930s and 40s.

The inside knees are reinforced with fine suede leather.

The bottoms of the legs are not as tight as the earlier pair.  They are held in place by suede straps that button to the hems.

Some of the seams are finished by a type of overlock stitch that is sometimes seen on sportswear from the 1920s through the 40s.  There is not a label present, but I’m pretty sure these are from the 1930s.  Any later and a zipper would be used.  These could be early 40s, but not into the war years due to the use of leather.

My last pair is made from a stretch fabric, a blend of cotton and nylon.  Due to the stretch, the hips and thighs could be cut slimmer and still be comfortable for the rider.

The pants close at the hip with a metal zipper.  Note the loops for a belt.

The inside of the knees is reinforced with leather which was attached by the use of a zig-zag sewing stitch.

The bottoms of the legs open by metal zippers.

Best of all is the label, which told me the fiber content.  It also reveals that these were made in Japan, and there is an RN number.  The number does not tell when a garment was made, but because the RN system was first used in 1952, it can’t be older that that date.  A look at the RN data base does reveal that this number belonged to the Miller Harness Company, which had a store located on East 24th Street in New York.  According to an obituary of one of the owners, Jackie Kennedy was a customer.  I can see her wearing these breeches, and I’m quite sure these are from the 1960s.

I used to be determined to narrow down the exact dating of things, but often it just is not possible.  And when it comes to sports styles that were worn over a period of years, it is often just as useful to know the general dating.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

Catalina Official All America Board of Football Sweater Vest, 1940s

If it were up to me, this label would read “Bored of Football” but then if everyone were like me there’d not be lots of old athletic sweaters to covet.  I’ll admit, I bought this mainly because I thought the label added a lot to the story.

As you can see, this sweater is official, of what though, I’m not entirely sure.  Googling brought up some vague references to a Board of Football helping to select the All American college players for each year.  Unfortunately, I soon got bored with the search and decided to just focus on the sweater.

Athletic letter sweaters are a fairly commonly found item.  Unfortunately, the moths often find them first, as I’ve found many that were nibbled beyond repair. There is a reason these are so common, as the letter sweater was a standard trophy for not only high school and college football players, but also for cheerleaders, basketball players, track runners and even band members.

Older athletic sweaters, before the mid 1930s or so, tend to be pullovers.  My 1936 Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods catalog has both pullovers and cardigans, for both men and women.  They are called warm-up pullovers and coats.  Later athletic sweaters, from the late 1950s or so, are often made from acrylic yarn.

 

It’s such a nice hefty knit.  My color here is wrong though.  The real color is what you see in the top photo.  I obviously have not mastered the art of color balance.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Winter Sports