Category Archives: Summer Sports

Most Wanted: WWII Era Block Printed Swimsuit

I’m starting a new feature just to show how I can get something on my mind and just keep thinking about it until I either drive myself crazy, or I find an example. Lately, I’ve been all about swimsuits like the one on the right.  These were a wartime innovation, probably in response to the scarcity of dyes and fabrics.

All the ads I’ve found date from 1943 through 1949. Even though there were two piece swimsuits before WWII, they became more prevalent during the war. Because the pieces of fabric used to construct the tops and bottoms are smaller than would be in a one piece, the cutter of the fabric could be more creative in the placement of the pieces, and could work out ways in which to save fabric.

Dyes were made of chemicals used in the war effort, so fabrics were limited to fewer colors. The block printing of the design added color to the white fabric while saving on dye.

All of the examples I’ve seen were made by Catalina Knitting Mills of California, and I’ve seen the idea attributed to their designer, Mary Ann DeWeese (Remember these lobster suits by DeWeese?). I imagine there were companies that copied the idea.

I’ve seen this outrigger canoe design in shades of blue. It’s pretty impressive!

See the difference a few fish (whales?) make?

I’m not sure if this one is actually printed, or if  it is cut and pieced. I’m glad I picked this one out to enlarge because the shoes on the woman on the right are very similar to a pair I have. Otherwise I would never have noticed them.

And here’s another view of the same suit.

These do come on the market quite often, but the prices are always pretty insane. I can see why they are so desirable, so I’ll just wait until I find one in a dusty corner of an estate sale. It could happen, right?

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Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Most Wanted, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Photographs

Novelty Bathing Caps – 1960s

One of the greatest things about studying fashion history is that there is always something new to discover. Just when you think you have seen it all from an era, something like the swim cap above pops into your etsy  suggestions. Yes, this is a bathing cap, made from acrylic yarn fused to a rubber base.

For those of you not around in the 1960s, bathing caps were on their way out, but archaic rules about women’s hair made them mandatory in many public pools. I can remember that my public pool had such a rule, but as men’s hair grew longer in the mid 60s, we began ignoring it. After all, many of the boys had hair longer than that of some girls. There was no big protest, but the caps quickly disappeared after about 1964.

I was hoping to find an ad for this pigtail cap, as there is a brand name – Cole of California – in the cap. Unfortunately, I came up empty, so I decided to think about style. When were pigtails fashionable? It seems odd that any adult would put little girl braids in her hair, but in the time of little girl looks, also known as the mid 1960s, pretty much anything youthful went. I wore my hair in pigtails, and not when I was seven. I was probably around twelve, now that I think about it.

So starting with the year 1967, the year I turned twelve, I did some research. To be honest, I spent a few pleasurable hours looking through 1967 and 68 Seventeen, Teen, and Glamour magazines. What I discovered was that 1967 does seem to be the year of the pigtail. I found examples in all three magazines, and the December, 1967 Glamour even had a young woman in pigtails on the cover. So I feel pretty confident in dating this cap to 1967.

Here is how the yarn is attached to the rubber. There are no stitches in the rubber. This is more like a rubber thread that is fused on the cap to hold the yarn in place.

Cole advertised in the major fashion magazines, so I’m holding out hope that original ad can be found.

The second cap is just as interesting, but in a more sophisticated manner. If you are one of those persons who feels naked when not wearing earrings, this is the cap for you.

I’ve seen swim caps that were molded to look like hair in catalogs and ads as far back as the 1930s. This one is newer, but when exactly? The biggest clues are the earrings. At first glance I’d be tempted to say 1970s, but by then the swim cap was pretty much over except in pools in retirement villages in Florida. So when were dangly earrings popular?

I found lots of long earrings around 1962 and 1963. Could that be when this cap was made? I’m not nearly as confident in dating this one.

Here’s a close-up of the earrings. The dangles are little fake coins. And look at how they are attached. It has to be some kind of miracle that this survived intact. I’m guessing that it wasn’t worn very much. Maybe it was just too outré.

Unfortunately there is no maker’s imprint. To be honest, this looks to me to be the type of thing that was advertised in the cheap ads in the backs of fashion magazines. Maybe this came from the swim cap equivalent of Frederick’s of Hollywood.

As always, your opinions are welcomed and appreciated.

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports

Young Victorian Croquet Player

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People who are not collectors sometimes think collectors are hoarders. That is simply not true. A collector does not want things simply for the desire of ownership. A collector uses her (or his, if that applies) collecting because of an interest and a desire to learn more. Okay, I am speaking only for myself. I know that some “collectors” are pretty much glorified hoarders, but I am trying to justify the piles of paper everywhere around me as I try to do some cataloging of my print resources.

The image above is a new addition to my collection. It’s from the last half of the nineteenth century (more on that later) and is a chromolithograph, an early type of color reproduction. After the process was invented around 1845, people started collecting these prints. Companies began producing them as a part  of their advertising. These “scraps” of colored images led to the hobby of keeping scrapbooks. It was the Pinterest of the Victorian age.

Keeping a scrapbook remained a popular past time through the 1950s. Scraps were replaced by color illustrations cut from magazines. Some scrapbooks were more personal and contained the ephemera of a person’s life. To see lots of great old examples, check out #vintagescrapbook on Instagram.

My card was at one time glued into a scrapbook, as is evidenced by the traces of old glue and torn paper on the reverse. It’s possible that the rip occurred when the card was removed from the scrapbook.

I bought this card because of the subject matter. Images showing women playing croquet are a bit hard to find, so I was happy when this one materialized in a box of old paper stuff.

Croquet became very popular in the years after the American Civil War and was one of the first outdoor games in which it was socially acceptable for women to participate alongside men. While it may look to us that her ensemble is too fancy for sports, croquet was considered to be a social activity and as such women dressed for mixed company. Who knew but that a potential suitor was in the playing party?

Some of you might be able to look at this image and immediately place an accurate date on it. I’m still learning about pre-1915 clothing, so I’ve had to spend some time analyzing the woman’s attire. The skirt is quite short. It could be a concession to the game, or it could be that the woman is very young and is still in short skirts. The fact that her hair is loose might be another hint that she is a younger teenager. Or it could be that this was made in the early 1870s when women wore the back of her hair down. So many things to consider! No wonder a novice student of Victorian fashion is confused!

The hat is also confusing to me. I found similar ones with a brim turned up at the side in fashion plates from the 1870s, but also spotted this style in the 1880s. The red apron effect over her skirt is seen in the 1870 and into the 1880s. I did see more of that shorter sleeve length in early 1880s plates. And in photographs and plates of the early 1880s, many skirts are trimmed at the hem with a row or ruffles or pleats.

I also have to keep in mind that my card is not strictly a portrayal of fashion. This could have been merely the artist’s idea of what a fashionable young lady would have worn for croquet. Thoughts?

I love that she has her dainty foot on her ball, and is about to knock her unseen opponent’s ball into the bushes just beyond. A true sportswoman!

 

 

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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.

Update: I found a reference to pink and orange in Claire McCardell’s 1956 book, What Shall I Wear? “I have discovered the excitement of orange and pink… Granted that orange and pink may be too bold for a drawing room in midwinter. But what about wearing it to a resort? I am sure you will find that the two colors fade into harmony in the Mediterranean sun.””

 

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1950s Pat Perkins Fore Action Golf Dress

For longer than I care to think about I had been meaning to drive down the mountain to Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is one of those places that is making an effort to revitalize the downtown area, and at the same time smaller enclaves of retail and restaurant activity are springing to life.  One of these enclaves is the Village of West Greenville.  West Greenville was originally a a cotton mill village.

The nearby Brandon Mill employed over one thousand workers in the prosperous cotton mill days of the early twentieth century. The most famous person to ever work there was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who started his baseball career playing for the Brandon Mills team. For those of you who don’t know baseball history (or who don’t live with a Chicago White Sox fan) Jackson was involved in the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919.

Today West Greenville is home to Kate DiNatale Vintage. It was there that I found this great late 1950s golf dress.

I knew the brand name Pat Perkins, but I had no idea the company made golf dresses. I knew them as a maker of affordable day dresses.

Fans of classic television know the Pat Perkins name because it is boldly featured in the opening credits of The Honeymooners. According to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, Mac Kaplan, the owner of Sunnyvale Inc. the maker of Pat Perkins dresses, gave the show a few dozen dresses for Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden to wear on the show in exchange for a listing in the opening credits. Unfortunately, Alice always wore an apron that covered much of the dress, much to Kaplan’s chagrin.

One thing that makes a good golf dress is the presence of functional pockets. And I love these, with the top of the pocket forming a belt loop.

You can see how the breast pocket mirrors the styling of the lower ones. Because this dress is sleeveless, there is no need for adaptations in the sleeves. Do note the additional ease in the shoulders.

One place I always look for information on a brand or trademark is the Trademark Electronic Search System. It is a very handy tool, but it has to be used with caution. Even though the label has a little R for registered trademark beside “Fore Action”, I could not find it in the system. The only Pat Perkins trademark listed dates to 1962, and clearly states that the first use of the trademark is 1962. Some users might mistakenly take this to mean that the Pat Perkins label was not used before 1962, but we know that is not true. The registration is in fact referring to the brand name plus a slogan: “Pat Perkins, Reflecting America’s Most Treasured Daytime Dress.”

If you are ever in the Greenville area, a trip to Kate’s beautiful store is most recommended.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1920s Gingham Romper

About a year ago I went on a rant over how some vintage clothing sellers and buyers have changed the vocabulary of certain garments in order to made them seem more versatile. In particular I was irritated about the use of the word “romper” when the object in question was obviously a gym suit or a bathing suit. I even went so far as to say that women did not wear rompers, that the romper is a garment for a baby or a toddler.

I never like being wrong, but when I am it pleases me that my fellow fashion history lovers care enough to set me straight.  After posting the rant I got an email from Lynne (otherwise known as the best online researcher I know) that contained a 1920s sewing pattern for a woman that was clearly labeled a romper. She also sent along a photo of a very similar garment she has in her own collection.

Properly corrected, I then set off to find an example for my collection.  Last week I finally was able to add the one seen above. There is no doubt this is a garment for an adult, and it is also apparent that this is an outer garment, not lingerie.

Notice that there are snap closures on both shoulders and another on the front of the neck.  This made it easy for the wearer to put on the romper by stepping into it and pulling it up.

The tie belt sits on the top of the hips, giving a proper 1920s silhouette.

The inside legs and the crotch are shaped with the use of a wide gusset. There is elastic in the legs, but it is old, crunchy, and it no longer stretches. I’ll not replace it, but if this ever goes on display some new elastic can be inserted along side the old.

The shoulders have those handy little lingerie strap holders that prevented that embarrassing bra strap slip-up.

I’m quite sure this romper was made at home rather than purchased. The construction is very good, but there are a few places where alterations were made while the garment was being made. There is also quite a bit of hand-stitching.

I tried to locate the photos Lynne sent to me, but failed. I did find an example of a Butterick sewing pattern for a romper in a post at Witness2Fashion. It was included in a feature of costume party patterns. I located another, very similar one from McCall Patterns. 

So rompers definitely were a thing for women, at least in the 1920s and 1930s. Still, I don’t agree with calling a gym suit a romper, no matter how much the garment is similar. In fact, my romper here looks to be a direct descendant of my circa 1915 gym suit.

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Filed under 1920s fashion, Collecting, Curiosities, Gymnasium, Sportswear, Summer Sports

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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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing