Category Archives: Summer Sports

Circa 1900 Seaside Promenade Dress

My collecting is expanding slowly back in time, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to anything that dates before 1915. But in order to have a comprehensive collection showing how sportswear developed, one must make adjustments, as in the case of this dress. It was love at first sight, and so I added a dress for seaside promenades to my group of antique clothing.

I’ve looked at pictures of old dresses and at old fashion plates until my eyes crossed, and I still could not decide on a date. The sleeves are lighted gathered, the back of the skirt is gathered and has a bit of a tiny train effect, and there is a little peplum at the waist. It will not hurt my feelings at all if you want to help me pin down a date on this pretty dress.

Not quite sportswear, this dress nevertheless was meant for a casual walk along the boardwalk. The collar and fabric stripes fairly scream “nautical”.

Note: the hem looks dirty, but it is not. I’m guessing my stellar photography skills added the dirt.

The bodice has no permanent way to close it, so I’m guessing pins were used. Actually, a former owner had applied velcro, which I removed. I looked for signs of hooks and eyes from the past, but did not detect any old stitch marks. They could have been there, however.

The fabric is a fantastic cotton cord, which adds to the sporty look of the set.

The peplum effect is more pronounced in the back.

Maybe you can see here that the sleeves are gathered. They are also shaped with a bend in the elbow.

I think what really made me want this dress was that I was so crazy about a similar one in the collection at the Museum at FIT. I took this photo of their Uniformity exhibition in 2016. Maybe I need to do a reproduction tie and belt.

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1933 – 1935 Beach Ensemble

One of my biggest splurges of the past year was this four-piece beach or sailing ensemble. After years of building a collection, I’ve learned that it’s better to wait for really special things to come to the market instead of buying a lot of miscellaneous bargains. This set is a good example of what I’m saying. I spent more on it than I normally spend on acquisitions, but it was such a great addition to my collection that I just could not resist.

Here are the first two pieces – a playsuit/bathing suit, and a rope belt. The neck with those fabulous nautical flags ties with the same rope as the belt. The belt buckle is plastic, and it is a small miracle that the thing has survived eighty something years.

I was hoping the flags spelled out a secret message, but I could not find a corresponding message for each flag.

This is also the case for the buckle, or at least I could not find it in any of the charts. Maybe I’m asking too much of an already fabulous article.

The pants could be added for a more covered up look. You might have expected the pants to be more like traditional sailor pants with the front flap and two rows of buttons, but the designer was too creative for that.

Instead she gave us one row of buttons on the side front, with a diagonal line to the crotch. You can’t tell from my photo but the opening actually drapes and overlaps an interior piece, and there are straps (barely visible on waistband) that wrap and button. It’s such a great design.

The last piece is a little red jacket, which by itself would look rather plain. But with the flags draped over the neckline and the belt buckle directly below, no other decoration was needed.

Unfortunately, the bathing suit is not in perfect condition. It obviously got much more wear than the other pieces, and there is an area of damage right on the front. When I received this the holes looked much worse, but I did a temporary repair in which I stitched the visible fabric to the lining.  In an interesting twist, I would never have been able to afford this had it been in perfect condition. The trick is to balance fabulousness and rarity with condition. The fact that there were four coordinating pieces really adds to the scarcity. I often see bits and pieces of former sets that have lost their mates. It’s sad, actually.

Can you tell this is a knit? It’s a very finely knit rayon and looks quite similar to the good nylons used by better lingerie companies starting in the late 1940s. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between knit rayon and the later nylon, and I’ve seen 1930s knit rayon mislabeled by sellers as nylon.

Dating was made easy due to the single label present. This is the label used when products were made in accordance with the National Recovery Act, or NRA. The act was instituted in 1933, but was found to be unconstitutional in 1935, so there is only a three year window in which items with the NRA eagle symbol could have been made.

 

 

 

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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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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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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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