Category Archives: Summer Sports

Swimming Tights by Annette Kellerman

Okay, I know that the garment above doesn’t look like a big deal, but appearances can really deceive.  In 1905 when other women around the world were wearing dress and bloomer bathing suits, Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman introduced Europe to the one-piece swimming suit for women.  At the time, even most men were still wearing two-piece bathing suits, consisting of knit trunks that came to the knee with a long tee shirt on top.

But in Australia, competitive swimmers, both male and female, had begun wearing one-piece knit suits for the sport.  When Kellerman went to England in 1905 for a swimming exhibition, she found a much stricter set of rules for women swimmers.  In order to perform, she took a pair of black stockings and sewed them to her suit to provide more coverage.  She was then allowed to perform.

This 1914 ad shows the famous suit

Two years later Kellerman gained notoriety when she appeared on a beach near Boston, and was promptly arrested for indecency.  At her hearing she argued that swimming was a healthful exercise, but that bulky bathing suits did not allow one to swim.  The judge agreed, provided she agreed to wear a robe when not in the water.

Note: On the Powerhouse Museum website, the notes for an Annette Kellermann suit in their collection state, “…the story that she got herself arrested at Boston’s Revere Beach for wearing a one-piece bathing suit is not supported by evidence.”  The story is often repeated, and Kellerman herself related the tale in a 1953 interview.  

By this time Kellerman was quite famous, and so the time was right to capitalize on her name.  The right deal came along in the form of Asbury Mills, who for about twenty years made Annette Kellermann swimsuits.  The early ones were very similar to what she had been wearing, but by the late 1910s, the products were more like the standard 1920s swimsuit for women.  In fact, one Australian site credits Kellerman with coming up with the one-piece suit with the attached overskirt.

My suit has a deeply scooped neck of the type Kellerman seemed to favor.  The photos of her in her very early suits show a small cap sleeve instead of my sleeveless version.

The description of the suit on the site where I found it read that the waist seam stitches were broken.  When I received the suit I realized that there was no waist seam originally and that a former owner had put the seam it to shorten it.  There was so little of the seam left that I made the decision to remove it.

Whenever I have a garment that has alterations or damage, I have to decide what, if anything, to do about it.  Many times I leave it as is, but in this case I wanted the swimsuit returned, as much as possible, to the original state.

I say as close as possible, because the seam did leave a crease and a faint faded area.

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has an extensive collection of Kellerman material, including many of the costumes she wore in movies and public performances.  Starting August 10, much of it will be on display at the museum.

You might have noticed that I used two different spellings of Annette’s name.  While she generally spelled Kellerman with one N, she did use two N’s on her label and in her books.

10 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Leo Narducci for Rose Marie Reid

I recently found this swimsuit from the late 1960s or early 1970s, and I bought it because of the interesting label and nice design.  It looks like a rather conservative suit from the front, but turn it around and…

you get a whole other feeling.

I wrote about Rose Marie Reid some time ago after having read a biography of her.  Rose Marie Reid sold her namesake company in 1962, but stayed on as the designer of the line.  She left the company a year later over a dispute over the bikini, which Reid thought was indecent.  The popular line continued, and around 1968 designer Leo Narducci was hired to design the line.

Narducci is not a very well-known name today, but he was well-respected as a designer in the 1960s and 70s.  Narducci graduated from the Rhode Island School of design in 1960, and went to work at LoomTogs, a sportswear company.  Over the next decade he designed for a number of firms, and in 1971 he started his own label, “specializing in soft clothes with casual outlines and elegant materials,”  according to Eleanor Lambert.  As far as I can tell, Narducci worked for Rose Marie Reid from 1968 through the early 1970s.

He also had a number of his designs made into sewing patterns by Vogue in the 1970s.  Do a search for them to see what Lambert meant by “soft clothes with casual outlines.”

This ILGWU label is more confirmation of the age of this swimsuit.  This label was changed in 1974 to include red, so it has to date before 1974.

The Rose Marie Reid company did go on to make bikinis, but the name is still associated with the covered-up but still sexy styles she created in the 1950s.  Leo Narducci is still alive, and here you can see an interview with him from two years ago.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Designers, Sportswear, Summer Sports

1920s Sacony Knit Sports Dress

One of the hard things about collecting antique and vintage sportswear is that so much of what was made did not survive.  These were clothes meant to be worn in rough conditions, and often times it really shows on the survivors.  Hiking clothes have impossible to remove stains.  Rubber swim caps and shoes have disintegrated over the years due to poor storage.  And wool swimsuits and other woolen articles are commonly full of holes.

Several months ago I was delighted to see the above dress on Instagram.  The poster was unsure as whether or not she’d be selling it, but eventually she did post it for sale.  There was a long line of interested buyers, but the relatively high price plus the presence of multiple moth holes discouraged most.  After a few emails back and forth, the seller and I came to an agreement as to price, and the dress became mine, holes and all.

As a collector, I’ve come to accept a few holes in older vintage woolens.  As long as they can be stabilized and do not detract terribly from the garment when it is displayed, I can deal with them, especially in a piece as rare as this one.  Because for every several hundred beaded 1920s frocks encountered, you might come across one sports dress.  And very few of those are knit.

The neck trim and the faux-ties were constructed separately and were then attached.  The very deep arm holes meant that a blouse had to be worn beneath.  I’ve paired it with a v-neck silk blouse I already had in my collection.

The dress was made by Sacony, which was a brand of S. Augstein & Co. The earliest reference I’ve found to S. Augstein was an entry in a 1918 Fairchild’s Womens Wear Directory, but I think the business was started earlier due to the fact that company namesake Siegmund Augstein died in 1913.  In 1920 Siegmund’s son-in-law, August Egerer, tried unsuccessfully to register the Sacony trademark, as it was judged to be too similar to another knit maker, Saxony.

In 1922 the business warranted a new factory and office building in Elmhurst, NY, where the entire operation including knitting and sewing were under one roof.  This is most likely where my dress was made.  The company continued as a maker of knit sportswear and swimsuits through the 1930s, but at some point, the products changed from being all knit, to being cut and sewn of woven fabrics.  Their niche was still sportswear.  I have several cotton pieces from Sacony made in the 1950s.

With details like this, I can forgive a few holes.  Okay, more than a few, but in the end it looks quite presentable.

Here’s a better view of the stitched-in pleats.  The skirt was wider than the bodice, and then was pleated to fit, forming the straight silhouette of the mid 1920s.

And here is the back neckline.

So when would the 1920s woman have worn this dress?  My guess is when she was playing golf.

19 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports

1960s Golf Blouse from Adelaar

Not only do I collect sports clothing, but I also love clothes that depict women participating in sports and outdoor activities.  The 1950s and into the 60s was a great time for novelty prints, and so a lot of what I’ve found is from that time frame.  My new blouse appears to be from the early 1960s.

The young women shown are wearing fashionable golf attire which includes some very sharp shirts.  That’s not surprising as this blouse was made by Adelaar, one of the great blouse companies of the mid twentieth century.

Adelaar was originally Adelaar Brothers, and was owned by Emil, Maurice, and Bernard Adelaar.  The company was founded in 1934 in Chicago, with Maurice being the original designer of the blouses.  The company eventually relocated to New York City where it was easier to find sewing factories to actually construct the garments.

A couple of years ago a poster at VFG told about his family’s relationship with Adelaar.

I have a lot of familiarity with Adelaar. My uncles were the jobbers that made most of the blouses that were sold in the US. One shop was in Brooklyn. The second was on Long Island. They started making them right after WWII. The height was in the 1950’s and 1960’s. At that time I would venture that my uncles employed about 150 people, mostly first generation and immigrant Italian-American women. They were producing thousands of dozens a month. The blouses were very high quality material–silks, cottons, some linens (although they really didn’t like working with linen). They had a lot of style and wore very well. In fact, my aunt (my uncles’ youngest sister) passed away last year. Cleaning out her closet we discovered a number of Adelaar blouses including some that never came out of the box. They looked and felt brand new.

When a new run of blouses came in my uncles would sit down with Manny Adelaar and “make prices”–negotiate the wholesale cost of putting the blouses together. They had a great relationship with the Adelaar’s. There were no contracts. Everything was done on a handshake and an invoice. Adelaar would then ship the material, the buttons and the thread. Then the cutters would use the patterns and make all the sizes. Eventually some of the blouses were coming pre-cut. Toward the late 1970’s there were several trends occurring: women weren’t wearing those style blouses as much (didn’t quite fit the Woodstock generation profile); Adelaar was moving more into man-made material; US production costs were rising; and overseas competition was able to shave significant costs. The cost differential was too much for Adelaar to ignore so they had to move production overseas. One of my uncles passed away in 1979. The other one closed the second shop in about 1986. During the mid-70’s on Saturdays my cousins and I would occasionally help out as sweepers, packers, etc.

He was correct in saying that Adelaar produced a high quality product.  While this blouse is a bit over-shadowed by the graphic design of the illustration, without the decoration it is still a very nice shirt.

Note the cloth-covered buttons.  And even though this blouse is about fifty-five years old, the colors of the print are still good, even though the ragged state of the label shows it has been washed many times.

The blouse, which I bought through a facebook group, is not perfect due to a former owner cutting the sleeves off.  I was able to find a photo online of another example of this blouse and it had three-quarters sleeves with cuffs that button, and so I know how the shirt looked originally.  I did not know it at the time I bought the shirt, but I’d have purchased it anyway as the price was good, and the main thing is the graphic design.

4 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Bradley Knits: Slip Into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors

I’ve been posting photos from these two 1920s catalogs on Instagram, and realized I’ve not even taken the time to write about them here.  Bradley Knitting Company is one of my all time favorite companies.  They had a very long and rich history, and there is still plenty of material left to make collection of it interesting.

Bradley Knitting Company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters, and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan as it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003 which is a real shame considering that today the repurposing of old mills is a thriving business.

My two new catalogs were a lucky ebay find.  One is a winter 1922 booklet, and the other is undated.  It is a bit later, and very likely dates from summer 1925.

The winter 1922 catalog features a lot of sweaters, but it also has accessories such as knit hats and scarves.  All the garments were modeled and photographed on living models, but it appears that they used some old-fashioned photoshopping for the finished pages.

Several years ago Richard York kindly sent to me some photos of his grandmother, Mabel Jennie Gross, who was a model for Bradley during the early to mid 1920s.  You can click through the link I provided to see these photos, which show Mabel in various poses.  It appears to me that the company making the catalogs colorized the photos of the models, and then arranged them in vignettes for each page.  A background was then painted in.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I love the fancy sweaters on the right, but of even more interest are the two at the bottom left.  These are jersey knit middies, a garment I’ve never seen.  The middy is usually made of  cotton duck or canvas.

The top photo looks like a group of young people on an outing in the snow, but my guess is that this is a composite picture with a fake background.

The later catalog is undated, but features mainly swimsuits.  The introduction has a hint: “For twenty odd years Bradley has been setting the style.”  The firm started in 1904, and the styles look to be right in the middle of the 1920s decade.

By this time, the knit bathing suit had pretty much taken over the swimsuit market.  The old fashioned swim dress with bloomers was simply not in step with the sleek 1920s look.

I have seen a lot of 1920s wool knit bathing suits.  Most have varying degrees of moth damage, and probably ninety percent of them are solid in color like the three at the top left.  Also fairly common are ones like the red model with the stripe at the bottom.

click to enlarge

But occasionally, a real masterpiece appears on the market.  Here are Bradley’s special models, all shown on Hollywood actors.  I have seen photos of the deck of cards suit shown on Anita Stewart at the top.  I wish it were mine.

These fancy suits cost between $8 and $9.50, as compared to the plain suits which started at $3.

click to enlarge

One of the big problems sellers of 1920s bathing suits seem to have is telling if a suit was made for a woman or for a man.  By carefully examining these photos you can see that the main difference is in the size of the armholes.  A woman’s suit will have smaller holes, while the tops of men’s suits were not as modest.  The skirt is still present on most men’s and women’s suits, but the plain trunk style is emerging.  Even a few styles for women, called the “tomboy” suit, were missing the skirt.

click to enlarge

It looks like the V-neck pullover had taken over as the style for sweaters by the middle of the decade.

I looked carefully at the faces of the models, hoping to spot Mabel, but I couldn’t make a positive identification.  I did spot one of the sweaters she was wearing, but in a different pose.  I suppose that the model could be Mabel.

8 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Winter Sports

1930s Chenille Bathing Suit Cover-up Cape

During a recent lucky streak, I ran across this fantastic cape, which is a bathing suit cover-up.  It is made from machine-made chenille, a fabric that started out as the product of a cottage industry in northern Georgia.  Based around the town of Dalton, Georgia, home workers began making hand tufted bedspreads to sell to travelers going south on the newly finished Dixie Highway.  A local textile mill, Crown Cotton, provided the base material, which is a heavy muslin-type fabric.  By 1910 the homeworkers were setting up stands along the highway to sell to the growing tourist travelers.

In 1917 a manufacturing process was set up. and some of the tufting was done by machine.  Hand tufting was still being done, but it was increasingly mechanized.  At first the product was just bedcovers, but by the 1920s some garments, such as bathrobes and beach wear, were also being made.

I can remember seeing the bedspread stands as a child traveling to visit relatives in the far western reaches of North Carolina and on the road to Atlanta.  Some of the designs were quite bizarre – wildly colored peacocks spring to mind.  And occasionally a stand can be spotted even today, but for the most part, the chenille factories converted to carpets years ago.

I can’t say a lot about the origin of the cape.  There is a small, handwritten label, that looks more like a collections number than anything else.  Could this cape have been in a collection before becoming a part of mine?  It is possible.

I do have two more chenille garments, one a bedjacket and the other a shorter cape.  None of them have  makers labels of any kind.

The neckline is gathered with a cotton robe tie.  There is an extra row of red chenille for decoration.

The back of the gathering.

I don’t have any photos showing a chenille cape, but I did find this jacket.  It is dated July 1939, Mountain Lake, New Jersey.

19 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Southern Textiles, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1970s Andreno Argenti Golf Themed Sweater

I had been meaning to pick up a Seventies sports themed novelty sweater for some time, but never quite found the right one at the right price.  But several weeks ago I ran across this one that had all the correct boxes ticked.  It was blue, golf-themed, and priced nicely.

This type of sweater is a bit of a puzzle to me, mainly because I do not remember them from my younger days.  Maybe it was because I was in high school and college during the years these seem to have been made, and our tastes were a little more hippie.  Or maybe it was because I was not a part of the golfing set.  For whatever reason  I don’t remember this trend at all, and these sweaters were not limited to golf themes.  What seem to be the two biggest producers, Andreno Argenti and Cyn Les, both manufactured in Taiwan and all the sweaters were made from acrylic.  The large majority of Argenti sweaters I found were golf themed, but Cyn Les did a wide variety of these, some of which had sayings embroidered on the sleeves.

I’ve looked at a lot of these lately in the sales pages of etsy and ebay.  Some sellers have them listed as 1950s, especially a cardigan version.  But I think that the Taiwan manufacture and the acrylic fiber points to the late Sixties and into the Seventies.  I don’t mind being contradicted if any reader has a better memory of these.  At any rate, mine is from the early Seventies, with that scooped neck and long, skinny line of the torso.

I can never seem to get the color right in my photos, but here are close-ups of the machine embroidery.  It was actually very nicely done.

 

 

15 Comments

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