Category Archives: 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.

18 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

1920s Bathing Suit from Eff-N-Dee

I have a lot to say about this superb 1920s bathing suit, but I’ll try to keep my enthusiasm for it under control somewhat.  I’ll start by saying a few things about collecting.

Most guides to collecting anything give the same advice to beginning collectors: Buy the very best that you can afford.  After thirty-five years of collecting this or that, I can attest to the value of the statement.  With a few years of experience of looking at objects, it is always the cream that is most appealing.  The reason many collectors become sellers is to sell off the lesser quality items in their collections in order to afford the best examples.

From the moment I first saw the photos of this 1920s bathing suit on the Instagram of SmallEarthVintage, I knew this was an object I had to add to my collection.  Even though I already had two knit bathing suits from the early to mid 1920s, this one was just so much better with those great Art Deco designs that I began looking through my collection to see what I could sell in order to buy this one from Karen.  In the end, I did not have to sell a kidney, nor even a lesser piece that I already owned, as she was running a sale that put the piece within my budget.

The Art Deco designs are not knit into the fabric, but are embroidered over the black wool knit.  There is quite a bit of sheen to the embroidery which leads me to think that it is silk.  It makes me wonder how this would have stood up to repeated dunkings in water, but because of the excellent condition of the wool, I suspect this suit spent much more time on a beach blanket than in the ocean.  These are often found completely stretched out of the original shape due to heavy wearing.

I got help in pinning down a date for this piece from a great booklet by historian Claudia Kidwell, Women’s Bathing and Swimming Costume in the United States.  The booklet was published in 1968 by the Smithsonian, for which Kidwell worked.  Remarkably, the entire text of this excellent source is available online, or it can be downloaded free of charge from Amazon.

One thing that Kidwell points out is that until the necklines began to scoop deeply, even knit suits had to have a button at one shoulder in order to put it on.  Many places had a rule that the scoop of the neck could not be lower than a line drawn across the chest from armpit to armpit.  As the Twenties progressed, many of these rules were either abolished, or more likely, simply ignored.  By the late 1920s a button was no longer required at the shoulder as the neck opening was large enough to fit over the wearer’s body. My suit does have a rather high neckline, and thus, the needed button.

Another hint as to the age is the presence of an overskirt, with the trunks peeking out about two inches beneath it.  This skirt was all that was left of the old bathing dress of the previous decades.  And by the end of the 1920s, it would be gone as well.

By looking at hundreds of photos of swimmers in their suits and after seeing hundreds of existing suits for sale , I can safely say that the majority of knit swimming and bathing suits from the late 1910s and the 1920s were either a plain black, or black with a colored stripe.  It is the geometric design of this suit that separates it from the multitude of plain black suits.  Although the Art Deco movement received its name in 1925 after the L’Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes fair held in Paris, the designs were already in use and gaining favor by the early 1920s.  The original owner of this suit must have been a very modern woman.

So, what is the date of this suit?  There’s no way to know with 100 percent certainty without finding an ad or a catalog, but my best guess is between 1923 and 1925. After that time both the skirt and the trunks got shorter, the scoop neck got lower, and the button would have disappeared.

Another interesting thing about this suit is that it does have a label.  It is hard to read, but it is “Eff-N-Dee”.  I’d never heard of this brand, but Karen had discovered that it was the label of a knitwear company in Cleveland, Ohio, the Friedman-Devay Knitting Company.  Having the name of the firm is a good starting place for finding information, but this one has been a bit elusive.  I do know that the owners were S.A. Devay and W.A. Freidman and that the company produced knits for the entire family.  The first reference I found to the company was dated 1915.

One of the most interesting things I found was a listing of knit goods manufacturers in the city of Cleveland in 1916.  I was surprised to see that there were twenty-six makers of knits in Cleveland.  Someone who lives in that area needs to do a study.

Thanks to Karen at Small Earth Vintage for the use of her photographs.

9 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Viewpoint, Vintage Clothing

From My Collection: Beach Pyjamas

After writing about beach pyjamas (or pajamas) yesterday, I thought I should show the examples I have in my collection.  The pair above is from the mid to late 1920s, as you can see from the narrow legs.  These are made from a very light and sheer woven wool, and I can’t help but wonder if there was originally a matching top or jacket.  I love how the deep waist yoke is a nod to the dropped waists of the era.

The fabric is really quite wonderful.  Believe it or not, these came from the Goodwill clearance bins several years ago.  I really could not believe my luck, as these are very hard to come by.

These crazy quilt pyjamas from the early 1930s were also a lucky Goodwill find.  At first the design looks to be completely random, but look closely and you’ll see that the maker of this garment carefully engineered the bodice, with the stripe effect mirrored in the hems of the legs.

All of the pieces are silk fabrics.  I doubt that this was ever worn, as the condition of the piece is so good, and there is no sign of neither shrinkage nor dye failure.

This last pyjama is also from the 1930s and was an ebay purchase of about ten years ago.  These have become so popular that I’d probably not be able to buy it today as the prices are much higher than what I paid.  It’s is really great, with the red and blue stripes being applied to the heavy muslin pyjama.  It was a much more practical garment for the beach than the rayon patchwork one was.

Yesterday the question came up about when to use pajama, and when to use pyjama.  Susan pointed out that the US spelling is pajama.  I used both versions of the word in yesterday’s post, mirroring the usage in the primary sources I was using.  Today, we use pajama for our sleeping garments, but pyjama is pretty much standard usage when referring to 1930s beach pyjamas.

Correction:  I originally wrote that the patchwork piece is made from rayon, but I double-checked, and the pieces are actually silk.

7 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Au Bon Marché Sports Clothes Catalog – Early 1930s

 

Most of my collecting involves USA made fashion and industry, but sometimes one just has to look at other influences to see the entire picture.  If you are looking at the 1960s fashion scene, you can’t ignore what was happening in London.  And even though sportswear is very often best exemplified as American, you can’t ignore the influence of Jean Patou and Coco Chanel in France in the 1920s and 30s.

Au Bon Marché dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century and was the first grand Parisian department store.  It is still open as Le Bon Marché.

My catalog does not have a date anywhere, but it is from 1931 or 1932. It is full of the delightful things that make one want to pack up the automobile and head for the closest sandy beach.

The front cover folds out and the wares are displayed in a panorama with that sandy shore in the background.  All the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The men and boys are still modestly attired in their tank suits (swimming briefs were soon to make their appearance, though).  What is really interesting is item number 14. This is the earliest example I’ve ever seen of a woman’s two piece suit that bares the midriff.

As expected, all the bathing suits are made from wool knit.  What I found to be interesting is that three of the women’s pyjamas  -17,25, and 29 – were also made from wool jersey knit.  Only number 21 was made from the cotton duck cloth one would expect to find here in the States.  The robes or peignoir du bains, were all made from terrycloth.

 

Number 24 seems to be as risque as the two piece.  I’ve love to see how much of the front is exposed.

And how about the rubber swim cap the little girl in number 28 is wearing?  Scottie dogs on a swim cap!  Actually, all the caps are pretty incredible.

 

The man in his blouse et pantalon pour la peche ou le bateau could only be a Frenchman, no?

 

Be sure to notice how one could change the angle of the large umbrella in the center by moving the pole to a different hole.

 

I’ve wanted a portable gramophone ever since I first saw Sabrina and Humphrey Bogart pulled his old one out of the closet to take on his boating date with Audrey Hepburn. And while I’m fantasy shopping,  I’ll also take that picnic basket.

8 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Schiaparelli for Catalina Swimsuit, 1949, Part II

Click to enlarge

 

In reading about the Schiaparelli for Catalina swim suit I recently bought I discovered that, according to an advertisement, that this suit was the “Official Swim Suit of the Atlantic City Miss America Pageant.” That sent me on an internet search to see if I could actually find photos of the contestants wearing this particular suit.  When I came up  empty I just assumed that it was Catalina suits in general that were the official suit of the pageant.

To my surprise and delight, I got the above photo in my inbox last night.  Julie of Jet Set Sewing saw my Schiaparelli suit and thought it looked familiar.  Then she realized that a photo of the 1948 contestants wearing the suit was hanging in her home.  Julie’s husband found the photo in a shop in Paris.

As you can see, it is the Schiaparelli swim suit, but with the addition of the Catalina flying fish logo.  And even though this was the 1948 Miss America contest, the suit was not made commercially until the next year.  Thus, all my searches for “Miss America Catalina 1949” brought up a different set of swim suits.

Even though the power of Google is great and it so often leads us to the correct information, it makes me happy that it was a friend who provided the breakthrough on this one.  Thanks, Julie!

Click to enlarge

 

8 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Rest of the Story, Sportswear, Summer Sports