Category Archives: Textiles

Mid Twentieth Century Beach Towel by Galindo

This post asks more questions than it has answers. I recently bought this beach towel from the incomparable Neatokeen shop on etsy. I had seen this one years ago, and somehow neglected to buy it, but now it’s part of my collection.

I have been working hard, trying to discover the secret of galindo, the artist. Because the towel has never been used, it came complete with the original paper tag. That’s always a good thing, and it usually leads to more information being uncovered.

From the tag I had plenty to go on. The company was Barth & Dreyfuss, located in Los Angeles. The brand name was Royal Terry of California. The artist, galindo, was a “famous California artist”.

I started my research at the most logical place – Google. I found quite a bit on Barth & Dreyfuss. They were/are a maker or seller of home goods, mainly towels. The company has come and gone over the years, and it appears that there was recently a company by that name, operating mainly as importers.

Searching “galindo” was a bit trickier. I was able to locate some other designs by this artist, mainly on linens and paper goods. Finally, I searched “Royal Terry” and came up empty except for a wonderful youtube video that shows a knowledgeable collector showing off his 1957 Royal Terry beach towel catalog. I have a message in to him and hopefully I will hear back.

After Google I turned to the two newspaper databases I have access to – Newspapers,com and Newspaperarchive.com. I had a bit more luck. The company was owned by Marshall Barth and Stanley Dreyfuss. They were in business in Los Angeles at least as early as 1953, and probably earlier. Searching for galindo was impossible as there are numerous Galindo Streets throughout Southern California. And it seems to be a somewhat common name in some communities.

If anyone knows who galindo was, I’d be most grateful for that information. Any clues at all would be appreciated. In the meantime, enjoy these hat close-ups.

This one is a version of the famous sunglasses hat. I’ve seen these advertised from the late 1950s through the mid 1960s.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Made in the USA, Novelty Prints, Summer Sports, Textiles

South Union Shaker Village, Kentucky

As part of the recent Costume Society of America Southeast Region Symposium, we were treated to a visit to the South Union Shaker Village. The Shakers are not to be confused with the Quakers, nor with the Amish, which we were told was a common misconception. I’m not going to go into a long explanation of who the Shakers were, but simply put, they were a Christian group that believed in celibacy and communal living. Like the Quakers, their religious practice involved physical movements. Unlike the Quakers, they lived in communal housing and were not married. They are confused with the Amish due to an emphasis on handcrafted items and “old-fashioned” clothing. In the case of the Amish, they are associated with a way of life that does not include modern technology.

The Shakers embraced technology. Their craftsmanship came about through need of furnishings. Once they could buy things more cheaply, they made fewer of their belongings. As for the clothing, the Shakers adhered to a dress code of sorts, but they were aware of changing fashions and made modifications to their dress. They look old-fashioned to us because by the turn of the twentieth century, the Shakers were dying out. Most of our images of them show them in their nineteenth century clothing.

This large building is the Center House where the Shakers all lived, women on one side and men on the other. There was a kitchen, dining room, infirmary, and laundry in this building as well. Construction began in 1822, and this was always the main building in the village. Unfortunately when the village closed in the early 1920s, the land and buildings were sold and many were torn down.

There were several huge auctions of the contents of the buildings, and so the Shakers’ things were dispersed throughout the region. When interest in restoring the remaining buildings happened in the 1960s, the non-profit in charge began collecting back things that were made or used in the Shaker Village. This task was helped by the organizational habits of the Shakers. They believed that everything had a proper place, and things were labeled to show where things belonged.

A great example was in their textiles. Over the early years of the village the Shaker women produced wool, cotton, linen, and even silk textiles. Each was identified as to where it was used and stored.

We were quite privileged to see these textiles as they are not normally on display. The director got them out of storage just for our group.

Of particular interest were the silk kerchiefs. The Shakers began working with silk worms starting in the 1820s, and the project was mildly successful at South Union. In 1832 they had produced enough silk fabric to make each female member a silk kerchief, and each male member a silk tie.

As you can see, the Shakers were not opposed to using color in their clothing. They used both natural, and when they became available, aniline dyes.

After manufactured textiles became available, the Shakers started buying them instead of continuing with the labor-intensive process of making their own. Some of the equipment they used has been located and is on display in the Center House.

In the early years of South Union, the rooms and furnishings must have looked similar to this room. Most of the furnishings seem to be made by the Shakers.

As time went on and the Shakers were able to purchase goods, their rooms looked more like fashionable Victorian bedrooms. In the process of buying back the items that were used at South Union, items that were not made by the Shakers were also acquired. The re-acquisition started about only forty years after the village broke up, so they were able to buy back many items from the people who had bought them from the auctions in the early 1920s.

When not in use, chairs were hung on pegs to get them out of the way.

Before visiting South Union, I reread the wonderful Shaker Textile Arts by Beverly Gordon. It really helped me understand what I was seeing during the visit. There are Shaker villages scattered throughout the Northeast and eastern Midwest. Another one in Kentucky is Pleasant Hill. It even allows for overnight stays. I highly recommend it.

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Filed under Museums, Textiles, Travel, Uncategorized

Whitework at the Kentucky Museum

Another exhibition I saw on my recent visit to the Kentucky Museum in Bowling Green was a presentation of the museum’s collection of 19th century whitework. I learned that whitework encompasses quite a few techniques – weaving, quilting, tufting, and embroidery. The common factor is that the work is white on white.

Many of the pieces have been recently conserved by Margaret Ordonez, who taught conservation for many years at the University of Rhode Island. She has retired, and is back in her native Tennessee where she has set up her own textile conservation service. Margaret presented her work at the Costume Society Symposium, giving us a good look at the work involved in conserving the pieces.

The building housing the Kentucky Museum was built in the 1940s, and this room was once an old-school type display area with shelves to hold artifacts. Some time ago it was renovated to make a gallery specifically for the display of textiles. Today it has areas that are enclosed in glass, slanted boards to more safely exhibit textiles, and raised platforms. I especially loved that many of the quilts and coverlets on display were shown as they were meant to be seen, dressing beds.

To visitors passing through an exhibition like this one, it must seem that people of the past sure did take great care of their stuff. What’s not seen are the many hours of cleaning and stabilization it takes in order to be able to display a two hundred year old textile. Part of this exhibition actually addressed the process of conservation, and there were several unconserved bed coverings on display.

This embroidered counterpane was made by Sallie Darrough and is in the collection of the Kentucky Historical Society. As you can see, it had not been cleaned. This is closer to the condition textiles of this age are most likely to be found.

So how does one clean a fragile old textile? Because these are cotton and cotton/linen blends, wet cleaning is appropriate. That does not mean Margaret threw them into the washing machine. Conservators use large tables with an edge (like a very shallow tub) for wet cleaning. The textile is spread out on the table and water and cleaning agents are introduced. This is a job for a chemist, as it’s important to use things that will not do any further damage.

Not every conserved textile ends up looking brand new. Stains can be stubborn, and lightening and neutralizing it is sometimes the best that can be done. There are also rips and holes to deal with. Often the best solution is to back the textile with a similar fabric and use stitches to stabilize the rip.
This is a closeup of a whole cloth quilt made circa 1805 by Rebecca Smith Washington. She used a technique that mimicked British woven quilts. This quilt looks to be made of cotton, but Margaret’s microscopic analysis shows this to be a cotton/linen blend.
Some of the bed coverings were simply one layer of fabric that were embroidered.

Others were tufted, similar to the 20th century colonial revival bedspreads made in north Georgia.
This coverlet is woven, and it’s the only piece in the exhibition known to have been made by enslaved workers. According to family history, this was woven by enslaved workers for the wedding of Mary Strange in 1823.
It was fun to see a few items of white clothing in the display cases. According to the family story, these linen trousers were worn by Abraham Miller in 1800 for his wedding.

Often, artifacts are donated to museums along with long-told family stories. This early 19th century Empire style dress was said to have been worn by Catharine Whitesides on her wedding day. But Margaret was not born until 1824, and by the time she married the dress would have been twenty-five or so years out of fashion. Perhaps it was worn by her mother.

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Filed under Museums, Textiles

Research and Truth

I am not a quilter (though I have finished two already pieced tops) but I love reading quilt history and research articles. This book, Quiltmaking in America, Beyond the Myths is currently on my reading list. It’s a collection of papers written between 1980 and 1989, and originally published in Uncoverings, the journal of the American Quilt Study Group.

This book was published in 1994, five years before the publication of Jaqueline Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard’s  Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. This book started one of the all-time great quilt myths, that of the Underground Railroad code quilt. According to the authors quilts with special symbols were hung outside the safe houses that took in people fleeing from slavery. It’s a nice story, but under close scrutiny, the myth is revealed. Many of the symbols were based on quilt blocks that had not yet been developed in pre Civil War days.

The narratives and portrayals that emerged were more compelling than the myths they sometimes replaced.

We all love a good fantasy every once and a while, but when it comes to the study of the past, the myths just get in the way.

Last week I was at the Goodwill bins and uncovered a book on fashion history. Or rather, it is a collection of short biographies of innovative designers, starting with Hermes and ending with Gareth Pugh. I thought this would be a good introductory book for someone who wanted to know more about fashion history, so I bought it though I generally don’t buy books that rehash the same old designers.

I picked the book up this morning and started reading, and almost immediately I was confronted with some of fashion history’s enduring myths.

The Gucci saddle shop myth was debunked by careful research by  Sara Gay Forden for her 2000 book House of Gucci. She proved that the story was simply not true, that Gucci never was a saddler.  . It seems as if the story was fabricated in the 1970s as a way to establish some horsy roots for Gucci.

The article on Paul Poiret hints at the corset myth – that he was the first to free women from corsets. But even more disturbing was a passage about the Ballets Russe. Poiret never designed for the Ballets Russe.

What happens when I encounter a mess like this is that I get increasingly mad. How can fashion as a field of study be taken seriously when a fashion writer and historian does not fact-check, and ends up with a book riddled with errors.

The final straw was in the Mainbocher article. Not only is the date wrong, but also the branch of the service for which he designed uniforms. That was it. I was done.

I don’t pretend to know everything about every designer, but I do read a lot, and I visit every fashion exhibition I can. I’m just a hobbyist when it comes to history, and yet I spotted five errors in the first fifty pages. So frustrating. And what a shame. It’s now off to the recycling bin.

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Filed under Fashion Issues, Textiles, Viewpoint

1970s Charlie Chaplin Beach Towel

In the past I have written about the early 1970s nostalgia craze. Retailers were quick to catch on, and so it was easier to buy a shirt decorated with the face of Little Orphan Annie than it was to find one featuring current rock stars. One favorite was Charlie Chaplin.

I’ve dated this towel to circa 1973. In that year one could also buy a sweater with Chaplin’s face, and if you had acted very quickly before the product was pulled from the market due to copyright issues, you could buy a Whiting & Davis mesh handbag. 1973 seems to be the year that Chaplin made a comeback. It was the year after he had been awarded an honorary Oscar for his ground-breaking work in film, so he must have been on people’s minds.

It almost seems like there are two types of vintage beach towels. There are the very thin, brightly colored towels with printed beach scenes. I’m betting most of these were actually sold in gift stores and beach shops at the coast (Anyone else remember the fabulous Gay Dolphin store in Myrtle Beach? It’s still open!) I have several of these, dating from the 1950s through the 70s.

The other type is like my Charlie Chaplin towel. It’s thick and full, and the design is woven in rather than printed onto the terrycloth.

Royal Terry International was one of the trademarks of Barth & Dreyfuss of California. The company was an importer, mainly of household and novelty towels. Being made in Brazil, this was one of the first wave of imports that led to the eventual collapse of towel manufacturing in the USA.

That RN number on the label proved to be the key to the company that produced the towel. There is an online database where you can type in the number, and it tells you who owned the label. It’s a handy little tool.

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Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Textiles

Currently Listening to: Haptic and Hue

A report came out several weeks ago about how the pandemic saved podcasting. It seems as if podcast growth had slowed until people with more time to listen and more people with time to record, discovered the medium.

I love the idea of the podcast, but the sad truth is that so many of the ones I’ve tried to listen to just don’t work (at least for me) for various reasons. Some times the production quality is so poor that it’s impossible to hear. One podcast I’ve followed for years has shifted focus from fashion history to modern fashion issues. And another is hard to follow because the hosts spend so much time laughing and I feel like I’ve been left out of the joke.

Maybe that’s why I’m so happy to have discovered Haptic and Hue. The podcaster is Jo Andrews, who is also a handweaver. But the topics go far beyond weaving. Jo covers textiles of all types. And I’m really impressed with the professional nature of the podcast. Jo manages to be conversational without being silly, serious without being stuffy.

You can listen on any podcasting app, or if that’s not your thing, all the episodes are on Jo’s website. There are photos that illustrate each episode, and best of all, a written transcript. That’s great because some of Jo’s guests are French and their English is sometimes hard to follow.

While Haptic and Hue has a very polished, professional feel, I don’t think that’s entirely necessary in order for a podcast to be effective. The best example is Bande à Part, which is a weekly telephone conversation between friends Rebecca Arnold and Beatrice Behlen. Rebecca teaches fashion at The Courtauld, and Beatrice is fashion curator at the Museum of London. Their conversations run the whole range of fashion and arts topics. They are always fun.

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Linda Morand and Key West Hand Print Fabrics

You may not know the name Linda Morand, but if you are a child of the 1960s like me, you certainly have seen her face.  Starting in 1965 she was a model in New York, appearing in all the top magazines of the period. But what is interesting to me about Linda is how she got her start. I recently received an email from her in which she told her story.

 I worked at Key West Hand Print Fabrics from the summer of 1964 till the beginning of 1965.  Jim Russell discovered me at 18 when I had run away to Key West to become a painter.  I was waiting tables at a Cuban restaurant near the old Key West building (I think they called it Harbor House before)   He hired me on the spot.  I sold the fabric and he gave me several dresses to wear.  Jim and Peter encouraged me to appear as the lead in Under the Yum Yum Tree.  I wish I had the playbill.  They took pictures of me in Lilly’s fabrics and ran an ad in The New Yorker.  It was my first modeling job!  I left Key West with the encouragement of the wonderful artist community and went on to have a successful modeling career as a Ford model.  All thanks to Jim Russell and Peter Pell.

If you are a regular reader, then you read my interview with Jacq where he told the story of Key West Hand Prints.  This information from Linda gives us a bit more of the under-told story of Key West Hand Prints. Thanks so much, Linda!

UPDATE: Here’s even more from Linda.

 I thought it might interest your readers what happened to me when I went to New York with the pictures.  In the pictures I already sent you, Jim Russell took the color one in front of the screen in the shop. Peter Pell arranged the bolts of Hand Print Fabrics for me to lunge through, and Jim took the picture.  No hair and make-up…just Key West casual.  I met Suzie de Poo and Lilly Pulitzer.  I was so young, but I was trying to look like Veruschka.  Here are some of the first pictures taken when I went to New York.  I signed with the Ford agency. They put me in the teen-age category. 

I only worked in New York for a year.  The resemblance to Jackie [Kennedy] was awkward for me, even though the clients were clamoring for the Look, so I fled to Paris and lived in Europe for several years.  I am glad I did.  
1966, Linda in a Betsey Johnson dress in Mademoiselle magazine.

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Filed under First Person Stories, Rest of the Story, Textiles