Category Archives: Travel

The Brown Building, Location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

New York is so full of large, overwhelming buildings that it is easy to pass right by one without realizing its historic significance.  Such is the case with the Brown Building, which is part of the New York University campus and is located near the eastern edge of Greenwich Village.  Had I been there 104 years ago today, I would have been at the site of a tragedy, that of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

It’s hard to imagine the scene where 146 died needlessly because there were few laws to ensure the safety of workers, and those that were in place were often ignored.  But all that changed as the fire raised awareness of the poor working conditions in the city’s many factories and sweatshops.  A public that had formerly been apathetic toward poor workers, and in many cases even antagonistic toward them, now clearly saw that changes had to be made.

It probably helped that the factory was located only a block from the affluent Washington Square neighborhood.  Many people were out and about on that Saturday afternoon and witnessed the tragedy firsthand.

I’m not going to retell the story of what happened that day, but I strongly recommend watching the American Experience  episode that not only tells the story, but also explains the significance of the aftermath.

I think it is interesting that the Brown Building is still in existence.  The fire gutted much of the factory which was located on the top three floors, but much of the structure was left unharmed.  At any rate, I can imagine that if this happened today the building would be razed.

5 Comments

Filed under Fashion Issues, Textiles, Travel

Ad Campaign: Matson to Hawaii, 1951

Forgive me for a moment so I can indulge in a little wintertime fantasy.  It’s a cold, rainy, gloomy day, but on the seas to Hawaii all is sunny and bright.

It took the cruise lines a few years to get back up to speed after WWII, as most of the ships had been used in the war effort.  Matson was operating four luxury liners in the Pacific before December 7, 1941, and all were converted into troop carriers.  Together, the four Matson liners carried a total of 736,000 troops and covered one and a half million miles before the war ended in 1945.

The transition back to cruise service was difficult and costly for Matson.  They ended up selling two of their liners so that the S.S. Lurline could be remodeled and relaunched in 1948.  By the late 1950s Matson had four liners making the route between California and Hawaii.  Today Matson is still in business as a container ship operator on the Pacific.  I’m sure it is more profitable than running cruise ships, but it could not be as romantic.

6 Comments

Filed under Advertisements, Travel, Vintage Travel, World War II

Paris – Post WWII

Only three years after the war was over, European countries were ready and open for the tourist business.  This great print was the cover of Holiday magazine in May 1948. The article talks about how people were getting over the sorrow of German occupation, and were getting on with life.

It also mentions the fashion business, and how the haute couture was struggling with various problems – the continuing fabric shortages, the high wages and taxes that must be paid, and the lack of foreign customers.   Many houses were pretty much surviving on the profits from perfumes.   And the article mentions a “baldish, stubby newcomer named Christian Dior” who was helping to bring the fashionable back to Paris with the introduction of his “New Look.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel, World War II

Ad Campaign – French Line, 1954

You’re in France the minute you step aboard.

The gaiety and excitement of Paris begin the instant you cross a French Line gangplank.  Every wave of the way to England or the Continent is filled with fun you’ll never forget.  The superlative food, fine wines, sports, entertainment or deck-dozing relaxation and quick, intuitive service make your crossing a delightful experience!

 

3 Comments

Filed under Advertisements, Travel

Liberty of London

As promised, today’s post is a short history of Liberty of London, with a special emphasis on their fabrics and fashion lines.  Liberty of London made their reputation first by importing the finest Oriental fabrics, and later by producing fabrics of their own design. Today, over 135 years after the company was formed, they are still considered leaders in the field.

Arthur Lasenby Liberty was born in 1843 in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England, the son of a draper. When Liberty was sixteen, he worked first for an uncle who owned a lace warehouse, and he then went to London to work in another uncle’s wine business. In 1859 he was appprenticed to a draper, but the apprenticeship was ended after two years with both parties in agreement. He then found a position at Farmer & Rogers’ Great Shawl and Cloak Emporium, a position that was to set him on the course of his life’s work.

In 1862, Farmer & Rogers opened an Oriental importation business – one of the first such businesses – and Liberty was put to work in this Oriental Warehouse. Here he gained an appreciation for and knowledge of Oriental ceramics, textiles and other arts. After being the manager of the Oriental Warehouse for over ten years, Liberty decided to open his own business selling Oriental imports. This shop, called the East India House, was opened by Arthur Liberty in 1875. The original store was on Regent Street, and they sold mainly objects from the East – rugs, fabrics and decorative objects. The East India House was likened to an Eastern Bazaar, and it came to be a meeting place for artists, and in time became an important part of the Aesthetic Movement.

Within a few years, Liberty’s Oriental fabrics were so popular that the store, now called Liberty, had a difficult time meeting the demand they had created. At the same time, the quality of goods being imported was starting to drop. Liberty began to import undyed silk, cashmere and cotton fabrics, which were then handprinted in England, in the style of Oriental fabrics. During this time the company developed a soft palatte of colors, which became known as “Liberty colors.”

In 1884, Liberty established a costume department, in which clothing was designed and made from Liberty fabrics and which was in tune with the artistic philosophy of the rest of the store. Liberty maintained their own costume workrooms in which clothing was produced. The goal was not to make clothing that followed fashion; it was to make clothing based on historical costume, reinterpreted for the modern wearer. These were not clothes for the average tightly corseted woman of 1884, but instead were more in keeping with the taste of the Aesthetic Movement.

In 1890, a branch of Liberty was opened in Paris, France, (closed in 1932) and another in Birmingham. By this time twelve cities in Britain had shops that offered Liberty products, and there were agents around the world who were associated with Liberty, including ones in New York, Boston and Chicago.

Liberty was one of the first to embrace the new Art Nouveau style in the mid 1890s. They became known for their textiles in this style, some of which are still produced today.

As the Aesthetic Movement began to lose favor, and the Belle Epoque was ushered in, Liberty saw the need to make fashions that were more stylish, but at the same time they continued to make classically draping aesthetic dresses. The catalogues became divided into two sections – Novelties for the New Season, which showed the latest fashions, and Costumes Never out of Fashion, which continued to feature the Empire silk gowns in classical style. This division of the catalogue continued at least until the mid 1920s.

In 1925, a new store was opened in Great Marlborough Street. This store was in the Tudor Revival style, and it still houses Liberty. Also in the 1920s, Liberty began to produce small floral prints that became known as Liberty Prints. The best known of the fabrics of this time was the Tana Lawn, which is still a Liberty best-seller. Tana Lawn was so named because the cotton from which it was made originated in the area near Tana Lake in the Sudan.  All the fabric swatches shown here are from my collection of Tana Lawn scraps.

By the late 1920s, Liberty was considered to be quite old-fashioned, fashion-wise. In 1926, it was noted that not even the colors of the fabric prints had changed since 1920, and they were still using the out-moded term, “Costume Department” in reference to their clothing selection. In 1932, in an effort to maintain a connection with Paris, and to up-grade the image of their fashion department, Liberty hired Paul Poiret to design for them, not realizing that he too was completely out of step with the march of fashion. He designed four collections for Liberty in 1932 and 1933.

Over the years, many of the world’s best designers have used Liberty fabrics. Jean Muir (who worked at Liberty for a time), Cacharel and Mary Quant are just a few. Many of these designs, especially those of the late 1960s and early 1970s reflected well on the Liberty legacy of romantic designs. Today Liberty is still known for the fabrics and scarves that made them famous.

To learn more about Liberty:

Adburgham, Alison
Liberty’s: A biography of a Shop. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1975.

Arwas,Victor
The Liberty Style. London: Academy  Editions, 1979.

13 Comments

Filed under Travel

Ramblers – Germany

These photos dates from the 1930s through 1950. All are from Germany.  All I really have to say is that I cannot wait until rambling weather returns!

2 Comments

Filed under Camping and Hiking, Travel, Vintage Photographs

A Boatload of Christmas Cheer






I found this card several years ago in a vintage clothing store and thought it was the best.  It dates from the late 1930s, a time when a shipboard wardrobe was to be carefully planned.  No tank tops and shorts for this crowd, unless they were actually at the pool.

 

Even as late as the 1960s there were plenty of rules for how to dress/how not to dress for certain occasions.  I’ve got the great bookElegance, by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux (who was the directrice of Nina Ricci),  in which she gives advice on how to be properly dressed for all occasions.  Here’s what she had to say about ocean voyages:

“If you are lucky enough to embark on a long sea voyage, there exists an established set of rules, which it is wise to respect:  Arrive on board in a rather casual ensemble with a tailored hat; never dress for dinner the first and last nights at sea, but deck yourself out in your best evening clothes on the other nights; relax in sports clothes in the morning; appear for lunch in a slightly less informal outfit.  All of which necessitates a mountain of luggage, to the great joy of the few remaining women of unlimited wealth and leisure, who would rather travel by boat than any other way and thus enjoy one of the last orgies of luxury that have survived in our age of interplanetary rockets.”

a rather casual ensemble with a tailored hat

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Proper Clothing, Travel, Vintage Photographs, Vintage Travel