Those who have followed this blog for a while know that my interest is mainly American women’s sportswear. But that does not mean that I can’t look to other countries to see how women were adapting dress as sports for women became more popular. When I spotted this Manby catalog from 1892, I had to add it to my collection of print resources.
My high school French is more than a little rusty, but even I could figure out that this catalog was for tailored women’s garments for sports. The title page tells us that here are clothes for travel, campaign, promenade, sea bathing, riding, yachting, and hunting. Yes, I can relate to all that.
Manby was located at 21 Rue Auber, and they advertised as a Maison Anglaise, specializing in tailored clothes for English clients. Later advertisements added Americans to the targeted clientele.
The catalog does not give a lot of information about each model offered for sale. I’m guessing that they knew the models their customers were after.
For the most part, the styles don’t look particularly French to me. In a way it seems like going to Paris only to eat at McDonalds.
But it does give a great look at what English, and probably American, women were looking for in the way of sports clothing in the 1890s.
The clothes look to me as they could have been made in the United States until I got to the illustration on the back cover.
I’ve looked at a lot of images of American women in sportswear, and never have I seen anything that compares to the pants and short “skirt” worn in this illustration. I do have another French print, dated to the 1870s that shows a similar short dress over pants, but it is a caricature.
Because traveling is so tricky at present, I have talked myself into visiting – or revisiting – historic sites that don’t require an overnight stay in a hotel. There are quite a few places within a couple of hour’s drive, and I decided to start with a North Carolina Historic Site, that of the homestead of the family of Zebulon Vance.
For those of you not in North Carolina, Zeb Vance was a big deal. He was a military leader in a Confederate regiment until he was elected governor of North Carolina in 1862. After the war he was able to make his way back into politics, and ended up in the state legislature, served another stint as governor, and then was elected to the US Senate.
Of course, the story is not quite so simple as what we learned in school in the 1960s. By that time there was a big stone obelisk memorializing Vance in the center square of Asheville and the state had recently bought his birthplace which was north of Asheville to turn it into a state historic site. The memorialization of Vance began in the time of the Lost Cause, and was still going strong as the era of Jim Crow was drawing to a close in the 1960s.
To look at the Vance Birthplace, which is a somewhat recreated pioneer farmstead, one would think that Vance came from humble beginnings. The log cabin birthplace of a famous man is a strong symbol going back even before Abe Lincoln. Fact is, the Vance farm was quite prosperous. When Zeb Vance’s grandparents settled on the property in the 1790s, they brought with them three enslaved persons. Over the years the Vances enslaved at least eighteen people.
The last time I visited the Vance Birthplace was with my mother, who died in 1999. So it had been a while. I put this site at the top of my list for several reasons. At the present time, the city of Asheville is trying to decide on what to do about the monument.
It’s very likely that the monument will be brought down. I understand this, but at the same time, it will diminish the meaning of a recently installed work, Reflections on Unity by Henry Richardson. The glass globe is a perfect counterpoint to the obelisk, a monument erected in 1896 as a celebration of a champion of the Lost Cause, Governor Vance.
I was also curious to see if the way the site is interpreted for visitors had changed since my last visit. At the time there was a museum that told the life story of Governor Vance. It was a sort of timeline of artifacts. The house was presented as a typical pioneer house.
I was really pleased to see that the museum had completely changed. There was a display explaining that the Cherokee had lived on the land before the Vance family. There was great information about the enslaved people who lived on the Vance farm, and how people like the Vances helped spread slavery in the Asheville area, not due to being used as farmers, but because they were used in the livestock droving and the growing tourist businesses. And I also learned about the women in Vance’s life, especially his mother and his first wife, Hattie.
The artifacts in the museum are a combination of items actually owned by the Vance family and items from the area that date to the mid nineteenth century. Because Vance was so revered, his family kept many of his possessions, many of which were donated tp the museum.
Side note: I find it quite sad that history museums have worked hard to make interactive displays, only to have them shut down in the wake of this pandemic.
They did leave some drawers with artifacts. Here we see the ubiquitous wool production implements. There was also a wool wheel in the cabin where enslaved people lived. The museum pointed out that most of the textile production would have been done by enslaved workers.
This is a carpetbag, of sorts. After the Civil War ended, many people in the North moved south to take advantage of the fact that men like Vance were prohibited from participation in politics under the rules of Reconstruction. This led to a huge shortage of men who were eligible to fill governmental offices and so “carpetbaggers” moved in to fill the positions. Carpetbags were cheap luggage and were actually made from scraps of carpet. This one, however is made from an overshot coverlet.
Even though the Vance house was made from logs, it is a stretch to call it a cabin. It is quite roomy with two stories and multiple bed chambers.
When Zeb Vance was fourteen, his father died and his mother was forced to sell the property and move to Asheville. The house changed hands and was remodeled several times over the next century. When the state of North Carolina bought the property in 1957, the house was falling down. It was reconstructed using as much of the original structure as possible.
The outbuildings, including this circa 1790 slave dwelling, were brought in from other sites in the area.
Here is the interior of the cabin that housed enslaved people.
The Carolinas are full of pioneer homestead museums, and truthfully, it seems like they are all pretty much the same. But by changing the narrative at the Vance Birthplace, our North Carolina Division of Cultural and Natural Resources has made the site less of a shrine to Vance and the story of the great man and his humble beginnings. By making the site more relevant to modern visitors, it also was made more interesting.
I forgot to mention that I was at this site for about an hour and a half, and I was the only visitor until I was leaving. So. if you are looking for a safe outing, I suggest you look into your underutilized state parks. If your state is like North Carolina, the state sites are excellent, but underfinanced. So show them a little love and spend a few dollars in the gift shop.
I have a big stack of vintage and antique photos that I’ve never shared, and whenever I get ready to post a new Vintage Miscellany, I go through the stack to find one that resonates with my mood. The date on the basketball – 1920 – and the ages of the girls struck a chord. These girls and their teacher were among the first women to gain the right to vote under the 19th Amendment.
The girls were too young to vote for president in 1920, but I hope the coach got registered and exercised her new-found legal right. But what really amazes me is that when I cast my first vote for President, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, it is very likely that some of these girls voted in the same election. The past is really not so long ago!
And now for some news…
My first historical love was the 18th Century, and I find myself still intrigued, especially when it comes to shoes.
Sometimes I’m amazed at some artifacts that survive, like the dress Carlotta Walls wore on her first day of school in 1957 at Little Rock Central High School.
The pandemic has had another effect – the breaking down of the worldwide trade in used clothing. I’m seeing this on a local level. Many thrift stores are no longer taking donations due to a glut of stuff.
And that leads me to the obvious political nature of the above link. In the past I have been criticised for allowing politics on a fashion history site. But as I have pointed out, clothing is more than just pretty frocks. We cannot separate culture from politics. And yes, I have criticized the clothing choices of the now lame duck administration. Not to do so would have been ignoring the elephant in the room. And yes. I was not neutral, but this is my blog, and I provide the content free of charge. So, please, no comments about how unfair I was to the former-president-to be and his sponges. I am over it.
I haven’t bought a lot of things lately due to first one thing and then another, but I did get this pretty cross-stitched rayon jacket about a month ago. I spotted it on Instagram, where it was love at first sight. After it came I put it on a hanger and put it where I could just admire it for a while.
Today I finally took a closer look, and did a bit of searching for the makers, the Kirness Sisters. I knew about this shop, but I really didn’t know much about the sisters. A general search brought up a few garments, all hand embroidered with a Middle Eastern look. There were caftans and robes and dresses. Most of the sellers listed them as being from the 1910s or 1920s.
In the July 12, 1934 Palestine Gazette I found a notice where the business had registered as a partnership. The two owners were Esher and Lida Kirness. Their business was the manufacture and selling of the arts and crafts of Palestine. I found no other mention of Esher, but Lida married Alexander Avraham in 1937. All the other sources were written in Hebrew, so this is pretty much it, for now.
Photo form the Tim Gidel Collection, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem
Luckily, this photo of the exterior of the shop survives. It was taken in 1936 during the time Palestine was under British administration.
The earliest reference I found to the Kirness Sisters was the 1934 partnership registration, but that does not necessarily mean that the business actually began in 1934. Most of the clothing I have seen with the label do look to be from the 1920s, especially the dresses. I suspect that my jacket is from the late 1920s or the early 1930s.
Here is the jacket again, this time taken before I took a close look at the interior. Compare it to the photo at the top. Can you see where an alteration was made?
If you guessed “sleeves” then you are correct. The sleeves had been shortened and made more narrow. The person who made the adaptation, possibly the original owner, went about it in a way so that the changes were not obvious. It was not until I turned it inside-out that I saw that the sleeves had been shortened about two inches. Not only that, the sleeve seams were taken in to make the sleeves more narrow. Could this have been to update the sleeves to a more narrow 1930s look?
But this is the outside. The alternations can barely be detected. My scissors are pointing to the seam there the sleeve was shortened. Also look just below the tip of the scissors t see one of the places where the sleeve was narrowed.
Because the alteration was made without cutting the fabric, reversing the change was easy. Only a crease was left to indicate the alteration.
I know that many people wear old clothes, and that in order to make them fit sometimes alterations are needed. If this is you, then please do like the alterer of this jacket did. Make any changes so that they can be reversed. That means to not use scissors. I’d also say that reversing alterations is easier when the stitching is in a slightly different color thread than the garment. I almost went blind removing black thread from a black garment.
Here’s the label in case you are ever lucky enough to run across a Kirness Sister garment. I’m thinking that would be more likely if you are in the UK, as most of the examples I located online were from sellers in the UK. There’s good reason for this, of course, as the British were still operating under the idea that they had the right to be in Palestine. There was a large British presence in Jerusalem.
The crossstitch is so beautiful, and it shows the marks of a skilled embroiderer. Today people might sound the cry of cultural appropriation concerning garments like this one, but you have to remember this was made by a person in Palestine for the tourist trade. It’s similar to buying Native American jewelry from the maker. It helps the local economy and supports craftsmanship.
Six years ago I posted a photo of a Magda Makkay handbag I acquired, and as luck would have it a neighbor of Magda’s reached out to me. I called Magda and we’ve been friends ever since. At the time she was turning 89, and I asked you all to send her a birthday card.
Well, Magda will be 95 soon, and once again I’d like to remember her birthday in a big way. If you would like to help me, all you need to do is send her a birthday card. I don’t want to give out her address so I have set up a post office box for the cards, and then I’ll put them all in a box to mail to her. Please mail them so they will reach me by June 12. Send to:
c/o Lizzie Bramlett
PO Box 493
Clyde, NC 28721
To read about Magda’s incredible life, you can revisit the old posts I wrote about her. HERE and HERE.
I know this is just a small thing, but it will make mean so much to Magda. I have found that in times when our world seems to be completely messed up, it helps to perform a small act of kindness.
Sometimes a reminder cames to us to not put things off. With the majority of the world in self survival mode, there won’t be any museum going for a while. That makes my recent trip to Atlanta, taken just as the coronavirus was reaching the US, even more special. It may be the last museum jaunt for a long while.
If you were around in the 1980s, you probably remember Patrick Kelly, a young Black designer from Mississippi who took Paris by storm in 1985. His clothes were body-hugging, often in black accented with bright colors. He was known for his joyous approach to life and his loyalty to his friends. Unfortunately, Kelly died of AIDS in 1990.
Since his death, not much has been written about Kelly, though a book is now in the works. He did leave a large archive which is housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. Artist Derrick Adams took a deep dive into the archive, which inspired a body of work celebrating Kelly’s legacy.
The exhibition at SCADFASH incorporates these works from Adams, surrounded by clothing designed by Kelly, and memorabilia from his life. Many of these items were loaned to the museum by friends in Atlanta, where Kelly lived during the 1970s.
In my top photo you can see one of Adams’s works. It incorporates pattern pieces from designs Kelly licensed to Vogue Patterns, along with the brights + black scheme that so typifies many of Kelly’s dresses.
This Patrick Kelly dress seems to be to be a collage in dress form.
And here is a work by Adams using the same theme.
This Kelly dress was one that was made into a commercial pattern. The large dots of color are actually buttons.
And here is the pattern. Finding buttons that large must have been a real task for anyone not living in a place like New York with all its fashion resources. The large buttons in the photograph were specially-made buttons for Kelly’s line. He would keep a supply of them in his pocket to hand out to visitors to his boutique and workshop.
This work by Adams incorporates the button theme.
Here’s one of Kelly’s trademark caps. They often just spelled out Paris in sequins. And there’s another of his pattern designs in the background.
One thing I neglected to photograph was a couple of little plastic baby dolls. About two inches long, each was made of molded brown plastic, representing Black babies. I remember these from my 1960s childhood, and was quite surprised that he had them in the 1980s. They were another of the little gifts Kelly passed out to friends and visitors. The Black babies were just one of the ways that Kelly stressed his Blackness, as he also appropriated Black images that were meant to be racist and demeaning. He even used a Golliwog as a motif in some of his collections.
There have been two major retrospectives of Kelly’s work, one at the Brooklyn Museum in 2004, and one at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014 after they received eighty garments from his estate. There have been two podcasts about Kelly in recent months, both featuring interviews with Dr. Eric Darnell Pritchard, who has been researching Kelly’s story for an upcoming book. Listen to them at Dressed and at the FIT Podcast.
Derrick Adams: Patrick Kelly, The Journey will be on exhibit at SCADFASH in Atlanta until July 19, 2020, Hopefully the museum will reopen with plenty of time for people to see this thought provoking exhibition.
And to show how Patrick Kelly influenced fashion, here’s a dress from Better Dresses Vintage. No, it’s not a Patrick Kelly, but you sure can see the influence.
I recently found a set of twelve unfinished patchwork pieces in the Dresden Plate pattern. I scooped these up from the bottom of a bin at the Goodwill Dig, knowing I had absolutely no use for them. But the thought of these Depression Era fabrics ending up in a ragger’s bundle made me so sad I had to rescue them.
All the fabrics are 1930s dress fabrics or feedsack fabrics. Some of the fabrics are the same but in different colors, like the blue and green examples above. Maybe a mother made matching dresses for her little girls – blue for one girl and green for the other. And since that same design is also present in red and in purple, maybe there were four daughters.
What really impressed me the most is that some of the pieces are actually pieced from even smaller scraps. The center piece above is made from five tiny scraps, some of them much smaller than an inch in width and length. The maker really knew how to use up every tiny bit of the precious material.
Amazingly, these designs were all pieced by hand. Do you see why I just had to rescue these?
In my own sewing, one of the things I hate facing is the large amount of unusable scrap fabric left over from the cutting. I’m not a quilter, and for the most part, don’t indulge in fiddly crafts that use tiny scraps of fabric. I do make lots of pillows, and all my scraps are cut even smaller to make filling. After reading about how much textile waste ends up in the trash dumps of the world, I can’t bear to add to the problem.
I know that in some areas there is textile recycling. And if worst comes to worst, scraps can be donated to Goodwill where they end up in the ragger’s bundles. Are there any other ideas?
So now I have twelve pieces of Dresden plate, which I don’t need. I’d love to pass them on to someone who will actually use them, and that person has been located. Thanks, Joni, for taking these off my hands!
A few of the pieces have stains. This is the worst one I have noted.