Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jantzen Swimsuit, Mid 1960s

I really love and appreciate all the great friends I’ve made through writing this blog.  So many of you have shared your stories about clothing and sewing, and all these stories make for a rich and varied shared history.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Janey at The Atomic Redhead.  Janey is lucky because she lives in the land of White Stag and Pendleton and Jantzen, otherwise known as Portland, Oregon.  From time to time I’ll get an email from her saying that she has a little something I might be interested in.  I must be greedy, because I’m always interested in Janey’s gifts.

The latest package from Janey contained the two piece swimsuit shown here.  It is, of course, from Jantzen, as the diving girl logo proudly announces.  It is made from a creamy white textured polyester knit, and the bra is very structured.  Many swimsuit bras from this era were made with a thin padded layer that over time degrades into a gritty powder.  But in this bra the padding is intact and shows no sign of powdering.

Thanks to movies like Bikini Beach and Beach Party, some people tend to think that bikinis were pretty skimpy in the mid 1960s, but in my little conservative town, this two piece was about as risqué as it got.  As the decade worn on, the bottoms got smaller, and the bras less structured, but in 1965 girls’ swimsuits were like armor!

I can remember my very first “grown-up” swimsuit.  It was a hand-me-down from my cousin Arlene, who was two years older than me and who lived near Atlanta and who was my idol.  The style was just like the Jantzen here, but was in shades of greens and brown.  I’d have never picked that color combination out, but I’ll have to admit, that at eleven years old, I felt very grown up wearing that suit.

This Coppertone ad from 1964 shows the style quite well.  No bellybuttons here!


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

Goodbye to Waechter’s, An Asheville Institution

Remember how just a few days ago I was bragging about the super fabric shopping situation in Asheville?  Just a few days later I got a most distressing email – Waechter’s Fine Fabrics was closing.

The store opened in 1929 as Waechter’s Silk Shop, and the name remained the same until just a few years ago.  It was first located in the Grove Arcade, but by the time I first visited the store, it was located on  Wall Street, Asheville.

My first experience there was with a friend whose mother was taking a tailoring class and was shopping for wool for a coat.  I was already sewing at that point, and was shocked by how much more expensive their fabrics were than the ones I was buying at Belk’s Department Store.  But the store was so enchanting, just like stepping back into the past with the old fashioned fabric meter, and the fabrics purchased being wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

My first purchase there was navy Pendleton wool that I used to make a blazer.  I also bought my first Liberty Tana lawn at Waechter’s, used for a dress that I wore to my sister’s wedding rehearsal.

I started filling out an online order as soon as the email arrived, but I knew that I really needed to just drive over and have one last shopping experience at Waechter’s, to feel the fabrics and remember all the lovely things I’ve made from their fine fabrics.

And I did buy a few pieces of fabrics for spring – a Liberty Tana lawn print, some striped Italian cotton shirting, and some blue and white Italian linen gingham.



Filed under North Carolina, Uncategorized


One of the big selling points of vintage clothing is that it is perceived as being of higher quality than clothing made today.  It is true that a visit to your local vintage store will produce item after item of clothes of a quality that today would make them prohibitively expensive to produce for the average consumer.

So, were all clothes in the past just made better of superior fabrics using sophisticated techniques?  The short answer is no.

Since the dawn of ready-to-wear part of the market has been for people who are poor.  My latest reading (A Cultural History of Fashion in the 20th and 21st Centuries, by Bonnie English) indicates that probably the first ready-to-wear clothing was manufactured for the very poor in England in the late 18th century.

I’ve seen some really poorly made garments, dating back to the 1920s, but the truth is, that most things that have survived do seem to be of a higher quality.  My guess is that this is due to  several things.  First, clothing made of poor quality fabric couldn’t stand up to the wear.  And if poorer people were wearing these clothes, then they had to be worn until the fabric was either fit only for rags or for projects such as quilts.  Part of it might have to do with the things people tend to save.  Even out of style garments that cost the wearer a lot to buy end up hanging on in the deep dark corners of the closet for years.

I bought this early 1950s camp shirt despite the obvious poor quality.  It was interesting as the type of thing a woman might wear while touring with the husband and kids in their new station wagon.  Yes, I know this a stereotypical 1950s  family, but the vision  is there and I had to share it.

The interior of the shirt is a mess.  All the loose ends were just left hanging,  and I can’t imagine why the wearer didn’t take the time to tie them off herself.

This is one wonky little pocket.  Note how the right side is off at both the bottom and the top.

All the interior seams are flat felled, which is good, but they were stitched by a machine that did a chain stitch which is very easy to pull out.  And notice that some of the edges did not get turned under properly.

While the center front does sort of match, there was no attempt to match the check at the side seams.  It takes more fabric to properly match, and so is more expensive.

The shirt is nicely shaped with tucks and darts at the waist, but again, there was no attempt to make the two sides of the back look symmetrical.

There are some nice features, like this button at the collar and the elastic loop.  And while the fabric is not really of a good quality, the color has held up quite well.

I do really like the fun, casual look of the shirt.  It reminds me of a picnic cloth.




Filed under Uncategorized, Viewpoint, Vintage Clothing

1960s Suit by Davidow

One of the chapters in Claire Shaeffer’s new book, The Couture Cardigan Jacket, shows how to distinguish between an authentic vintage Chanel jacket and an authorized copy.  In the past, American ready-to-wear makers, and even department stores that had their own sewing workshops, could buy the rights to make and sell couture copies.  One of the best known makers of Chanel copies was Davidow.

Today we hear the word “copy” and we think of an illegal activity.  But this practice was perfectly legal.  In the photo below which was taken from the October 15, 1960 issue of Vogue, squint and you can read, “Suit copy by Davidow at Bonwit Teller.  Chanel copies all five pages. ”

Photo copyright Conde Nast Publications, 1960

Davidow made both Chanel-inspired suits and as seen above, faithful Chanel copies, right down to the same fabric and Chanel buttons.  They were not couture, but they were luxury ready-to-wear and as such were quite expensive.

My suit is of the Chanel-inspired variety.  Still, it is a very nice suit with all sorts of lovely details.

Here is the Davidow label.  But what if my label were missing?  How could I tell that this is not a couture suit?

The first hint is the lining fabric.  While the fashion fabric – the outside fabric that everyone sees – is a very nice tweedy silk, the lining is an average quality acetate.  In a couture suit the lining would be silk.

As you would find in a couture suit, the sleeve is nicely shaped to fit the bend of the elbow.  However, this sleeve is constructed from two pattern pieces.  Chanel couture sleeves have three pieces.

My suit has a vent at the sleeve cuff, but the button is sewn to secure the vent.  In a couture suit there would be a functioning buttonhole through which the button would fasten.

My suit has topstitching around the collar and the front edges.  The topstitching was sewn after the jacket was constructed.  In a Chanel couture jacket, the topstitching will be only on the outside layer and is stitched before the pieces are constructed.

The buttonholes on my suit are bound.  On a Chanel couture jacket the buttonholes are handworked, with a faux bound hole on the lining.

On copies, the flaps often do not have a real pocket beneath.  However, my suit has two actual pockets and two faux pockets.  You might think that all Chanel couture suits would have pockets beneath all flaps, but Shaeffer’s research has shown this to not be true.  Chanel often used faux flaps as well.

My jacket is also not quilted and there is no chain along the edge of the hem.  But it does have a nice Lord and Taylor label.

To see some great ads from the early 1960s which show Davidow suits, visit Jen’s blog, Pintucks.


Filed under Uncategorized

And the Winner Is…

Joan Elliott Burgess.  Congratulations, Joan!

The winner was picked using a random number generator, and Joan was lucky number 14.

Thanks so much to all who took the time to post and enter the drawing.  I wish I had 53 books so you all could have one.



Filed under Uncategorized

Ad Campaign – Active Modern Shoes, 1943


Fascinating… inspired detail… perfect cut – all help Active Modern Shoes cast a real spell of loveliness upon your feet.

And with the built-in comfort that only Selby Arch Preserver hidden features can give, you won’t want to fly through the air – you’ll love walking.

I imagine that ad writers had a really hard time when it came to pushing the merits of wartime women’s shoes.  Due to the  scarcity of dyes, by 1943 American shoe manufacturers were limited to six colors: navy, black, white, and three shades of brown.  Shoes were made in sturdy styles that were  meant to last and to provide support for the feet of the female workforce.

I know that there will be some disagreement, but to me these are old lady shoes, possibly because in the 1960s old ladies were still wearing similar styles.  I can imagine that the older woman stuck with this style because as the ad points out, they were comfortable.  Look at all that toe room and the nice sturdy heel.  But I really do fail to see the this style would “cast a spell of loveliness” on anybody’s feet.

And is it just me, or does that black model actually look a bit like a witch’s shoe?


October 16, 2013 · 8:03 am

The List that Changed My Mind

There are a thousand ways to waste time on the internet, but there can’t be a bigger time suck than “the list.”  You know, those “well-researched” space fillers on free sites that enrich our lives with things like “The 10 best cars for people who like ice cream and believe in astrology,” or “The 15 worst foods for people living in Duluth, Minnesota.”

Until last week I’d never really thought too much about web lists, but two things came to my attention that have made me vow to never read another list.  First, the letter from the publisher in this month’s Harper’s magazine was a well-thought-out defense of the magazine’s continued policy of not giving their content away on the internet.  He makes the point that “good publishing, good editing and good writing cost money.”  He laments the way “content” has replaced prose and poetry.  And one of the biggest offenders is the list that pretends to be an article.

This point was really driven home when I came across an interesting sounding list, “50 Dresses that Changed Fashion.”  It’s not to be confused with a book of a similar name, 50 Dresses that Changed the World, though it does look as if there is quite a bit of over-lap.  Sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to link to the list, but you can google the title and find it, if you must.

There are some dresses on the list that one really can’t quibble with, like Chanel’s Little Black Dress, Diane Von Furstenberg’s jersey wrap dress, and Princess Diana’s wedding dress.  But please, someone explain to me how Lady Gaga’s meat dress changed fashion.  Why is Angelina Jolie’s “leg dress” on this list, and how did that dress change fashion?  Also quite puzzling are a 2006 LED dress by Hussein Chalayan, Rudi Gernreich’s topless dress (yep, I wear them all the time), Victoria Beckham’s first collection of 2008, and Mary Katrantzou’s 2011 ‘Room’ collection.

And it is important to say that there was no mention of Dior and the New Look, Christian LaCroix and his poof skirt, or Poiret’s corsetless silhouette.  Where is Chanel’s suit, and Yves Saint Laurent’s safari dress?

But lesson learned.  I’ll no longer listen to any lists.  The next time I’m tempted by “10 foods that will help you live to be 150,” I’ll go get myself a cookie instead of reading.

Edited because I forgot to insert my image, which, by the way, has little to do with the list in question, but it does point out how dumb lists can be.


Filed under Uncategorized, Viewpoint