Category Archives: Viewpoint

1920s Girl Power Tin Box

I somehow usually manage to limit any vintage purchases to clothing items for my collection or to print resources that might aid in research.  But sometimes an object so perfect that completely encapsulates my interests presents itself, and so it becomes part of my “archive.”  In this case it is this 1920s tin lunchbox.

That may seem to be an odd object to add to a vintage clothing collection, but with a theme this perfect, how could I say no.  As the vendor put it, “I’ve never seen so much 1920s girl power on one item.”  Neither had I.

For I’ve seen a lot of sports-themed decorated items that were designed for teenagers, but the great majority of them were geared toward boys.  There might sometimes be a token girl, cheering her boyfriend football hero from the sidelines, or maybe a shapely teen in a swimsuit, but the baseball player, the golfer, the racing driver would all be male.

The graphics on my new box put the girls front and center, and put boys in a secondary role.  This is obviously an item designed for girls, but it has none of the pink-tinged soft Hello Kitty motifs of products that are designed for girls today.  These are real girls who enjoy sports.  They are not portrayed as masculine girls, but they are shown to be strong girl competitors.  They are not trying to be boys, but are enjoying the freedoms given to girls in the twentieth century.

Interestingly, it was this generation of American girls who came of age in the 1920s that was the first to grow up knowing they would have the right to vote.*  Girls were growing up better educated and knowing they had opportunities that had been denied their mothers.

I’ve been reading a book written for teenagers about the battle for women’s right to vote, Petticoat Politics, by Doris Faber, published in 1967.  It was the type of book that I loved as a girl.  It showed that our rights were gained by hard work and perseverance.

I’m somewhat perplexed by young women today who claim they are not feminists.  But I think it is because they do not have a strong understanding of the history of women’s rights and because they mistakenly think that to be feminist is to be anti-male.   Maybe they should look to the young women on my tin box as role models.

Cooperation, not competition.

Just because there are no boys at the swimming hole does not mean that they can’t look cute.

Not only can she drive the race car, she can do it in style.

This independent girl finished her needlework pillow and promptly took it for a spin in her canoe.

Presenting the most non-aggressive basketball players ever!

*  Some states, starting with Wyoming in 1869, had already written into state law the right of women to vote.  There was nothing in the US Constitution that did not allow women to vote, as voting rules were left up to each state.  By the time the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, most women living in the West already had the vote.  With the passage of the 19th amendment all states were required to allow women to vote.

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The Milliner and Her Hats

Sylvia on the right, 1920s

 

I received some more photos of  Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld, the designer behind the Suzy label, from her daughter.  It seemed a bit odd that I wrote about this important milliner and she was wearing a hat in none of the photos!  Thanks to daughter Susan, we can now see that Sylvia knew how to sport a hat.

1930s

 

1930s or early 40s

 

Late 1940s or early 50s

 

In the last photo we see Sylvia wearing an uncharacteristically fussy hat.  I wonder what she thought about the hat of the woman sitting across the table from her.  Now that’s a hat!

I want to thank Susan Novenstern again for all the information about her mother and for the fantastic photos of her. Her generous sharing adds to the historical record and helps eliminate confusion about all the Suzy millinery labels.

This points out once again just how important the internet has become in doing historical research.  Susan found my original post on her mother’s label after someone posted a link on her facebook page.  Others have found my posts after doing a Google search on a family member who was in the fashion business.  It is just amazing the connections that are being made today that were impossible in the last century.

For those of us who blog and who post in other places on the internet, we just never know who might be reading.  It’s exciting that information can be so easily found and shared.

Sorry that there are no links today, but I only had a few to share so I decided to wait a week before doing the post.   If any of you run across an interesting story about clothing or textiles, I always appreciate an email with the link .

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New York City Miscellany

I found just a few more photos of New York City that I wanted to share.  This is the side of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, which is unfinished and is massive.  We stayed in this neighborhood, which is near Columbia University where my friend was attending a special class.

Also nearby was this pretty corner of Central Park.  Much of the park was closed due to the pathways being icy, but I enjoyed walking alongside it anyway.

I’m always amazed by the selection available in the Garment Center stores.  This is just a small section of the button room at M & J Trimmings.  It helps to go in with a list of things you have been looking for, otherwise the selection is overwhelming.  Side note:  the customer next to me was a costumer working on Finding Neverland, which was getting ready to open on Broadway.  Only in New York!

I know that looking up brands one as an out-of-towner, but I really couldn’t help myself.

I’ve been really, really wanting this tiny little Louis Vuitton trunk-inspired bag ever since it debuted on the runway last year.  Since it was featured in every magazine and blog I was a bit surprised to see it still available in such large numbers.  It might have something to do with the $5500 price tag.  That, for a bag that is so tiny it would hold a credit card, a lipstick and not much else.

Lovely Washington Square is always good for a bit of people-watching.

And finally, what I probably should have bought, but didn’t – Andy Warhol Converse Chuck Taylors.  I have a thing for art and fashion mash-ups, and these were right up my alley.  I know I can order them, but the moment has passed.

 

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Month in Review – February, 2015

I know that February is a short month, but that one just flew by.  If I were a talking in the third person type, I’d be tempted to change the title of these monthly updates to Keeping Up with Lizzie.  I found this at the Metrolina show in Charlotte this month.

Also spotted at Metrolina was this super button card.  An attractive pearl trimming, attractively marketed.

We did a big library clean up and reorganization at my house.  Here’s a sampling of the fashion books.

I had several lovely reminders of how much I get from keeping this blog.  The illustration above is the cover of a 1924 Harper’s Bazar.  It, along with a dozen other early 1920s magazines, was sent to me by reader Susan Maresco.  What a treasury of great images and information!

I also got a sweet surprise from Juliet of SixCatsFun Vintage – the cutest little embroidered Scottie towel.  How did she know I’d love it so?

While in New York I was lucky enough to meet up with Julie of JetSetSewing.  She not only showed me around the fantastic old-school New York club where she was staying, but she also treated me to a much needed lunch.  And the last morning I was in the city I had breakfast with my good friend, Monica Murgia. It was so much fun catching up with her.

New York is always fun, even if it is cold enough to freeze one’s nose off.  All the layers of clothes left me feeling like the Michelin Man, but they did keep me warm.

And when clothes didn’t work, there were sippy cups of Cabernet Sauvignon.  We saw Matilda: The Musical, and it was delightful, and not just because of the wine.

Cannoli – one of the true delights of Little Italy.  The signature filling was cinnamon.

A lot of my time was spent, of course, in the wonderful museums of New York.  The Museum at FIT is a favorite.  Reviews of the two shows will be posted soon.

I’ve been looking for this pattern for years.  Please help me find it!

And finally, meet Kali.  She is an elkhound mix that was offered for adoption through a group for which I do some volunteering.  I’m happy to report that Kali found a home, and now has two people and a rottweiler brother of her own!

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Getting the Story Right

Last week the story broke that a 1940s sweater worn by football great Vince Lombardi had been found in the bins of my local Goodwill Clearance Center.  To summarize the story, vintage dealers Sean and Rikki McEvoy found the sweater while shopping in the store last June.  They did not realize how important the sweater was until viewing a documentary on Lombardi some time later, and Sean noted that the sweater was similar to one he saw Lombardi wearing in the program.  Rikki remembered there was a name tag in the sweater, they got it out, and sure enough, the label read “Lombardi.”

The sweater is being auctioned at Heritage Auctions, with online bids being taken now, and the final sale being on February 21.  The sweater is expected to sell for as much as $20,000.

Seeing as how that Goodwill is my shopping place, you might think I’m upset about not finding that gem myself.  But no, I have another, more important matter to address.  The reporting of this story was downright sloppy.

I admit that I’m a stickler for details.  If a story is worth telling, isn’t it worth telling correctly?  It’s an unsettling feeling to be reading an interesting article, and there near the end is a misstated fact.  It throws doubt onto the entire article.

The first place I read about the Lombardi sweater was on the website of our local newspaper, the Asheville Citizen-Times.  The second sentence held a mistake that completely disrupted my train of thought:

They stopped at the Goodwill Outlet on Patton Avenue where you can purchase things for 58 cents per pound.

As far as I know, clothing at that center has never been 58 cents a pound, and I know that last June the price was over a dollar a pound, $1.09 or $1.10 if my memory is correct.   It’s a small detail, one that only a shopper at the Goodwill would notice.  Unfortunately for me it set the tone for the article, and I found myself scrutinizing every statement, looking for more inaccuracies.

It didn’t take long for this story to spread past Western North Carolina.  The next article I read was on the Green Bay Press Gazette website.  According to that article, Sean McEvoy is a  “Nashville, Tenn., man”.  Actually, Sean and Rikki live in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The local television news, WLOS 13, did a piece on the find.  In it they interviewed the Goodwill district manager who stated that the sweater had to have gone through one of the retail stores where it did not sell before ending up in the outlet center.  Actually, that is not true, as any of the workers in the back sorting area could have told the reporter.  Things that are donated that do not meet a certain standard – like an old, full of holes wool sweater – never make it to the retail store, but go straight to the bins.

Of course the reporter could not help that she was given bad information by the person in charge.  But anyone who has ever worked in a corporate (or educational) setting knows that the boss usually does not know as much about how a place operates than does the lowest employee.

I could go on and on.  Fox Sports reported that McEvoy is from “Ashville, North Carolina.”  Wrong place, misspelled. RTV6 spelled it as “Asherville”.   CBSSports called Goodwill a pawn shop and referred to the couple as elderly, but from their photos, they look to be in their mid thirties.  All the accounts I read state that the sweater cost 58 cents, but only one clarified that 58 cents was the average cost per piece that the McEvoys paid for their multiple item purchase.  Bought by itself, I figure the sweater would have cost about $1.50.

Who knew that it would be so hard to get such a seemingly simple story right?  Do newspaper and TV news sites actually fact-check, or proofread, for that matter?  This is sending a very strong message – that quality content on websites is not as important as hurrying into the latest sensational story that is surging across the web.

What really concerns me is how this sort of misinformation eventually makes it into the “official” story of an event.  An example is the story of how  equestrian influences are often seen in Gucci products.  Many websites and books state that Gucci started out as a maker of saddles and that is why the company decorates their loafers with a piece that looks like a horse bit.  But careful research by  Sara Gay Forden for her book House of Gucci, proved that was simply not true, that Gucci never was a saddler.  Nevertheless, the story got started, and is still often quoted.

I realize that it is hard to get everything completely correct, which is why I appreciate it when a careful reader alerts me to my own mistakes.  But it is our culture of sharing “news” that has led to an internet full of misinformation.  In copying from one site to another, Asheville becomes Asherville, a thirty-something couple becomes elderly, and a thrift store becomes a pawn shop.

It calls to mind that game from childhood called “Gossip” where the first kid whispered something into the ear of the second kid, who repeated what he thought he heard into the ear of the third kid, and so on down the line.  The last kid gets to say out loud what he heard, with hilarious results. “I saw a cat outside” became “High sewer cap hot pride.”

It’s time for “news” sites to stop playing this game, or to at least hire people who know how to listen to the whispering.

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Quote of the Week

It also seems to me that there’s an unjustified amount of pressure on designers to make youthful clothes. No one wants to be called boring or dated, but the relentless insistence on youth actually seems to be hindering imagination.

I’d like to personally welcome Cathy Horyn back to fashion journalism.  With statements like the one above she cuts to the heart of what bugs so many women over the age of thirty-five about fashion.  Why is “fashion” geared to the young, when it is the older women who possess most of the means to indulge in clothes?

Even if you do not follow the fashion world, it is important to know that there are an increasing number of critics who can see that fashion will not truly be “democratic” until older women can picture themselves wearing the clothing that goes down the runways.

Sure, I want to be thrilled by great design, challenging ideas, even offensive ideas. I’m all for that. But my mind is equally open to clothes that are simply beautiful, that have an easy and inhabited and ageless quality.

Let’s hope the designers and manufacturers are listening.

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Thoughts on Photographs – Vintage and Modern

A lot of my time on any vintage shopping excursion is devoted to looking through stacks of vintage photographs.   I just can’t think of a better way to study how people actually dressed than to examine the photos of an era.  I guess it would be even better if they were all in color.

I’ve noticed that I rarely see photos younger than the early 1970s.  I’m thinking that newer photos are still in the possession of their original owners, but that as time passes and the owners die, treasures from the 1970s through the 1990s will hit the market.

It has occurred to me that these wonderfully old candid snapshots are pretty much a thing of the past.  With digital photography we take and retake an image until it is “perfect.”  We arrange not only ourselves, but also our belongings in photographs.  What we have lost is a sense of spontaneity in our photos.

I know that many history and museum people object to the use of the word “curate” outside of a museum setting, but it does aptly describe how people take photos in the digital age.  I’m not saying that photo “curation” is somehow wrong; I’m saying that it is leaving a false record of how our lives actually look.

Another disturbing thought is that many photos taken today are never seen outside of the virtual world.  Out of the thousands of photos I take in any year, I might actually print a hundred or so of them.  I doubt that anyone prints all the photos they take these days.

Of course the trade-off is that there are so many photos digitized and shared today that the  internet is a virtual photo album of the grandest sort.  More and more people and institutions are digitizing collections so they can be shared online.  We have access to photos of the past – and present – like never before.  That said, I don’t think anything can replace the fun of a good shuffle through a stack of vintage black and whites.

Here are two more photos from the Sophie in Miami set.  In the top photo Sophie is on the left, next to yet another man identified only as Sy.  That’s him in the bottom photo, with his arms around Betty of the fantastic shoes, so he was probably not one of Sophie’s conquests.

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