Category Archives: Vintage Clothing

1930s Chenille Bathing Suit Cover-up Cape

During a recent lucky streak, I ran across this fantastic cape, which is a bathing suit cover-up.  It is made from machine-made chenille, a fabric that started out as the product of a cottage industry in northern Georgia.  Based around the town of Dalton, Georgia, home workers began making hand tufted bedspreads to sell to travelers going south on the newly finished Dixie Highway.  A local textile mill, Crown Cotton, provided the base material, which is a heavy muslin-type fabric.  By 1910 the homeworkers were setting up stands along the highway to sell to the growing tourist travelers.

In 1917 a manufacturing process was set up. and some of the tufting was done by machine.  Hand tufting was still being done, but it was increasingly mechanized.  At first the product was just bedcovers, but by the 1920s some garments, such as bathrobes and beach wear, were also being made.

I can remember seeing the bedspread stands as a child traveling to visit relatives in the far western reaches of North Carolina and on the road to Atlanta.  Some of the designs were quite bizarre – wildly colored peacocks spring to mind.  And occasionally a stand can be spotted even today, but for the most part, the chenille factories converted to carpets years ago.

I can’t say a lot about the origin of the cape.  There is a small, handwritten label, that looks more like a collections number than anything else.  Could this cape have been in a collection before becoming a part of mine?  It is possible.

I do have two more chenille garments, one a bedjacket and the other a shorter cape.  None of them have  makers labels of any kind.

The neckline is gathered with a cotton robe tie.  There is an extra row of red chenille for decoration.

The back of the gathering.

I don’t have any photos showing a chenille cape, but I did find this jacket.  It is dated July 1939, Mountain Lake, New Jersey.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Southern Textiles, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Late 1940s Shorts and Wrap Skirt

I recently ran across this skirt and a pair of matching shorts, and I bought them even though there are quite a few problems with the two pieces.  To be really honest, I wanted these partly because of the issues and my desire to analyze the set.  Using the questions from The Dress Detective, I wanted to hear the story these pieces have to tell.

To start with, there is a real possibility that a piece is missing.  By looking at sewing patterns and catalogs from 1940 through the 1950s, these sets often came with a matching blouse.  These pieces are home sewn, and there is no way to know if a matching blouse was actually made, but that is the way the pieces were marketed, and presumably, worn.

Here are some good examples from a 1940s brochure from Edwards Department Store in Rochester, New York.  In these photos the top and shorts are attached as one piece, but these were also available as shorts and top separately.

After World War II ended, fabrics became a lot more colorful.  Dyes had been restricted during the war, and I’m sure people were ready for a burst of color.  If you look at fashion magazines starting as early as the middle of 1945, you can really see what I mean.  Interesting designs and color combinations dominated.  In the case of my skirt and shorts you can see turquoise, a chartreuse-y yellow, and two shades of rust, printed on white and accented with black.

As mentioned, the set is home sewn, using simple techniques.  The sewer must have had one of those new-fangled buttonholers that attached to the machine.  The buttons on the skirt are mother of pearl, and they are well-worn.  They seem to be a bit old-fashioned for the piece.  Could they have been re-cycled?

There is a noticeable color difference between the shorts and the skirt.  The skirt looks hardly worn, but the shorts are quite faded.  What does that say?  The shorts were obviously washed more than the skirt, and so we can assume they were worn more.

There is another interesting clue on the shorts, a smear  of dried paint.  Could it be that after the shorts became either worn or not so fashionable (or both) that they were used to wear around the house for chores like painting.  It points to a long life of the shorts and skirt, and possibly a blouse, moving from cute outfit to work attire.

There is one last thing to point out.  At sometime the skirt was shortened as evidenced by the faded line.  During the last part of the 1950s skirt hems did rise, and so this could have been an attempt to make the skirt more fashionable.  Or it is possible this was done years later by a wearer of vintage clothing.  Either way, it is an interesting part of the skirt’s history.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1970s Andreno Argenti Golf Themed Sweater

I had been meaning to pick up a Seventies sports themed novelty sweater for some time, but never quite found the right one at the right price.  But several weeks ago I ran across this one that had all the correct boxes ticked.  It was blue, golf-themed, and priced nicely.

This type of sweater is a bit of a puzzle to me, mainly because I do not remember them from my younger days.  Maybe it was because I was in high school and college during the years these seem to have been made, and our tastes were a little more hippie.  Or maybe it was because I was not a part of the golfing set.  For whatever reason  I don’t remember this trend at all, and these sweaters were not limited to golf themes.  What seem to be the two biggest producers, Andreno Argenti and Cyn Les, both manufactured in Taiwan and all the sweaters were made from acrylic.  The large majority of Argenti sweaters I found were golf themed, but Cyn Les did a wide variety of these, some of which had sayings embroidered on the sleeves.

I’ve looked at a lot of these lately in the sales pages of etsy and ebay.  Some sellers have them listed as 1950s, especially a cardigan version.  But I think that the Taiwan manufacture and the acrylic fiber points to the late Sixties and into the Seventies.  I don’t mind being contradicted if any reader has a better memory of these.  At any rate, mine is from the early Seventies, with that scooped neck and long, skinny line of the torso.

I can never seem to get the color right in my photos, but here are close-ups of the machine embroidery.  It was actually very nicely done.

 

 

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1920s Bathing Suit from Eff-N-Dee

I have a lot to say about this superb 1920s bathing suit, but I’ll try to keep my enthusiasm for it under control somewhat.  I’ll start by saying a few things about collecting.

Most guides to collecting anything give the same advice to beginning collectors: Buy the very best that you can afford.  After thirty-five years of collecting this or that, I can attest to the value of the statement.  With a few years of experience of looking at objects, it is always the cream that is most appealing.  The reason many collectors become sellers is to sell off the lesser quality items in their collections in order to afford the best examples.

From the moment I first saw the photos of this 1920s bathing suit on the Instagram of SmallEarthVintage, I knew this was an object I had to add to my collection.  Even though I already had two knit bathing suits from the early to mid 1920s, this one was just so much better with those great Art Deco designs that I began looking through my collection to see what I could sell in order to buy this one from Karen.  In the end, I did not have to sell a kidney, nor even a lesser piece that I already owned, as she was running a sale that put the piece within my budget.

The Art Deco designs are not knit into the fabric, but are embroidered over the black wool knit.  There is quite a bit of sheen to the embroidery which leads me to think that it is silk.  It makes me wonder how this would have stood up to repeated dunkings in water, but because of the excellent condition of the wool, I suspect this suit spent much more time on a beach blanket than in the ocean.  These are often found completely stretched out of the original shape due to heavy wearing.

I got help in pinning down a date for this piece from a great booklet by historian Claudia Kidwell, Women’s Bathing and Swimming Costume in the United States.  The booklet was published in 1968 by the Smithsonian, for which Kidwell worked.  Remarkably, the entire text of this excellent source is available online, or it can be downloaded free of charge from Amazon.

One thing that Kidwell points out is that until the necklines began to scoop deeply, even knit suits had to have a button at one shoulder in order to put it on.  Many places had a rule that the scoop of the neck could not be lower than a line drawn across the chest from armpit to armpit.  As the Twenties progressed, many of these rules were either abolished, or more likely, simply ignored.  By the late 1920s a button was no longer required at the shoulder as the neck opening was large enough to fit over the wearer’s body. My suit does have a rather high neckline, and thus, the needed button.

Another hint as to the age is the presence of an overskirt, with the trunks peeking out about two inches beneath it.  This skirt was all that was left of the old bathing dress of the previous decades.  And by the end of the 1920s, it would be gone as well.

By looking at hundreds of photos of swimmers in their suits and after seeing hundreds of existing suits for sale , I can safely say that the majority of knit swimming and bathing suits from the late 1910s and the 1920s were either a plain black, or black with a colored stripe.  It is the geometric design of this suit that separates it from the multitude of plain black suits.  Although the Art Deco movement received its name in 1925 after the L’Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes fair held in Paris, the designs were already in use and gaining favor by the early 1920s.  The original owner of this suit must have been a very modern woman.

So, what is the date of this suit?  There’s no way to know with 100 percent certainty without finding an ad or a catalog, but my best guess is between 1923 and 1925. After that time both the skirt and the trunks got shorter, the scoop neck got lower, and the button would have disappeared.

Another interesting thing about this suit is that it does have a label.  It is hard to read, but it is “Eff-N-Dee”.  I’d never heard of this brand, but Karen had discovered that it was the label of a knitwear company in Cleveland, Ohio, the Friedman-Devay Knitting Company.  Having the name of the firm is a good starting place for finding information, but this one has been a bit elusive.  I do know that the owners were S.A. Devay and W.A. Freidman and that the company produced knits for the entire family.  The first reference I found to the company was dated 1915.

One of the most interesting things I found was a listing of knit goods manufacturers in the city of Cleveland in 1916.  I was surprised to see that there were twenty-six makers of knits in Cleveland.  Someone who lives in that area needs to do a study.

Thanks to Karen at Small Earth Vintage for the use of her photographs.

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

1950s Jantzen Casual Top

I love finding pieces from the great 20th century sportswear companies.  By the late 1940s many companies that had been only making swimwear or active sportswear turned to making sports separates that were suited for the increasingly casual lifestyle of Westerners.  Jantzen was one such company.

What is designed to look like two pieces is actually one.  The cotton corduroy collar and upper bodice is attached to the cotton jersey shirt, using a color scheme that was a popular one in the 1950s.

The label was used in the late 1940s and into the 50s.  There were quite a few variations of this label with that fluid frame around the brand name.  By the late 50s the frame was gone, and increasingly the name “Jantzen” was woven in gold instead of red.

This seems to a a pretty straight-forward piece, but I thought it odd that the label appears to be in the front of the shirt.  Could it be that the collar closes in the back?

I turned it around to see if the collar actually had a rolled front, but it just looked odd.  So I held the top by the shoulder seams to see how the shoulder and the collar were positioned on both sides.  In most garments the back neck edge is smaller than the front.  In this case, it put the opening in the front.

I think my original mistake was thinking that the collar would have been worn open.  After playing with it for a while it became clear that this was meant to be a closed collar top.  Still, it is a bit unusual to see a label in the front of a garment.

I have not been able to find advertising for this top, but my guess is that it dates between 1952 and 1955.  Dolman sleeves, which were cut in one piece with the bodice, were very popular during those years.

Of course the real fun will come when I find the matching pants or skirt.  I’m sure that matching pieces were made because that was how these pieces were marketed – as mix and match separates.

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Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1930s Sports Novelty Print Teddy

Sometimes you just have to break the rules.  In the case of this teddy, I broke two of my self-imposed buying rules:

1. Buy online only from sellers I know.

2. Do not buy lingerie.

I really do not buy a lot online because I greatly prefer the experience of vintage shopping in the real world.  I like being able to examine and learn.  I like talking to dealers.  And most of all I like using my skills to assess whether or not a piece is worth the price and is worthy of a place in my collection.  I also don’t buy online from people I don’t know.  I’ll not go into details, but not all vintage sellers are created equal.

I also have put an end to buying any lingerie.  It just does not, for the most part, add anything to what I’m trying to develop as a collection.  But never say never.

I was doing a rare ebay search for “sports” in the women’s vintage clothing section when this teddy came up.  At first I was sure it was from the late 1970s with those high-cut legs, but I clicked on it just to satisfy my curiosity.  The close-up photos showed an authentic-looking print showing sportswomen (and a few men as well) dressed in mid 1930s sports clothes.  But prints can be deceiving.

The bra section was interesting, with a little gusset inserted for fullness.  I also noticed the edging.  It was looking promising.

The back was fitted by way of a bit of elastic, which looked vintage.

But what sold me on this piece was actually the crotch, or more exactly, the buttons in the crotch.  I was convinced this piece was actually from the 1930s.

And when it arrived, my thoughts were confirmed.  It’s not usual to see a rayon novelty print on underwear of that period, but one of the great things about collecting clothing is there is always something to be discovered, something one had no idea even existed.

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Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing

1920s Printed Velvet Stole

The thing that keeps collecting old clothes interesting is that there is always something new that one has never seen before.  This stole is a good example.  The textile is a printed velvet, and the print looks like it is from the 1920s.  The problem is, I’ve never seen nor heard of evening stoles being used in the 1920s.  The black reverse side is a deep, plush velvet as well.

I’m still not sure what to make of this piece, and would appreciate any and all opinions and insights.  The tie you can see actually wraps around a button, which is wood covered in the black velvet.

I generally don’t acquire things of this nature, but I loved the print and truthfully, the price was too good to turn down.  And I’m always up for a good mystery!

UPDATE:  A good friend sent a French fashion illustration dated 1920 that shows a similar stole being worn as part of a cloak.  The patterned fabric IS the lining, as most of the commenters suggested.  Thanks to Lynne for coming through once again!

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Vintage Clothing