Category Archives: 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.


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.


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!


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Vintage Clothing

1930s Equestrienne Suit: Real Sports

I bought this riding suit some time ago, but have neglected writing about it.  Actually, I’ve been wanting some information about the label to fall into my lap, but that didn’t happen so I’ll have to hope this post brings around someone who knows about the brand.

What I do know (or, rather, guess) is that this suit is from the mid 1930s.  It is certainly before shoulders started to get puffy around 1937.  The buttons also look to be 1930s, as do the construction techniques.

The label is Real Sport: Breeches with the Masterseam.  I’ve seen the label before in men’s breeches, but this was the first time I’d seen it in a woman’s garment.  The masterseam refers to the center back seam of the breeches that could be adjusted for fit.

The fabric feels to be a rayon, but I have not tested it.  There is the possibility that it is wool.

That center back pleat adds to the mobility of the rider.

This is a leg, in case you can’t tell from the sideways photo.  The inner leg is a fine suede.  All the buttons are present; I just didn’t button them.

There is a lot of room in the upper legs.  So, would these be breeches, or are they jodhpurs?

The pants have a side-button closure.  From all my recent research on knickerbockers and breeches, it seems that women’s pants always opened on the side, while male pants always had a center fly.  It is possible that there are exceptions, but I have not found them.

You don’t think I need a horse to go with these, do you?

UPDATE:  I got an email from Lynne, web searcher extraordinaire, who found a 1935 ad showing my jacket with solid pants.  Thanks, Lynne!


Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

From My Collection: Beach Pyjamas

After writing about beach pyjamas (or pajamas) yesterday, I thought I should show the examples I have in my collection.  The pair above is from the mid to late 1920s, as you can see from the narrow legs.  These are made from a very light and sheer woven wool, and I can’t help but wonder if there was originally a matching top or jacket.  I love how the deep waist yoke is a nod to the dropped waists of the era.

The fabric is really quite wonderful.  Believe it or not, these came from the Goodwill clearance bins several years ago.  I really could not believe my luck, as these are very hard to come by.

These crazy quilt pyjamas from the early 1930s were also a lucky Goodwill find.  At first the design looks to be completely random, but look closely and you’ll see that the maker of this garment carefully engineered the bodice, with the stripe effect mirrored in the hems of the legs.

All of the pieces are silk fabrics.  I doubt that this was ever worn, as the condition of the piece is so good, and there is no sign of neither shrinkage nor dye failure.

This last pyjama is also from the 1930s and was an ebay purchase of about ten years ago.  These have become so popular that I’d probably not be able to buy it today as the prices are much higher than what I paid.  It’s is really great, with the red and blue stripes being applied to the heavy muslin pyjama.  It was a much more practical garment for the beach than the rayon patchwork one was.

Yesterday the question came up about when to use pajama, and when to use pyjama.  Susan pointed out that the US spelling is pajama.  I used both versions of the word in yesterday’s post, mirroring the usage in the primary sources I was using.  Today, we use pajama for our sleeping garments, but pyjama is pretty much standard usage when referring to 1930s beach pyjamas.

Correction:  I originally wrote that the patchwork piece is made from rayon, but I double-checked, and the pieces are actually silk.


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

A Matter of Proportion

I spotted this skirt recently at a nearby antique mall, and I really liked it, but for some reason it looked a little off. The mix of colors was so fresh and unexpected, so that wasn’t it.  Still, it left me a bit unsettled.

A check inside the skirt revealed one of my favorite sportswear labels from the 1950s and 60s, Bill Atkinson for Glen of Michigan.  I’ve sung the praises of this label in the past, and I know it to be of good quality and to have a sound design aesthetic.  So what about it bothered me?

I took the skirt from the rack and turned it inside out to examine it.  And there was the story.  The skirt had been shortened.

The bottom squares were originally true squares like the rest of the ones in the skirt.  Even better, there was a band of that same dark pink velveteen that is used in the waistband.  My faith in Mr. Atkinson was restored.

I was impressed that the person who turned this knee-length skirt into a mini did not take the scissors to it.  Instead she turned up the band and half of the bottom squares, which made for a very bulky hem.  I’m guessing it didn’t get a lot of wear as the condition of the skirt was so good.

As a short person, I’ve learned that there is often more to consider when putting up a hem than just length.  Proportion is very important in order for a dress or skirt to look “right.”  Several years ago before maxi-length dresses came back into fashion, it was common on ebay to see 1970s maxis that the seller had cut off to a mini length.  Because the scale of prints in the early 70s was often quite large, the prints were well suited to the maxi length.  But with three feet of fabric sliced from the bottom, the mini versions always ended up looking off kilter.

I’m glad that floor-length dresses made a reappearance in fashion, because it saved many vintage 1970s maxi dresses from the chopping block.

Correction: Spelling error


Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

The Cowichan Indian Sweater

I pulled this great little booklet out of a Goodwill bin, along with some other vintage booklets about Native American textiles.  What really interested me about this one was the section on knitted goods made by Vancouver Island Indians.  I know that knitting is not what generally springs to mind when thinking of Native textiles, but the Cowichan sweater is a special story.

In the early days of ebay chat boards, I loved to read the Vintage Fashion Board.  This was in the late 1990s, or maybe early 2000s, long before any vintage blogs or other sources of information online.  It was the best vintage education I could have gotten because it was an open discussion about anything and everything about old clothes.

One discussion I remembered in particular involved Mary Maxim and Cowichan sweaters.  As ebay was growing (exploding, actually) one of the big concerns was using key words so buyers could find what they wanted through searching.  For some reason, probably due to some “expert” on the board giving bad information, sellers started using the term Cowichan to describe Mary Maxim sweaters.

The only things the two sweaters really have in common is the use of a heavy multi-ply yarn in their making and often, the depiction of wildlife.  Mary Maxim is a company that sold knitting charts and yarns to home knitters.  The patterns are pictorial in nature, with themes like fishing or bowling or airplanes, usually in bright colors on a tan background.  They are best described, I suppose, as novelty sweaters.  Cowichan sweaters are hand knit by Indians on Vancouver Island, often with geometric patterns, but also depicting local wildlife.  They are knit in neutral colors of wool.

In the course of the ebay discussion, some knowledgeable person finally showed up and set us all straight about the Cowichan.  To use the term Cowichan to describe any bulky hand knit was just wrong, and to be honest, ignorant.  It was a good lesson for me, not to rely on the word of people I don’t really know.  Do my own research and be careful with the details.  Of course it is much easier now, fifteen years later.  The amount  of information on the internet is far beyond anything I imagined in 2000.  And it helps that today I know many people online whose knowledge I can trust.

Following is the text from the booklet, Indian Weaving, Knitting, Basketry of the Northwest, by Elizabeth Hawkins.  It was published in 1978.

Knitting is a modern technique that was introduced by early Scottish settlers to Vancouver Island Indians.  Today, Native knitting is predominated by the Salish women knitting the famous Cowichan Indian sweaters, and to a lesser extent, tams, socks, mitts and ponchos.  Many women still spin and dye their own wool both because of the handcrafted touch it gives and to keep the cost down.  Many of the sweaters are knitted in the round using as many as eight needles and therefore produce a seamless garment.

There is such a demand today for these sweaters that I was recently told that on two of the Vancouver Island reserves every woman of age commercially knits.  While the southern Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley tribes are the predominant knitters the demand is encouraging a similar home industry in northern villages as well.


Geometric patterns predominate in primitive Salish design but more modern designs often incorporate wildlife.  Thunderbird, eagle, killer whale and deer are crest figures often portrayed.

Duncan Fall Fair brings forth competition among Cowichan knitters.

I thought the spindles were really interesting.  I’ve never seen a spinning wheel adapted from an old treadle sewing machine.

Note the Scottish influence in the sweaters hanging behind the happy spinners.  I love that argyle.  The snowflake is interesting as well.  It looks like other knitting designs such as Scandinavian were being appropriated into the Cowichan.


Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing