Category Archives: Vintage Clothing

Harlequin Print Top from Catalina

Catalina is another of those great old sportswear companies that I love to find.  It was located in California, a fact that the company used in their branding.  Many of the labels brag that Catalina was a “California Creator,” and that their products were “Styled for the Stars of Hollywood.”  In the early years they were mainly a maker of bathing suits, but they moved into sportswear by the 1940s.  Especially great were the figural design sweaters they made.

I found the blouse above several weeks ago, and I’ve spent some time thinking about it.  If not for that exaggerated collar, it is pretty typical of the late 1950s and early 60s.  But that crazy collar might make someone assume that this is a product of the 70s.

It is not.  Collar aside, this shirt dates from that period of time – the late 1950s and early 1960s – when people had an ongoing love of all thing Italian.  That included harlequin prints, Sophia Loren and Emilio (Pucci) of Capri.

harlequin-inspired designs from Emilio (Pucci) of Capri from a 1957 McCall’s mini-catalog

 

Besides the styling and the fabric, the label points to an early Sixties date.  This blue label was only used for a short time at Catalina, and while I don’t know the exact dates, all the garments I have ever seen with it date from the late 1950s or early 60s.  You can see a lot of Catalina labels on the VFG Label Resource.  While the Resource does not always lead to an exact dating, it is invaluable in giving a general idea of when a particular label was used.

The rolled short sleeves and the squared-off hem with side vents are commonly seen features in casual clothing of this era.

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Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1950s Golf Course Novelty Contour Belt

Ever so often I get something on my mind and off I go in search of it.  Lately I’ve been sharing (showing off) my collection of novelty print skirts on Instagram, and I started thinking about belts to go along with them.  Belts can be difficult to find, partly because they are not always easy to place a date on and search terms are often vague.

There is one type of belt from the 1950s that is generally easy to identify.  Designed to wear over the full gathered skirts of the era, these 1950s belts are often quite wide and are contoured to fit the waist.  My favorites are themed and are decorated with symbols of the theme.  I recently located the golf course themed one I’m sharing (showing off) today.  It was an etsy find, from seller South Side Market.

Though golf themed, this was a fashion item rather than a belt for active sports.  It was designed to fit tightly around the waist and would have been too constricting for actual play.

These belts were made in lots of themes.  Years ago I found one that has an airline theme.  South Side Market had a really super one that was magazine themed, but unfortunately for me it had already sold.  And probably the best one I know of is for sell at Poppy’s Vintage Clothing.  It has the names of French designers with dress forms.

These must have been a popular item at Saks Fifth Avenue, because I’ve seen quite a few of this type belt stamped with the store’s logo.  Two makers were Criterion and Calderon.

This selection of wide belts was pictured in the spring-summer 1956 Montgomery Ward catalog.  Though not decorated, these belts would have looked great with a simple blouse and a gathered skirt made from a fun printed cotton fabric.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

1920s Middy and Skirt in Lavender

I had been thinking about middy dresses ever since I found a book on the National Park Seminary for Girls.  In the book the teenage girls are all wearing what was an unofficial uniform for girls at many private schools.  One thing that I was interested in was that even though the photos in the book were printed in black and white, I could tell that the dresses were of various colors.

Most of the vintage middies that are found are white, but I have seen them in yellow, orange and navy.  Vintage ads and catalogs point out that various colors were available.

This ad from a 1922 Lombard catalog lists this middy dress in French blue, old blue, lavender, green, pink and tan.

Shortly after posting about the National Park Seminary, I spotted a fantastic lavender middy dress in the etsy shop Vintage Runway.  I just happened to know that the owner of this shop, Suzanne, was located fairly close to me.  After a few emails back and forth, I arranged to meet Suzanne and get the dress.

At this point I’ve got to say how much fun it is to meet up with other people who love vintage clothing and fashion history.  Suzanne and I sat and chatted as if we’d known one another for years.

Today I finally had a chance to spend some time looking at the dress and its construction. I had told Suzanne that it looked like it was professionally manufactured even though it had no label, but after a closer examination I’m sure this was made by an accomplished seamstress.

One big clue that this dress was home sewn was the presence of many hand sewn details, such as you see in these buttonholes.

The nautical-inspired patches look to be manufactured, but a fancy hand stitch was used to attach them.  It was possible to buy the patches and the white middy braid.

This ad is from a 1927 Charles Williams mail order catalog.

The arrow stitching at the corners of the pockets was also embroidered by hand.

Still, the quality of the work is such that the dress does not have that dreaded “homemade” look.  This was a sewer who knew what she was doing.

Fortunately, I know the name of the original owner of this dress.  She was  Blanche Nechanicky, who was born in 1907.  If she first wore the dress when she was fifteen, the year would have been 1922.  If you look at the ad from 1922 and compare it to my dress, you can see that my dress is considerably shorter than the dress in the catalog.

That makes sense, because after 1922 skirt lengths got shorter.  In an attempt to keep in style, it appears that Blanche shortened the skirt by taking a tuck in the underdress.

There is another line of stitching holes which might show an earlier alteration.  It’s interesting that Blanche did not make the skirt shorter at the hem.  Skirt lengths were in flux in the early 1920s and she wisely chose not to cut it shorter.  Besides, skirts have not always been shortened at the hem, but rather, at the waist.

It is possible that Blanche herself made this dress, though she would have been an exceptional seamstress to be a teenager. Luckily, Suzanne was able to share a bit about her.

Blanche was reared by her Czechoslovakian immigrant grandparents after her mother died when Blanche was two.  From her grandmother she learned sewing, crocheting, embroidery, and tatting.  After high school she attended Iowa State University where she majored in Textiles and Clothing.

Blanche went on to have a long career in home economics.  For much of her career she worked for the  New York State Education Department as the State Supervisor of Trade and Industrial Education for Girls and Women.  At other times she taught sewing, both to school girls and to adults in various sewing programs.  She never married, but traveled extensively.

It is a real treat knowing so much about Blanche.  So much of the clothing I’ve collected has long ago become separated from the history.  My thanks to Suzanne for sharing Blanche’s story.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Souvenir from the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki

The 1940 Olympics were to have been held in Helsinki, but were cancelled due to the war in Europe.  After the war ended, Helsinki was chosen to host the 1952 summer games.  These games are notable because it was the first time that the Soviet Union, The People’s Republic of China, and Israel competed.  The Republic of China (Taiwan) boycotted the games as a result of the Olympic Committee allowing the People’s Republic to compete.  Politics has always been a part of the Olympics, so it seems.

I love how the design of this scarf uses only the Olympic colors of blue, yellow, black, green, and red. Printed on rayon, it shows some of the more colorful and popular Olympic events.  I don’t seek out Olympic artifacts, but I had to have this one because of the representation of women athletes – the diver, the gymnast, and the equestrienne.

If you follow my Instagram account you might have seen this photo last week.  It was taken at the Charlotte Metrolina flea market/antiques show.  There were five or six huge tubs of vintage scarves, all priced at one dollar.  I stood with my friend Marge and we plowed through the piles of scarves, looking for treasure.  I found it in the form of this scarf and one from Liberty of London.  Two dollars very well spent!

I got to talking with the vendor and she told me she bought 20,000 scarves from a vintage seller who was going out of business.  There were so many that she had to take them to a cloth baler just so she could get them home.  She is now selling them at vintage shows like Metrolina.  The best ones start out at $5, and if they don’t sell they go to Metrolina for $1 each.  Even better, every month the scarves are different.  So if you attend Metrolina or Scott’s in Atlanta, look for the textile woman with the tubs of vintage scarf heaven.

 

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Filed under Shopping, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Alpine Fashion: From the 1940s to Chanel 2015

photo copyright Chanel.com

 

Once a year Chanel takes their show on the road with what they call the metiers d’art pre-fall show.  This year’s show took place in Salzburg, Austria and was a tribute to the Alpine look.  According to Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel got the idea for her 1950s jacket from the bell boy jackets at a Salzburg hotel in which she had stayed.

I’d wondered how Karl was going to make edelweiss chic, and you can see the how of it in the photo above.  By combining the trademark Chanel quilting pattern with the flowers at each point you can see how he took his bag of Chanel tricks, threw in the Alpine clichés, and came up with a collection that was uneven but interesting.  Some of the pieces were stunningly beautiful, as one would expect from Chanel.

As with all Chanel collections, the jackets and sweaters are my favorite pieces.  It has occurred to me that to replicate the look, it would be cheaper to fly to Munich for a week during Oktoberfest and do your shopping in one of the many trachten ( folkloric clothing) stores.  Or you could visit a button seller for edelweiss buttons to replace the buttons on a jacket you already have.  Either way, for less than the cost of a Chanel jacket you and a friend can enjoy one of the biggest parties in Europe.

Last week French television aired a program about Nazi collaborators who were artists and prominent people.  Coco Chanel was the star of the show.   The House of Chanel released a statement to the effect that there was nothing new in the program.  True, as Hal Vaughan published this information over two years ago.   Still, I find it a bit odd that the new collection has such a strong Germanic bent.  Perhaps Salzburg was chosen as the venue as Berlin or Munich would have made the connection clearer.

It will be interesting to see if this collection ends up sparking a trend in the way that Alpine inspired looks were a trend in the late 1930s and into the 40s.  To look at that trend, I’ve reprinted below a post I wrote four years ago about the Alpine trend during the 1940s.   I’m sorry the photos are not up to the standards here, but you can see how I’ve improved them over the years.

In the late 1930s and all during WWII, clothes with an Alpine (or Bavarian, or Tyrolean) flavor were very popular.  This has always struck me as being a bit odd, especially after it was clear that the US was going to war with Germany, and these clothes were so reminiscent of German folk dress.

In his book Forties Fashion, Jonathan Walford explains that in the 1930s, the Nazi German leadership actively encouraged the wearing of  Germanic Folk Costume, and the dirndl-wearing blonde German ideal commonly appeared in German propaganda images.  The use of Alpine-inspired details even appeared in Paris in 1936.

In looking at American fashion magazines, I’ve seen Alpine fashions featured as early as 1935.  Most often I’ve seen clothing from the Austrian firm, Lanz of Salzburg, used. Lanz was started as a maker of traditional Austrian folk costumes  in Austria in 1922 by Josef Lanz and Fritz Mahler.  By the mid 1930s they were exporting clothing to the  US, and in 1936 Josef Lanz opened a branch of Lanz, Lanz Originals, in New York.

As  the US moved toward war with Germany, these clothes continued to be popular.  Interesting, Lanz advertised in magazines such as Vogue and Glamour throughout the war, but in their ad copy, there is never any reference to the fact that the clothes are so similar to German folk dress.  From a 1943 ad:

Lanz faithful, classic suit of long-wearing, all-wool tweed, with warm boxy coat to match.  Colorful applique adds that gay spice for which Lanz is famous.

But why did this style continue to be so popular in the US?  I  have some theories.  First, “ethnic” fashions of all kinds were gaining in favor in the late 1930s.  Magazines did features on South American clothes, and Mexican and tropical prints were popular.  The dirndl skirt was used with lots of prints, not just with Alpine embroidery.

Also, these fashions were already in women’s and girl’s closets.  It stands to reason that in a time of shortages that a garment that would “go with” what the shopper already had would be desired.

If you want a deeper explanation, then you might consider the theory that enemies tend to copy their foes in dress, a form of cultural imperialism.

Whatever the reason, Lanz and other companies produced some really cute things.  I realized that I have a sort of mini-collection of these 1930s and 1940s Germanic fashions:

This label is from the dress at the top of the post.  Mid 1940s, made in the US

Early 1940s Jacket, with its label below

Made in Austria embroidered gloves

Unlabeled Jumper with embroidered trim.  This style jumper was very popular during the war.

Embroidered and appliqued belt, late 1930s

This vest was bought in a London department store, and is labeled Swiss Style.  Love the Edelweiss!

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Filed under Designers, Viewpoint, Vintage Clothing, World War II

White Stag Function-Alls for Women Workers

I recently got a message from Juliet at SixCatsFun Vintage saying that she had found a denim jacket with an interesting label.  It was “White Stag Function-Alls.”  At first I sort of shook my head in wonder, as White Stag made clothing primarily in canvas up to the middle 1960s.  But something seemed familiar.

I pulled out a WWII era White Stag catalog I have, and there it was – a full page of denim Function-Alls.  They were produced for women who were working in wartime jobs that required sturdy work clothing.

Overall Jacket to match style No. 7844 or No. 653.  Triple-stitched 8-oz. Sanforized denim.  Copper buttons. Complete with bandana Handkerchief.  Dark Blue denim only.

You can see the triple-stitching referred to in the copy.  And if you want to see the label a bit more clearly, it is printed in the catalog.

It’s a gloved hand pulling on a lever of some sort.

Due to the faded and frayed label, you can tell that this piece was used, probably by some 1940s Rosie the Riveter.  I think the documentation from the catalog makes the piece really special.  It’s hard to find WWII era women’s work clothing, though you know it must have been made by the millions.

The great condition of this piece is typical of the type of quality that White Stag turned out.  Even under wartime restrictions and shortages, they managed to produce a product that held up beautifully.  My catalog is not dated, but the references to the war and “the duration” make me think it is probably from 1943 or 1944.

Note the stag on the button.

Thanks to Juliet for sharing this great piece of history with me, and for letting me show it off here.  For anyone interested in this historic piece, she is selling it on ebay.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing, World War II

1920s, 1930s Parkside Hat

This hat serves as a lesson that not every piece of historical clothing fits the rules of what defines an era. These photos were sent to me by Mary Jane of Poppy’s Vintage Clothing because she thought I’d love the label.

And she was so right!  Even though this was not a hat for golf, Parkside was using the image of a golfing woman in what was a popular way to promote products in the 1920s.  Susan at Witness2Fashion wrote a post several months ago about how the image of a golfing woman was commonly used in the 1920s as a symbol of the modern woman.

Which leads us to the problem of dating this hat.  The style of the hat seems to be very early 1930s, but the label and the way the hat is constructed on the inside seem to say 1920s.

Until the 1930s, hats were generally fully lined.  The label was usually a large woven piece that matched the rest of the lining.  Such is the case in this hat.  As the cloche began to shrink in the early 1930s, hats were generally not lined, and had a small woven ribbon label sew in.

The image of the woman golfer also looks to be 1920s.  She is wearing a cloche and knickers.

This hat is sort of a cloche, but the back looks to be a bit short.  It is possible that it was meant to be worn more on the back of the head, as the last 1920s brought about a slow trend toward showing a bit of the forehead.

I looked in all my sources to see if there were any hats like this one shown for the mid 1920s or later, but I pretty much did not find any examples.  As the 1920s came to a close, hats were almost helmet-like, with tiny or no brims at all.  This helmet cloche did not disappear on the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1930.  Even in 1931 it was still occasionally seen in fashion magazines.

So when exactly was this hat made?  I’m not enough of a hat expert to say, but my best guess is late 1920s or early 30s.  I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing