Category Archives: Vintage Clothing

1940s SS Neptune Linen Top

It seems like I’ve been on a real nautical kick lately, as the last three items I’ve added to my collection were inspired by the sea. It’s not surprising, really, as sportswear has from its very early days been influenced by clothing traditionally worn at and on the ocean. Garments like the middy blouse were based on the sailor’s middy, and nautical motifs are really common in sports clothing.

Today’s nautical garment is a top from the post-war 1940s. The fabric is linen, and is nice and crisp.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this top, and its original purpose. At first I thought it might be a beach cover-up, but the length seems a little short for that use. The presence of the pockets, and the fact that there are only three buttons keeps this from being a blouse that would tuck into pants or shorts. So I’m going with jacket. I can see this paired with a pair of white slacks, with maybe a tee shirt or halter top beneath.

I love the colors, which are not the standard nautical red, white, and navy. The rope around the life preserver is the very same color as a sash on a late 40s pants set I have. Color is fascinating, because you really can use it to help with the dating of garments.

At first I could not decide if the buttons were the originals, but a very close inspection of the thread used in the making of the buttonholes, and the thread used to sew on the buttons seems to be a match. So I’m pretty sure they are the originals.  And you can tell by the handmade button holes that the jacket was made by a home sewer, rather than manufactured commercially.

The sewer knew her (or his, possibly…) fabrics and took no chances with the linen. To eliminate raveling, the armscye was bound in bias tape, and the seams were flat felled. There are no exposed edges anywhere on the garment.

I looked to see if there was any special SS Neptune, and found a lot of photos of a sailing ship caught in the arctic ice. There have been lots of ships named Neptune, for obvious reasons, and I guess this print was named not for a real ship, but for an imaginary Neptune.

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Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1920 Sports Sweater

This sweater is a real survivor. It’s almost 100 years old, and it has managed to escape the scourge of vintage knits – the moth. I see a lot of these sweaters in old photos from 1915 through 1922 or so, but they are very rarely actually found on the vintage market. Several years ago I let one get away, and I vowed to buy the next one I found that was not held together by a few threads.

It took a while, but finally this beauty came my way. It had everything I was looking for – a great color with contrast, excellent condition, and it was made for a woman (front laps right over left). And who could resist those pockets?

This style was made for both men and women, as shown in this illustration from the 1921 Bradley Knits catalog. The only thing my sweater is missing is a label, but it could have been made by Bradley. Or maybe not, as there were many producers of wool knitwear during this time period.

The details are so nice, and add to my love of the cardigan. This sweet little pocket flap really makes me happy.

The buttonholes seem to be made by hand, using the matching wool yarn. I’m not sure why my colors are all over the place. The sweater is not this purple.

Besides the green stripes, notice the knit-in stripes of red.

And finally, a reminder that the overlock machine was not invented in the 1970s. The overlock was commonly used on sportswear, even earlier than this sweater.

 

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Filed under 1920s fashion, Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Winter Sports

1929 Perfetex Athletic Clothing Style Book

I’m beginning to think that Chicago was the gym attire capital of the US,  as I’ve found another company that was located in that city. I knew about Perfetex because I have a pair of wool exercise bloomers with that label. It made me happy when earlier this week I located a catalog from the company. I bought it because I hoped to find my bloomers included (more about that later) but I found the catalog to be really interesting beyond my own collection.

The actual name of the firm that made Perfetex Athletic Clothing was Chancellor & Vaughan of Chicago. A note inside from the company president was signed C U Chancellor. Even with all that information, I was not able to find out anything about the company. That happens so often when a proper name is also a word with a meaning, such as “chancellor.”

In 1929, big changes where coming to women’s clothing. It wasn’t as sudden as history books sometimes make it seem, as there were hints that skirts were going to get longer, and clothing was going to be cut closer to the body. As for gym wear, for decades the bloomer had been the pants that girls and women wore for athletics. Above you can see the classic combination of middy blouse and baggy bloomers. The middy has short sleeves, and the bloomers are above the knee, but otherwise this is pretty much the same gym attire girls had been wearing for fifteen years.

But in 1929 the bloomer was slowly being replaced by shorts. In the outfit above, the blouse is still made of middy twill fabric, it has the pocket, and the V-neck. But gone is the flapping collar.

Taking it a stop further, here we see the shorts paired with a tee shirt made from jersey knit, which was available in either cotton or wool. Before long girls and women were wearing shorts for more than just basketball.

Click to enlarge

The middy was still pretty much the top of choice for gym. But it is interesting how in just a few years it would be pretty much gone, replaced by a gymsuit that was a blouse and shorts combination.

Prefetex was even selling a similar blouse in 1929. Just add the shorts and you have the new standard that replaced the middy and bloomers.

A while back I posted about a 1920s romper in my collection that is very similar to this one. It’s always good to find items documented with firm dating.

I’m doing a groan about the Barefoot Dancing Sandals though. I saw a pair of these somewhere online (probably eBay) described as bathing sandals, which I knew they were not. So I didn’t bid, and didn’t even bookmark the auction. Not good. Now I need them. Badly.

But getting back to my knickers, I am pretty sure that these are the ones I have. They are described as modern because so much of the fullness has been eliminated and they are shorter than the other knickers offered.

I am truly sorry about my sorry photos of these. I promise to take more time and do a better job. I hope you can tell that these are the same style.

Here’s the side opening with a placket covering the buttons.

The ad copy mentions a “diamond crotch piece.” I’d call it a gusset, and the purpose was to make the fabric “give” more in the area to reduce stress to the fabric. Note the mends on both sides of the diamond. it didn’t work.

To me, a lot of the fun of collecting comes from being able to identify garments like this pair of lowly bloomers. Simple pleasures!

 

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

1970s Charlie Chaplin Sweater

I’ve written about nostalgia, and how the idea of our grandparents’ past played such a huge role in the fashions of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I think it pretty much started with the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde, staring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as beautiful and stylish versions of two of the nastiest small-time crooks around in the 1930s. The trend continued, and developed into a style of its own in the form of 1930s inspired slinky disco dresses in the mid 70s. Kitsch died, but style remaind.

My sweater is pure nostalgic kitsch. The stars and icons of the 1930s were seen everywhere from posters on our walls to the sweaters on our backs. My sweater is labeled Pronto, and this company also produced sweaters with the images of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, and Little Orphan Annie.  The sweaters must have been popular, as they were even counter-fitted under the label, “an original import.”

This was made before imported became such a problematic word. Seems like the only people really worried about imports in the early 1970s were the textile and garment makers and the trade unions.

This is one object I don’t actually remember, but I was sure it had to be from the early 70s. Because the law concerning care labels went into effect in 1972, the detailed care label is a good indication that the sweater is from 1972 or later. The RN number was another clue. It was registered to Knits by Caron, which was listed as an importer and wholesaler.

But I got really lucky, as there is a book, Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp in America, 1947–77, by Lisa Stein Haven, that mentions this sweater. It was advertised in Seventeen magazine in a 1973 Saks Fifth Avenue ad.

The sweaters came in this greenish-yellow color and also in white. The stripes are the same on all the sweaters, with the images of the stars being embroidered on by machine. Close up, Chaplin’s hair looks like a mass of French knots.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Vintage Clothing

One Woman’s Clothing

An owner of a vintage clothing store once told me that the best part of running the store was all the great stuff that people brought to her. She never had to go in search of stock. Writing a blog about clothing history is a bit that way, as I’m always hearing from people who have great stories to tell, but also I hear from those who have a few questions about what they have.

Not too long ago Julia of Carolina Thrift Chick emailed me about a playsuit set she got from an estate. In emailing back and forth I found that from the same estate she had gotten some nice 1940s pants sets. I was lucky to not only get these sets, but I also learned a bit about the original owner, Mary Jane Hefner of Hickory, NC.

Jane was born in 1931 and attended Lenoir Rhyme College. It’s very likely that these garments were part of her college wardrobe.  They date to the second half of the 1940s, and she would have probably started college in 1948. In the original collection, Julia also found a lot of 1950s skirt suits, which Jane would have worn in her first job of teaching.

Jane seems to have been very fond of the warm peachy colors found in these suits. She also liked browns and dark blues. She was one of those dream women that vintage clothing sellers love to find, as she evidently kept everything, and stored things properly. Both suits still have the tags in them where they were dry cleaned before they were stored. Her cousin who is managing the estate said that she wanted to make sure Jane’s clothing went to a good home where it will be cherished. I think my home fits that bill.

Mary Jane Hefner never married. She eventually left teaching to care for her aging parents and an aunt. Throughout her life she kept and loved animals of all sorts, from guinea hens to goats. And she was a very stylish dresser.

Both of the pants sets are made from rayon that have a lovely drape. At first I thought that the one above was missing its belt, but then it dawned on me that the tie belt I photographed with the cream colored suit matched the buttons and trim on the peach colored one. The tie was hanging with the cream suit in storage, so maybe Mary Jane wore it with both suits.

The cream suit does not have a label, but the peach one was made by Kabro, a company based in Houston, Texas. I don’t know why that photo makes the fabric look off white. It is peach.

Here’s the back. That deep inverted pleat and the two pleats on the side must have made this very comfortable.

The playsuit is also in a peachy color. It is made from cotton, and has the best series of buttons. It completely buttons from one side of the shorts, across the waistband, and up to the neck.

And here it is with the matching skirt. It looks rather long for the day, but Jane was tall. Her pants measure 44 inches long.

The pretty neckline makes this playsuit look a little less like a gymsuit than many of the 1940s playsuits I’ve seen.

Interestingly, this set also has a Texas label – Nardis of Dallas. Both Nardis and Kabro were distributed nationally. Nardis was the official supplier of clothing to the Dick Van Dyke Show in the early 1960s, so you might have seen some of their clothes on Mary Tyler Moore and Rose Marie.  As far as I can tell, Nardis was opened in the 1930s and it survived until 1980.

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1960s Kleinert’s Beach Bags

Things seem to come in bunches, as I recently found two really great Kleinert’s beach bags from the 1960s. Kleinert’s was/is a maker of rubber products, and so was a big player in the swim accessories market. I’ll share more about the company at the end of this post.

The bag above is canvas that has a layer of rubber fused to it. You can see it on the left along with the label. This bag dates to 1963.

I can say that with certainty as I found it in a catalog from 1963. In the description it is mentioned that the bag was also available in black, white, and tan.

The second bag is, according to my guess, a bit older, and may possibly date from the late 1950s. I love the design of this one, and the fact that it was never used and still has the hangtag.

When not in use, this bag stores flat. When being used, it takes the shape of a diamond.

The tag had a great late 50s or early 60s look. When was orange combined with pink hip? That might help nail down the date on this one.

This bag has the same label (with the addition of the copyright symbol) and the same rubber lining as the 1963 duffel. It looks like the rubber is degrading, but that is actually the original cardboard liner.

The following history is copied from a post I wrote in 2011.

Kleinert’s was started in 1869 as I.B. Kleinert’s Rubber Company .  The owner,  Isaak Kleinert, started the company to produce his many inventions, all consisting at least in part of rubber.   The company’s fortune seems to have been made on the dress shield, little rubber crescents, covered with cotton, that were basted into the underarms of one’s frocks.  In the days before antiperspirants, these little shields saved many dresses from ruin, and many misses from embarrassment!  I’ve found many vintage dresses with the dress shields still in place.

But Kleinert’s was not just about dress shields.  According to the Kleinert’s website, Isaak Kleinert also invented the shower cap, rubber baby pants, and the shower curtain.  For many years they also made rubber swim accessories, such as bathing caps, shoes and totes.  They even produced a limited line of swimsuits.  I’ve seen Kleinert’s ads for rubber-lined swim caps as early as the 1910s, and they were made at least into the 1960s.  But by the 1970s, the swim cap was old-fashioned, and rarely worn except by grandmas and competitive swimmers.

This business is still in operation, still making shields and other moisture protection products.  And, quite nicely, still made in the USA.

Update: I found a reference to pink and orange in Claire McCardell’s 1956 book, What Shall I Wear? “I have discovered the excitement of orange and pink… Granted that orange and pink may be too bold for a drawing room in midwinter. But what about wearing it to a resort? I am sure you will find that the two colors fade into harmony in the Mediterranean sun.””

 

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1950s Pat Perkins Fore Action Golf Dress

For longer than I care to think about I had been meaning to drive down the mountain to Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is one of those places that is making an effort to revitalize the downtown area, and at the same time smaller enclaves of retail and restaurant activity are springing to life.  One of these enclaves is the Village of West Greenville.  West Greenville was originally a a cotton mill village.

The nearby Brandon Mill employed over one thousand workers in the prosperous cotton mill days of the early twentieth century. The most famous person to ever work there was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who started his baseball career playing for the Brandon Mills team. For those of you who don’t know baseball history (or who don’t live with a Chicago White Sox fan) Jackson was involved in the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919.

Today West Greenville is home to Kate DiNatale Vintage. It was there that I found this great late 1950s golf dress.

I knew the brand name Pat Perkins, but I had no idea the company made golf dresses. I knew them as a maker of affordable day dresses.

Fans of classic television know the Pat Perkins name because it is boldly featured in the opening credits of The Honeymooners. According to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, Mac Kaplan, the owner of Sunnyvale Inc. the maker of Pat Perkins dresses, gave the show a few dozen dresses for Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden to wear on the show in exchange for a listing in the opening credits. Unfortunately, Alice always wore an apron that covered much of the dress, much to Kaplan’s chagrin.

One thing that makes a good golf dress is the presence of functional pockets. And I love these, with the top of the pocket forming a belt loop.

You can see how the breast pocket mirrors the styling of the lower ones. Because this dress is sleeveless, there is no need for adaptations in the sleeves. Do note the additional ease in the shoulders.

One place I always look for information on a brand or trademark is the Trademark Electronic Search System. It is a very handy tool, but it has to be used with caution. Even though the label has a little R for registered trademark beside “Fore Action”, I could not find it in the system. The only Pat Perkins trademark listed dates to 1962, and clearly states that the first use of the trademark is 1962. Some users might mistakenly take this to mean that the Pat Perkins label was not used before 1962, but we know that is not true. The registration is in fact referring to the brand name plus a slogan: “Pat Perkins, Reflecting America’s Most Treasured Daytime Dress.”

If you are ever in the Greenville area, a trip to Kate’s beautiful store is most recommended.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing