Category Archives: Vintage Clothing

Mohair Sweater, Circa 1960

My first fashion history teacher was my mother.  In telling me about the clothes she wore as a young woman in the 1940s, I became fascinated with how clothing styles changed and how they reflected the times in which the wearers lived.  I’ve always loved stories about women and the clothes that have been important to them.

While I was young, I witnessed two major changes in the the way women dressed – the switch from the conservative styles of the early 1960s to the Mod styles of the mid 60s, and then from the Mod styles to the 1970s which brought about a greater acceptance of women wearing pants and a more eclectic way of dressing overall.

Growing up in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina, I was made aware at an early age that fashion as seen in magazines and on television was not always what was being worn in my community.  The girls I knew always complained that we were at least two years behind the rest of the country, but looking back I realize that it wasn’t just this area that suffered a fashion lag.  What woman or girl in the 1960s could afford to replace all her clothing every season?  And so wardrobes were made more stylish as clothing was replaced or altered.

One garment I recall from my childhood was the bulky mohair sweater.  Whenever I come across one of these sweaters, I’m instantly reminded of my older cousin Nancy and the other high school girls who rode my school bus.  All these teens were wearing mohair sweaters in the early 60s, but by the time I would have wanted one, they were no longer the style.  I estimate that the girls I knew were wearing them in the early 1960s, and my search for images confirms that this was the era in which they were popular.  The latest image I found was in a 1965 Montgomery Ward catalog.

Like most of these sweaters that I’ve seen, the catalog states that this one was made in Italy of a blend of mohair, wool, and nylon.

I’d love to hear any memories you might have of wearing mohair.  Please tell me how itchy it was so I can get over this sense of loss at never getting to wear it as a child.


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

Ad Campaign – Jantzen, 1944

I got the above ad from Pam at after she posted it during a VFG Sportswear workshop.  Not only is it a great ad, it was important to me because I have the shorts in the illustration.  It’s always great to get a date verification for things in my collection, especially in the form of an ad or magazine copy.

The ad comes from 1944 – note the reference to War Bonds and the pun of a headline.  Even though clothes were rationed and fabric was in short supply, the American sportswear makers still managed to come up with some wonderful sportswear.  This pleated (front only, to save fabric) short style is one of the most flattering shorts ever made, and they look just as fresh in 2016 as they did in 1944.

I originally posted this in 2008, but the shorts in Sunday’s post reminded me so much of these that I thought a repost was in order.


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing, World War II

1920s: The Long Tubular Look

Even people who know nothing at all about fashion history have a mental image of how women dressed in the 1920s.  Actually, they can picture how women sort of dressed in 1926-27, with an image of what can be called the flapper with her knee length dresses and long strings of pearls.

But of course history is not as simple as that stereotype.  Before 1925 skirt lengths wavered between eight and twelve inches from the floor, with a big shift toward shorter skirts developing in 1925.

One thing that most 1920s dresses do have in common is a dropped waistline.  It was really more of a hip line than a waistline.  While most dresses did sport this long waist, some dresses were tubular, with no waistline at all.

The tubular dress seems to be most popular in 1924, though it is seen and mentioned earlier in fashion magazines.  In December, 1922, Vogue advised, “Those who do not care for the unbelted waist-line may wear a narrow grosgrain ribbon ties at the side in long ends…”  The accompanying drawing showed these ribbon ties at the hip.

Also in 1920 there was a vogue for bordered fabrics.  Susan at Witness2Fashion did a fabulous post about the fashions of 1924, and if you look at it you will see how these borders were incorporated into the styles of that year.  Note too, how many of them are tubular.

I found and bought the dress above last week, and I feel pretty confident that it does date to 1924.  All of the design is machine embroidered, with the neck section being engineered as a curve in the embroidering of the fabric.  The sleeve caps, however, are cut and sewn to the sleeves.

There are only two pieces to this dress, the front and the back, with the sleeves being cut as part of them.  Note the covered buttons, and see that there are also rows of them on the sides, from the hip to the hem.

Here you can see how the sleeve trim is sewn on top of the little sleeve.

The dress is beautifully made, with all seams being enclosed.  It’s as neat and tidy on the inside as on the outside.



Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

Couture Sewing: The Couture Skirt by Claire Shaeffer

Claire Shaeffer’s method of making a couture skirt is one of those projects that has you wondering what you got yourself into, and then it all comes together and all is right in the world. I don’t mind spending a lot on time on one project, as I have enough clothes to do me for a while, and I sew to try and do something useful with all the piles of fabric around here.  In this case I saw an opportunity to use two pieces of great material – a silk and cashmere blend plaid, and a silk print in a similar colorway.

All of the books in Claire’s couture series come with a dvd that shows the how-to step by step.  I’m a very visual learner, and so the dvds are essential for me.  It helps actually seeing her work through the steps.

She suggests that the maker of this skirt start with any straight skirt pattern.  I actually had a vintage pattern that has a front wrap.  She gives the directions on how to add the wrap, but this saved me a step.  In this skirt, there are no side seams, so I had to place the front and back pieces together at the side to make one large combination piece.  The only two actual seams in the skirt are the center back and the waist band.

Straight skirts have  darts at the waist to allow for the proper fit, but in this skirt the fullness is steamed out rather than darted.  I did have to end up doing a dart at each side as there was just too much fullness to steam out.

Here you can see where I eased in the fullness at the waist.  The diagonal basting is to secure where the quilting lines went.  Yes, the lining and the fabric are quilted, just as in a Chanel jacket.  You can’t tell in my photograph, but I had to overcast the edges to cut down on fraying.

Because of the easing, the plaid lines don’t match up on the waistband.  I’m not so picky that this bothers me, and I don’t like tops to be tucked into a waistband, so it will never show.

The waistband is interfaced with petersham.  After sewing the band to the skirt, it is lined with the silk.

Here you can see the inside of the waistband.  You can also see the top of the zipper closure.  The zipper is put in by hand, and then the lining is slip-stitched to the zipper tape.  The band closes with two hook and eyes.  Even though this looks like a wrap skirt, it is actually a faux wrap, with the overlapping fronts both being attached to the same section of waistband.

To reduce bulk over the stomach, the wool plaid is actually cut away on the under-wrap.  To me, this was the hardest thing, because I was terrified I’d cut too much.  But it is an excellent technique, and really does remove fabric where most women don’t want that extra layer.  I finished the edges where the plaid was cut using a blanket stitch.

You also get a good look at the quilting which is seen on the lining, but is masked by the lines of the plaid of the fashion fabric.

This is the lower edge of the skirt, showing the wrap at the hem.  All the edges of the skirt were slip-stitched.  It you do not like hand stitching, this is not the project for you.

And finally, after more than a month of slip-stitching, the skirt was completed.  I’m sorry that the model is missing her head, but that is the fault of the photographer.



Filed under Vintage Clothing

1950s Sports Car Themed Belt by Calderon

This belt that I recently bought from Carla and Carla on Etsy was chosen for my collection because of two things.  It fits into a general travel theme and it can be paired with my 1950s novelty print skirts. I’m always looking for this type of belt, especially those featuring travel or sports.

I’ve seen these novelty belts advertised as being from the 1950s, 1980s, or even 1970s.  I can see why there is confusion, especially with the 80s.  During that era belts were wide, and were often contoured to fit the waist.  I’ve even seen similar belts from the 1980s that were decorated with African animals or faux coins.  But this one is from the 50s, or maybe the early 60s, when novelties were very popular.

The maker is Calderon.  I don’t know a thing about the company other than they made belts and handbags at least from the 1950s through the 1980s.  Oh, and that they made a high quality product.  My belt is stamped “Handmade” and it has features that would not be seen in lower quality belts.

Note the little leather patch.  These are glued over the metal pieces that hold on each metal motif.  Also, notice how nicely the back of the buckle is lined in leather.

In this photo you can see how the belt curves to fit the bottom of the waist.  A belt this wide, just under two inches, would be uncomfortable if it was cut straight and had to sit on the middle of the waist.

If I were the type to go crazy with a theme, I might pair this belt with this skirt.

I’m always looking for similar belts, so if you happen to spot one, please don’t hesitate to let me know about it.  But don’t bother with this one on 1st Dibs, as I’ve been looking at it lovingly for quite a while now.  And I’ll be looking at it for a while longer until someone lists one on etsy for a bit of a lower price!



Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, 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.


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.


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing