Category Archives: Vintage Miscellany

Vintage Miscellany – May 17, 2015

It appears to me – but I can’t say with one hundred percent certainty – that this young woman is wearing the uniform of a camping group, perhaps the Girl Scouts. My best guess is that this photo dates from the early 1930s.  I even have a Girl Scout manual from that time period, and the uniform pictured in it is remarkably similar to this one.

It could even be earlier.  I have an early 1920s manual that an afternoon of on again/off again searching has not located.  I will be updating as soon as the elusive manual is found.

I’m in the process of developing a presentation about women’s hiking attire for a local hiking club.  I’m looking at the late Victorian period through the 1930s and would greatly appreciate any sources or photos that you might want to share.

In the meantime, here is the news…

*   The Imperial War Museum in London has a very interesting artifact – the corset cover a woman was wearing when she was sucked into one of the  funnels of the sinking Lusitania.  The ship went down 100 years ago last week.

*   The buzz about the new exhibition at the Met has been mainly positive.  There are those who do question whether or not the show will engage viewers in having the thoughtful experience that is needed.

* John Frederics gets the credit for making the hats for Gone with the Wind, but there is, of course, more to the story.

*   The Museum at FIT has recently posted two videos from the conservation department that are fantastic.  One by Marjorie Jonas shows her conservation of a Jeanne Lanvin dress, and the other has Nicole Bloomfield describing the work that was done on a Paul Poiret coat.  This highlights the extreme importance of the paper archives at FIT and other institutions.   The Poiret coat was found through Instagram!

*   Earlier I posted a link to how LL Bean duck shoes were sold out in the months leading up to Christmas.  Here’s more about the effect of fashion on “heritage” brands.

*   Splurge and Purge:  the “sin” of fast fashion.

*   Here’s how designer Bill Blass helped trick the Nazis.

*   I have not yet seen the new film about Iris Apfel, but I’m hoping it is full of gems like this: “But 70-year-old ladies don’t have 18-year-old bodies & 18-year-olds don’t have a 70-year-olds’ dollars.”

*   I just found this fantastic blog on the history of women cycling and women’s rights.

*  And finally, the last episode of Mad Men airs in just a few hours here in the USA.  If you have not been watching this program over the past seven years, you have missed a real treat, and I suggest you get yourself to Netflix and watch the entire thing.  I do want to ware you that the sexism in the first seasons is especially hard to stomach, but stay with it to be rewarded with one of the richest viewing experiences in American TV.

The costuming of the show, which takes place from 1960 to 1970, has been discussed to death, but I found it really interesting that people actually donated clothing to the wardrobe department of the show.

I’d also appreciate any help identifying this uniform.  Thanks!

Update:  Thanks to the helpful comments and nudges in the correct direction, I’m confident in saying that this is a Girl Guides of Canada uniform, late 1920s or early 30s.


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Vintage Miscellany, May 3, 2015

I’m still without the use of my regular computer, so this post is coming to you courtesy of the world’s smallest and slowest laptop.  I’m hoping that things will be back to what passes for normal around here by the end of the week.  In the meantime, the internet has provided us with some interesting and thought-provoking content lately.

*   The Lilly Pulitzer for Target collaboration came, and fifteen minutes later it was gone.  Tens of thousands of the items ended up on ebay and many would-be buyers were left angered about the entire thing.  Why Target does not impose purchase limits on these special collections, I’ll never know.  The writer of the early 1980s cult classic, The Preppy Handbook, Lisa Birnbach, weighs in.

*   Who makes my clothes?  This was the question on many minds (and all over social media) last week as many people participated in Fashion Revolution Day, the purpose of which is to increase transparency in the clothing manufacturing business, and to hold manufacturers accountable when they continue to use unsafe factories.

* This next link has been all over the internet, so chances are you’ve already seen it.  Comedian John Oliver went on a seventeen minute long rant about fast fashion.  He isn’t saying anything new about the subject, but what makes this so important is that his audience is made up largely of the consumers of fast fashion.  I feel like I’m preaching to the choir whenever I rant about fast fashion because most people who read this blog are not in the fast fashion demographic. Oliver gets the point across by being funny and profane.

*  “…most everyone would be happier if all museums banned not only the selfie stick, but also cellphones and cameras.”  Here’s more in the on-going debate about banning cameras in museums.

* Perhaps they should put Anna Wintour in charge, as she has banned social media posts from this year’s Met Gala, which is tomorrow evening.

*  If there is any doubt this edict came from Wintour, you need to read this New York Times article about how she has complete control over the gala.

I’ve stated before that I’m uneasy with one person having so much power over the Costume Institute.  We can’t be so naive as to think that Wintour’s success at fund-raising for the Met is not being reflected in more than the renaming of the Costume Institute’s display area to the Anna Wintour Costume Center.

*   Why was the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture show such a snooze fest? According the curator, Andrew Bolton, it was the fault of the viewer: “The narrow-minded, often preconceived response it generated made me throw up my arms and think ‘I just can’t win.’”  Poor misunderstood Andrew.

This insight into the thoughts of one of the main curators at the Costume Institute is part of an article at Business of Fashion.  It’s an interesting look at how Bolton approaches the task of developing a show for the Met, as he talks through his ideas behind the soon to open spring show, China:Through the Looking Glass.  This exhibition sounds like a good one, highlighting the cultural give and take between China and the West.

According to Bolton, “In a way, the show isn’t really about China but about a fantasy of China, one that is shared between the East and the West.”  It sounds an awful lot like a Diana Vreeland exhibition, doesn’t it?  I suspect that this exhibition will be more successful than the last Bolton production, the Punk show because the topic lends itself more to his type of “intellectual” curating.

The problem with Punk was not with the viewers, it was with the way the material was presented.  We were given four categories in which post-punk fashion continued to be influenced by punk.  The problem came with the lack of punk examples.  Other than a few tee shirts of questionable authenticity and some Westwood/McLaren outfits, some of which were misdated, there was nothing with which to make the comparison.  So much authentic punk clothing was one-off, made by the wearer for his or her own use.  I can’t see that much of that material has made its way into museums unless worn by a rock star.

My response to Punk might be considered narrow-minded, but I do know when an exhibition does not achieve its stated goals.  And meeting those goals is the job of the curator.


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Vintage Miscellany – April 19, 2015

This weekend my Instagram feed has been full of a London event, the Tweed Run.  Here in the US this type of event is generally called a Tweed Ride, as it is an event on bicycles.  The point is to dress in traditional biking attire, and that includes tweed jackets and knickers.  Women often dress in a version of the costume that includes a skirt.  It looks like a lot of fun, with a stop for tea and a picnic at the end.

*   It looks a lot more fun than the Lilly Pulitzer for Target launch, which was three hours ago as I write this at 11:00 am.  The Target website broke and racks in stores were swept clean in minutes.  There are already 600 hundred listings for the merchandise on ebay.  #LillyforTarget is trending on Twitter, and there are a lot of angry people criticizing both Target and the greedy ebay resellers.  I’m really scratching my head over the entire thing.

*   Inside Out: Revealing Clothing’s Hidden Secrets is a newly opened exhibition at the Kent State University Museum, in which visitors are given a rare look at the interiors of historic clothing.  Such a fantastic idea.

*  There was a sale of clothing and memorabilia from Gone with the Wind held yesterday.  As expected, the highlight was a dress worn by Vivien Leigh in the film.

*   A teacher and grad students at the Courtauld Institute of Art maintain an interesting blog.  On a recent study trip to New York they visited the archives at Conde Nast.  It’s an amazing collection of photographs and documents from the publishing company’s past.  One sentence broke my heart:

This is not to say that other contemporary fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar lack academic importance: more so that the material bound to each issue was not deemed worthy of preservation back then, in fact much of Bazaar’s archive – including prints by Richard Avedon, Man Ray and Louise Dahl-Wolfe – was destroyed in the 1980s.

*   Tartan Day, April 6, has come and gone, but this great article about the history tartan remains.

*   In this age of everything being shared on the internet, it might not be a good idea to react when others make light of your jewelry choices.  I do love the phrase “twitter tantrum,” though.

*   The question has been asked, “Should we continue to focus on what Hillary Clinton wears?”

*   And here’s why we should care about what Jaden Smith is wearing.

*   Lucky Brand messed up a discount code that allowed people to place orders for two pairs of jeans for 2 cents!  Of course when the mistake was noticed the company cancelled the orders.  And of course that angered the entitled consumers of the world.

*   How does one curate a cup of tea?

*  And finally, here is an interesting story about the relationship between advertisers and the media.  Buzzfeed was found to be removing articles from its site that put its advertisers in a bad light.  After some bad publicity, the articles were reinstated, but it does point out the power of the advertising dollar.

I’m approached all the time by people wanting me to feature their products on this blog, or to join their “rewards” program for sending my readers to the sites they partner with.   I understand people wanting to make a living at blogging, but when money starts changing hands, the blog then becomes a magazine with paid content.  To paraphrase Bill Cunningham, if you don’t take their money they can’t tell you want to say.  I am way past the point of letting others tell me what to say.


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Vintage Miscellany – March 29, 2015

L for Lizzie perhaps?  I need that sweater.

*   This photo essay has been all over the WWW for the past week or so, but I still must share it here:  The twenty-one Callot Soeurs dresses of Hortense Mitchell Acton.

*  Less publicized, but no less interesting was this discovery of a trunk of clothes and costumes belonging to silent film actress Alla Nazimova.

*   Here’s a rare look inside the NBC/Universal Archives and Collections, which houses relics from Universal Studios’  past and present,including, props,costumes, and historic documents dating back over 100 years.

*   Chanel is well-known for its use of Linton tweed, but the latest collection also featured Harris Tweeds.

*   A look inside the Levi’s archive reveals a pair of 136-year-old jeans.

*   Watch this short and interesting video about Elizabeth Keckly, seamstress and friend of Mary Todd Lincoln, and former slave.

*   This one is only marginally about fashion, but it is another reason why I love Instagram so much.

*   I may have posted this one before, but the Metropolitan continues to add titles to their online archive of publications, many of which are out of print.  I’m linking to the thirty-three books from the Costume Institute, but there are over 1200 in all.

*   Celia Birtwell, textile designer for her former husband Ossie Clark, is selling her personal collection of Clark’s designs.

*   A  Selkirk First Nation elder was touring the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa and spotted a bag that had been made by her mother over forty years ago.  Be sure to listen to the interview, as it is much clearer in meaning than is the article.   The episode brings up a lot of issues, the most obvious of which is, “To whom do these objects belong?” In the US, many objects in museums have been returned to Native groups under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.  This does not apply to the items in this story, as it took place in Canada, and the objects in question are not “sacred.”  Still, there is a lot to think about.


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Vintage Miscellany – March 15, 2015

It’s a beautiful and warm day here in the South.  It’s enough to make you go outdoors in search of a little athletic activity.  The 1920s tennis  girl on the left looks to be wearing a divided skirt, perhaps her gym uniform?

And now for the news:

*  Women’s Wear Daily is a daily no more.  The newspaper announced last week that they were going to a weekly format.  Interesting that this came so soon after the death of long-time WWD editor-in-chief and publisher John Fairchild.

*   John Fairchild retired to Switzerland in 1997, but he left a lasting legacy on the paper founded by his grandfather.  He was known as much for his feuds with designers as for the quality of the paper. His two books on the fashion industry, The Fashionable Savages and Chic Savages, are fashion history must-reads.

*  There was another death in the fashion world, that of French model Bettina.  Muse to Jacques Fath, and later to Givenchy, Bettina was a super-model before there were super-models.

*   It looks like Zac Posen will be the designer at the revived Charles James label.  Some critics are unhappy with the choice, but I’m having a hard time caring either way.

*   For those of you with really deep pockets, the couture collection of vintage dealer Didier Ludot will be sold at auction on July 8.

*   The season of Downton Abbey has ended for us here is the US, but I’ve found the best ever essay series on The Toast: Watching Downton Abbey with an Historian.

*   NPR reporter Jacki Lyden has been doing a series called The Seams, which is a look at fashion from a cultural and historical standpoint.

*   And the latest shoe craze is the LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoe.

*  Some American companies are coming around to the benefits of American manufacturing.

*  My friend Carrie has been doing a series on vintage swatch books on her blog, The Cabinet.


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Vintage Miscellany – March 1, 2015

Here’s one happy traveler and one who thinks he’d rather be at home reading the paper and listening to the radio.  I think I’ll hang out with her.

* There’s a saying about the 1960s: If you can remember them then you weren’t really there.  That’s nonsense, thank goodness, otherwise we’d not have great articles like this one that features Betsey Johnson.

*   Scotland’s Barrie Knitwear is doing so well that they have actually taken on more workers, and will be hiring again.

*   John Galliano talked with Hamish Bowles about the pressure to succeed at his new job.

*  Last week the  internet celebrated the life of Leonard Nimoy, whose Dr. Mr. Spock character on Star Trek taught us in the 1960s that the best human of all was actually half alien.  This fan page shows how his famous ears were crafted, along with other costume goodies.  Thanks to Christina for the link.

*  I’ll soon be reviewing the Museum at FIT exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston.  Here is an excellent interview with Fred Dennis, the senior curator of costume about the show and the work of the two designers.  There is also a video interview with the curators of the exhibition, Patricia Mears and Emma McClendon.

*   Writer Christina Robert talks about the appeal of slow fashion  at High 50.

*   Are we living in a post-trend universe?

*  And along the same lines, are we seeing “the end of fashion as we know it”?

*   Tonight is the ending of the season of Downton Abbey for US viewers.  Costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins discusses her work on the PBS website.

*   There was another incredible thrift store find reported last week.

*   Bloomberg posted a photo essay of the glory days of the NYC Garment District.

*  Here’s another photo essay, this one titled 121 Professional Sports Photographs Taken before 1925.  Thought the title is a bit misleading (there are quite a few photos of high school students) it’s a fascinating look back at sportswomen and sportsmen.  Thanks to Mod Betty for the link.


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Vintage Miscellany – February 15, 2015

On one of the coldest days of the year, I thought we could warm up with Betty in Miami, August 10, 1942.

Or just stay inside with a cup of something hot and the latest news…

*   In preparation of the Savage Beauty exhibition starting next month at the V&A Museum, much is being written about Alexander McQueen.  How has our view of him changed in the five years since his death?

*  And there are also McQueen books to be read.

*   The Sacramento (California) Public Library will soon be lending sewing machines, along with other tools.

*   Those of you in the UK have another great exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, Thea Porter: 70s Bohemian Chic.

*  Where does one make a happy-looking hat?  In a jolly workroom, of course!

*   And another reason to visit the UK this spring is at the Imperial War Museum.  Fashion on the Ration features the clothes of WWII.

*   Is Patagonia the world’s most “authentic” brand?

*   And finally, here’s a story that is almost painful for me to report.  Someone pulled a vintage 1940s West Point athletic sweater that had belonged to Vince Lombardi from the Goodwill bins in Asheville.  It is now up for auction on the Heritage Auctions site, and it will end live on February 21.  I have a lot more to say about the reporting of this story, which will be posted later in the week.

This morning I read that the mystery of the sweater ‘s origin has been solved. The widow of a colleague of Lombardi lives in this area and was cleaning house. The sweater ended up in the donate pile.


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