Category Archives: Vintage Miscellany

Vintage Miscellany – June 28, 2015

Dingman’s Ferry, PA, 1927

Today is setting up to be one of those days that the local Chamber of Commerce likes to pretend is what we have three months of in the summer.  It’s cool and sunny, and that makes for perfect camping.  I hope the auto campers who set the scene in my photo were so lucky.

So get out and enjoy the day, but first, the news:

*   I think I’ve posted about Zady before, but it is worth reading this article about how the company is working hard to “make a T-shirt that does no harm.”

*  And this article about Patagonia shows how difficult that is to do, even when the company is trying very hard.

*   Is a two-year-old, or even a fourteen-year-old,  your style icon?

*   Make sure to talk to the young woman in the Christian Siriano gown.

*   Hilary Davidson carefully examined Jane Austin’s pelisse, and thanks to crowd funding we can all read the article she wrote about her findings.

*   I’ve always thought the women who wear high heels were a bit unbalanced, and science has proven me right.

*   The ultimate irony is when a designer’s representative states concerning one of her designs:  ‘For her part, Ms Isabel Marrant does not claim to be the author of this tunic and these designs’.

*   L.L. Bean’s boots are expected to be hot again this winter, and the factory is cranking them out as fast as it can.  Here’s a very interesting look inside their Maine factory.

*   PBS showed an interesting British show called Tales from the Royal Wardrobe.  It’s now available for watching on the PBS website.

*   We unruly Baby Boomers are taking over museums, and it ain’t pretty!

*   Crinoline mania, as seen through nineteenth century stereoscopes.

*   If Abercrombie & Fitch wants to survive, this article suggests they return to their past.  Haven’t I been saying that for years?



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Vintage Miscellany – June 14, 2015

Click to enlarge

This week’s vintage photo comes from reader Paula, who thought my post of the cover of a 1930s French catalog looked familiar.  Then she realized it reminded her of a photo of her grandparents, Ellis and Gertrude Teeter, taken before their marriage in 1935.  They were dating, and the photo was taken sometime in 1933 or 34 in Pennsylvania.  Enlarge to photo to see just how great Gertrude’s outfit was.  Thanks so much to Paula for sharing.

*   A lot of people have been talking about courage over the past couple of weeks.  Bethann Hardison, model in the 1970s, and later owner of her own agency, has courage.

*   Smithsonian magazine has a nice feature on the lasting appeal of Claire McCardell’s designs.

*   Madame Carven, who is probably remembered more for her scarves and perfumes these days, died at the age of 105.  At one time she was a very big deal.

*   Authorities in Bangladesh have finally pressed murder charges against the owner of the Rana Plaza factory that collapsed in 2013, killing over 1,100 people.

*   Actress Melissa McCarthy’s new clothing line will be made in sizes 4 through 28, with the hopes that retailers will sell all the sizes in one spot in their stores, eliminating the designation, “Plus Sizes.”

*  Is the de-cluttering craze starting to experience a backlash?  Two recent articles explain that accumulating stuff is not necessarily a bad thing.  Let’s Celebrate the Art of Clutter and In defence of the well-stuffed closet.

*  Amber Butchart talks fashion – and in particular, British fashion – in an entertaining forty minute podcast.

*   Baltimore hairdresser Janet Stephens recreates the hairstyles of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  I loved this article because Ms. Stephens is a not a history professional, yet her research is highly regarded and has been published in scholarly journals.

*   And finally, an excellent article about textile technology and history, and why we take it for granted.


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Vintage Miscellany – May 31, 2015

Brother Gene and Helen, 1943

I’ve looked at thousands of vintage photographs over the years, and I’ve learned that some of them are just more interesting than others.  In this case Gene and Helen could have been standing like statues, both staring at the camera, but how much greater is it that she is looking off to the side.  And notice how they both crossed their legs, but in an opposite manner.

Oh, who am I fooling?  The great thing about this photo is Helen’s shorts.  See the naval influence in the buttons and the dark (probably navy) stripe on the sides?  It’s classic WWII styling.

And now for the news.

*  If you are in the UK, or are traveling to London this summer, go to the Fashion and Textile Museum to see Riviera Style: Resort and Swimwear Since 1900 for me, please. And while you are there, be sure to see the display,  Nautical Chic by Amber Jane Butchart.  It ties in with her recently released book, Nautical Chic, which I’ll be reviewing here in the coming days.

*  And there is a great one for those of you in the Toronto, Canada, area.  Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol has opened at the Textile Museum of Canada.

*   I’m not the type of person who believes that an apology can make everything all better.  There have been too many people in my life who thought their apologizing would wipe their bad behavior clean.  But I do think it is time to let poor John Galliano get on with his life.  

*   Mod Betty really knows how to make the best of a roadtrip.  Read her top ten tips on how to get the most from your next trip.

*   Google and Levi’s have announced Project Jacquard, a partnership on wearable tech.  Your car has builtin Bluetooth, so why not your jeans?

*   A new film, The True Cost, addresses the human cost of cheap fashion. I have not seen the film, but reviews are quite critical, saying that the film offers no solutions, and that it targets only one sector of the clothing manufacturing business when the problem is much more complicated than just the cheap clothes at H&M and Forever 21.  Have any of you seen the film?

*   Taylor Swift wore a jumpsuit to an awards program, and former vintage-dealer-turned-manufacturer Nasty Gal quickly Instragramed that Swift was wearing one of their products.  Problem was, the jumpsuit was from Balenciaga, and Nasty Gal’s copy was so close that even they could not tell the difference.

*   Some women who were wearing flats (as opposed to heels) to a screening at the Cannes Film Festival were not allowed admission.  Seriously?

*  Plastics have proven to be a major conservation headache.  If your favorite Bakelite handbag has melted into a toxic blob, it’s probably small consolation that the V&A has similar problems.

*  Here’s a happier conservation story, one that involves velvet and ermine.

*   And finally, another article about older women and fashion.


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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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