Category Archives: Vintage Miscellany

Vintage Miscellany – April 23, 2017

The woman in today’s photograph is not identified, but I can tell you the photo was developed in Keokuk, Iowa. It’s the early 1930s, and she is dressed in a slender dress, possibly knit.  Her gauntlets, handbag, and hat are all white, and while we can’t see them, I’d be willing to bet her shoes are as well. The only contrast is the dark bit on her wrist. I can’t tell if it is a handbag strap or a bracelet. She quite matchy, but I think she is quite chic.

And now for the news…


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Vintage Miscellany – April 9, 2017

I love Mary Fritschi’s shoes, but I love her little dog even more. My guess on the date is 1939 or 1940, but it could be earlier, or later.  My thanks to Lynn at American Age Fashion for the photo.  We have a little transcontinental photo exchange going that really makes me happy.

And now, for the news…

This is not exactly a rare occurrence.  Not too long ago pulled a quote from an interview on my blog without citation. This is why I really do not like to link to big “fashion” sites. The articles on fashion history are rarely written by historians, and seem to be mined from the work of others.  To make the mess even worse, the leading image in the article is of a circa 1870 dress, and the caption has it labeled as 1778.  Quite a few people have pointed out the error in the comments and on Twitter, but the editor obviously trusts Getty Images more than the historians trying to set the record straight.


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Vintage miscellany – March 26, 2017

Meet my new favorite couple, Hortense Ledogan and Frank McDonough, with photo-bomber Eleanor Ledogan in the foreground.  The year is 1940, the place is unknown.  But, a google search for Hortense McDonough seems to imply the couple was later married, and she is still alive and is 102 years old.

The photo gives an excellent look at how young women dressed for their casual outings.  Hortense is wearing cotton overalls with a print shirt.  This was to become almost a uniform for women who did outdoors and factory work during the impending war.

And now for some news…


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Vintage Miscellany – March 12, 2017

Yes, it did snow here in the mountains last night.  After weeks of very warm and springlike weather, winter, it seems, has returned.

All I know for sure about today’s vintage photo is that it was developed in 1956.  It must have been a bit of a warm day, with the man’s sleeves rolled, and the woman’s having unzipped hers.  I think my favorite thing about this photo is the man seen between the pair, waiting his turn to slide while the camera hogs pose.

And now for some news…


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Vintage Miscellany – February 26, 2017

Earlier in the week it was 75* F here in the mountains, and so today the much more seasonable 50* seems like an icebox.  So, it’s a great day for sipping something warm and catching up on the latest fashion history stories.



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Vintage Miscellany – February 12, 2017

I cannot always sympathize with that demand which we hear so frequently for cheap things. Things may be too cheap. They are too cheap when the man or woman who produces them upon the farm or the man or woman who produces them in the factory does not get out of them living wages with a margin for old age and for a dowry for the incidents that are to follow. I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.

Those words have so much meaning today, but the truth is they were spoken by President Benjamin Harrison in a speech in August, 1891.  It’s important to keep this in mind when reading about the on-going abuses in the textile and clothing industries.  And thanks to Reba for sending the quote my way.

    •  Only a few months after President Harrison’s speech, the danger of working in a mill was punctuated with an explosion at the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH.
    •  It would have been a highly improbable thought to President Harrison, but the problems he addressed 126 years ago in the United States have merely been transferred to Bangladesh.
    • And also in Myanmar.  (Of course neither country even existed in 1891, but that’s beside the point.)
    • Here’s another article about the importance of home sewing.
    •  According to WWD there is a rising trend in the development of designer archives.
    • There is a new online catalog of original garments and textiles belonging to costume designer and clothing collector John Bright.
    • The Fashion Museum in Bath, UK, has put on display what might be a surviving dress belonging to Queen Charlotte.  For those of us in the parts of the world that don’t know all the kings and queens of England, Charlotte was the wife of George III, and the city of Charlotte, NC was named for her.  It is not certain that the dress was actually hers, though, as it looks to be a bit young in taste for Charlotte.  It also looks to be too small, but this is partly due to the way it was mounted.
    • The  Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes, or SAPE, is alive and well in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.
    • The Smithsonian website has a really interesting article called “The Invention of Vintage Clothing.”  It really wasn’t the beginning of people wearing old clothes, of course, but it is an early example of what we now recognize as the vintage clothing industry.
    • An heirloom wedding dress was lost from the dry cleaners, social media went to work, and the dress was located.
    • Ashley Biden (yes, the former VP’s daughter) has started a hoodie line called Livelihood.  The hooded sweatshirts are made in the USA, using materials sourced in the USA. Profits from sales will go to fund projects in two communities that suffer from a lack of financial resources (In other words, they are poor).  If you are thinking that the sweatshirts are too expensive,  I want to redirect you to President Harrison’s words at the top of this post.

I  first mentioned the Grab Your Wallet boycott back in November.  It appears that the boycott is having some effect, or maybe it is just that people are too embarrassed to be associated with the brands belonging to the First Family.  At any rate, sales are down, and the boycott has been in the news.  First, department store Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka brand due to poor sales.  Daddy-in-Chief then tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. ”  Statistics back up out Nordstrom’s claim that sales were the reason for the drop, not politics.  While sales were up overall at Nordstrom, the Ivanka products sales were down.  Then in the most unbelievable twist, presidential advisor Kellyann Conway urged the viewers of Fox News to buy Ivanka clothing.  Really.   It has since come out that other stores are either dropping, or making less visible, boycotted products.

And so now there are counter-boycotts  from people who claim the pulling of the products is politically motivated against the President.  And on and on…


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Vintage Miscellany – January 29, 2017

The study of how people dress is a serious discipline.  I’m saying this because the people who are professional dress historians and educators have, for the past thirty years or so, struggled to let that fact be known.  Pick up almost any book written about fashion studies in the twentieth century, and the introduction will stress how fashion IS a serious area of study.

Go to a conference for dress historian, and chances are good that you will stumble on this conversation. Even museum professionals continue to make this point. In The First Monday in May, Andrew Bolton spent much of his airtime lamenting his lack of respect within the Met.

What we wear, and how we wear it ARE important parts of our culture.  A garment can be a powerful symbol, as the Phrygian cap was during the French Revolution.  Even today, over 225 years later, that cap is strongly associated with the Revolution.

Garments can reflect a person’s station in life and their political views.  Black has long been a symbol of mourning in Western cultures, and even today, many people will wear black to a funeral or wake.  In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Suffragettes wore purple, white, and green, and in the USA, gold.  Today, many working for equal rights have rediscovered these symbolic colors and are using them to help make a point.

World events have gone at a crazy fast clip in the past two weeks, and it might seem that talking about fashion is a bit frivolous.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

* Will the pussy cat hat endure as a symbol of the recent women’s marches?  Museums are adding examples to their collections.

*  Hillary Clinton’s choice to wear a white pantsuit to the Inauguration was no accident.

*  The clothes we wear to work affect how others perceive the job we are doing.  Sean Spicer’s recent fashion transformation is a great example of using image to try to build credibility.

*  Kellyanne Conway defended the made in Italy Gucci coat she wore to the Inauguration by saying she was the “face of Donald Trump’s movement.”  She went on to apologize.  She was “sorry to offend the black-stretch-pants women of America with a little color.”

* After all the speculation, Melania Trump wore a Ralph Lauren coat and dress to the Inauguration.  She was stunning.

*  Not all the fashion and art news is from Washington.  First up, a lesson why you should never loan your prized possessions to friends.

I’ve been writing about the human rights and environmental issues in the garment and textile industries for almost fifteen years.  In my mind, the solution comes down to one big truth:  In order to solve the problems, people are going to have to see the benefit in paying more for their clothing. The time of spending lots of money on lots of cheap clothing needs to be replaced with spending the needed amount of money on ethically produced, well made and designed clothing.

*   An article from the UK continues to bust the myth that “garment factories exploiting workers is a problem restricted to low-wage Asian nations.”  An undercover investigation discovered that workers in UK garment factories were making as little as  £3 an hour, while the minimum wage is  £7.20.

*  A USA producer breaks down the cost of making higher quality garments.  thanks Jen for the link

*  Those campaign promises of good manufacturing jobs for the unskilled?  Easier said than done.

*  “The minimum wage in Bangladesh is 32 cents an hour.”  Those protesting for more are arrested.

*  And just to prove that I’m not completely overwhelmed with the negative, here is a nice feature on the resurgence of home sewing.


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