Category Archives: Vintage Miscellany

Vintage Miscellany – October 7, 2019

The news has been so stressful that I’ve had a hard time concentrating on fashion history. But in times like these, is it somehow wrong or shallow to think about frocks and pajamas and pretty shoes? Truth is, and I probably don’t have to tell you this, fashion is more than just what we wear.

Politically, my teen and early adult years were also stressful. From the time I was ten years old in 1965, I was aware of the war in Vietnam, and as soon as that ended, Watergate and the threat of impeachment of Nixon became the chief source of anxiety. No wonder fashion in the late Sixties and into the Seventies looked to the past. Even as a preteen in 1967 I was aware that fashion was flirting with looks from the wartime Forties. That’s because my mother pointed out to me how the gathered sleeved blouses and dresses, and the above the knee dirndl skirts we saw in stores reminded her of the clothing she was wearing when she was my age in 1943.

I have a theory that one of the big appeals of nostalgia in the Sixties and Seventies was that so many Boomers saw the stark contrast between our parent’s wartime experiences and that of our own. My mom described feel-good stories of community sacrifice in order to help defeat Germany and Japan. My wartime memories involve protest and the horror of Kent State. Who wouldn’t give that up for a country seemingly united in a common cause? At least we could wear the clothes.

And now for some news…

  • The middle-class collector is being priced out of the art market. I can see this in the vintage market as well, but on a smaller scale. There are, at least, bargains still to be had.
  • Esther Williams: The Swimming Queen of the Silver Screen will be on view in the Catalina Island Museum through March 8, 2020.
  •   Idiocy is alive and well in the fashion industry.
  •   The Eastern Band of  Cherokee Tribal Council’ approved the Native Arts and Crafts Bill, which outlaws the sale of fake Cherokee-made crafts.
  •   I loved this short video about the men characters and their shirt collars in The Maltese Falcon.
  •    Remember that church altar cloth that turned out to probably be a fragment of a dress belonging to Elizabeth I? It will be on display at Hampton Court Palace starting October 12, through February 23, 2020.
  •    Moths and old clothes just don’t mix.
  •  Fans of Jane Austen will be interested in a new book, Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion.
  •   The US has Madeleine Albright, and the UK has Lady Hale.
  •    Illustrator Mac Conner has died. I saw an exhibition of his work last year at the Upstate History Museum in Greenville, SC.
  •    Time to burn your Vans.


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Vintage Miscellany – September 15, 2019

For work or for leisure, the denim or cotton twill overall was a standard in the early 1940s. It was sort of the jeans and tee shirt of the day.

  •  Amber Butchart explains the enduring popularity of seaside style.
  •   Designer Isabel Toledo has died.
  •   Second hand September urges us to go a month without shopping for new stuff. I can do that.
  •    There’s a new book featuring the photographs of Bill Cunningham.
  •    Many historic sites are finally beginning to acknowledge the work of the enslaved. Not surprisingly, some ninnies are complaining.
  •   Pendleton Woolen Mills is celebrating 70 years of making clothing for women.
  •    Project Runway favorite Chris March has died.
  •    Companies know that there are many labor issues that need to be fixed, but little is being accomplished in the way of improvement. I’ve been posting stories like this one for fifteen years.
  •    The same can be said for racism and the fashion industry.
  •    Here’s a great story about how a housekeeper saved a treasure trove of historic clothing.
  •   And finally, a story from The New York Times about the Jantzen diving girl. Thanks to the many readers who emailed this link to me.

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Vintage Miscellany – August 25, 2019

1932. It’s almost chilly here in the Western North Carolina mountains so maybe fall really is on the way. Here’s my dream hiking ensemble: snappy pullover sweater, rolled cuff trousers, high laced boots, and a hat that’s part tam, part beret with hair neatly tucked away inside. Was she posing, or simply caught in a pensive moment?

And now for some news…

When I first started writing this blog around fifteen years ago, most museums I visited did not allow visitors to take photos, so I carried a sketchbook to record the highlights of fashion exhibitions. Today, most museums do allow photos, due mainly, I’d think, to social media. When people started documenting every small detail of their lives on Facebook and Twitter (and later Instagram) museums very quickly realized that every post on these sites was free advertising.

There are still plenty of people who object to the practice, saying that the photo has become more important than the experience. To some degree I agree with that thought. We’ve all seen people rushing through a museum or historic site, camera in hand, ready to get that perfect Instagram shot.

I try to use a strategy when visiting an exhibition that I want to photograph for this blog. Ideally, I view the entire exhibition, reading the show notes and absorbing the message the curator is trying to put out there. Only after looking and thinking and studying, I go back and take photos of what best tells the story.

This strategy works best where an exhibition is located all in one area of the site or museum. Often, in house museums like the Biltmore Estate, it’s just not reasonable to take the photos separately from the first viewing. Things are just too scattered about. But I do find I learn more and see more when I have the opportunity to look at an object twice.



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Vintage Miscellany – July 28, 2019

It was 1935, and despite this peaceful scene overlooking Florence, there was something rotten in Italy.  But that does not seem to have affected Wally’s (second from right) “happy and educational” visit.

And now for some more current events…

  •   Can it be true? The 2020 spring exhibition of the Met’s Costume Institute is to be based on the Met’s own collection. I’m imagining a sort of greatest hits show featuring much of what has already been seen in recent years, but one can hope for some rarely seen treasures.
  •   And there will be an exhibition this fall showing off the collection of Sandy Schreier, which has been donated to the Met.
  •    Of all the sports women have participated in over the years, tennis seems to be the most fashion forward.
  •    This article about Red Wing boots shows just how hard it is to re-shore manufacturing.
  •    Playtex, maker of spacesuits
  •    A new book highlights the story of the destruction of the largely Jewish fashion industry of Berlin in the 1930s.
  •    How can a a pair of 1972 Nike shoes be worth $437,500?
  •    And will Babe Ruth’s uniform top them in price?
  •    Fashion historian Kate Strasdin has written a great post about the usefulness of social media in historical research.
  •    Museum workers are unionizing to help secure better pay.  Just because a person works for a non-profit does not mean that they should be asked to work for sub-standard pay.

  • Here’s Wally again, this time in Pisa with her Italian hostesses, the “cultured & aristocratic Guisti girls”. I love how all the hats are tilted at the same angle.


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Vintage Miscellany – July 7, 2019

Today’s photo comes from a small group I have that shows a circa 1915 family at a lake-side cottage. I bet they had fish for dinner that evening.

And there’s a bit of news:

    •   I’ve already written about the Nike shoe situation, but I do want to report that it was a major discussion at the July 4th party I attended.
    •    You can own Princess Diana’s sweatshirt, but hurry, the auction is this week.
    •    In less than a week Kim Kardashian announced that her new shape wear line would be called Kimino, there was a huge outcry, and she announced that she’d be choosing another name.
    •    Ravelry, a site for yarn crafters, has banned posts and projects that support the President.
    •    “It’s time for Colonial Williamsburg to get serious again.”
    •   Lottie Barton “clothed Baltimore’s affluent women and dressed two presidents’ wives, Frances Cleveland and Caroline Harrison.” Learn about her.
    •  I think it’s about time for me to do another post about cultural appropriation, putting it into historical context.
    •  One of my favorite podcasts, Ben Franklin’s World, has a new episode called “Shoe Stories from Early America”.
    •   Zack has never wanted to dress normally, and we should all be glad.
    •    Converse is rethinking the Chuck Taylor shoe.
    •    One of the best cotton mill villages is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
    •    Here are some fabulous vintage and antique photos of women fishing. Thanks to Julie Z. for the link.

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Vintage Miscellany – June 23, 2019

The woman in the photo above presents a bit of a clothing mystery. She’s wearing a mid 1930s bathing suit under a pair of slacks, with a neat rope tied at the waist. It would be several years in the future before a woman appearing on the street wearing pants would be accepted, not to mention that bare top. Yet there she is, lounging on the steps of a substantial building, as if it were the most natural thing ever.

And now for some news…


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Vintage Miscellany – May 13, 2019

This photo was added to my collection for a couple of reasons. First, the poster in the background is for the Colonial Theater, which was the name of the one theater in my hometown. Not that I think this was taken in Canton, NC, but the girl on the right sure looks a lot like my high school classmate Deborah.

The best reason for owning this photograph is because of the sweater “Deborah” is wearing. If I can’t have the sweater, at least I can have the photo of it.

And now for some news…

    •  Recycled tee shirts should soon be a reality.
    •   Here’s another reason to buy only vintage cashmere.
    •   The Western shirt just keeps on going.
    •   There is a Fashion Transparency Index. See how your favorite brands fit in.
    •   Meet five French millennials who hand-stitch couture.
    •   What is the value of a clothing collection?
    •    “Nike is taking tangible steps to grow women’s basketball.
    •   Is it time for a Laura Ashley revival?
    •   I wish I could be as brave as Dolly Shepherd.
    •   “Holy shit, that is some old-timey racism.”
    • And finally, it’s that time again – the Met Gala and the new “blockbuster” fashion exhibition of the Met’s Costume Institute. This year’s theme is Camp, which I was all excited about until I realized the show is not being sponsored by LL Bean.  All kidding aside, I thought this was an exceptionally hard theme, especially since most attendees of the Gala are interested only in looking good.  From what I saw, the idea of camp was just not fully recognized on the red carpet. Some have argued that the same is true of the exhibition.
    • I’m pretty sure I’ll not make it to New York this summer. I try to save trips into the city for when there are exhibitions that really interest me. From what I have heard from attendees of Camp, it is structured a lot like the (hated by me) Punk exhibition of several years ago.  That is, there’s a bit of historical dress at the beginning just so a few iconic pieces (Poiret lampshade dress, anybody) can be trotted out before the onslaught of clothing made within the past ten years, some of which is still hanging on the racks at Saks. And to whoever first thought of stacking exhibits in tiers, a pox on you! Can you imagine putting the Monets and Cezannes and Leonardos ten feet above eye level? If fashion is art, then treat it as such.


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