Category Archives: Winter Sports

Lady Fair Yarn Book No. 3, 1921

I have laughingly called myself a Goodwill Archaeologist, but the very nature of digging through the bins at my local Goodwill Outlet does resemble the work of archaeology in some respects.  First, there is the obvious reference to “digging” but there are other similarities.

It is important to note the location of a find.  An archaeologist may find one piece of pottery in a location, and will then be on the alert for more pieces in the same area.  In the same way, a Goodwill Archaeologist knows that if there is one piece of old stuff in a bin, there is a nice likelihood that there will be more.  I have been through bins that held a lifetime of embroidered linens.  Sometimes a bin will contain the entire series of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys books.  If one great item is spotted in a bin, then it is worth taking more time to closely examine the contents of that, and the surrounding, bins.

This strategy paid off  this week when I spotted a few old knitting and crocheting instruction booklets.  These were sold by the millions, mainly by the makers of yarns and threads.  The ones from the 1940s and 50s are pretty common, but I always take a look at them to see if there are any sportswear booklets.

I very quickly pulled out about one hundred booklets from the bin, being careful to excavate the entire area.  A closer look later revealed that the great majority of the booklets were on making various crochet edgings and laces.  But in the midst of all the doilies and laces, I found a real treasure.  The Lady Fair Yarn Book No. 3 was published in 1921 by the T. Eaton Co., one of the great Canadian department stores.

This booklet has forty pages of sports fashions for the entire family.  Being Canadian, there are lots of sweaters for skating and hockey, but there are garments for golf and tennis as well.

Lady Fair was Eaton’s house brand of yarns.  Many of the designs featured angora yarn, as in the tuxedo sweater above.

This suit, recommended for golf, was quite fashionable.

There were not just sweaters and dresses, but also accessories,  such as hats and scarves.

The instructions for this bathing suit also included directions for the stockings.  I found several things to be interesting.  First, that the stockings were knee length, when in the early Twenties it was still the custom in the US to wear full length stockings with bathing attire.  The custom for this varied from place to place, with some beaches in Europe already having done away with stockings by the 1920s.

But what I really love about this bathing suit is how complicated it is, with the straps and buttons and belt and contrasting color trunks that were not attached to the body of the bathing suit.

There were included a large variety of men’s sweaters, for activities like skating and golf.

This garment for a boy might be called overalls, but I’m betting it was more like underwear, wouldn’t you agree?

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Winter Sports

Bradley Knits: Slip Into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors

I’ve been posting photos from these two 1920s catalogs on Instagram, and realized I’ve not even taken the time to write about them here.  Bradley Knitting Company is one of my all time favorite companies.  They had a very long and rich history, and there is still plenty of material left to make collection of it interesting.

Bradley Knitting Company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters, and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan as it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003 which is a real shame considering that today the repurposing of old mills is a thriving business.

My two new catalogs were a lucky ebay find.  One is a winter 1922 booklet, and the other is undated.  It is a bit later, and very likely dates from summer 1925.

The winter 1922 catalog features a lot of sweaters, but it also has accessories such as knit hats and scarves.  All the garments were modeled and photographed on living models, but it appears that they used some old-fashioned photoshopping for the finished pages.

Several years ago Richard York kindly sent to me some photos of his grandmother, Mabel Jennie Gross, who was a model for Bradley during the early to mid 1920s.  You can click through the link I provided to see these photos, which show Mabel in various poses.  It appears to me that the company making the catalogs colorized the photos of the models, and then arranged them in vignettes for each page.  A background was then painted in.

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I love the fancy sweaters on the right, but of even more interest are the two at the bottom left.  These are jersey knit middies, a garment I’ve never seen.  The middy is usually made of  cotton duck or canvas.

The top photo looks like a group of young people on an outing in the snow, but my guess is that this is a composite picture with a fake background.

The later catalog is undated, but features mainly swimsuits.  The introduction has a hint: “For twenty odd years Bradley has been setting the style.”  The firm started in 1904, and the styles look to be right in the middle of the 1920s decade.

By this time, the knit bathing suit had pretty much taken over the swimsuit market.  The old fashioned swim dress with bloomers was simply not in step with the sleek 1920s look.

I have seen a lot of 1920s wool knit bathing suits.  Most have varying degrees of moth damage, and probably ninety percent of them are solid in color like the three at the top left.  Also fairly common are ones like the red model with the stripe at the bottom.

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But occasionally, a real masterpiece appears on the market.  Here are Bradley’s special models, all shown on Hollywood actors.  I have seen photos of the deck of cards suit shown on Anita Stewart at the top.  I wish it were mine.

These fancy suits cost between $8 and $9.50, as compared to the plain suits which started at $3.

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One of the big problems sellers of 1920s bathing suits seem to have is telling if a suit was made for a woman or for a man.  By carefully examining these photos you can see that the main difference is in the size of the armholes.  A woman’s suit will have smaller holes, while the tops of men’s suits were not as modest.  The skirt is still present on most men’s and women’s suits, but the plain trunk style is emerging.  Even a few styles for women, called the “tomboy” suit, were missing the skirt.

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It looks like the V-neck pullover had taken over as the style for sweaters by the middle of the decade.

I looked carefully at the faces of the models, hoping to spot Mabel, but I couldn’t make a positive identification.  I did spot one of the sweaters she was wearing, but in a different pose.  I suppose that the model could be Mabel.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Winter Sports

Kerry-Teen Skating Ensemble, Early 1960s

When I think of sportswear, Sears, Roebuck is not a brand that immediately pops into my mind.  But in this case, Sears made a really sweet little skating ensemble, marketed under their Kerry-Teens label.

Kerrybrooke was the Sears, Roebuck house brand from the late 1940s until the 60s.  And even though you can see the little R in a circle symbol, meaning that the name was a registered trademark,I could find no trace of the Kerry-teen name on the US trademark database.

The only reference to Kerry-Teen I could find in my sources was in a 1958 Sears, Roebuck catalog that I own.  Online, I found catalog references to the Kerry-Teen name from 1956 to 1961.

The set that I bought falls squarely within that time frame.  Consisting of a short skating skirt and a sleeveless top, this could be either late 1950s or early 1960s.  Fashion does not obey the arbitrary assignment of decades that we try to impose upon it.

The skater is appliqued onto the flannel skirt.  What makes it really special are the pom-poms on the tops of each skate. 

The skirt is lined with red acetate, which made for fancy twirling on the ice.

I could not decide if the half-belt which is attached to the top goes to the front or to the back.  I’m betting that one could have also ordered a red turtleneck sweater to go under the top.

I was really happy to get this because it is a set, and not just the individual pieces.  It is getting harder and harder to find matched pieces of sportswear, and though the skirt is really great, it helps to better visualize how it was worn when the top is added.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Winter Sports

In the Snow, 1952

I recently read an interesting quote by The New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman: “Everyone who gets dressed thinks about fashion.”  And while I couldn’t find the quote in context, to me it brings up the idea that being concerned with one’s dress is not for the serious-minded among us.  In other words, fashion is fluff.

The woman in today’s photo may or may nor be a fashionable person, but she is obviously concerned with her style of dress.  Before you go out into the cold weather, throwing on anything that will keep you warm, think about this woman and how she styled herself for the cold.

She limited herself to two colors – pink and black – plus white.  Since her jacket was pink, she chose a black with white snowflake sweater.  Around her neck she tied a black and white scarf.

I suppose the obvious choice for gloves would have been black, but she went with a darker pink with white mittens.

But probably my favorite thing about this snow ensemble is the choice of socks.  How wonderful are those pink socks!

The 1950s are often thought of as a time when everything had to match, but we forget that “matching” can happen in many different ways.  She didn’t do for all pink accessories because the little touch of black at her neck created more contrast and is more interesting visually.

I do have one concern.  For someone who is so stylishly yet appropriately dressed, where the heck is her cap?

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs, Winter Sports

1920s Shawl-Collared Sweaters, Part II

One of the great things about collecting photographs is that I don’t have to look very far for illustrations for my blog posts.  I found the shawl sweaters in my 1921 catalog so interesting that I looked through my collection to see how women wore shawl-collared sweaters in the 1920s.

Above is an early 1920s photo that was taken at a sporting event of some sort, maybe a college field day at a school for women.  There were lots of young women in middys and bloomers, but there were also some very sporty spectators.

I posted this photo some time ago in a quest to figure out what the heck these young people were doing.  A close look shows that at least one of them is wear a shawl-collared sweater.  (They are pulling a log for some unknown reason.)

This sweater looks like a more masculine style, so it is possible that this young woman has appropriated her boyfriend’s or brother’s sweater.  I didn’t show any men’s sweaters from the Famous Fain catalog, but it does show this style of cardigan – a style that changed very little through the 1960s.

This photo is a bit more recent than the others, being dated 1929.  It’s a good possibility that this is a man’s sweater as well, as those made for women tended to be more “fashionable.”  By 1929, this style had been around for a while.

Collecting vintage photos is fun.  They are easy to store and they do not take up much space.  For practically every interest, there are vintage photos.  I have a really hard time limiting myself to just ones of women in sports clothes and to travelers.  I could easily tip over into people wearing Halloween costumes, homes decorated for Christmas, and kids playing with their dogs.  And though I don’t actively collect them, I always look for ones that are somehow quirky, like ones I saw at the Met several years ago.  I could have a category called “people doing nutty stuff in inappropriate clothing.”

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs, Winter Sports

Famous Fain Knitted Outerwear, 1921

I love old knitwear catalogs, and for the most part have to be contented with the catalogs because the actual sweaters just have not survived in great numbers.  They rarely come up for sale, and when they do they cost more than my parents paid for my first car.

I had never heard of the famous Fain company, but Google books delivered a lot of information in the form of a 1922 issue of Textile World magazine.  The company was started in Brooklyn in 1912 as a maker of knitted swimsuits.  At first their daily output was two dozen suits a day, which they sold at the mill, directly to consumers.  The next year they added machinery to make sweaters and Fain began to grow, but they maintained their business model of selling directly to consumers.  In 1918 a Fain store was opened in Brooklyn, and by 1922 there were six stores, all in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and there was a plan for a new factory and store in the Garment District.  As far as I can tell, Fain sold only through their own stores.  My catalog is not for mail order, but is just a sort of preview of the new styles available in the Fain stores.

Interestingly, the Fain family also started a wholesale division, which was called Navy Knitting Mills.  Between the two parts of the company, the Fains sold $3.5 million in bathing suits, sweaters, hosiery, scarves, caps and various other accessories in 1922.  I’m not sure what went wrong, but Navy Knitting Mills went into bankruptcy in 1923, and Fain went into receivership in 1925.

But in the fall of 1921, things at Fain were looking good.

Fain offered a large range of prices, as you can see above.  Model No. 3008 was made from an “Extra Heavy Weight Zephyr” while No. 3101 was made from a thinner weight.  Still, the detailing on both is very nice, and I’ve made the photos clickable so you can see the details better.  I especially love the way both sweaters slip through a hole and then button to secure.

And for pricing reference, in 1921 $14.95 calculates to $212.07 in 2015 buying power, and $4.95 was worth $70.22.

Fain also made a wide range of wool accessories, like these scarves.  The more expensive one is made of camel’s hair.

Or how about a sport coat and matching tam of brushed alpaca?  Note that one woman is holding ice skates, and the other, a hockey stick.  These were clothes for the sporty set.

I’m not much of a cape person, but I do love these two models, especially the plaid one.

So, what do you think: is this a little girl or a little boy?  Does it matter?  There is a lot of talk today about whether it is right to instill sexual stereotypes in our children by way of dress.  Perhaps we should return to the days when little children were just children.

There were two models in the catalog that if seen out of context, might be misidentified as being from the 1930s.  I’m referring to the red model above and the blue one several photos above.  These are not what one visualizes when thinking 1920s fashion.  To my eye they look like they are ten years too early, but it may be that the company wanted to make a few models for those who were resisting the longer torso of the late Teens and early Twenties.

By looking at model No. 4018 it is easy to see the inspiration for the shawl-collared sweaters that were so popular in the 1970s.  Could there be a more cozy garment on a crisp fall day?  In the early Seventies I had a sewing pattern that included a shawl-collared sweater, and I scoured the local textile mill outlets looking for heavy knit goods with which to sew up my own sweaters.  I wish I’d known about those clever buttoned closures which are so much nicer than the bulky tie belts included with the pattern.

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1930s Superose Outing Jacket

Last week I talked about the joys of finding a complete outfit.  Today I have just a single piece to share, an outing jacket from Supak and Sons of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  According to newspaper reports in 1954, the company had been making outdoor garments in Minneapolis since 1933.  In 1954 the company relocated to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.  This was during a time when many companies moved south to find a work force that was cheaper and that was not unionized.  Think of it as the first step in off-shoring.

I loved the jacket when I first saw it, but I’ll have to admit that it was the label that sold me on this one.

While this jacket was not labeled as a ski jacket, the company advertised itself as a maker of snow and ski attire.  I can just picture this pretty jacket on the slopes, with maybe dark green wool ski pants, or even brown ones.

I spend quite a bit of my collection time looking at how ensembles were put together in the past.  Ski jackets and pants were sold in matching sets, but the jackets and pants were also sold as separates.  It’s up to me to try and figure out what most likely would have been paired with this jacket by a woman planning a skiing trip.

The color is a bit too orange in this photo.

There is just a hint of extra fullness in the sleeve cap, which tends to say 1936 to 1937 or so.  The presence of a zipper is also within that time frame.

Here’s a nice feature – the pockets are lined in cotton flannelette which is much warmer than the acetate linings and pockets so commonly used today.

Added:  In 1945 the owners of Supak and Sons were listed in a trademark filing as  Henry Supak, Nathan Supak, Sophie Supak, Maurice M. Kleyman, and Thedore Ptashne.

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Filed under Vintage Clothing, Winter Sports