Antique Photograph: Tennis Party

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I took a photo of this photo last fall at the Liberty flea market.  It was pretty expensive, but the owner was nice enough to let me take a shot of it.  There is so much to look at and think about, and it has given me a chance to use my dating skills to give a shot at when it might have been taken.

Unfortunately there was no information about the photo at all, so I have no idea who these young people were.  Were they friends?  Relatives? Members of a club?

The first thing I looked at was the shape of the heads of the tennis racquets.  Look carefully at the racquets in the photo and you will notice that they all have a squared off shape at the top of the head.  One site I found dated this shape to the late 1880s.

Because all the women are seated, and three of them are partly obscured, we might be able to tell more from the men’s attire and hair.  I thought it was interesting that seven of the eight have facial hair, with all but one of them having only mustaches.  Only the man with the beard has sideburns.  Their hair is very short, very controlled, and several have center parts.

Here’s what Joan Severa had to say about men’s hair in the early 1890s:

…very short haircuts, almost shaved up the sides, and clipped necks.  A center part was usual, and the hair was oiled.  A generous walrus-style mustache appears with some frequency in the photographs.  

Most of the men are wearing sack jackets, in a style that came out in the late 1880s.  The jackets were rounded at the hem to show off the waistcoat, with three or four buttons.  The sleeves were shorter than before, allowing a bit of shirt cuff to show.  The ties shown are also consistent with the styles of the late 1880s and early 1890s, with both the bowtie, and the black neck tie (tied either over or under the collar) being popular.  Pant legs were slim, which you can see on several of the men.

As for the women, there are some clues as well.  First, I considered what I did not see – the puffed sleeve caps that came into vogue at the beginning of the 1890s.  By the middle of the decade the sleeves were the huge leg-o’-mutton that is so associated with the 1890s.  Since none of the women are wearing the puffed sleeve, I think it is safe to say the photo had to have been made before 1892.

We can see the most detail on the woman on the right.  She certainly does not seem to be dressed for tennis, with the lacy underskirt and front of her bodice.  The skirt has a draped apron effect, which became more prevalent as the bustle started to collapse around 1886.  The woman on the left has a much sportier look with her striped skirt.

All the women have high collars, another feature of the late 1880s.  The sleeves on all are shorter than full length, with the wrist bones being exposed.

As we saw with the men, the hairstyles reveal a lot of information.  Joan Severa quoted the July, 1890 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal to describe changes to hair styles that year:

And then remember that the “bang” is no longer a heavy “mop,” but should be a softly curled fringed that comes like a halo about one’s face, not overshadowing the eyes or hiding the forehead, only shading and softening the entire face.  The frizzy bang is essentially bad form.

The addition of the little dog in the lap adds a lot of charm to the scene.  And do any hat experts care to comment on the hat that is in front of the woman on the right?

The woman on the right in this section of the photo is wearing a plaid dress with a sort of pinafore over it.  I could not find a similar garment in any of my sources, poor as they are.  When I posted this photo on Instagram it was asked if that was another dog on her lap.  At first I thought it was her hat, but you can see the plain straw hat to the right.  Could this be a cat, maybe a dog?

So, add it all up and what do we get?  My best guess is 1889 or 1890.  I don’t mind if you care to point out something I missed, or to correct my dating.

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Desert Island Vintage Feature at Denisebrain Vintage Fashion

I was recently asked a simple question by Maggie at Denisebrain Vintage Clothing.  If you could have just eight vintage fashion items, what would they be?  The question turned out not to be as simple as I’d at first thought.  It took an entire week for me to finally decide on which eight items I’d most want to have.

If you want to know my answers, head over to Maggie’s blog.  And if you have not already done so, you need to add Denisebrain to your list of blog favorites.

Thanks so much, Maggie!

 

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Sewing Brochures from 1961 and 1962

I recently received a group of early 1960s pattern company brochures from friend Rebecca.  How did she know I’d want these?  Am I that transparent?  I certainly hope so.

They all date from June, 1961 to January of 1962, and are from Simplicity, Vogue, McCall’s, and Advance.  As much as I love a great vintage Vogue or Bazaar magazine, these little newsprint treasures reveal much more about what the “average” American woman was wearing.

When I started sewing for myself in the late 1960s, I could not wait until the latest editions of the pattern brochures arrived at the pattern counter.  I would spend hours carefully planning my next sewing project.  Maybe it’s partly due to that fond memory that I have such a weakness for these.

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Here are the play options from Simplicity for June, 1961.  The bathing suit in the middle is what was considered a bikini in 1961.  The playsuit of the right with the skirt cover up is also described as a bathing suit.

Pointed hem top patterns for all the women in the family.  Actually, I’ve seen this hem on men’s things as well.  And it makes me want to sew some chevroned stripes.  McCall’s, June 1961.

A note about that hat: I have several examples of this bucket-shaped hat in my collection, but none are nearly as exaggerated as these.

From the same McCall’s brochure is a grouping of swimwear, including a bathing/play suit very similar to the Simplicity one, right down to the skirt.  This bathing suit with matching skirt really was a great idea.  It also shows how swimwear can often be dated by imagining a skirt over the trunks.  Fashion does extend to swimwear.

The January 1962 issue of McCall’s Fashion Digest shows several examples of that most marvelous early Sixties wardrobe staple – the dress and jacket ensemble.  The beige example with the fantastic neckline was from designer Hannah Troy.  And note how similar the pink print dress is to the bathing suit and skirt in the previous picture.

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The more high fashion home sewer also had the choice of a designer look from Europe.  These dress and jacket ensembles were designed by Guy Laroche, Ronald Paterson, Jacques Griffe, and Gres.  These were more than just a little more complicated that the designs in McCall’s and Simplicity.

The Vogue Young Fashionables line was quite fashion forward.  January, 1962.

These designs from Advance are labeled “Sew Easy”, but I can see several techniques that might give even an intermediate sewer fits.

And finally, could there be any other looks that sum up 1962 better than these four?  On the left we have three streamlined dresses and suits that have the Jackie Kennedy look bared down to the essentials.  And on the right, the ever popular shirtwaist, though with a slightly less full skirt than just a year or two before.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler

Once again it’s time to go shopping with The Vintage Traveler!  I posted a photo of the window pictured above back in November, but it was so poor that the next time I passed through Hendersonville, NC, I took a new photo from the inside.  Much better!

My big shopping discovery of the past few months was a special event called the Flea for Y’all.  Held in Asheville, the flea runs through the spring and summer with a special event before Christmas.  Their website has not been updated since 2016, but I’m sure they will announce the dates for 2017 soon.

To me, there is not much that is more exciting than a box of vintage patterns labeled $2 each.  I bought several.

This booth had lots of great thing, especially this wool knit cape from the 1960s or 70s.  It I were six feet tall I’d have bought it and worn it forever.

Flipping through the rack I thought I’d found a pair of women’s exercise knickers.  But something about them looked off.  Turns out they were part of an European folk costume.

I love how inventive vendors at flea markets are.  This was a dressing room.

I can honestly say that I’ve never before seen so many frilly, flowery hats in the same place.  Not my thing, but the display gave a nice note of springtime to a wintery event.

This sweet little Airstream showroom is another example of vendor inventiveness.  It also gave me a really bad case of Airstream envy.

I spotted the lovely box, and opened it to find a real surprise.  This was a Colgate gift set from the 1920s (or maybe into the 30s) and the contents were completely intact. I’m thinking it was meant to be a wedding gift, due to the box graphic and the mixed sex use of the contents.

“As seen in Seventeen” deadstock from the mid 1960s, when madras (and imitators) still reigned.

This little pamphlet is from the very early days of ready made clothing, and is from a dry goods establishment.  According to one source,  Callender, McAuslan &  Troup was the leading dry goods emporium in Providence, Rhode Island.  It was established in 1866.

As would be expected, the only clothing items were cloaks, gloves, underwear, and collars.

These last photos are from one of my all-time favorite antique malls, Tudor House in Sevierville, Tennessee..  It has nothing at all to do with the herd of rescue Scottie dogs kept by the owner behind the counter.

I loved this little middy, and if it had been for a teen or an adult, I would have bought it.  Maybe I should have anyway, as it is a great example of an early middy.

This one’s for you, Jacq!  1970s Vanda for Key West Fashions dress.

I just wonder how many different novelty prints were produced during the 1950s.  This is one I’d never seen, with “old time” actors and the plays in which they starred.

Linen and leather never fails to delight, especially in a pair of vintage 1930s shoes.

And finally, another one for the kiddies.

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Mountaineering in Short Skirts, 1904

I recently ran across these two prints that are dated 1904.  To someone who knows about fashion in the early twentieth century, this would seem like a very improbable skirt length for the time.  But they reminded me of the words of outdoorswoman, Annie Smith Peck, who wrote in 1901:

“…Men, we all know, climb in knickerbockers… Women, on the contrary, will declare that a skirt is no hindrance to their locomotion.  This is obviously absurd, and though a few ladies have climbed mountains like the Matterhorn in extremely scanty and abbreviated skirts, I dare assert that suitably-made knickerbockers… are not only more comfortable but more becoming… A scant skirt barely reaching the knee and showing the knickerbockers below, such as some ladies have worn, is as ungraceful a costume as could be devised; and for a woman in difficult mountaineering to waste her strength and endanger her life with a skirt is foolish in the extreme.”

While these pictures seem to show the women in leggings rather than knickers, the outfit is pretty much as Annie described it.

The imaginary women in the prints are also shown as if they were wearing corsets.  What did Annie have to say about that?

“It may not be necessary to add that no one should climb mountains or even hills in corsets.  One must have the full use of the lungs, and the loosest corset is some impediment to the breathing.  As ordinarily worn they are impossible.  Moreover, they greatly increase the heat, impede circulation, and promote rush of blood to the head.”

Images of women participating in sports were popular in the early 1900s.  Artists like Coles Phillips and Howard Chandler Christy were known for their sporty, but still very feminine, women.  This artist seems to be sexualizing the women somewhat, with the posing and the slender legs.

I think the signature is T T Pollock, but I could not find a reference to that name, nor to Polleck.  Maybe someone will recognize it for me.

No skirts for Annie!

Update:  Researcher extraordinaire Lynne has discovered that the artist was Homer Polleck, though some references have his name as Pollock.  He lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, and died in 1917.

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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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French Beach Shoes, 1930s

Someone who had a great deal of experience with collecting once told me that it was “not just about the frocks.”  That really left an impression on me, and I did come to see what an important statement it was.  You just can’t understand the history of dress without also looking at the accessories.

When it comes to sports attire, it seems to me that clothing is much easier to locate than accessories.  I can think of many reasons why this might be so.  For example, rubber was a common material used in swim accessories, and rubber, if not stored properly, has a nasty tendency to melt and rip.  Also, sport shoes were often made of canvas, which would not have lasted like leather shoes would.

I spotted the beach shoes above in the Instagram feed of @garb_oh_vintage.  Probably the only reason they did not sell immediately was because they are a relatively small size.  That was good for me.

The seller had bought these in France some years ago.  I was not surprised, as these have a look to them of walks along the Côte d’Azur .  They are actually a play on the traditional espadrille, which originated in Spain, and which were very popular with the artistic set of France in the 1920s and 30s.

I found several very similar pairs in a 1936 advertisement for Lastex swimsuits.  Lastex was “the miracle yarn that makes things fit” and was introduced in 1931, but did not come into common use until later in the decade.

The heels are made from wood, something that is seen quite commonly in this type shoe.

The shoes show signs of light wear, but not enough to rub off the size – a French 37.

The straps fasten with metal buckles, which are lightly rusted.

When I think of all the shortages and scarcities of the World War Two era, I have to wonder how any clothing from before that time survived intact, especially something like shoes.

I tend to collect things that were made for the American market, so it is interesting that these shoes are from France, and the late 1930s Reid’s Holiday Togs playsuit I posted earlier is from Canada.  It’s even nicer that they look so fabulous together.

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