Vintage Miscellany – January 17, 2016

While the rest of the US is going football nuts on this weekend, I’m thinking about basketball.  This photograph is not dated but my guess is around 1905.  I posted this on Instagram and said she might be wearing a corset, and it was pointed out that the position of the basketball adds to the illusion of a fashionable silhouette.  An intentional placement by the photographer, perhaps?

And just to show there is more to life than football, here is the news:

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The Easy Way to Design Fabric

You “borrow” designs from people who know what they are doing.

I know some readers must think I’m beating a dead horse whenever I make a post like this one, but it honestly astounds me every single time I run across a print that is so obviously copied.  In this case a cheap line sold at Target had a print that is based in part on a Liberty of London print, Ianthe.  The classic Liberty Art Nouveau print, Ianthe was developed over one hundred years ago.

fake

real

 

This is even more interesting because Target actually did a collaboration with Liberty of London five years ago.  This piece is not part of the joint venture, as those pieces were clearly marked Liberty for Target.

And while most clothing designs cannot be copyrighted in the United States, fabric prints are subject to copyright protection.  Of course that does not mean copying does not happen, as we have seen many, many times.

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Ad Campaign: Lovable Bra, 1951

To be honest, this post is not so much about the ad than it is about discovery.  In this case, it is the story of my discovery of the Lovable Brassiere Company of Atlanta, Georgia.  And while I’m not a collector of lingerie (though I do have a few pieces in my collection) I’m always interested in a good story about the clothing industry.

It started when I found this book Woman in Atlanta, at my local Goodwill Outlet.  How could I not love the photo on the front?  And I knew that co-author Susan Neill used to be a fashion and textiles curator at the Atlanta History Center, so I put the book in my shopping cart.  As it turns out the book was an outgrowth of an exhibition at the museum in 2004, Gone with the Girdle, an exhibition I had seen and loved. There are photos of some of the clothing in the exhibition along with 150 years of photos of the women of Atlanta.

Courtesy of the Ida Pearle and Joseph Cuba Archives of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

While I loved seeing all the photos and learning much about Atlanta history, one photo stood out – this image of workers of the Lovable bra factory in Atlanta, circa 1940.

Established in Atlanta by Jewish businessman Frank Garcon in 1914, Lovable Brassiere Company became “the world’s leading producer of popular priced bra fashions.”  Beginning in the 1930s, Lovable fully integrated its factories and lunchrooms.  The company was progressive for its wages as well; workers received $9 per week, $4 above the national average.  Lovable’s marketing was aimed at both white and black consumers, though all the advertising featured white models.

For those not familiar with the Jim Crow South of the early to mid twentieth century, that might not seem like such a big deal.  But consider that in many places having black and white workers together in the same workplace was just not allowed.  In South Carolina, usually the only black workers at textile mills were outside workers such as the men who loaded trucks.  One of the excuses made for not hiring Blacks was that white people would not work along side them.  Mr Garcon proved that wrong by paying a higher than average wage.  I had to know more about Mr. Frank Garcon.

A big obstacle to internet searches for old companies is that they often have a common word as the name of the company.  Searching “lovable” brings up all sorts of odd links, but knowing the name of the owner and the place where the company was located really helps narrow things down.  In this case, I was able to find out quite a bit about Frank Garcon and Lovable, but there are still plenty of unanswered questions.

Frank, who was a native of Poland, met and married his wife Gussie (from Austria) in New York City.  The couple moved to Atlanta where Frank found work in the undergarment industry.

Many of the online sources I found date the founding of Lovable to 1926 instead of the 1914 stated in my book. It’s not possible that Garcon started the business in Atlanta in 1914 because the move to Atlanta did not happen until after son Arthur was born around 1916.  It’s likely that the firm that Frank worked for was started in 1914 and that Frank did not acquire it until 1926.  This is conjecture on my part.  The answer is probably in the Breman Museum archive, which has oral histories from the Garcon family.

This led me to do a trademark search for Lovable.  Interestingly, the US Trademark database lists 1932 as the beginning of the use of the Lovable trademark, and it lists the owners as Frank and Arthur Gottesman.  Ancestry.com revealed that Frank Gottesman changed his name to Garcon at some point after 1940.  Arthur was the oldest son of Frank and his wife Gussie.

Lovable remained a family business with son Dan taking over from his father, and his son Frank II after him.  They company maintained a cutting factory (with the sewing being done in Central America) in the Atlanta area until it closed in the late 1990s.  Things went bad for Lovable in 1995 when Walmart, their largest customer, changed the terms of their agreement, which made it all but impossible for Lovable to make a profit.  They closed in 1998.

Even though the details of the Lovable Brassiere Company seem to be somewhat sketchy, one thing is for sure.  Frank Garcon was able to look past the accepted social “rules” in order to do the right thing.  That’s a really nice legacy for a company to have.

 

 

 

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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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New York Public Library Digital Collections

New York World’s Fair 1939-1940 records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

There is a growing movement within libraries and other institutions to allow freer use of resources that are without copyright restrictions.  This movement has even extended to the law in some places.  In the United Kingdom the courts recently ruled that photographs of items in the public domain (such as works of art) are also in the public domain.

The New York Public Library recently announced a change in their policy concerning the use of items in the public domain within their digital collections.  They have actually made it easier for people to freely use the items in their digital collections, going so far as to provide high resolution images that are available to download with one click.

On this blog I try to use my own images, but there are time when I don’t have what I need in my own collection.  It is great that institutions like NYPL are willing to share their riches, and thus to contribute to all the great scholarship that I see in fashion history blogs.  And I’m sure that this applies to other topics as well.

For a long time the internet has been like a giant free-for-all when it comes to images, and even content.  Perhaps the thinking at NYPL and other institutions is along the lines of, “If you can’t lick them, join them.”  People are going to take the stuff anyway, so providing them with the tools necessary to properly attribute the images used will keep images from being separated from their history.   Let’s hope so, anyway.

There is a search function, of course, but images are also arranged in categories and sub-categories.  I’m warning you though, this is a very deep rabbit hole, with more than 180,000 images.  Have fun!

New York World’s Fair 1939-1940 records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

L.Bonnotte, 1920, Art and Picture Collection. The New York Public Library

1895 Basket Ball Team of Smith College, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, NYPL

Fashion Print, 1931, Art and Picture Collection, New York Public Library

Grace Wiederseim, 1904, Art and Picture Collection, New York Public Library

Wool Cycling Dress With Pleated Back ; Tennis Costume Of Cream Flannel With Striped Sleeves & Trim, Black Ties 1891, Art and Picture Collection, New York Public Library

My search term, “sports women”, produced all the above images.

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Vera Scarf Tying Art

Back in October I ran across the little booklet above, Vera scarf tying art.  It’s one I’d been looking for so was glad to buy it when it came up at a fund-raising silent auction for the Costume Society.

There is no date on the booklet, but it is later 1960s or early 70s as far as I can tell.  The illustrations remind me of the ones done for small features in Glamour magazine in the same period.

One thing I’ve heard women say over and over through the years is that they love scarves, but don’t know what to do with them.  The Vera Company must have been very aware of this problem, and they wisely set out to do something about it.  The booklet covers the basics (“the triangle fold”) but also shows how to wear a scarf as a top (“halter ties are body art”) and how to hang a scarf on the wall.

Turbans seem to be having a bit of a fashion moment, and so here are four ways to join that trend.  I like the demi-Leia look, number 4.

The dog collar reminds me of that old scary story about the girl who always wore a scarf (or in some versions, a ribbon) tied around her neck.  Turns out it was holding her head on her neck.

I can remember when young women were doing the scarf-as-top trick, but I was too afraid that it would lead to over-exposure.  Sometimes a little fear is a good thing!

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Vintage Miscellany – January 3, 2016

Click to Enlarge

This Edwardian era postcard is a real treat because it shows both women and men “En Bob-Sleigh”.  Real photographs of sportswear of this time period are hard to find, and this one gives a great view of the clothes in action.  To see the details, enlarge the photo.  You can see a variety of sweaters and caps and knit gloves.  The woman in front appears to be wearing a shortened skirt with leggings or thick stockings and a turtleneck sweater under her jacket.  It’s almost enough to make me wish for snow.

And now for the news…

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