1940s Bonnie Beach Bag

My newest acquisition is this “Bonnie Bag” from the 1940s.  It’s often described as a knitting bag, but period advertising describe it also as a beach bag.  This is a bit of a lazy post, as I bought this bag from Robin of Edgertor at Etsy.  Of all the vintage sellers I know, Robin does the best job of researching her wares. So much of what you will read here is Robin’s work, which she freely shared.

The bag style seems to be quite common, and dated to the late 1930s. Several different companies made these, with some being labeled while others are not. In 1942 W.L.M.Clark registered a design patent for two styles of the bag  – one with an oval wooden plaque, and one with a square plaque.

Here’s one of the patent drawings, with the square wooden plaque. Robin says she doubts that Clark actually invented the design, and I agree with her.  Here is an ad for the bag from May, 1942, months before Clark’s patent for a slightly different design was registered.

It is a clever design, and being made of heavy canvas, they have held up well over the years. Mine shows a few signs of use, but it is in really excellent condition.

My bag was made by A. Mamaux & Son. Would it surprise you to learn that this was a window awning business, not a handbag business?

If you were an awning store in the 1930s or 40s, would you throw out the leftover scraps from awning projects? No, of course not. In this case it really appears that remnants  were used to make a type of Bonnie Bag.

I had been looking for the perfect Bonnie Bag when I saw this one in Robin’s Instagram feed. With that little Scottie, how could I  resist?

The canvas is very heavy – sturdy enough to carry all one’s beach needs.

Expanded, the bag has a totally different look.

I have seen quite a few of this type of expandable bag with no label at all. I don’t think it’s a far reach to assume that these were also made in the home from scraps of canvas, especially during wartime.

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Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports, World War II

Grandma Lizzie’s Quilt, Update

I first wrote about this quilt in 2008. At the time it was just a finished pieced top that needed some stabilization work. I talked about how I was going to get it finished. Well, twelve years and one pandemic later, and the quilt is finished. I’ve been working on it for weeks, but I’m strangely sorry to see the work end.

I’ve reposted the original writing from 2008 below, but I have a bit to add to the story. I wondered about all the different pieces in the quilt. At the time she made it, probably the early 1940s judging from the fabrics used, most of her children were grown. And from photos of herI know she didn’t wear colorful dresses.

From recent conversations with niece Amari, I saw the 1940 census entry of my father’s family. I expected that at thirteen, my dad would have been the youngest in the household. But then I saw that two of his sisters who had children of their own, had moved back into the family home. There were five little kids and three young adult daughters, all of whom must have enjoyed having pretty dresses and blouses.

So, here’s the story behind my Grandma Lizzie’s quilt.

I was named for my paternal grandmother, Lizzie Adams, who died about a year before I was born.  She was one of those rare individuals who seemed to be universally loved; I’ve never heard a bad thing associated with her at all.  She had eleven children, all of whom (the nine that had children of their own) named a daughter Elizabeth in her honor.

Growing up I had another grandmother whom I adored, but I always felt somehow that I’d missed out by never knowing Grandma Lizzie.  It was always a treat hearing my dad’s family talk about her.  But my favorite story came from my mother, who only knew her for a few years.  One day, not long before Lizzie died, my parents and older brother were visiting her.  She brought out two quilt tops she had pieced, but had never gotten around to quilting.  She gave them to my mother, saying she made these for Jack’s daughters.  My mother was sort of taken aback, as Jack (her husband, and my father) had no daughters.  But as fate and Lizzie would have it, eventually he did have the two predicted daughters.

My mother gave me my quilt top years ago, and for years it’s been stored away.  A few months ago, I got it out.  There was quite a bit of fraying and raveling where it had been washed, so I decided to secure all the edges, going over the stitches my grandmother made so many years ago.  I’ve felt a closeness to her that really can’t be explained.  I can’t help but wonder about the pieces – if they came from her old aprons, or were scraps from dresses she made for a daughter or granddaughter.

I’ll admit I’ve been envious of those cousins who were older than me and lucky enough to have known her.  But I have the quilt.

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Vintage Miscellany, July, 2020

Well, the miscellany is back, thanks to several of you who have been regularly feeding great links to me. I hope to be able to share links once a month, so if you run across any good fashion or textile news, please pass then on to me.

The pandemic has made me so grateful for the internet. Many groups and museums and fashion historians have really stepped up with online content. My favorites have been live programming, such as conversations between historians and museum personnel. I’ll be sharing a few of these.

Between times, my long range project list has really dwindled. Most importantly, I have almost finished repairing and quilting a pieced quilt top my Grandma Lizzie made in the early 1940s. There’s a story that I’ll be sharing when I get it finished.

And now, the news…

* The National Arts Club in New York has been an excellent resource for live programming. They add events on a regular basis, and many are about fashion.  After they air, the programs are put on their YouTube channel. Here’s a recent conversation with an actress who portrays Hollywood designer Edith Head.

*   Just how is the pandemic changing fashion?

*   The Barbara Brackman blog is always interesting. Read this post on polka dots.

Brooks Brothers is the latest retail establishment to file for bankruptcy.

*   Another group that has had some excellent online content on fashion and cultural history is Jane Austen & Co. They recently hosted a presentation by Hilary Davidson on dressing in Austen’s time. The next presentation is about crafting in Austen’s time.

*  The excellent BBC series, A Stitch in Time with fashion historial Amber Butchart is now showing on Amazon Prime.

*   There is a new and improved Fashion and Race Database.

*   The one-day Willi Smith exhibition lives on in digital form.

*  The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum posted an online presentation,  The American Look: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Fashion of Her Time.

*  “The Gwillim Project Online, which centres around the unpublished correspondence and artwork of two sisters who lived in Madras at the beginning of the nineteenth century…” presented a program on the sisters’ correspondence concerning textiles and clothing.

* Finally, wear a mask.

 

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Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company Blouse

I rarely buy incomplete garments, but this one was rare enough to make an exception.  I didn’t feel too bad about the bloomers being missing, as I do have several pairs from the same era.

I wasn’t able to locate much about the Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company. Most of the sources were ads in women’s colleges’ newsletters and in sports magazines. The earliest reference I have found is from 1909, but I’m quite sure my blouse is a bit older than that.

The company also made bathing suits, and I found one suit labeled “Columbia Bathing Suit Co.” It was pretty much identical to the Columbia gymsuits I found online.

The addition of this second label helps to narrow the date a bit. The National Consumers League was chartered in 1899, which you can read on the label, in the circle. I’ve seen several Columbia gymsuits with this label in online collections, several being dated to before 1899. Even museums make mistakes!

I’m quite sure that my blouse is from around 1905, or possibly a bit earlier. You see the styling of the typical blouse of that era, with the blousy front and slightly gathered sleeves.

The waist buttoned to the bloomers, the waistband of which would have covered the brown cotton facing that holds the buttons. The buttons are made of glass.

The opening in in the front, with hook and eye closures on the shoulder, and a line of buttons running diagonally to the waist. These are concealed by the deep tucks.

Like many gymsuits and bathing suits made before 1920, this one is made from wool. It’s a very light, open weave wool, but terribly scratchy. Girls must have loved it when cotton became the favored fabric of gymsuit makers.

There is a modern Columbia Sportswear Company. I could find no connection between the maker of my blouse and the current company.

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Brucewood Sportswear for Women

I always consider it to be a lucky day when I spot a vintage sportswear catalog for sale. There are quite a few places to look for such catalogs, especially on ebay, but rarely do items of this sort come up for sale. The only bad thing about this one is that there is no date.  Using style clues, I’m placing this one at 1936, give or take a year.

This catalog only has ten pages, so I’ll be sharing the entire thing.

Best of all, there are swatches! Swatches make any catalog better.  Actually, I would not order the Skipper Slacks, due to the thinness of the fabric. I always think of Indian Head as a thicker duck cotton, but this is a thin poplin. I bet a lot of people were disappointed with this item.

But is Plaiddies not the best name ever?

The very wide legged slacks actually look a bit earlier than 1936.

But I’m placing my date partly based on the bathing suits. These are very similar to a Jantzen suit that I know was made in 1937.

The Brucewood bathing suits were also very stylish, and they were a dollar or more cheaper than the Jantzens.

Look at the waists of two of these suits and you can see the two-piece bathing suit starting to develop.

There are a few more dating hints in this grouping. The skirts are very long. By 1937 or so skirts started inching up toward the knee. Also, there’s no hint of the gathered shoulder that had become so popular by 1938.

And how can one not love a good bikette?

Terry and wool jersey.

Riding clothes are not always including in sportswear catalogs, so having a spread of them is a real treat.

What looks to be shorts is described as a pantie. It looks like they could have been buttoned to the shirt, and if so, would have been for wearing under the breeches.

Several of these jackets have asymmetrical openings, a common feature in the mid-1930s.

The sweater twin set is most associated with the 1950s, but they were actually popular starting in the 1920s.

Maurice L. Rothschild was born in Germany in 1964. As a teenager he came to America, and he eventually settled in Minneapolis. He started a store, the Palace Clothing House in 1887. The first store was small, and he quickly outgrew it, and after moving several times he constructed what became known as the Palace Building in 1907.  The store remained in that location at the corner of  Nicolett and Fourth Streets. A branch store was opened in Saint Paul in 1893, and one in Chicago in 1904.

Maurice died in 1941, and the business continued under the direction of his widow, Hulda, until 1949.   At that time the business merged with the  Young-Quinlan Company.

Company information is from the Hennepin County Library.

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Edwardian Divided Skirt

The world is reopening, whether or not Covid-19 is under control.  I’m a bit conflicted, as it seems like the more people are out being “normal”, the greater the likelihood is that we’ll again find ourselves in lockdown again this fall. I have discovered that antique shops are a good compromise between staying home completely and jumping into a swimming pool with 100 strangers, yelling about our right to party.

So, after getting my hair cut for the first time since February, I went to an antique mall in a nearby town, as a little treat for myself. I had never been there before, so I didn’t have any expectations. As I walked up the aisles, I saw ahead a booth that clearly had clothing. Ten years ago I’d have been all excited, but so many booths in antiques malls are now selling modern clothing that I really didn’t get my hopes up.

But, praise be, there were old clothes in this booth! I immediately spotted a pair of old black cotton exercise bloomers. $12! As I grabbed them, I took a quick look around the booth, and then I saw it – an Edwardian divided skirt. This is the garment women wore for hiking, for camping, and for horseback riding. It’s an all-purpose sports garment, with a big secret.

That secret is that the skirt is actually a pair of pants. Unbutton the front panel, flip it to the right, and you are now wearing culottes.

For years women had been wearing some sort of pants under their skirts for sports. The divided skirt was a late Victorian innovation that allowed the wearer to switch from one to the other with the changing of a few buttons.

Even buttoned to expose the pants, the garment could pass for a skirt.

These were sold by the Standard Mail Order Company of New York  City.  There are digital copies of catalogs from that company all over the internet, so I will be doing a bit of searching for my divided skirt.

This was not a product unique to Standard. My 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog has a very similar style  for sale for $12.50 to $20  dollars. According to the inflation calculator, that would have been  $320 to $512in today’smoney. Perhaps Standard was a bit more accessible to the less-than-rich.

And I’m guessing it was more affordable, as I have in my collection of vintage photos various women wearing the garment. It was such a great innovation, which allowed women to ride a horse astride, to safely ride a bicycle, and to romp freely through the woods, Can’t ask more of a garment than that.

My divided skirt shows a lot of signs that it was worn a lot. It’s missing a button, and there are a few small rips around some of the buttonholes. The hem you see with the darker thread is not original. Either the original wearer was very short, or she shortened the skirt in the mid 1910s when fashion dictated a shorted skirt. Either way, it’s a part of the skirt’s history, and will remain.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Shopping, Summer Sports, Vintage Photographs

How I Collect – 1940s, Part 2

Today I continue with my tour through the 1940s. Women started wearing overalls for outdoor work in the late 1930s, but the garment really caught on during World War Two. They were great for gardening and other yard work, but women must have really loved the comfortable overalls, as I have quite a few vintage photos showing women wearing them for leisure.

By the 1940s shorts were being worn on casual occasions, but I’ve also seen photos and magazines ads of shorts being dressed up with the addition of a jacket.

Opps! I used the same hat twice!  Cotton became common in use for bathing suits in the 1940s. This one is a woven twill, but is lined in cotton jersey.  The palm tree cape is made from chenille, probably made at one of the many chenille businesses in North Georgia.

The matching shorts and tee shirt were made by Jantzen, and you can see the original sticker on the shirt.  Thinking about color is so interesting because if you look at many vintage garments you can start to see what colors were popular during different eras. My cute little hexagon shaped bag and the sandals are a perfect match to the green of the tee and shorts.

This golf dress has a label called “American Golfer”.  Women were increasingly turning to skirts, culottes, and even shorts for golfing, so American Golfer began advertising their dresses as good for streetwear.

During the last years of WWII, bathing suit makerCole of California began producing some of the barest bathing suits to date. One was a two-piece similar to this one, but the front of the pants were attached to the back using cord woven through eyelets. Cole ran ads with the suit juxtaposed with a paratrooper, as much of Cole’s production was in making parachutes. Was the assumption to be that they used parachute cord in the bathing suit?

This outfit symbolizes the lucky find. I was rummaging through a box of old damaged clothes at a flea market when I pulled out the playsuit. It ran through my mind that there was most likely a matching skirt originally. Sure enough, the skirt was at the bottom of the box. The sandals came from an old general store in West Asheville, NC. For years the elderly owner went to the store, in spite of the fact that no new merchandise had been added since the early 1970s, and there was stuff still dating from the 40s. There was a big box of shoes, all dumped together and a bit of digging produced this pair, at the original price of $6. I used to frequent the place until the owner became too ill to work. Some years later there was a water line break, the place flooded, and most of the remaining contents went to the dump.

To me, this is the perfect picnic dress. It was designed by Sophie Gimbel, the in-house designer at Saks Fifth Avenue. The shoes were brought back from the Far East by a soldier returning home after WWII.

I love this dress so much, and it has a local (Asheville, NC) label.  The red and white bits are applied flowers, each with a pearl button in the center. The handbag has a lucite Scottie dog clasp!

I am finishing up the 1940s with a truly lousy shot of a beautiful set from the estate of Mary Jane Hefner. Since this was most likely part of her college wardrobe I paired it with a football themed scarf, also from Jane’s estate. Jane had several slacks sets, all in immaculate condition. Was it because slacks on girls were not acceptable at her small town college (meaning the pants didn’t get a lot of wear), or was she just very careful with her clothes? It’s likely a combination of both.

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