Wright’s Bias Fold Tape Sewing Books, 1931

I love finding the odd bits that were published by companies, giving ideas about how to use their products.  In this case it was Wright’s Bias Fold Tape, a product that is still being produced.  Today it is a poly cotton blend, and who knows where it is made, but in 1931 Wright’s made tape in silk and cotton, in solid colors and prints.  I tend to accumulate it and have a full rainbow of vintage bias tape, which I do actually use, mainly for Hong Kong finishes.

These two booklets, both published in 1931, show decorative ideas for using the tape.  It wasn’t just for seam finishing and edging.  To me the booklets are especially useful in seeing the types of things that were inspiring home sewers.

Both booklets had pages on decorating pajamas.  What is really interesting is that early 1930s cotton pajamas found today are very often trimmed with bias tape.  This suggestion was obviously a popular one.

Vintage sellers are thrilled when 1930s pajamas come their way, as they are hot items at present.  They are always listed as beach pajamas (or more likely, pyjamas) but I have a feeling that most of them were intended for sleeping or lounging.  But this was the 1930s, and I’m sure many pajamas saw double duty for both beach and bedroom use.

Another place where one sees bias tape used is on children’s clothing.  As most of it was made from cotton, bias tape was perfect to bind the edges and put a bit of decoration on the dress.

Who could resist a bias tape puppy dog?

Aprons and cotton house dresses were another common use of bias tape, though I can’t imagine any woman taking the time and effort to make the one in beige.

I love the floral decorations on that housecoat.

There were suggestions for home decoration.  According to the booklet, this motif is “a fanciful representation of the flight of the eagle.”

Both booklets had suggestions for making and decorating underwear.  This must have been too much trouble, as I really can’t remember ever seeing more than a few homesewn cotton lingerie pieces from this era, and certainly none that were this decorative.

I am always interested to see what things are called, as I’m afraid we tend to use the current names for clothing from the past.  The booklet calls the pink and lavender pieces “chemise combinations” and the two piece sets are called “shorts and brassiere.”

And what about those pink knees!




Filed under Collecting, Vintage Sewing

1930s Equestrienne Suit: Real Sports

I bought this riding suit some time ago, but have neglected writing about it.  Actually, I’ve been wanting some information about the label to fall into my lap, but that didn’t happen so I’ll have to hope this post brings around someone who knows about the brand.

What I do know (or, rather, guess) is that this suit is from the mid 1930s.  It is certainly before shoulders started to get puffy around 1937.  The buttons also look to be 1930s, as do the construction techniques.

The label is Real Sport: Breeches with the Masterseam.  I’ve seen the label before in men’s breeches, but this was the first time I’d seen it in a woman’s garment.  The masterseam refers to the center back seam of the breeches that could be adjusted for fit.

The fabric feels to be a rayon, but I have not tested it.  There is the possibility that it is wool.

That center back pleat adds to the mobility of the rider.

This is a leg, in case you can’t tell from the sideways photo.  The inner leg is a fine suede.  All the buttons are present; I just didn’t button them.

There is a lot of room in the upper legs.  So, would these be breeches, or are they jodhpurs?

The pants have a side-button closure.  From all my recent research on knickerbockers and breeches, it seems that women’s pants always opened on the side, while male pants always had a center fly.  It is possible that there are exceptions, but I have not found them.

You don’t think I need a horse to go with these, do you?

UPDATE:  I got an email from Lynne, web searcher extraordinaire, who found a 1935 ad showing my jacket with solid pants.  Thanks, Lynne!


Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Hillsville, VA Flea Market, Fall 2015

Last week I went to the crazy place that is the Hillsville Flea Market.  I’ve been going to Hillsville for about ten years, and every now and again I swear off it.  But I keep going back, because among all the crazy is so much vintage wonderfulness.  It’s really not the best for old clothes, but I also find patterns and vintage fabrics.  So, what did I see that was interesting , but that I did not buy?

The drawing above is a puzzle.  Is her looking back on his college days, or is he looking forward to them?  He looks quite young, but is that a cigarette in his hand?

Here’s the dream of every person who sews: shears that cut all the way to the points.  And if you do not sew, you probably wondering why that is such a big deal.

I love old gambling boards, or punch boards, especially when they have a woman skating as the illustration.

Oh, for the simple days of Walt Disney World, when there was just the Magic Kingdom, and it was amazing.

This is my dream luggage.

As I said, Hillsville always has great textile sellers.  This one, a Key West Handprint by Zuzek, is for Jacq.

I just can’t seem to get away from quilts.

This poor old calendar from 1924 was trashed, but oh, so pretty.

I couldn’t tell if this basket backpack was newer, or just in fantastic condition.

I love 1950s red plaid objects, and when I spotted this one I couldn’t imagine what it was.

It’s a traveling cutlery set!  I’m thinking maybe I should have bought that one.


Filed under Road Trip, Shopping

Updates – The Rest of the Story

I never imagined that I’d buy a magazine called Western Horseman, but the price was cheap and there were those magic words: “Western Wear”.  So I picked it up, and when I got home I began to really look through it.  I’ve stated before that I really don’t know much about riding attire, but I am willing to learn, and this magazine from 1966 seemed like a good place to start.

My reward for taking a chance on this magazine was swift.  A while back I asked for opinions about the age of a Miller & Co.  western shirt and Karman pants I had found.  The blouse is very much like the one in the middle in the above photo.  I’m happy to say that several readers identified it as mid 1960s, and they were right.

The copy reads, ” Candy… magic comes to western sportswear in the form of Miller & Co.’s new ice cream colored, matching ladies’ and girls’ sets.”

As for the pants, I did not get an exact match, but there were similar styles all through the magazine.  What looked to be bell-bottom legs, are in fact described in the volume as “the new bell bottom style.”

Some time ago (2010!) I wrote a post about one of the theories of why young women in the 1920s were called flappers.  One of the theories is that the name came from the hair bows that preteens  and younger teens were wearing in the decade of the 1910s, as seen in the girl on the right.


This weekend I came across the above ad from 1915, advertising clothing for the hard-to-fit girl of 12 – 16.  It is obvious that the term “flapper” is describing a girl, not a crazy, Charleston-dancing, cigarette-smoking twenty-something woman.

Last week I heard from a woman who had worked for the Vera Company.

I worked at The Vera Companies, first as an intern starting in 1983 and left in in 1990 …Manhattan Industries was bought by Salant Corp (Perry Ellis International) but The Vera Companies stayed intact until after her death in 1993…it is sometime after that The Tog Shop bought the company.

This information changes the way the Vera story is often told, with the company essentially closing in 1988.  I appreciate this important correction.

And finally, here is my semi-regularly scheduled mention of social media.  Every week I get several invitations to be friends on Linked-in.  I did join Linked-in for a very short time, and then I deleted my registration because I could not see how I could use the network.  For some reason, it still has me a a potential contact for people, but I cannot respond to all the requests because I’m not a member and I cannot log in.  So, the short of it is, if you have contacted me through Linked-in, I’m not ignoring your request; I simply cannot reply to it.

On the other hand, Instagram continues to be a constant source of interesting things and fascinating people.  There is a growing community of fashion history people there, and if you want to join us, I’ll be happy to send you a list of my favorite accounts.  I’m using it more and more as a mini-blog, posting things that are interesting, but don’t somehow deserve a post here.


Filed under Rest of the Story

Vintage Miscellany – September 6, 2015

Okay, people of the internet, enough with the “Summer’s over” nonsense.  I do not want to hear another word of it.

And now, the news…

1 Comment

Filed under Vintage Miscellany

Cheap Chic: The 40th Anniversary Edition

I’ve written a lot on this blog about the book Cheap Chic, and how it was the book that introduced me to vintage clothing.  That was in 1975.  I was in college, and I found the newly released book at the library.  No one else got a chance to read it because I hoarded that book for the next two years until I bought my own copy.  I still have it, and I still pull it out from time to time to reread parts of it.

When the book was released forty years ago, I’d never seen anything like it.  Most fashion books that I’d been exposed to were advice books for teens, and all were terribly out of date for the late Sixties and early Seventies.  But Cheap Chic was relevant to me, a very young woman in the mid Seventies.  At that time fashion rules were being broken, with the young (and not-so-young) taking up the wearing of everything from antique underwear to the uniforms of the working class.

To me the biggest value in Cheap Chic today is that it is a good document of how many people in the Seventies were dressing.  To completely understand the attitudes toward dressing in that decade, you really must read this book.

But what about the “hundreds of money saving hints to create your own look”?  To be honest, much of the content is still relevant, while some of it is now old hat.  Still, it is hard not to be inspired by the content, even though a lot of it is a bit quirky.   Or maybe we can be inspired because it is quirky.  At any rate, the writing is honest and sincere, and very 1970s.

It used to be that to get a copy of Cheap Chic, you had to search for a used copy, but as of yesterday the book is back in print.  And the good news is that the publicist for the book has sent a copy to me to offer as a give-away to readers of The Vintage Traveler.  All you have to do to put your name in the hat for the book is to leave a comment on this thread.  I’ll be taking names until Sunday, September 6 at noon, EDT.

And to encourage participation, here’s a little taste of the contents.

Cheap Chic, by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy, 1975


Filed under Currently Reading

Currently Reading: American Quilts by Robert Shaw

I know that having two posts on quilts is straying a bit from the usual fare here at The Vintage Traveler, but I’m sure that lovers of textiles will appreciate the beauty and work that goes into a well-crafted quilt.

I don’t buy quilt books, as a general rule, but I spotted this one at a local fabric store and after thumbing through it decided I had to have it, if only for the visual inspiration.  The book is stunningly beautiful, with 358 pages of lovely photos.  It is arranged loosely chronologically, with different eras of quilt styles serving as chapters.  And it is not just pretty pictures, as Shaw also writes about the textile industry and the development of the sewing machine and other matters of interest.

Since I’m not well versed in quilts, I’m really not qualified to comment on the the quilts chosen for the book, so I read the reviews of others who do know quilts.  Some reviewers were concerned that some quilting styles, such as Amish quilts, were given too much space in the book at the exclusion of others, such as quilts from the Appalachian regions.  And truly, I found my eyes glazing over by the end of the chapter on Amish quilts.  It was a bit too much.

But for the most part, the text is engaging and informative, just like I’d want a book of this sort to be.  The real stars though, are the quilts themselves.

Believe it or not, the cover image is from a quilt that was made in 1933 by Edith Morrow Matthews.

We sometimes think of quilts as being patchwork, but many of the earliest American quilts were appliqued.  This quilt is attributed to Mary Jane Carr of Columbia, Pennsylvania, circa 1850.  Note the dogs in the lower corners.

Named for the ship in the center, this is known as The Constitution Quilt, circa 1880. The blocks depict scenes from the Bible, patriotic and Masonic symbols, and scenes of everyday life.

The maker evidently loved birds.

I do love a good crazy quilt, or in this case, a great one.  Note how it was actually pieced in blocks and then assembled.  The embroidery tends to tie it all together.

The book points out that it is very difficult to attribute a quilt to an African-American maker.  In this case, it seems to be the subject matter that identifies this snake design as African-American.

This circa 1875 to 1900 quilt is from eastern North Carolina,  where coral snakes are a danger.

This detail is from a large quilt that is a variation of the log cabin design.  Because all the people are black and are not caricatures, it is assumed that the maker was African-American.  Circa 1890, and probably from New Jersey.

This is an Amish quilt from Ohio, made in 1928 by Christina Yoder Schlaabach.  Amish quilts varied from community to community, and in accordance to how much influence there was from the “English” world.  One thing they have in common is that they are never pictorial.

A variation of the fan design, this quilt was found in New York City, where it was possibly made around 1920.  The pieces are velvet and cotton, and is tied (the ties look like dots in the photo) rather than stitch quilted.

I love this amazing quilt.  It was made by a farmer’s wife, Fannie B. Shaw, between 1930 and 1932.  The appliqued figures all represent a profession, and are labeled as such.  And why are they looking around the corner?  They are looking for prosperity, something that President Hoover promised was “just around the corner.”  Note the representatives of the GOP and the Democrats, and finally, Uncle Sam with sacks of gold, farm relief and free beer!

This is just a corner of a fantastic quilt made by Goldie Tracy Richmond in 1966.  Richmond and her husband ran a trading post on the Papago reservation in Arizona, and she made quilts to sell to tourists.  This one shows life on the reservation.

As the twentieth century advanced, the practice of quilting declined.  But the 1970s brought a renewed interest in the traditional crafts of America, and people began to take up quilting as a hobby.  In many cases, the line between craft and art is blurred as quilts changed from being utilitarian items to being strictly decorative.  Many go beyond that into the realm of sending a message.

The quilt above is from 1986, and was made by Judy Mathieson.  Called Nautical Stars, it was inspired by a watercolor of compass roses.

Click to see a larger view

Susan at Witness2Fashion recent wrote about this quilt on her blog, and I was delighted to see it in this book.  The quilt, Portrait of a Textile Worker, is made entirely of clothing labels that were donated to the maker, Terese Agnew.  Read more about it on Susan’s blog.

Once again I have to say a word or two about historical accuracy.  While I do not know a lot about the history of quilts, the fashion historian in me could not help but be disturbed by this paragraph:

The Lancaster Amish continued to work the same small group of patterns until World War II put an end to the supply of fine wool, most of which had been imported from England. With their favored material no longer readily available, Lancaster Amish women were forced to use polyester, and the classic period of their quiltmaking effectively came to an end.

I may be reading this incorrectly, but it seems to me the author is saying that polyester replaced wool during the war.  That would not be possible because polyester became available to consumers only after the war was over, in 1950.  Another inaccuracy was that Illinois was stated to be the first state to give women the right to vote in 1913.  Actually, it was Wyoming, in 1869.  And finally, Diana Vreeland was referred to as “the influential designer” when she was, in fact, the editor of Vogue.

The point needs to be made that when reading one has to be both a reader and and editor.  We are used to relying on books to supply correct information, but that is not always the case, unfortunately.  Reader beware!

All photos were taken from the book, American Quilts: The Democratic Art, by Robert Shaw.  Please do not copy photos from this site.


Filed under Currently Reading, Vintage Sewing