In Ideal Haunts – Photos of the Adirondacks

Click to enlarge the photos.

I’m always on the looking out for vintage and antique photos showing women engaged in sporting and travel activities, so when I ran across a little album of one woman’s trip to the Adirondack Mountains of New York, I excitedly exchanged a fist full of dollars for it. I’ll hope you’ll agree that I got my money’s worth.

The homemade cover identifies the setting as the Adirondacks, and several of the photos are captioned with the name of a lake or mountain. But even though many of the photos are partially loose and I can see the backs of them, there’s not a single name recorded. What a shame! I do think that the keeper of the album was the woman on the left above, as she features prominently in many of the photos, even some extras added at the back of the album that do not seem to have been made on this particular trip.

There are also no dates, but it’s pretty easy to narrow it down. Mohawk Camp was built in 1897. Judging by the clothing of all the woman in the photos, I think this was made just a few years later. The women are all pretty much wearing the casual “uniform” of the “New Woman” of the early twentieth century – the shirtwaist blouse with dark skirt. The shirtwaists are mostly in the droopy front style, sometimes referred to as the “pouter pigeon.” Most are wearing pompadour hairstyles with hats perched atop.

Mohawk Camp was like many of the Adirondack “camps” in that they were as much hotel as they were camp. There was usually a range of accommodations, where one could sleep in a tent or lean-to, and when that grew tiresome, they could upgrade to a cozy bed in the hotel or a cottage.  Camp Mohawk was located on Fourth Lake in the Fulton chain. The lakes were numbered up to Eighth Lake, and our traveler viewed them all.

You’ll notice a lot of women in these photos, often in the company of a man. He’s probably a hired guide. According to The Adirondacks Illustrated by S.R. Stoddard and published in 1912, a guide was a necessity, and could be arranged for $3 a day. Maybe all these women pooled their money to pay for their guide.

Here we see our traveler trying her hand with a fishing pole. She labeled this photo as Bubb Lake. It is possible that the woman sitting in front is wearing a divided skirt, and her shoes look very practical for the woods. Still, none of the women look as though they are ready for roughing it in the woods, with skirts that don’t seem to have been shortened for walking. Bubb Lake is about three miles from Camp Mohawk, so this would have been a day hike.

On other days, boats (and guide) were hired for exploring the various lakes. This is Fifth Lake.

In what is the most unusual photo of the group, the traveler is the only woman seen in this venture out with a diver.

Back at the camp, the group is more formally attired for a game of croquet. Is that our traveler, third from right?

Picnics were arranged, and here we have one of the few appearances of a child. Maybe she belonged to a member of the staff.

For visitors who wanted a rougher camp experience, a night in the lean-to would fit the bill. Otherwise it was ideal for just hanging out.

Back in civilization, here is our traveler with two companions. Neither seems to be in the camp photos. These photos were glued in the back of the album, but it is possible they could pre-date the Camp Mohawk trip.

Here is the trio, in a photo taken the same day, at least their hats lead me to think that is the case. Our traveler has changed in to a white ensemble, quite appropriate for the shore.

 

 

 

 

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Vintage Miscellany – November 12, 2017

My photo today comes from a small photo album I recently acquired. There are absolutely no names in the album, nor on the backs of any of the loose photos, but I do know where the photos were taken. This is Camp Mohawk, which was located on Fourth Lake in the Fulton chain of lakes in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Camp Mohawk was built in 1897, and the clothing looks to be from a few years later, in the early days of the twentieth century. I’ll be showing more of the album this week.

And now for the news…

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White Stag Ski Togs Promotional Brochure

A recent addition to my sportswear archive is this little folder from White Stag of Portland, Oregon. It isn’t dated, but from the style of the clothing, I can say it is late 1940s.

Thanks to @noaccountingfortaste on Instagram, I can tell you a bit about the illustrator of the cover. She was Gereldine Olinger Hinkle Abbot, or as she signed this picture, Gerry.

Jessica wrote,”She was born in Washington state; in 1944, she and her first husband moved to San Francisco, and by 1946 she was working for Lilli Ann as art director and advertising manager. She also lived and worked in Portland, illustrating for Jantzen and White Stag and numerous department stores. In 1950, she won the Frances Holmes Achievement Award for advertising women of the West, an award named for the first woman to open her own ad agency, in Los Angeles. She won three awards; one for best layout series, best mechanical production, and best finished art series for work she’d done for the firm Frederick and Nelson, and was given the overall achievement award because she “…best typified how a woman can achieve outstanding merit in the world of advertising.” She opened her own agency, Gerry Advertising and Art Service.”

Inside the folder is a little dictionary of ski terms, and several cards that have photos of the latest ski fashions. In this period of time, ski pants, and usually jackets as well, were made of wool gabardine, this is thin and light, though dense and warm. The pants were pleated at the waist to give the wearer greater mobility.

This is a pretty standard ski suit from the late 1940s. The shoulders are still wide, and the pants are roomy. It would be only a few years before Willi and Maria Bogner of Germany discovered that thick nylon knit made a sleek and effective ski pant and changed the style completely.

Here the pants are gabardine, but the jackets in made of cotton poplin. White stag started as a canvas tent makers, and they continued to work with cotton fabrics.

This is the Ski Banner style described in the photo above. On the back of each card is a brief description and the price. At $14.95 and $16.95, these togs weren’t cheap. According to the inflation calculator, the jacket would be 171.63 and the pants would be $194.59 in 1017 dollars.

 

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1940s SS Neptune Linen Top

It seems like I’ve been on a real nautical kick lately, as the last three items I’ve added to my collection were inspired by the sea. It’s not surprising, really, as sportswear has from its very early days been influenced by clothing traditionally worn at and on the ocean. Garments like the middy blouse were based on the sailor’s middy, and nautical motifs are really common in sports clothing.

Today’s nautical garment is a top from the post-war 1940s. The fabric is linen, and is nice and crisp.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this top, and its original purpose. At first I thought it might be a beach cover-up, but the length seems a little short for that use. The presence of the pockets, and the fact that there are only three buttons keeps this from being a blouse that would tuck into pants or shorts. So I’m going with jacket. I can see this paired with a pair of white slacks, with maybe a tee shirt or halter top beneath.

I love the colors, which are not the standard nautical red, white, and navy. The rope around the life preserver is the very same color as a sash on a late 40s pants set I have. Color is fascinating, because you really can use it to help with the dating of garments.

At first I could not decide if the buttons were the originals, but a very close inspection of the thread used in the making of the buttonholes, and the thread used to sew on the buttons seems to be a match. So I’m pretty sure they are the originals.  And you can tell by the handmade button holes that the jacket was made by a home sewer, rather than manufactured commercially.

The sewer knew her (or his, possibly…) fabrics and took no chances with the linen. To eliminate raveling, the armscye was bound in bias tape, and the seams were flat felled. There are no exposed edges anywhere on the garment.

I looked to see if there was any special SS Neptune, and found a lot of photos of a sailing ship caught in the arctic ice. There have been lots of ships named Neptune, for obvious reasons, and I guess this print was named not for a real ship, but for an imaginary Neptune.

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Fashion and Technology – Additional Thoughts

I promise this is the last post from the CSA symposium I attended recently in Cincinnati. And this is really just for me to formalize my thoughts on the two days spent immersed in talk of fashion and technology.

I really like how CSA develops their symposiums around a theme. As a teacher I used to go to conferences on writing or history, and the presentations would be all over the place. With a theme, common threads start to emerge, and one starts to hear multiple opinions on the same topic. It makes for a more thoughtful experience.

One thing that so many of the presenters, especially the college professionals who work in design programs, pointed out, is that the great majority of fashion design students have zero sewing skills. I realize that a person does not HAVE to sew in order to create designs (much like Karl Lagerfeld), but it sure does help to know what can and cannot be accomplished with a sewing machine, the basic tool in making a garment.

So the starting point in most design programs is a basic sewing class. One teacher made the point that it is the attempted making of a welt pocket that separates the sheep from the goats. He estimated that half of his students do not make it past the welt pocket.

Why can’t Suzy and Johnny sew? According to my two new friends from Lipscomb University in Nashville, it is because so few high schools have home economics classes that teach sewing. They were particularly perturbed because Lipscomb Academy, which is closely associated with the university, recently did away with sewing class.  (I looked, and my alma mater does teach sewing in two classes called Apparel Development).

Another common thread came from the people in charge of collections. The big concern is the need for continued digitalization of collections both big and small. This refers to the placing online of searchable databases of an institution’s clothing collection and archives. While everyone who addressed this issue was pretty much in agreement that digital collections are highly useful for researchers and curators planning exhibitions, there are some major problems that prevent institutions from putting their collections online.

The first and the most daunting is that the process is very expensive. You may have read about the financial problems at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Some critics claim that a big part of the money drain was due to a huge push to digitalize their collections. That may be so, but the result is that the Met is in possession of a database that is widely used, maybe even over-used. Several presenters pointed out that they were tired of seeing the same old Met garments used in scholarly works.

Another problem is that digital problems quickly become obsolete. Some institutions that were early users of digital programs are now having to replicate their previous work due to low resolution of photographs and outdated computer systems.

These problems aside, if an institution wants their collection to be seen in today’s world, the best way to do it is online. As one presenter pointed out, a digital online presence is no longer a “nice thing”; it’s a near necessity.

It boggles my mind to think of all the great collections, and the holdings within. What if there was a universal database of not just the major museums, but of all clothing collections, even private ones. I’m always reading that an example of this or that major milestone in fashion no longer exists, but I’m betting that somewhere, in some avid collector’s closet, one does exist. I know I’m dreaming but part of the joy of being with people who are thinking about and working on solutions to these problems really opens the mind to the possibilities that the digital universe brings to us.

Several presenters talked about social media and blogging, and how these platforms have proved useful to fashion researchers and scholars. I’ve actually addressed this topic here, as the interactions I have with all of you greatly enrich my own understanding of fashion history. Having an audience for my writing is important, but so is getting feedback from readers. And the same is true of Instagram, where people are quick to point out something missed and to add to what the photo poster knows about an object.

There was also a lot of talk about 3-D printing and other technologies that are being developed. Interesting, but what really caught my attention was this maternity coat, designed by Chanjuan Chen and Kendra Lapolla at Kent State University. The pattern for the coat was developed using a computer program, and the placement of the pattern on the fabric was analyzed by computer which was able to fit the pieces onto the fabric with less than five percent waste. That five percent was then used to make the appliques, so there was essentially no waste in making the coat.

The embroidery was also made using a high tech embroidery machine. I really did think it was hand embroidered.

So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed coming along with me to Cincinnati.

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Design Study Collection at the University of Cincinnati

Another highlight of the CSA (Costume Society of America) was a visit to the University of Cincinnati department of design. There we viewed the department’s historic design study collection. One thing to keep in mind is that a study collection is not the same as a museum collection. The clothing in a study collection is meant to be closely examined and even touched by students and researchers. The clothing in a study collection is often not perfect, nor is it “museum quality,” a term I don’t completely approve of, but which seems to best describe my meaning.

The clothes were arranged roughly in chronological order, and started with the later nineteenth century. Above you can see some of the earliest items in the collection.

It made me happy to see an early twentieth century bathing suit in the mix. The skirt is just draped over the shoulder, but you get the idea. There’s really nothing special about this particular bathing suit. It appears to be homemade using cotton trimmed with rick-rack. It is completely typical of what women wore to go to the beach 120 years ago, and so is an important object for students to see and study.

If you look closely at the arm hole area, you will see that this sweet little 1920s frock is badly damaged. The damaged area has been stabilized, but this dress could never be worn or displayed. But, as a learning tool it is valuable. Many of the older items in the collection did have condition problems, but the newer items were of a higher quality and condition.

I can’t help but think that a vintage clothing seller would leave this collection feeling really sad. Many of the garments were in great, and wearable, condition.

This Castillo for Lanvin piece was interesting. The label is significant, but the garment was one piece – the short jacket –  of a two-piece dress ensemble. It was one of the few couture pieces in the collection.

For the most part, the items from the 1960s and younger were nice, high-end ready-to-wear. There’s a little Pucci, some Bill Blass, and that sort of thing. Nothing earth-shattering, but great stuff to show the techniques and skill of garment makers in the 1960s.

One of my favorite 1960s dresses was this one by Teal Traina. Traina’s name is somewhat forgotten these days, but he sure knew how to cut an interesting dress.

This is a buttonhole detail from a 1960s Christian Dior New York coat dress. This was one of the ready-to-wear lines that the Dior company produced in cities other than Paris. How else could a student get such a great look at the types of detailing that made high-end ready-to-wear so special in the days before so much out-sourcing?

I don’t have anything clever to say about this Stephen Burrows dress except that I love him so much.

And I don’t have to say anything clever about this one, because the donor said it all!

The garments in the collection were donated, many from the original owners. Often times families contact museums to see if they want some old clothes, but most of us don’t have the types of things that enhance museum collections. A good alternative for donation might be the design collection at a local collage.

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Vintage Miscellany: October 29, 2017

Well, the lying has begun and it’s only October 29. I’m talking about the weatherman who promised overnight snow, and so far, there’s been not a single flake. I’m not a big fan of cold weather, but I do love sitting in the sunroom, watching snow fall. Unfortunately, I’ve got the cold temperatures, but not the snow. I need a lesson from the 1920s women above on bundling up.

And now for the news…

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