Antique Fabric Swatches Need a Date

One of the reasons I keep returning to my local Goodwill Outlet bins is because I never know what will be found there.  It truly is a giant treasure hunt, with some people hunting for gold in the book bins and others hunting for silver in the toy bins.  Like me, there are those who are looking for textile treasures, so I have to really keep my eyes open and ready to spot something interesting.  On a recent trip I found a plastic baggie full of what looked to be at first glance, swatches of reproductions of antique fabrics.  I threw the bag in my buggy anyway to give it a closer look.

A closer examination showed that every swatch was different and they were all the same size.  A previous owner had written “$5″ on the baggie, and so these were left over from a sale of some sort.

While examining the pieces I noticed that on the backs were remnants of glue and even little scraps of paper.  These swatches had been torn out of a sample book, was my guess.

And one was still clinging to this piece of very old paper. At this point I was convinced that these swatches were actually antique fabrics.  My guess is that they were attached to a sample book or cards, and that someone removed them to use as quilt or crafting pieces.  That’s the sort of act that just breaks my heart, as it removes the object from some very vital information.  Who made these fabrics?  When were they marketed?  Are they American in origin?

It’s likely I’ll never know the answers to all my questions, but I’m sure there are some of you who can help me narrow down a date for them.  Using the information and photos in Eileen Jahnke Trestain’s book, Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800 -1960 I’ve placed them in her category of 1880 through 1910.  I’d like something a bit more precise.

I was amazed at the sharpness of the colors…

And the modern look to some of the designs.

There was even an early novelty print, in the form of card suits.

There were several prints that were made in different colorways.

About half of the swatches have a black background, but there are also some pretty, light prints in pink and white.

And then, as now, black and white prints were a favored combination.

So please, if you can shed some light on the age of these lovely little pieces, post and enlighten this mid-century girl.  I’d also like suggestions on what to do with them.  Should I put them back in a book where they belong?  Pactchwork is out of the question!

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Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Southern Textiles

The Milliner and Her Hats

Sylvia on the right, 1920s

 

I received some more photos of  Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld, the designer behind the Suzy label, from her daughter.  It seemed a bit odd that I wrote about this important milliner and she was wearing a hat in none of the photos!  Thanks to daughter Susan, we can now see that Sylvia knew how to sport a hat.

1930s

 

1930s or early 40s

 

Late 1940s or early 50s

 

In the last photo we see Sylvia wearing an uncharacteristically fussy hat.  I wonder what she thought about the hat of the woman sitting across the table from her.  Now that’s a hat!

I want to thank Susan Novenstern again for all the information about her mother and for the fantastic photos of her. Her generous sharing adds to the historical record and helps eliminate confusion about all the Suzy millinery labels.

This points out once again just how important the internet has become in doing historical research.  Susan found my original post on her mother’s label after someone posted a link on her facebook page.  Others have found my posts after doing a Google search on a family member who was in the fashion business.  It is just amazing the connections that are being made today that were impossible in the last century.

For those of us who blog and who post in other places on the internet, we just never know who might be reading.  It’s exciting that information can be so easily found and shared.

Sorry that there are no links today, but I only had a few to share so I decided to wait a week before doing the post.   If any of you run across an interesting story about clothing or textiles, I always appreciate an email with the link .

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Filed under Designers, Rest of the Story, Viewpoint

Vactor’s Out-door Girl Slack Trousers

This Vactor’s Out-door Girl trousers ad dates from sometime in the mid-1930s, judging by the style of the shirt, the style of the slacks (and the fact that the button instead of zip),  and the hair style.  I actually have a sewing pattern from the same time with a shirt that is identical to the one the “model” is wearing.  Another clue is that sanforization was patented in 1930 by Sanford Lockwood Cluett.  By the mid 1930s the process was being widely used to eliminate shrinkage in cotton fabrics.

I’d never heard of the D.C. Vactor company, but I was able to find out a little bit online.  Because the ad told me that the company was located in Cleveland, Ohio, I was able to attempt a Google search that produced some results.

The first mention I found of Vactor’s was in a 1909 Sheldon’s Manufacturing Trade magazine, a periodical for the “cutting-up trade”.  I’m assuming that was a funny double entrendre.  At least I hope so.  All I learned was that Vactor’s was a maker of pants, and was located on Saint Clair Avenue in what was once a manufacturing center in Cleveland.  By the late 1910s and early 1920s, there were numerous references to the company in various clothing manufacturing trade magazines.  The last reference I found to D.C. Vactor was that his widow made a donation to a charity in his memory in 1944.

The little swatches of fabric really help one visualize how the slack trousers actually looked.  The fabric is a twill and is quite lightweight, much lighter than denim.  This does not seem to be a fancy department store product.  The price of $2.45 ($43 in today’s dollar) plus the type of fabric seem to point to this being the sort of thing that might have been sold in a small town general store or a cheaper department store.

Ads like this one were mailed to prospective buyers at stores, or were dropped off by the thousands of traveling sales representatives who paid calls to stores to take orders for their companies’ products.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

Circa 1960s Golf Set by Serbin

One of the difficult things about collecting clothing is that often one finds just part of an ensemble.  As a collector of sportswear that often does not matter, but it is always a treat to find an outfit in its entirety.  Having the top or the skirt of this set would be nice, but it is so much better having both, plus the matching belt.

Serbin was founded in 1943 by brothers  Lewis and John Serbin in Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1951 Lewis Serbin moved his family and the family business to Florida.  There the company focused on golf wear and casual dresses.  The Serbins had a daughter, Marianne, and I’m guessing that she is the Mari*Anne on the label.  At some time she married and her name was Marianne Serbin Friedman.

The quilted skirt is covering a pair of shorts made from the same fabric as the top.  It feels to be a cotton/poly blend.  The buttons are a type that was popular in the late 1960s, ball-shaped plastic covered by a matte paint. There is a nylon zipper in the shorts and in the back of the top.

The belt matches the bias trim on the top and the skirt.

I have not firmed up a date, but my best guess is late 1960s.  Besides the buttons, there are other clues.  The A-line shape of the skirt was a popular one at that time, as was the cotton/poly fabric.  I’ve not shown any of the interior details, but the seams are pinked instead of serged.  That tends to mean a manufacture before the mid 1970s when the serger became widely used, but it pays to remember that smaller companies could not always invest in the latest machinery.

Novelty prints are really more associated with the Seventies than they are the Sixties, but when it comes to golf wear, anything goes.  Any other thoughts?

And I’d sure love to hear from the Serbin family.

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Exhibition Journal: Fashioning the New Woman, 1890 – 1925

Fashioning the New Woman was an exhibition at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, held the summer of 2013.  From my journal you can see that the items that were of the greatest interest to me were sportswear.  Some of the items, like the gym suit and swimsuit, were fairly common, but others, like the circa 1895 sweater are very rare, even in collections.

Sketching on site is often difficult due to crowds and lack of seating, but the conditions at the DAR were ideal.  Not only was the crowd light, chairs were provided for people who wanted to sketch or to read the booklets that accompanied the exhibition.

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Filed under Journal, Museums

Scarf Paradise

To my great delight, two of my favorite sellers, the scarf guys, were back at the Metrolina Collectibles Show last week.  I’ve written about them before; they bought 20,000 scarves and are now selling them for a buck each at Metrolina.  Actually they are also selling at Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta, where the buyers get first choice and the scarves go for $5 and $3 each.  I was told that they occasionally pull out an Hermes which they sell for $100 – still a great bargain.

This time they had eight big bins full, and I managed to dig through them all to my satisfaction.  I only bought six, but they are all pretty special.

I find it hard to resist a blue Vera Neumann scarf.  I’d never seen this sun design in blue, and even though it was not silk, I wanted it. Vera used some high quality synthetics – rayon maybe – during the 1970s.

And there was another blue Vera, this one in Verasheer silk.

This silk scarf was not signed, but I just loved the colors.  Plus, it is long and thin, just the thing to control beach-blown hair.

Giorgio di Sant’Angelo scarves are relatively hard to find, and they are always top quality.  I’m afraid that my photo does not convey the vibrant yellow and orange adequately.  It’s truly stunning.

This is the corner of an older cotton bandana.  I’ve read that the older ones are collectible, but I honestly can’t say that I know a thing about this one except that I liked it.

The best find though was this Liberty of London scarf from the 1930s.  There is a very similar one pictured in my 1937 Liberty catalog, but in a different colorway.

I knew the scarf was a good one, but that little tag sealed the deal.  My color is a bit off, as the blue bits are actually a rich purple.

So, did I get my money’s worth?

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Filed under Shopping

Shopping Expedition, Metrolina, Spring 2015

I always think of the first weekend in April as the beginning of flea market season.  That’s because this weekend is the Metrolina “Spectacular”, the biggest show of the year at the North Charlotte expo center.  The first time I went to this market, fifteen or so years ago, it was truly spectacular.  It took every bit of a day to barely cover it all.  There were ten or twelve excellent vintage clothing sellers.

For the past six or seven years the show has been shrinking.  What used to take eight hours to see now can be done in five, and the latest show was the smallest yet.  Most of the vendors I spoke with about this blamed the economy, and a few grumbled about the management of the show.  Whatever the cause, there was less to see, and less that I found to buy.  And that’s really the bottom line.  There was a good crowd of shoppers, but if they aren’t buying, then the sellers are not going to be successful.

I’m sure there were a lot of people like me.  I’ve learned that I do not have to own every great thing that I spot.  A trip to the flea market is as much an education as it is a buying experience, and these days, the education  seems to be the biggest part of it.

Most of these photos were taken yesterday at Metrolina, and others were taken recently at various vintage venues.

I thought this camping cook chest was interesting, but it was so heavy!  The contents were aluminum, but that didn’t seem to help much.  To be used only for sites one can drive to.

I guess women in skimpy bathing suits have always been used to attract attention in advertising and on magazine covers.

All right, I’ll admit that I almost bought this golf themed handbag.

This was probably the most interesting thing I saw all day.  These are photographs that were colorized with red.  The young woman is a fencer, and the theme extends to the frame.  The seller said it came out of an estate in Tennessee, and she did not know the woman’s name, nor the date, but I’d say 1905-1914.  The fading is unfortunate, and was caused by sun exposure and the fact that the photos were backed with wooden slats.

Just in time for Easter was this fantastic store poster.  Pre-Easter sale at Calahan’s Women’s Wear, the latest spring modes just out.

I found a small example of Springmaid fabric – the one that was made after a controversial ad campaign by the company.

One seller had quite a few athletic letter sweaters.  This one was just full of the owner’s “trophies” including a very unexpected National Honor Society patch.

And if one was in the market for a Pendleton shirt, they had a terrific selection.

This is an example of Chimayo Weavers work, something I don’t see a lot of here in the Southeast.

And, yes, there were Scotties.  I was able to look, admire, and not buy.

This fake Louis Vuitton cardboard suitcase was covered in fake stickers of questionable taste.

Excuse the terrible photo, but I did have to share this one of an antique garment drafting machine.  I have no idea of how it worked, or if it were complete, but I loved that the instruction book was not lost.

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Filed under Shopping