On Blogging

After reading some of the comments on my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging and blogs. I really appreciate that so many of you reading this have been loyal readers through the years, I know that opening up a blog to read it is a commitment to time and brain power, something that is not always in large supply.

I follow blogs through a site called bloglovin’ and so I went to it to see how other blogs were doing. What I found was that there are dozens of formerly great blogs that haven’t been updated in months, or even years.

I can understand why someone would give blogging up. It takes a lot of time, energy, and thought. At the height of blogging popularity, I was trying to post every day. Now I ‘m lucky if I manage two posts a week. But that’s okay, because I blog, primarily, for me. I need a place to work out my thoughts on new things I see and acquire. And a big plus is that I also get the well-informed opinions of you readers. Without the comments, I’d be talking to myself, and might as well be just writing private documents.

Some of the bloggers I used to love to follow have now moved to Instagram. It’s a sign of the times, I suppose. But the fleeting nature of Instagram and other social media, while great for immediate engagement, does not lead to an easily accessible record of fashion research findings. To me, the fact that people interested in say, David Crystal, can google his name and find me, just like his great granddaughter did last week.

I’d like to think that what I’m doing is important, and I can definitely say that the few other active fashion history bloggers that I know of are doing important work. It’s worth your time to check them out.

Lynn at Americanagefashion writes about what the older woman in the 20th century wore. But it’s so much more than that. She looks into the advice older women were given and the images that were presented to women over fifty as appropriate.

Susan at Witness2fashion gives the best in depth look at fashion trends of the past that you can find on the WWW. Her experience as a costumer gives her the eye to analyze a 1920s dress as though it was hanging in her own closet.

Jonathan at Kickshawproductions brings a lifetime of fashion history experience to his writing.

For an in-depth look at fashion during WWI, read ClareRoseHistory.

Jen at Pintucks Vintage does not post very often, but when she does, it is always worth reading.

Liza at Better Dresses Vintage writes about fashion exhibitions and her own adventures wearing historical clothing.

And not strictly about fashion history, AllWays in Fashion is written by Michelle, who was a fashion insider during the 1960s through the 1990s, and who gives a great historical perspective to current trends.

Jackie Mallon  is another fashion insider, who brings her years of experience to her blog post that include exhibition reviews and historical references in current fashion shows.

Unfortunately, this is the extent of my list, though I also follow a few vintage travel and lifestyle blogs, and a few that focus on sewing and quilting. If I’m missing any good fashion history blogs, please add them in the comments.

It has also occurred to me that a person who wants a voice on the web today is likely to turn to podcasting rather than to blogging (which is SO 2012). In just the past few months some new fashion history podcasts have appeared.

If you haven’t discovered podcasts, it may be time for you to try them. I keep track of the ones I follow on my phone, where there are dozens of apps that store your favorites and then let you know when a new episode appears. Here’s my list, and again I’d appreciate a link to any I have missed.

Bande  à Part is a weekly conversation between fashion historians Rebecca Arnold and Beatrice Behlen. There is always good food for thought on a variety of fashion related topics.

Dress: Fancy is new, so new that there is only one episode, but I really enjoyed it and I look forward to more from Lucy Clayton and Benjamin Wild.

Dressed: The History of Fashion is from April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary. There is also a website with links and bibliographies.

The Museum at FIT Fashion Culture Podcast is, as promised, from FIT. It’s very new, and for now the podcast is just audio of previous conversations you can also find at youtube. I’m hoping this one will live up to its potential.

Unravel: A Fashion Podcast has been around for a while. The four FIT alums who produce it cover some fascinating topics. I have trouble following the conversation at times, as it feels like one is eavesdropping on a private conversation with references I don’t get. This may be a sign of the age gap between me and the podcasters.

 

 

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1917, Von Lengerke & Antoine Sporting Goods Exclusively

I know that blogging has now been replaced with Instagram and whatever the social media platform of the week happens to be, but I can tell you that having a more permanent place on the internet can really pay off. The biggest advantage seems to me to be that having a site that is searchable by google brings the blogger into contact with  all sorts of people.

My favorite type of such people is the one who is searching an item she has in her possession, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Through the miracle of Goggle this person finds me, and by the end of our email exchanges, the item is on its way to me. In this case, my new best friend, Joanna, had an old catalog from Von Lengerke & Antoine, a Chicago sporting goods store that was bought by Abercrombie & Fitch in 1928.

This catalog predated the acquisition, and looked to be about 1920 to me. There was no date on the catalog, but using the No. 53 designation on the cover and the fact they released about two catalogs a year put date at 1918 or 1919. Whatever; I was thrilled when Joanne offered to send it to me.

 

There was no date on the cover, nor in any of the pages that give all the information about the catalog, but here in the description of the bathing suit we learn that the 1917 line of bathing suits make up all the latest fashions. The most striking thing about the bathing suit above is the price of it. $50 was a very high price for a swimsuit in 1917. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, That 1917 $50 would buy $1075 worth of goods today.

The other styles were more reasonably priced, but even $20 was a big expense for an item that was not truly necessary. Von Lengerke was not for the bargain hunter.

The bathing caps are really interesting, with the two plain styles being for men. The sad thing for collectors is that few of these seem to have survived.

Another must-have item for the 1917 bather was a pair of bathing slippers. These were made of sateen cotton or canvas, and so survive in greater numbers. It’s interesting that these have leather and linoleum soles. All the ones in my collection have canvas soles.

This may be a 1917 catalog, but the Von Lengerke people did not spring for a new illustration for their outing shirts. This one dates to the previous decade, but since the style didn’t change much, why change the illustration?

But here’s where I really get a bad case of antique catalog envy. I’ll take either of these outing hats, please.

The last item is not clothing, but it is such a great example of how technology was changing the way people thought about camping that I had to include it. The auto was taking people places they’d never imagined, but it took a while for the accommodations industry to catch up. In the meantime, auto camping was a good solution to the question of where to spend the night.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Calamity Jane’s Duds: Historical Center’s Exciting Discovery

Usually a back issue of True West magazine would not interest me, but this one found at the Goodwill Treasure Center caught my eye with the word “Duds”.  And then there was a photo of some interesting looking clothing along with Ms. Calamity herself.

Note the publication date of 1990. This was pretty much pre-internet, and so the nature of research was very different than a search of this nature would be today. in 1989 Elizabeth A. Brink, researcher at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming was given the task of determining whether three garments thought to have belonged to Calamity Jane were, in fact, hers.

The items had come to the Cody Center from the collection of artist Frederic Remington.  According to an 1897 inventory of Remington’s studio, there were no items belonging to Calamity Jane. But a 1916 catalog of the contents listed her vest, coat, and trousers.

Brink turned to photographs to see if any of the objects at the Cody Center matched up with garments Calamity Jane wore in publicity shots. Brink was able to locate around two dozen shots of Jane, most of which are easily accessed today on the internet. In 1989 Brink had to rely on the Center’s library, which fortunately, was up to the task.

In three of the photos Calamity Jane is wearing the outfit above, a coat, vest, and trousers. That certainly sounded promising. In fact, enough of the decorated vest was showing so that Brink was able to positively identify it as being the vest in the Bill Cody Historical Center’s collection.

To add to the evidence, both in the photo and on the garment, the third button down is missing.

Brink then turned her attention to the coat. A garment in the collection, a pullover shirt with beaded American flag decorations was labeled as being the coat. But there was no such garment evident in the known Calamity Jane photos. Encouraged by the presence of the vest, Brink decided to closely examine the other garments in the Remington collection.

She found a coat that was very similar to the one Calamity Jane wore over the vest in the three photos. In the old photos, there was fur at the cuffs, but no fur was present on the existing coat. However, a close examination of the sleeves revealed needle holes and threads where fur could have one time been attached. She was also able to match up the tear on the lower front seen in the photo with a repair in the garment. The final clue that this was Calamity Jane’s coat was found in the buttonholes, which had a distinctive pattern, with some being vertical, but others being horizontal.

The pants were also mislabeled, but another search found a different pair that matched those being worn in the photographs. They were identified by the matching brass buttons and a patch on the left leg.

I went on a search for an online version of this story, and was unable to locate it. The article by researcher Brink is referred to in much of the literature on Calamity Jane, but I felt that this great story needed a presence on the WWW.

 

 

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Filed under Curiosities, Museums, Vintage Photographs

White Stag, 1953

Over the years I’ve written a lot about White Stag. It continues to be one of my favorite American sportswear companies, and with good reason. It represents a time when quality in clothing was more important than quantity. I’ve seen dozens of White Stag pieces from the 1940s through the 1960s over the years, and in only one instance can I say a piece looked worn out.

Until the 1960s, White Stag made most of their clothing from the same material they used to make tents and other canvas outdoors items. I’ve seen White Stag rucksacks that were made from the same fabric as a canvas coat I have. The fabric was sturdy and remarkably color-fast.

I recently acquired this White Stag blouse from one of my favorite vintage sellers, Past Perfect Vintage. I was eager to add it to my collection because I have some other coordinating pieces from White Stag. And that is part of the joy of collecting sportswear. I never know when a matching piece to things I already have will pop up.

And as luck will have it, I found an ad for this line from 1953. It does not show any pieces in brown, but the ad copy reveals that these items were available in “eleven sunbright colors.” White Stag used brown quite often, sometimes combining it with turquoise and black. I am hoping to someday find that nifty carry-all.

The top-stitching adds to the sporty look. It’s another common feature of White Stag clothing from the 1950s.

I have, on occasion, been accused of putting too much store in the labels found in vintage garments, but when combined with a dated ad, all the guesswork of when certain labels were used is erased. I know without a doubt that this label was used in 1953.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Vintage Miscellany – September 2, 2018

Do we really have just one more day of summer? Is it reasonable to assume that Labor Day automatically brings autumn to us? If you live in the southern half of the USA, you are probably like me, and scoff at such nonsense. Yesterday I passed through the Piedmont of North Carolina, within sight of Pilot Mountain, seen above, and I can tell you that the 91* of yesterday does not automatically disappear just because tomorrow is the first Monday of September.

I keep a pile of photos just so every other Sunday morning I can go through them to find one to illustrate the Vintage Miscellany. Not only did I see Pilot Mountain yesterday, but a book I’m reading mentioned it as well. The book is The Road to Salem, by the great Moravian historian and archivist, Adelaide Fries. Ms. Fries made it her life’s work to gather (and transcribe, as most of the works were in German) the many records of the Moravians. It is because of her work that so much is known about the early history of the Carolina backwoods.

And now for the news…

  • You don’t live in a vacuum, so you know that Aretha Franklin has died. Of all the millions of words written about Franklin over the past weeks, none are better than Robin Givhan’s.
  •  Marilyn Kirschner has written an in-depth report on the just released Bill Cunningham memoir.
  •  The Abraham Lincoln Library Foundation is in financial trouble and made be forced to sell part of their collection.
  •   The Art of the Late Bloomer, 18th century paper artist Mary Delany proved life begins whenever you want it to.
  •   I officially no longer know the definition of “cool”.
  •   There was a time when “made in China” did not mean “goods produced cheaply”. Can the Chinese silk industry recapture that luster?
  •   A textile stitched by recovering WWI British soldiers was found in a couple’s home, and they have no idea how it arrived there. Big credit to the couple for doing such careful research on the piece.
  • Is the Chinese government quietly stealing back art and antiquities stolen from China? It’s a fascinating theory.
  • One thing is certain, the white tennis dress is dead (except at Wimbledon of course) and many clubs no longer have a dress code. It was a bit shocking when the French banned Serena William’s so-called catsuit from being worn in the future, saying that it was disrespectful. I’m not buying it, and Serena herself pretty much stayed out of the talk, talk, talk, and went on to completely slay with her tutu-inspired dress at the US Open.

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The Dress I’ll Not Be Buying

Very high on my wish list for a very long time has been a late 1920s white dress appropriate for tennis. The dresses above are from 1927, seen in a B.Altman catalog. It shows the type of thing I’ve been desiring for a long time.

These are hard to come by. It’s much easier to find a fantastically beaded evening dress from 1927 than it is to find a simple white linen or cotton frock. That does not keep me from looking. I have the usual hunting sites, like Etsy, eBay, and Ruby Lane, but occasionally I’ll venture into high price territory, in the hopes that a dress I can afford will magically appear.

So I went to one such high-priced site, and my search for “tennis dress” returned a list of five or six actual dresses, one of which was labeled as 1920s. Unfortunately,  labeling a dress “1920s” does not automatically make it so.

While old, the dress was not from the twenties, but was very similar to the third dress in this group. And this is from a 1931 B. Altman catalog. Still, it was a great dress, and the best part was a little tennis racket motif embroidered on the bodice. Yes, this was an actual tennis dress.

I’ll admit that at first glance I was smitten. I was charmed by the obviousness of the embroidery. Then I started reading the description and looking at the photos. There were numerous stains and even a tear in the fabric. But what really stopped me in my shopping tracks was a description of the underarms. They were described as having “authentic sweat stains”.  A look at the photos confirmed that yes, these sweat stains were indeed authentic.

I can’t remember ever having read an item description where sweat stains were spun into a good thing. Perhaps that helps explain the $1200 (plus $25 shipping) price tag.

For the most part, I don’t complain about what people choose to charge for their old stuff. I figure that the marketplace really does help establish prices. That said, there are definite trends even in vintage clothing that do affect pricing. I long for the old days when I could buy 1950s travel-themed skirts for $40, and when the competition for old sportswear was non-existent, but I realize these fads too shall pass. I can remember when plain Victorian white underwear brought hundreds of dollars, things that today bring less than fifty.

In the meantime the $1225 1920s-but-really-1930s tennis dress will not be added to my little collection.

 

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Late 1940s Photographic Prints on Fabric

Late in 1947 the big news on the textiles front was the development of a process that allowed photographs to be printed on fabric. It was so big that Life magazine reported on the new printing processes in December of 1947. Today, photos printed on fabrics are everywhere, and one can even do it at home on their own computer. And when I think of vintage photo prints, I tend to think of those from the 1970s that were printed on polyester knits.

Occasionally a photo printed piece from the 1940s surfaces on the market. Most of the ones I have seen are multiple photos of a place. I have seen prints of San Francisco and of Seattle. I have also seen a fabric that had a variety of travel destinations. And at the present time there are Florida and Hawaii themed photo print garments for sale on eBay.

I had been wanting to add one of these unusual prints to my collection, but had been holding out for a woman’s garment in a travel print. As luck would have it, I stumbled on a sports themed print on a scarf instead.

This scarf is from the late 1940s or early 50s, and seems to be printed on parachute silk. I say seems to be because there is not enough available random fiber to do a burn test. The other alternative is that this is a thin and crisp acetate.

I especially love that most of the sports people are women, and that they are dressed in practical clothing for active sports.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities