Tag Archives: 1920s

1920s Gingham Romper

About a year ago I went on a rant over how some vintage clothing sellers and buyers have changed the vocabulary of certain garments in order to made them seem more versatile. In particular I was irritated about the use of the word “romper” when the object in question was obviously a gym suit or a bathing suit. I even went so far as to say that women did not wear rompers, that the romper is a garment for a baby or a toddler.

I never like being wrong, but when I am it pleases me that my fellow fashion history lovers care enough to set me straight.  After posting the rant I got an email from Lynne (otherwise known as the best online researcher I know) that contained a 1920s sewing pattern for a woman that was clearly labeled a romper. She also sent along a photo of a very similar garment she has in her own collection.

Properly corrected, I then set off to find an example for my collection.  Last week I finally was able to add the one seen above. There is no doubt this is a garment for an adult, and it is also apparent that this is an outer garment, not lingerie.

Notice that there are snap closures on both shoulders and another on the front of the neck.  This made it easy for the wearer to put on the romper by stepping into it and pulling it up.

The tie belt sits on the top of the hips, giving a proper 1920s silhouette.

The inside legs and the crotch are shaped with the use of a wide gusset. There is elastic in the legs, but it is old, crunchy, and it no longer stretches. I’ll not replace it, but if this ever goes on display some new elastic can be inserted along side the old.

The shoulders have those handy little lingerie strap holders that prevented that embarrassing bra strap slip-up.

I’m quite sure this romper was made at home rather than purchased. The construction is very good, but there are a few places where alterations were made while the garment was being made. There is also quite a bit of hand-stitching.

I tried to locate the photos Lynne sent to me, but failed. I did find an example of a Butterick sewing pattern for a romper in a post at Witness2Fashion. It was included in a feature of costume party patterns. I located another, very similar one from McCall Patterns. 

So rompers definitely were a thing for women, at least in the 1920s and 1930s. Still, I don’t agree with calling a gym suit a romper, no matter how much the garment is similar. In fact, my romper here looks to be a direct descendant of my circa 1915 gym suit.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Summer Sports, Uncategorized

1920s Rayon Pyjamas

One of the great finds I made last week was this pair of 1920s pyjamas. The seller who had them is a regular at the antiques market, and she specializes in things other than clothing, but she usually has a rack of vintage lingerie as a sort of afterthought.  They were mislabeled as nylon tricot, which was a bit puzzling.

Anyway, I was happy to find them.  Pyjamas from the 1920s are hard to find and I am glad to add these to my collection.  Pyjamas are one of those garments that started to bridge the gap between what was acceptable to be worn in the home, and what was okay for public wearing. These are technically lingerie, but many women in the late 1920s followed the avant garde in Italy and started wearing these at the beach over their swimwear.

There are several things that identify these as being from the 20s.  Scallops were a common design feature of the time.  They are seen on outerwear as well as lingerie.  Also, the edges were finished with a picot stitch machine. This newish invention was very popular in the twenties, as it worked so well with the flowy fabrics of the day.

The legs of the pants are straight.  After about 1930 pant legs got wide and flowing, much like the bellbottoms of the late 60s and 1970s.

While examining the pants I got a little surprise. Near the hems were two little slits with finished edges.  I’m thinking there were originally ties that gathered in the legs slightly.

Here I have inserted a piece of ribbon through the slits to make a bow which puts a little pleat in the leg.

I have no way of knowing what the original ties were made of, but I do happen to have some 1920s ribbon in pink and blue.

The top of the little pocket on the blouse and the neckline are finished with a gauze fabric that matches the blue rayon.  It is possible the ties were made from this fabric.

The blouse originally had a belt, as evidenced by the presence of belt loops.  These are located on the side seams, slightly below the natural waistline, as one would expect in a 1920s garment.

There is a line of stitching in the back of the neck.  Could this mean there was once a label?  I’m not sure, as it seems to be an odd thing for a 1920s garment, but what would be another explanation?

There are two different types of stitches in the pants.  I’m pretty sure the pyjamas were commercially made due to the picot edging and the tiny French seams.  But I also think the pants were shortened at the waist. Note the vertical side seam, and the double stitched casing for elastic at the waist. The thread of the casing stitches does not quite match.

In the 1920s most women were not wearing any sort of legged garments, so pyjamas were a big step in the move toward women wearing pants, even if they were seen mainly in the boudoir.

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1920s Embroidered and Smocked Frock

Any vintage seller who has been in the business more than a few years will tell you that vintage clothing is subject to fads.  One year vintage wearers want 1950s full-skirted dresses, and the next they might move on to 1970s disco attire.  If the comments on Instagram can be believed, one of the hottest items right now is the “ethnic-inspired” smocked and embroidered dress from the 1920s.

This type dress fits in well with the 1920s fascination with the exotic, something I’ve written about in the past. While there were sewing patterns for the dresses, they were also made abroad. I’ve seen them with labels from Czechoslovakia and the Philippines.

To be honest, I’ve never been able to determine exactly when these dresses were made, but the general consensus seems to be from the mid 1920s and into the early 1930s.  If you look at the placement of the waistline on my dress above, you can see that it’s not exactly the stereotypical 1920s silhouette, as the bodice is shorter than expected.

I spent a pleasurable morning looking through 1920s magazines, and the closest I found was this illustration for a 1926 Vogue sewing pattern.  Witness2Fashion posted several examples, also from 1926.  Fashion illustrations did tend to exaggerate the silhouette somewhat, but even so, my example has a longer skirt as well as the short bodice.  By the late 1920s the waistline was inching upward, and the hemline downward.

Another hint that my dress is later 20s or even 1930 is the little bit of shaping in the waist. There is even an opening in the side to allow for easier dressing.

Quite unbelievably, I found this dress at my local Goodwill bins.  It’s not in perfect condition, but the design of the dress lessens the impact of the problems.  Here you can see that some of the red threads have come loose at the neck. That was a very easy fix.

Not so easy to deal with was a small rip on the upper back. To stabilize the tear, I encased it in organdy and then basted the three layers together. While the tear makes the dress unwearable, it would not detract from the garment if it were to be displayed.

You can see some staining in this photo, which a few gentle handwashings removed.  I also had to do a bit of smock repair.

One of favorite things about this dress is how the dots vary in size, and how the pattern of them on the skirt is the reverse or that of the bodice.  And all the dots are hand embroidered.

Today we think of smocked dresses as being just for little girls.  What a shame!

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1920s Sacony Knit Sports Dress

One of the hard things about collecting antique and vintage sportswear is that so much of what was made did not survive.  These were clothes meant to be worn in rough conditions, and often times it really shows on the survivors.  Hiking clothes have impossible to remove stains.  Rubber swim caps and shoes have disintegrated over the years due to poor storage.  And wool swimsuits and other woolen articles are commonly full of holes.

Several months ago I was delighted to see the above dress on Instagram.  The poster was unsure as whether or not she’d be selling it, but eventually she did post it for sale.  There was a long line of interested buyers, but the relatively high price plus the presence of multiple moth holes discouraged most.  After a few emails back and forth, the seller and I came to an agreement as to price, and the dress became mine, holes and all.

As a collector, I’ve come to accept a few holes in older vintage woolens.  As long as they can be stabilized and do not detract terribly from the garment when it is displayed, I can deal with them, especially in a piece as rare as this one.  Because for every several hundred beaded 1920s frocks encountered, you might come across one sports dress.  And very few of those are knit.

The neck trim and the faux-ties were constructed separately and were then attached.  The very deep arm holes meant that a blouse had to be worn beneath.  I’ve paired it with a v-neck silk blouse I already had in my collection.

The dress was made by Sacony, which was a brand of S. Augstein & Co. The earliest reference I’ve found to S. Augstein was an entry in a 1918 Fairchild’s Womens Wear Directory, but I think the business was started earlier due to the fact that company namesake Siegmund Augstein died in 1913.  In 1920 Siegmund’s son-in-law, August Egerer, tried unsuccessfully to register the Sacony trademark, as it was judged to be too similar to another knit maker, Saxony.

In 1922 the business warranted a new factory and office building in Elmhurst, NY, where the entire operation including knitting and sewing were under one roof.  This is most likely where my dress was made.  The company continued as a maker of knit sportswear and swimsuits through the 1930s, but at some point, the products changed from being all knit, to being cut and sewn of woven fabrics.  Their niche was still sportswear.  I have several cotton pieces from Sacony made in the 1950s.

With details like this, I can forgive a few holes.  Okay, more than a few, but in the end it looks quite presentable.

Here’s a better view of the stitched-in pleats.  The skirt was wider than the bodice, and then was pleated to fit, forming the straight silhouette of the mid 1920s.

And here is the back neckline.

So when would the 1920s woman have worn this dress?  My guess is when she was playing golf.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Ad Campaign – Aberfoyle Fabrics, 1928

Susan at Witness2Fashion sent these ads my way because she noticed that the Aberfoyle mill was located in North Carolina.  I had never heard of Aberfoyle, but as it turns out, they had a mill in Belmont, NC, a small mill town just west of Charlotte.  I’ve been to Belmont plenty of times, mainly because there are several antique places there, one in a repurposed textile mill.  By looking at some photos Susan linked to, I at first thought that the mill I like to visit was the Aberfoyle plant, but on further investigation I realized that Aberfoyle was located down the street outside of town.

On that street, there were at least three textile mills, all of which are now closed.  Even after the factory buildings are torn down, you can often tell were they were located by the presence of lots of similar little houses, lined in neat rows.  These are former mill houses, built by the company as housing for the workers.  There are clusters of mill houses all over Belmont.

The wonderful textilehistory.org site appears to have been down for the past few weeks, which makes learning about these old textile companies a bit more difficult than usual.  I have learned that Aberfoyle began in Chester, PA in 1889, and later opened a mill in Belmont, probably because they were doing business with the other mills in that area, and because production costs were less in the South.  The Chester Mill closed in 1950, but the one in Belmont stayed open at least into the 1960s.

From reading the ads, you can see that Aberfoyle produced what many other Southern mills made – cotton dress goods.  I love how in the ad above you can see snippets of the fabric designs, which are arranged in a very Art Deco manner.

The artist of these is Helen Dryden, who is probably most famous for her beautiful magazine covers of Vogue.  She also did covers for Delineator, where these ads were found.  I can’t help but wonder what the workers at Aberfoyle thought of these stylish ads.  The late 1920s were particularly hard times for textile workers, and I suspect they would not have seen the “story behind their gaiety” that is implied in the ad.

I did learn of a history museum in Belmont that has exhibits on the town’s textile heritage.  I know what I’ll be visiting the next time I’m passing through that area.

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Filed under Ad Campaign, North Carolina, Southern Textiles

1920s: The Long Tubular Look

Even people who know nothing at all about fashion history have a mental image of how women dressed in the 1920s.  Actually, they can picture how women sort of dressed in 1926-27, with an image of what can be called the flapper with her knee length dresses and long strings of pearls.

But of course history is not as simple as that stereotype.  Before 1925 skirt lengths wavered between eight and twelve inches from the floor, with a big shift toward shorter skirts developing in 1925.

One thing that most 1920s dresses do have in common is a dropped waistline.  It was really more of a hip line than a waistline.  While most dresses did sport this long waist, some dresses were tubular, with no waistline at all.

The tubular dress seems to be most popular in 1924, though it is seen and mentioned earlier in fashion magazines.  In December, 1922, Vogue advised, “Those who do not care for the unbelted waist-line may wear a narrow grosgrain ribbon ties at the side in long ends…”  The accompanying drawing showed these ribbon ties at the hip.

Also in 1920 there was a vogue for bordered fabrics.  Susan at Witness2Fashion did a fabulous post about the fashions of 1924, and if you look at it you will see how these borders were incorporated into the styles of that year.  Note too, how many of them are tubular.

I found and bought the dress above last week, and I feel pretty confident that it does date to 1924.  All of the design is machine embroidered, with the neck section being engineered as a curve in the embroidering of the fabric.  The sleeve caps, however, are cut and sewn to the sleeves.

There are only two pieces to this dress, the front and the back, with the sleeves being cut as part of them.  Note the covered buttons, and see that there are also rows of them on the sides, from the hip to the hem.

Here you can see how the sleeve trim is sewn on top of the little sleeve.

The dress is beautifully made, with all seams being enclosed.  It’s as neat and tidy on the inside as on the outside.

 

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Design Inspiration at Louis Vuitton

I posted this on Instagram, and then decided that I wanted to write a bit more about it.  This is actually two photos.  The top is an illustration from 1921, and the bottom is a currently for sale wallet from Louis Vuitton.  It is pretty apparent where the LV illustration originated.  In fact, the Louis Vuitton website says that the decoration on the wallet came from a 1921 ad:

Ideal gift, this witty and colorful limited edition, inspired by an historical advertisement from 1921, pays tribute to Louis Vuitton’s travel heritage.

After seeing this design last fall (and thinking how perfect it would be for a vintage traveler…) I had the drawing stuck in my mind.  Louis Vuitton recently had an exhibition showing many old travel bags in vignettes with vintage clothing appropriate for travel back in the days before travel became such a hassle.  I couldn’t make it to Paris to see the exhibition, but I did pull out a fantastic book that shows one hundred LV travel cases, 100 Legendary Trunks, just to get another look at those fine old travel pieces.

And that is where I found the inspiration drawing.  The book was not entirely clear, but I’m pretty sure this was not from an advertisement, but was actually a header for a story on auto travel.  The caption reads:

“Du Voyage en Auto, a P.F. Grignon drawing that appeared in the review Femma in 1921.”

All I could gather from my brief searches what that Grignon was an illustrator, something that could have been assumed anyway.  I am totally unaware of what copyright laws are in France, but in the US, any copyright on the image would have expired.  And I’m pretty sure that a company like Louis Vuitton has a legal department that advises in such matters.  Still, I wish that Louis Vuitton would have identified P.F. Grignon on their website where the wallet is being sold.

I could not help but see the similarities between the Grignon illustration and the one I use for my own blog header.  That illustration also dates to 1921, and is from an advertisement for a defunct car company, Jordan.  I searched the original carefully for a signature, but there is none. Because this illustration predates 1923, the copyright has expired. Prior to 1923, copyright protection of a work expires seventy-five years after the first authorized publication.  Still I wish I could credit the artist who made this lovely work.

 

 

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