Tag Archives: 1940s fashion

How I Collect – 1940s, Part 2

Today I continue with my tour through the 1940s. Women started wearing overalls for outdoor work in the late 1930s, but the garment really caught on during World War Two. They were great for gardening and other yard work, but women must have really loved the comfortable overalls, as I have quite a few vintage photos showing women wearing them for leisure.

By the 1940s shorts were being worn on casual occasions, but I’ve also seen photos and magazines ads of shorts being dressed up with the addition of a jacket.

Opps! I used the same hat twice!  Cotton became common in use for bathing suits in the 1940s. This one is a woven twill, but is lined in cotton jersey.  The palm tree cape is made from chenille, probably made at one of the many chenille businesses in North Georgia.

The matching shorts and tee shirt were made by Jantzen, and you can see the original sticker on the shirt.  Thinking about color is so interesting because if you look at many vintage garments you can start to see what colors were popular during different eras. My cute little hexagon shaped bag and the sandals are a perfect match to the green of the tee and shorts.

This golf dress has a label called “American Golfer”.  Women were increasingly turning to skirts, culottes, and even shorts for golfing, so American Golfer began advertising their dresses as good for streetwear.

During the last years of WWII, bathing suit makerCole of California began producing some of the barest bathing suits to date. One was a two-piece similar to this one, but the front of the pants were attached to the back using cord woven through eyelets. Cole ran ads with the suit juxtaposed with a paratrooper, as much of Cole’s production was in making parachutes. Was the assumption to be that they used parachute cord in the bathing suit?

This outfit symbolizes the lucky find. I was rummaging through a box of old damaged clothes at a flea market when I pulled out the playsuit. It ran through my mind that there was most likely a matching skirt originally. Sure enough, the skirt was at the bottom of the box. The sandals came from an old general store in West Asheville, NC. For years the elderly owner went to the store, in spite of the fact that no new merchandise had been added since the early 1970s, and there was stuff still dating from the 40s. There was a big box of shoes, all dumped together and a bit of digging produced this pair, at the original price of $6. I used to frequent the place until the owner became too ill to work. Some years later there was a water line break, the place flooded, and most of the remaining contents went to the dump.

To me, this is the perfect picnic dress. It was designed by Sophie Gimbel, the in-house designer at Saks Fifth Avenue. The shoes were brought back from the Far East by a soldier returning home after WWII.

I love this dress so much, and it has a local (Asheville, NC) label.  The red and white bits are applied flowers, each with a pearl button in the center. The handbag has a lucite Scottie dog clasp!

I am finishing up the 1940s with a truly lousy shot of a beautiful set from the estate of Mary Jane Hefner. Since this was most likely part of her college wardrobe I paired it with a football themed scarf, also from Jane’s estate. Jane had several slacks sets, all in immaculate condition. Was it because slacks on girls were not acceptable at her small town college (meaning the pants didn’t get a lot of wear), or was she just very careful with her clothes? It’s likely a combination of both.

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1940s French Bikini

I love bathing suits, and I have become very picky about the ones I chose to collect. The early French bikini above is the sort of find that keeps me excited about collecting.

When I say early, I mean late 1940s. In 1946 designer Jacques Heim released his tiny two-piece and called it L’ Atome. Shortly afterward, Louis Réard designed what he called the Bikini. Both suits were tiny and showed the navel, and even though Heim’s was released slightly earlier than Réard’s, the name Bikini stuck.

A 1940s bikini has been on my want list for a long time. They are rare  in the USA, as the suit was just too skimpy for most American women of the post-war period. Last year an example by Heim came up for auction. I crossed my fingers and made the biggest bid I could, hoping it would fly under the radar of other collectors. It did not, and in the end sold for almost $10,000. This was a bit over my budget.

But then the suit above came into my life. I first spotted it on the seller’s Instagram (Skirt Chaser Vintage), and then bought it when it came up for sale.

Many of the early French bikinis laced and tied at the sides. This was not new, as several American swimsuit makers used this feature on their larger suit briefs during the war. Daring bathers could buy the suit a bit snug and then lace loosely to show a bit more skin.

The French took the idea to a whole new level. Some of Louis Réard’s suits were actually string bikinis, with no sides at all – only the string ties.

The map of France print is a great touch. The fabric is interesting, and unexpected. It’s a cotton textured barkcloth, more suitable for curtains than a swimsuit. But this was after the war, and fabric production was not back to pre-war levels. One used what one had.

I came up completely empty when attempting to find out anything at all about the label, Lavog. If anyone has any information about it, I’d be forever grateful.

In 1948 Holiday magazine printed an amazing photo-essay on the changing bathing suit. Leading off the article was this photograph.  The caption reads:

Such brief suits, unfortunately, are not ordinarily for sale. They must be custom built for custom-built girls like Sandra Spence.

The essay features other two-piece suits, but all have navel-covering shorts. It would be another fifteen to twenty years before the bikini really caught on in the US.

 

 

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