Tag Archives: bowling

1940s Bowling Dress by Play Girl Fashions

High on my list of things-I-must-have was a 1940s bowling dress.  Now, thanks to the wonder that is Instagram, I have an excellent example of such a dress, brought to me by my newest favorite online vintage store, VeraciousVintageCo.

As far as active sportswear and how it was adapted from fashionable attire is concerned, it does not get much better than this dress. If you were to only see the front of the dress, you very well might think i is just a fashionable day dress from 1946 or 47. But the back with the chain embroidered team information immediately tells us this one was made for bowling.

But more interesting are the features that the designer built into the dress to make it suitable for bowling.  The cap sleeves are cut in one piece with the bodice, and for extra mobility the designer put a two-inch slit at the top of each one.

This one might be a bit hard to see, but it is a bias cut panel that goes from the waist to under the arm. Again, the purpose is to add the ability to move in the dress, as fabrics cut on the bias have a bit of stretch.

But what really sold me on this dress were the red side pleats that can be increased in size with zippers.

The zippers are nine inches long and zip up to add more fabric at the knees. When not playing, the wearer can zip them down for a trimmer look.

Not only is the label nifty, it is very useful in helping us learn a bit about who made the dress. Note the little R in a circle mark. That means that the trademark was registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. I looked up “Play Girl Fashions” and found no reference, but  then I found the company under just “Play Girl”.

According to the record, Play Girl dates to 1921 and was originally a line of girls’ dresses. The trademark was owned by the United Garment Company of Louisville, Ohio.

In 1921 G.H. Hess was, according to the 1940 US Census, twenty-six years old. It is possible that he owned or worked for United at that time, but there’s nothing in my quick research to confirm that. In the 1940 census he was listed as the president of a dress factory. There are lots of mentions of the company in trade publications throughout the 1940s and 50s, and there are also mentions of the factory in labor union publications, as the factory seems to have been unionized around 1954. The last reference I found to Play Girl Fashions was an ad for dresses in 1975. That year G.H. Hess would have been eighty years old.

We can also learn much from the embroidery on the back of the dress. The team was sponsored by the Rexall Drug Store in Glenwood, Minnesota. Note how the part that reads Rexall Drugs is slightly different in color. It’s a patch that covered up the original sponsor, Setter Drugs. I found plenty of references to Setter Drugs, which dates at least to 1928.

Unfortunately this dress does not have the wearer’s first name on the front as we see so often on bowling dresses and shirts. But, we do know her last name, Vegoe.  And there is one more hint. Leah of Veracious Vintage noticed that the wear’s initials, H.V.were inked on the back of the belt. Again, we hit a dead end. There is a Howard, and a Harold Vegoe, but none that we could find with a feminine name. So, help me out Vegoe family, up there in Minnesota.

And check out the collar.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

Late 1930s Bowling Shoes and the Bruno Athletic Shoe Manufacturing Co.

On a recent trip we were delighted by the hotel’s basement rec room, which included a two lane bowling alley. Growing up in the 1960s it seemed like everybody bowled, at least on a casual basis when there was nothing else to do. The bowling alley in my little town was always busy. But times change, and the alley went under. And even though I collect sportswear, I have few bowling pieces in my collection.

But we had so much fun bowling that I was inspired to go looking for some vintage pieces to fill the bowling void. What I discovered is that great garments are very expensive, but the shoes seem to be a bargain. So unsurprisingly, I now have three new pairs of bowling shoes. The clothing will come, but I’m going to have to spend a bit more time looking.

I’m okay with that. One can – and did – bowl in any comfortable and casual clothing, but bowling shoes are a specialized item that can greatly enhance one’s game. So maybe the shoes are actually more important than the rarer-than-hen’s-teeth two-toned gabardine bowling dresses.

I’ve had to educate myself on the ages of bowling shoes. They are not “fashion” items, but as in most cases of sports attire, you can find fashion influences. In the case of the shoes shown here, I had a bit of help with the dating. The seller got these from the original wearer’s daughter, who is now in her late 70s. The daughter knew these were the bowling shoes her mother had worn as a teen in the late 1930s. That was a great starting place.

I then went looking for photographic evidence on the WWW. I didn’t find what I needed, but in the meantime I ran across a catalog from the Bruno Athletic Shoe Manufacturing Company in Manchester, Ohio. There’s no date on the catalog, but the illustrations of mainly men playing various sports are typical 1930s. All I could really find was that the company was owned by Mike S. Bruno. All the information I could find locates the company in Cincinnati in the mid 1940s. Mike Bruno was described as “late” in a 1954 marriage announcement of his son, Joseph. That’s it, so I would appreciate any additional facts about Bruno.

I also found a very similar design in a 1935-36 Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods catalog.

I would imagine that this basic design remained in place for some years. In both catalogs the shoes were described as made from elk leather.

The soles are suede, or more likely, buckskin. The heels have a rubber finish, for additional control over the slide of the foot.

Bruno was primarily a maker of ice and skate boots, but they also manufactured bowling, baseball, and basketball shoes. They also advertised the “Bruno Magic Toe Stop”, guaranteed to keep the toes of your skates from developing those unsightly toe wrinkles.

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes, Sportswear

Bowl to Stay Slim, 1958

Growing up in the 1960s, I can remember bowling being a very big deal.  The leagues that met weekly to compete were an important social function for many people in my community.  My parents didn’t bowl, but the parents of a friend were in a league so I often went with them to the lanes.  I learned to bowl (badly) and was never any good at it, but as I said, the social part of it was really the point.

In 1958 Brunswick, a maker of bowling supplies, published this booklet that was aimed to encourage women to take up the sport.

Bowling is a graceful, rhythmical sport.  A fun sport that’s not strenuous yet so good for the figure.

Marion Ladewig really was a professional bowler.  Here she is on What’s My Line? where she actually stumped the panelists.

The booklet is full of photos of attractive – and slim – women bowling, intermingled with dieting tips and how to score the game.

Here we have Mrs. Ladewig helping a young woman pick out a ball.  One thing I did not realize is that “Shoes are made for both right and left-handed bowlers…”  I’m left-handed, and I can’t ever remember being offered left-handed shoes.  Not surprising since I always considered myself lucky if they actually had the right size for me.

Of course the booklet would not be complete without an ad for Brunswick equipment.  I was especially interested in the shoes, mainly because bowling shoes can be a bit of a problem to accurately date.  I’d sure like a pair of the Princess Brunswick, in red, please.

The back cover has one last reminder, that bowling is a fun activity for the entire family.

In my bowling file I found another booklet, which is less soft-sell, more sports-minded.  I only picked it up because it is labeled “Compliments of Misty Harbor.”  I thought that was an odd sponsor considering Misty Harbor was a maker of rain coats and jackets, not something one would wear while bowling.

And once again, here is the bowling team from 1956.  I find it interesting that all the advertising booklet women are wearing skirts and dresses, but the real bowlers are outfitted in slacks.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Shoes, Winter Sports