Tag Archives: Bradley

Bradley Knits: Slip Into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors

I’ve been posting photos from these two 1920s catalogs on Instagram, and realized I’ve not even taken the time to write about them here.  Bradley Knitting Company is one of my all time favorite companies.  They had a very long and rich history, and there is still plenty of material left to make collection of it interesting.

Bradley Knitting Company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters, and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan as it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003 which is a real shame considering that today the repurposing of old mills is a thriving business.

My two new catalogs were a lucky ebay find.  One is a winter 1922 booklet, and the other is undated.  It is a bit later, and very likely dates from summer 1925.

The winter 1922 catalog features a lot of sweaters, but it also has accessories such as knit hats and scarves.  All the garments were modeled and photographed on living models, but it appears that they used some old-fashioned photoshopping for the finished pages.

Several years ago Richard York kindly sent to me some photos of his grandmother, Mabel Jennie Gross, who was a model for Bradley during the early to mid 1920s.  You can click through the link I provided to see these photos, which show Mabel in various poses.  It appears to me that the company making the catalogs colorized the photos of the models, and then arranged them in vignettes for each page.  A background was then painted in.

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I love the fancy sweaters on the right, but of even more interest are the two at the bottom left.  These are jersey knit middies, a garment I’ve never seen.  The middy is usually made of  cotton duck or canvas.

The top photo looks like a group of young people on an outing in the snow, but my guess is that this is a composite picture with a fake background.

The later catalog is undated, but features mainly swimsuits.  The introduction has a hint: “For twenty odd years Bradley has been setting the style.”  The firm started in 1904, and the styles look to be right in the middle of the 1920s decade.

By this time, the knit bathing suit had pretty much taken over the swimsuit market.  The old fashioned swim dress with bloomers was simply not in step with the sleek 1920s look.

I have seen a lot of 1920s wool knit bathing suits.  Most have varying degrees of moth damage, and probably ninety percent of them are solid in color like the three at the top left.  Also fairly common are ones like the red model with the stripe at the bottom.

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But occasionally, a real masterpiece appears on the market.  Here are Bradley’s special models, all shown on Hollywood actors.  I have seen photos of the deck of cards suit shown on Anita Stewart at the top.  I wish it were mine.

These fancy suits cost between $8 and $9.50, as compared to the plain suits which started at $3.

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One of the big problems sellers of 1920s bathing suits seem to have is telling if a suit was made for a woman or for a man.  By carefully examining these photos you can see that the main difference is in the size of the armholes.  A woman’s suit will have smaller holes, while the tops of men’s suits were not as modest.  The skirt is still present on most men’s and women’s suits, but the plain trunk style is emerging.  Even a few styles for women, called the “tomboy” suit, were missing the skirt.

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It looks like the V-neck pullover had taken over as the style for sweaters by the middle of the decade.

I looked carefully at the faces of the models, hoping to spot Mabel, but I couldn’t make a positive identification.  I did spot one of the sweaters she was wearing, but in a different pose.  I suppose that the model could be Mabel.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Winter Sports

Ad Campaign – Bradley, Circa 1924

 

Today, I have some delightful photos to share, all courtesy of Richard York, a recent poster who mentioned that his grandmother modeled briefly for the Bradley Knitting Company of Delavan, Wisconsin.

I’ve written about Bradley several times.  They are best remembered for their wool knit swimsuits, but they also made other knit items such as sweaters, shawls and dresses.   A couple of months ago I put in a losing absentee bid on a fabulous late 1930s  wool knit ice skating ensemble from Bradley, with the sweater,  skirt, hat  and even matching panties.  I’m still in mourning over that set.

Richard’s grandmother was Mabel Jennie Gross of Delavan.   She married Edward Munger  (in above photo with Mabel) in July of 1924.  Richard
believes they met at the Bradley Knitting Company.   At some point before 1926 when Richard’s mother was born, Mabel modeled for Bradley, and Richard has sent scans of some photos.

The clarity of detail in these photos is so much better than what you find in photos reproduced for catalogs of this era.  I have a 1922 Bradley catalog, and these photos show the quality of the knitting and the design in a way that just can’t be seen in ads and in catalogs.

So I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom to see them all, as I’ve got 14 different photos.  And I just realized I’m in the market for one of those sweater/skirt sets, if anyone spots one for sale.

All photos courtesy of Richard York.

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Bradley Knitting Company

It’s hard to believe now, but at one time the US had a huge clothing manufacturing industry.   There is a lot written about all the fashion companies on Seventh Avenue, New York, and about the great California sportswear companies.   But the clothing industry was actually spread all across the country.   The South, with its cotton was a major producer of denim, knitwear and socks.  Many northern states had thriving wool industries.  St. Louis became famous as the center for junior clothing.

Some of the far-flung centers, such as Pendleton in Oregon, and  Cone Denim Mills in North Carolina have managed to hang on, and still produce part of their goods in the US, but many others are all but forgotten.  One of my favorites of these defunct companies is Bradley.  Who could resist a clothing company with the slogan, “Slip into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors!”

Bradley Knitting company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, and was established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan; it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003.  I guess they had not heard that soon, mill buildings would be all the rage with developers and urban hipsters!

I love finding Bradley advertising items.  I especially love this box.  There’s the Bradley slogan intertwined with people enjoying their Bradley Knitwear in the out-of-doors.

Click to see more images:

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Bradley Knit Wear Style Book, 1921 – 1922

More from the Bradley Knit Wear Company – a sweater catalog from 1921.

“Navajos are the original and exclusive Bradley contribution to knit coat wearers.  The knitting of authentic Indian designs through the body and sleeves of the garment individualizes Bradley Navajos among knitted coats.”

What an interesting use of American Indian images and designs.  Of course, the Indian portrayed is not Navajo, and I doubt that the designs were either.  In the 1930s the Navajos took Beacon Blankets to court to stop their usage of the tribe’s name.  I wonder if they took the same step with Bradley?

Bathing suits were such a large part of Bradley’s business that even the winter catalog had an illustration to remind the shopper to buy a Bradley suit!

Posted by KeLLy Ann:

I want one of everything! 

Wednesday, March 3rd 2010 @ 4:20 PM

Posted by Sarah:

Its funny how blithely these early 20th century manufacturers appropriated native American culture, with little regard to accuracy or cultural sensitivity! I’d like to hope that wouldn’t happen these days, but I’m not so sure (I’ve been reading a few blog posts recently about fashion’s plundering of ethnic and regional dress so I’m particularly aware of the issue right now!) 

That said, what a marvellous catalogue – I love the long line cardigans and those cosy-looking big knit hats!

Thursday, March 4th 2010 @ 10:04 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

This longish type sweater was very popular when I was in college – mid 1970s .  I loved them – cozy and easy to wear. 

A lot of companies built their business on copying Indian designs – Beacon and Pendleton years ago, Ralph Lauren more recently. Give me an authentic vintage Chimayo jacket anyday!

Friday, March 5th 2010 @ 9:18 AM


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Filed under Advertisements, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Bradley’s How to Swim Booklet

There are so many defunct clothing companies that people have all but forgotten about.  One of my favorites is Bradley.  Who could resist a clothing company with the slogan, “Slip into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors!”

The company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, and was established in 1904.  They made all kinds of knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan; it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.

I love finding Bradley advertising items.  They always have great graphics of people out and about.  This little How to Swim booklet was right down my collecting alley!

Note the Coney Island type painted background.

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Slip into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors!

I bought this 1922 Bradley catalogue because Bradley was a maker of wool knit swimsuits, and I wanted it as a dating reference.  But just as great as the swimsuits are all the wonderful sweaters.  Their slogan just sums it up:  Slip into a Bradley and out-of-doors.

Knits really began to catch on as a fashion item in the 1920s, but they continued to be, for the most part, in the sportswear category.  As the catalogue put it: “There is a Bradley exactly suited to every outdoor activity – for the mountains or shore, golf links or tennis court – sturdy ones for sturdy wear – stylish ones for sheer style’s sake, with beauty, health and comfort expresses in every one.”  You can’t ask any more of a sweater than that!

1920s sweaters are pretty hard to find, probably for the same reason that the bathing suits are not overly common, and that is that the moths loved them.  I do have two in my collection, which you might like to see.  Now it’s time to slip into a sweater and out-of-doors!


 

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Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing