Tag Archives: copyright

New York Public Library Digital Collections

New York World’s Fair 1939-1940 records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

There is a growing movement within libraries and other institutions to allow freer use of resources that are without copyright restrictions.  This movement has even extended to the law in some places.  In the United Kingdom the courts recently ruled that photographs of items in the public domain (such as works of art) are also in the public domain.

The New York Public Library recently announced a change in their policy concerning the use of items in the public domain within their digital collections.  They have actually made it easier for people to freely use the items in their digital collections, going so far as to provide high resolution images that are available to download with one click.

On this blog I try to use my own images, but there are time when I don’t have what I need in my own collection.  It is great that institutions like NYPL are willing to share their riches, and thus to contribute to all the great scholarship that I see in fashion history blogs.  And I’m sure that this applies to other topics as well.

For a long time the internet has been like a giant free-for-all when it comes to images, and even content.  Perhaps the thinking at NYPL and other institutions is along the lines of, “If you can’t lick them, join them.”  People are going to take the stuff anyway, so providing them with the tools necessary to properly attribute the images used will keep images from being separated from their history.   Let’s hope so, anyway.

There is a search function, of course, but images are also arranged in categories and sub-categories.  I’m warning you though, this is a very deep rabbit hole, with more than 180,000 images.  Have fun!

New York World’s Fair 1939-1940 records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

L.Bonnotte, 1920, Art and Picture Collection. The New York Public Library

1895 Basket Ball Team of Smith College, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, NYPL

Fashion Print, 1931, Art and Picture Collection, New York Public Library

Grace Wiederseim, 1904, Art and Picture Collection, New York Public Library

Wool Cycling Dress With Pleated Back ; Tennis Costume Of Cream Flannel With Striped Sleeves & Trim, Black Ties 1891, Art and Picture Collection, New York Public Library

My search term, “sports women”, produced all the above images.


Filed under Viewpoint, Vintage Photographs

From Towel to Dress

Several years ago I posted this photo of a cocktail towel that is in my possession, which goes to show what a great memory my friend Mod Betty has when it comes to design.  She was doing a bit of online shopping when she happened upon a dress with a design that rung a bell with her.  She sent the link my way to see if I could find my photos of the towel so we could compare the two.

As you can see, the two prints are not identical, but the dress print was apparently based on the print of the vintage towel.  Look carefully and you will see that the martini glass with  olive and the ice cubes have been added to the original design.  The website where this dress is sold describes the print as  a “unique new Atomic Martini print.”

My towel was made by Martex, which was originally a maker of printed kitchen linens.  Today, Martex is still in business and is owned by WestPoint Home, which also owns many of the other great American home textile makers including Stevens, Pepperell, and Utica.

Does the addition of the martini glass, the olive and the ice cube make this print new?  Is there a copyright violation?  It would take a copyright expert to answer those questions, something that I am not.

I love interesting printed fabrics, and I like the dress.  However, it bothers me that the line between what is vintage and what is reproduced is so terribly smudged.  I’m glad I’m a collector now, and not twenty years down the road, because between all the retro fabrics and reproductions, it is going to be hard to tell what is what.  Add to that all the people (including me) who are sewing with vintage patterns and vintage fabrics, and there are going to be a lot of very confusing clothes at the Goodwill of the future.


Filed under Novelty Prints, Viewpoint

Making a Scarf Top, and Thoughts on Copying

Today I’m going to show how easy the Vera Jollytop would be to replicate, but first, a few words about copyright and fashion copying.

In the United States, there is no copyright protection for fashion design.  The reasoning is that clothes are basic, useful items, and as such cannot be copyrighted.  Even though the Council of Fashion Designers of America, led by Diane von Furstenberg, has made attempts to get legislation passed, it has come to nothing.

There is rarely anything in fashion that is actually “new.”  Designers visit and revisit the past, and each other on a regular basis.   Can anyone claim ownership of a French cuff, or a ruffled hem, or a bateau neckline?  It just isn’t possible, and because of this freedom to pick and choose design elements, creativity is fostered.

Of course, the lack of protection also allows companies to make cheap versions of expensive goods.  This is the type of copying that the CFDA opposes.  I suppose that if I were Diane von Furstenberg  selling a $3000 dress, I’d be pretty irritated about seeing a copy of it selling for $60 at some fast fashion store.

I think it is interesting that copying by the home sewer seems to be above this criticism.  Designers have been selling their designs to pattern companies for many decades, and for the price of a pattern and some nice fabric, the home sewer can have her own Givenchy or Diane von Furstenberg or Dior.

But note that there is a copyright symbol next to the Vera signature on my top.  The protection was granted for Vera’s artwork, not for the design of the top.  Vera got copyright protection for all her scarf designs, a protection that is still owned by the Vera Company.  Simply put, it is okay to copy the blouse, but not the art on the blouse.

To copy this scarf top, you need two scarves the same size.  Mine is made from 20 inch squares, which fits about a 36″ bust.  The back and front of mine are identical, but that is not really necessary.  Someone has a similar scarf top on etsy that she made using two Vera scarves with the same colorway, but with different designs.

This is the basic layout of the top.  Place the two scarves right sides together, with the correct top and bottom orientation.  I’ve put in the stitching lines at the shoulders, the sides and for the drawstrings.


This diagram has the measurements for the 20 inch scarf added.  Of course, you’ll have to make adjustments if you use a larger or smaller size.

There is a 4 1/4 tuck taken on the front 1 1/4 inch down from the neckline.  That is to make the front a little lower than the back, and helps prevent choking!

The shoulder seam is sewn between a point 4 1/2 inches on the top side, and 1 1/2 inch down the side.  That leaves a neck opening of 11 inches.

The side seam starts 9 inches down from the top, and is 6 inches long.  That gives a sleeve opening of 7 1/2 inches.

The casing for the drawstrings is sewn directly below the side seams on both front and back.  The area below the side seams is left open.  They used strips of bias seam binding to make the casing and also to make the strings, which are 32 inches long.

Any questions?  Let me know if you decide to make this one.  There is nothing hard about it, just be sure to adjust the measurements for your own needs.

The best explanation of fashion and copyright I’ve ever seen is in an old TEDTalk by Johanna Blakley.


Filed under Sewing, Viewpoint

Borrowing from Tammis Keefe

I recently had the great pleasure of spending a little time vintage shopping with Lisa Durfee who owns Five and Diamond Vintage in Hudson, New York.  She was visiting her mom who lives in my area, so we were able to get together for a bit to look for vintage treasures.

Probably the cutest find of the day was this 1950s cat skirt.  I’ve seen similar skirts that were made from printed wedges of fabric.  The sewer had only to cut out the wedges, sew them into the shape of a circle skirt, attach a zipper and a waistband, and do a hem.  It was easy, patternless sewing, with the only adjustments needed being the waist size and the hem.

I hope you can tell how the sections were cut out and sewn together.  This photo shows white edges along the seam allowance.  This was printed onto white cotton.

You can see the seams where the wedges were joined.

I also noticed how much this looked like the work of Tammis Keefe, and when I got home I was able to confirm my suspicions.

The second photo is of a tea towel that I sold on etsy several years ago.  Without the bell, it’s the same design.  There is also a hankie that Keefe designed with the large cat and several kittens, and that hankie seems to be the source of the kittens on the skirt.

This is not the first time I’ve written about the work of Tammis Keefe being used and not credited.  In fact, I went back to my prior posts, and one of them linked to a post at the textiles blog, True Up, in which you can see what I was trying so hard to describe above – the original printed skirt fabric.

There is always a copying controversy or two going on in the fashion world, but the truth is that in the US, it is not possible to copyright a clothing design.  It is, however, possible to copyright graphic design, which this is.  So why is it that we see so many Tammis Keefe copies?

The answer might be found in the fact that Keefe worked for firms such as Kimball (hankies), Falfax (linens) and Goodall (home design fabrics) rather than for herself.  It is most likely that the companies for whom she worked were the actual copyright holders of the designs she did for them.  In that case, they would have been free to sell her work to other makers without giving her the credit for the designs.  And as far as I can tell, none of these companies is still in business, in which case their design assets often become a giant (and probably not legal) free-for-all.

In contrast, consider Vera Neumann, who designed for her own company from the very beginning of her career, and who was careful to make sure everyone knew that her work was copyrighted.  Even after she sold The Vera Company, it retained the sole right to use her work, and today the company’s owner exercises control over how Vera’s work is used by other companies.  It’s an amazing success story of using the law correctly to protect the integrity of Vera’s work.  It’s a shame that other designers did not always have Vera’s savvy and luck in regards to copyright protection.


Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Viewpoint, Vintage Clothing

Yes, Copyright Laws Do Protect Non-fiction

I’m afraid this is going to be one of those posts where the illustration has absolutely nothing to do with what you are about to read.  That’s because I don’t have a photo of a sane person (me) beating her head against the wall after going 10 rounds with an online seller (un-named) who insists that she can copy and paste from the Vintage Fashion Guild Label Resource because it is made up of facts.

Do you remember in the 8th grade when the teacher assigned a “research paper” where you had to gather information and then write it out all nice and neat for the teacher to read?  You thought it was going to be a snap until the teacher then proceeded to declare that not only was copying from the World Book off-limits, it was actually illegal.  Copy from that encyclopedia and the plagiarism police would come to get you.

Now remember how the teacher then said that you must re-write the information to make it your own.  You were told that the facts were yours to use, but you had to write them in your own special way.

Fast forward to 2012.  The internet has made copying easier than ever.  But the simple truth is that written content is still protected by copyright, while the facts themselves are not.  When we write an entry for the VFG Label Resource, we rely heavily on print sources.  We take the information from various sources and rewrite the facts to make a biography or company history that is unique to the VFG.

We even have a bibliography of the print sources we have used.  That does not mean that we do not use information from the internet, because we do, especially when there is a change in the designer at a company, or as in the case of Yves Saint Laurent, a change in the name of the company itself.

We also have quite a few entries for which we used interviews with the designer or the designer’s family.  These are noted on the entry.

The VFG does not own the facts in the Label Resource, but we do own the copyright to the entries as they are written.  I think VFG is quite generous in their usage policy, which states that items can be copied as long as VFG is given proper credit.  I don’t know of very many websites that allow users that privilege.  Be nice and don’t abuse it, please!



Filed under Viewpoint

21st Century Problems

I love old things, but I’ve never been the type of person who wanted to live in the past (except for a few years in the early 60s when I wanted to be Mrs. Daniel Boone, but that’s another story).  Our young woman from 1909 had to live without a lot of things we take for granted:  safe and effective birth control, wide career opportunities, the right to vote…  But on the other hand, she did not have to grapple with one of the dilemmas of our day – to pin or not to pin.

I’ve been ambivalent about Pinterest from the first time I looked at it.   There were the obvious copyright concerns, but once I saw how the original source was automatically added when a pin was made, I was okay with it, especially since I was getting a lot of traffic from the site.

Then the funniest thing happened.  The traffic trickled to a dead stop.  I went from getting up to 50 hits a day from Pinterest to 9 in the past week.   A close examination of the site revealed that one of the major links to the original source had been removed, and while there was still a link embedded within each image, it was not spelled out on the page, and thus,  people were not clicking through to my blog and website.

I then went on a quest to see if my photos had been linked from other sources.  I was shocked and dismayed to find my photos linking back to other people’s Tumblr pages and other people’s blogs.  Sometimes there was a link to me, but very often, there was not.

But the biggest concern was not about my images, but about my writing.  I found whole chunks of text copied from fuzzylizzie.com attached to some of the photos.  I posted on all the photos, asking for the pinner to remove my text, and most have, but what about all the people who repinned my content?  It would have taken hours to have contacted them all.

So where is this leading?  I have installed the “Can’t be pinned” script to all pages on fuzzylizzie.com.  Yes, I know people can still save my image and pin it that way, but I really don’t think most people are going to take the time and trouble that is involved.  The problem is that the “Pin It” button is just so darned easy.  And if anyone can tell me how to put the “Can’t be pinned” script here on WordPress, I’d be most appreciative.  In the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if my photos and text are not posted on Pinterest, nor on Tumblr.

I  hesitated to take this action, mainly because I actually enjoyed using Pinterest.  But then it occurred to me – if I disliked other people randomly taking my work and posting it, then why was I doing the same to others.  So I went through and deleted anything that either was not mine, or was posted by someone I knew would not mind.  Even that did not quell my apprehension about Pintrest, so I ended up by deleting all my pins and boards.

This must sound pretty self-serving, and I do realize that the thing that made me sit up and take notice was the fact that my traffic from Pinterest had dropped so dramatically.  But once taking steps to end my trip down the Pinterest rabbit-hole, I’ve noticed a few more things.   On each individual pinned page there is an “embed” button.  There, automatically, is a simple way for anyone who sees my image to like it and plop it on their blog or tumblr.  In the script there is a link to the original source, which is easily removed, and which may or may not be the real source, as I pointed out above.

And I’m not going to get into the copyright issue, seeing as how I’m not qualified to analyze the Pinterest terms of use, but I do urge anyone who uses it to actually read and think about what the terms say are your, as the user, responsibilities.

Over the past few days I’ve read dozens of articles and blog posts from people who are concerned about how Pinterest is being used.  Most of them were about copyright concerns, but the most compelling thing I read was by Hila Shachar in her blog, Le Project d’amour.  She writes about how pinning and tumbling remove an image from its context.  As example, she sites a photo taken in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It is of a hallway that is covered with the photographs of the inhabitants of one village, all of whom were killed by the German SS in 1941.  She has actually seen this photo on Pinterest under categories like “Home Decor” with captions talking about how cool it would be to have a photo-covered wall in one’s home.  You can bet that the repinners have no idea where this photo originates.

This is one of those issues where I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.  I know that most people who try it love it and don’t see the harm.  I say enjoy it as you will, but please be informed.  Read the terms of use.


Filed under Viewpoint

Copy This!

Aren’t these 1920s golfing girls great?  They arrived in the mail last week from etsy seller Primelias.  If you love vintage photos, you need to check out her store – fantastic images and very good prices.

I’d love to tell you more about these young women, but as is so often the case, there is no identification written on them.  What a shame to not even know their names.  But old photos like these are still valuable in that they show us how people actually were dressing, and so I love collecting them.  And I enjoy posting them here and on my website and on flickr, because I guess the teacher in me keeps wanting to share information.

I’ve noticed lately that more and more bloggers and website owners are watermarking their photos in an effort to protect their rights to their photos.  Unfortunately, blogging seems to have blurred the lines of what is acceptable use of photos and what is not.  People have gotten used to just taking images when they find them for use on their own site or for whatever else.  And so much blogging is of a commercial nature, and sellers are usually very open to bloggers singing the praises of their wares and in posting photos and links.

I get emails all the time from people asking if  they can use my images.  I appreciate that.  And I usually say yes if the image is mine.  But often the image is not mine; it belongs to another vintage site owner who has allowed me to use it, or it is from a news site that I have credited.  In that case, the rights are not mine to give.

You are probably wondering what brought this little lecture on copyright into being.  Yesterday I had the shock of reading my own words in an ebay ad.  Actually, that is not so unusual, as people lift things from the VFG Label Resource all the time.  Most times the seller credits the Resource, or me, and I’m cool with that.  But this was different.  It did not come from the Label Resource, and I was pretty sure it was not from my blog or website, and though I was not credited I was just as positive that I had written those two sentences. I knew the words were mine because the information was very specific and was given to me by the daughter of the designer.

Through the miracle that is Google, it took me all of three minutes to locate where I had made the original post.  It was on the blog of a friend in reply to a post about Key West Fabrics.

Which brings me to what has to be one of the great evils of the computer age – Copy and Paste.

You native-born computer users will not be able to relate to this, but I can distinctly remember the day I discovered C&P.  It was in a teacher workshop, and we were all amazed.  Here was a truly useful tool, one that eliminated hours of work.  But as any teacher who requires research will tell you, C&P has made it even easier for students to copy.  It’s the 21st century version of copying from the encyclopedia.

I guess what really worries me is that “research” has become too easy.  For every person who is willing to track down leads on a designer from the past, there are ten who seem to be content to sit and gather blurbs from the internet.  And while I freely admit to using the research of others, I also am quick to give credit where it is due.  Are you?


Posted by Tom Tuttle from Tacoma:

sorry to hear that. did you take up the matter with the ‘copier’? these days there’s really nothing new under the sun but it’s still hard to fathom it when people steal such rights. popular fashion blogger the glamourai was recently “thieved”, every letter of her entry, no less. the thief’s not a noob in blogosphere; she’s got a following.

Saturday, June 20th 2009 @ 4:42 AM

Posted by Tara:

I am an English teacher, so I’m a bit of a stickler about giving credit and citing sources when I use other people’s words. However, I will admit to a much looser attitude about images…I suppose my profession/interests makes me have this bias. Lovely photos, btw!

Tuesday, June 23rd 2009 @ 8:04 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

I think blogging has really blurred the lines between what is acceptable and what is not. So many people WANT their images spread around, especially if they are trying to sell the object photographed!

It just astounds me that people copy when there is such a good chance of getting caught!

Wednesday, July 1st 2009 @ 12:22 PM

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Filed under Viewpoint, Vintage Photographs