I know I’ve said this already, but Catalina is my new vintage favorite. Much of their early work as a swimsuit maker was very inventive, using Hollywood designers in the 1930s and incorporating hand block prints in the 1940s. In the 1950s Catalina used art designs from the Associated American Artists (AAA), as part of the general trend to incorporate art into textile design.
There are many things that made me want this garment. Though it looks like a skirt, it is actually culottes. I’m thinking that these “pants” could have passed as a skirt, and therefore entered spaces where the presence of women in pants – even culottes – was frowned upon. Each leg is almost a complete circle, and so the bifurcation is very well hidden in the draping of the fabric. I wonder if any high school girls were able to fool the dress code police with these culottes.
I was also interested because the seller, Cheshire Vintage, mentioned that this is a Soap ‘n Water print from AAA. A quick look through my sources confirmed that this print dates from 1957. I was happy to find this print pictured in a paper by Karen Herbaugh of the sadly now closed American Textile History Museum.
All the AAA fabrics I’ve seen are well-documented on the selvage. Often included is the name of the artist, the year of manufacture, and the AAA identification. Even though my culotte legs are very wide, the selvages were cut off. Still, it is the same fabric that Herbaugh identified as AAA.
I was drawn to this piece also by the label. Catalina was known for making multiple garments out of the fabrics they used, so I’m hoping to find a few matching pieces.
The designer did a beautiful job of showing off this fabric to best advantage. I love how the stripes drape across the hips. Also, notice how the front placement of the stripes make it look as if this were actually a pleated skirt. The center back has the same treatment, with the zipper partly concealed under one of the pleats.
In case you are skeptical that these really are pants, here’s the proof.
The culottes are in new condition, never having been worn. There’s even a paper tag that is a bit of a puzzle. The fabric is obviously cotton, not a modern rayon blend. Somehow the wrong tag became pinned to the garment at some point.