Tag Archives: fabric advertising

Ad Campaign: Ski-O-Twill, 1937

Salute to “Lastex” for Ski-O-Twill special ski fabric that stretches… for fit, comfort and freedom

A chorus of ohs and ahs greeted this charming ski costume at the designer’s fashion shows, held while you were romping in the surf.  Where well-dressed skiers congregate this winter this suit will be seen – the last word in the prettification of the ski.  And you might as well be seen in it.

A lot has been written about how the invention of Lastex revolutionized the knit swimsuit, but here it is in a ski suit.  At the time most ski wear was being made from thick wool melton so this must have seemed to be a huge improvement.  But I’m not so sure that it caught on.  I’ve seen quite a few ski sets from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and none had any degree of stretchiness.  I’d be interested in more information about Ski-O-Twill.


Filed under Advertisements, Winter Sports

Ad Campaign – Lorraine Worsteds, 1946

A big difference in advertising now and in the past is that 60 years ago consumers seemed to have a much greater knowledge about fabrics and fibers.  Today it would be really strange to see an ad for a fabric, but up through the 1970s these ads were commonly found in fashion magazines.  I’m betting that most people these days don’t even know what worsted is.

If you need to brush up on your fabric and fiber terminology, you are in luck.  As I announced earlier, the Vintage Fashion Guild now has a Fabric Resource, and you can learn quite a bit by just reading through it.  For example, worsted happens to be “Fabric made from high-twist, worsted yarns that have long, smooth fibers.”  And don’t forget to click on the fabric samples to see the enlarged fabric.


Filed under Textiles

Ad Campaign – Wesley Simpson, 1949

Wesley Simpson was a fabric designer, and was the husband of designer Adele Simpson.  Today he is probably known mostly for the scarves he designed and produced in the late 1940s.

Today most consumers would be hard pressed to name even one maker of fabrics but in the mid 20th century, the fabric used by a maker of clothing was often a big selling point.  Clothing manufacturers and fabric makers often teamed up for joint ad campaigns, and it is not uncommon to see a fabric label along with the maker’s label in a high quality vintage garment.

I love the matching shoes, which were made by Joyce.  The swimsuit is by Cole of California.


Filed under Advertisements

Protect Yourself – Springmaid

I actually wrote and posted this piece six years ago, back when I had about ten readers and five of those were members of my family.  So I hope the ten of you won’t mind a summer rerun with updated images and a few changes to the text.

This is the middle of Southern textile country.  I live about 30 miles from where Beacon made their famous blankets and robes, 60 miles from the Swirl wrap dress factory, and 100 miles from Springs Mills, which produced mainly fabrics and sheets.  All around me were hundreds of small textile and clothing manufacturers that blanketed the South before they all up and moved to Mexico, Korea or China.

But this is all about Springmaid.  For some time I’ve had a little book called Clothes Make the Man written by Elliott White Springs, who was the president of  Springmaid in the 1930s through 50s.  It’s actually a collection of his letters, many of which discuss a famous ad campaign that Springmaid launched in 1947.  The ads featured pin-ups and risque wording in the ads.  So I was very pleasantly surprised when I turned up a length of  fabric that Springmaid developed as a result of the popular ads..

The pin-up ads actually got their start with an in-house beauty contest, Miss Springmaid, in 1947. The winners were taken to New York where they were sketched by leading illustrators, with the sketches to be used in advertising. By early 1948, Colonel Springs (a real colonel!), had remembered a cover of Esquire magazine which had three ice skaters warming themselves before a performance. Springmaid acquired the rights to that picture to use in advertising a fire-proofed fabric they had developed during the war.

It wasn’t so much the picture that caused all the fuss – it was the ad copy. Written by Colonel Springs, there were phrases such as “the false bottom and bust bucket business” and “be protected by the Springmaid label on the bottom of your trademark.”

Within a few months the furor died down somewhat and the company began to notice copycat ads from other companies. In a September 1, 1948 memo, Col. Springs instructed the ad department to make a montage of the Springmaid girls. It was to be used first for the jacket of the latest edition of Clothes Make the Man, and later to be printed on cloth. According to Colonel Springs, “It will make a terrific bathing suit or beach jacket.”

There were later prints made also, including one called Holiday, which had smaller girls and no stripes, and Harem, which had an Oriental flair. There is also a mention of a Persian print, but it could possibly be the same as Harem.

In June of 1951, the company built a new railroad terminal for  their 28 mile railroad which connected the two main factories in Chester and Lancaster, SC. They got Gypsy Rose Lee to do the official unveiling. Special men’s sports shirts and billed caps were made from the harem print, just for the occasion.

And just a few months later, Springmaid announced that they had contracted with various clothing makers to do a line of women’s sportswear using the prints. Inspired by Gussie Moran, the famous panty-baring tennis star, the company released one of the prints as tennis and swim panties. They were made by Cole of California.  At least one dress and a swimsuit were designed by sportswear designer Carolyn Schnurer using the Harem print.

In 1951, a new Springs Mills office complex was built in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Much of the furniture was fashioned from old mill parts, and the furniture was upholstered in the Springmaid Girl prints.

Like it or loathe it, Colonel Springs was definitely doing something right.  His company has weathered the horrible times in the US textile industry, and is still producing textiles in Fort Mill, SC.  And I’m used to having to really dig for any information concerning most older manufacturing companies, but this was almost too easy, with the book and all.  I’m also happy to report that there is an excellent record of the history of Springs Mills, as the company donated many of their papers to the textile archives at Duke University.

I found this fabric in Charlotte, NC, about ten miles from the Springs Mills factory.  It is the very same print that was used to upholster the company furniture in 1951.


Filed under Advertisements, Curiosities, Textiles

Ad Campaign, Hockanum Woolens, 1938

Azure skies, turquoise seas, golden sunshine… and half the colors of the rainbow going down the gangplank to met the other half on the dock!  Colorful as a Bermuda arrival are the new soft shades of Hockanum Woolens for Spring!  Coats, suits and dresses made of these beautiful fabrics… for Southern resorts or immediate wear at home…. are now being featured by good shops all over the country.

Whatever happened to fabric awareness?  There was a time, not so very long ago, that the makers of your dresses’ fabrics were just as important as the makers of the dresses themselves.  People knew that quality began with the fabric, and the designers knew that the fabric was an important part of the over all design, and that consumers knew the difference between high quality goods and shoddy ones.

Today, a great deal of the fabric that makes up our clothes is made by giant, anonymous Asian factories.  However, there are still some American weavers, and you can sometimes spot a label that declares that the fabric was woven in Italy or France or Ireland, or even Japan.  Pay attention, because the makers are trying to tell you that they are proud of this fabric.  Feel it and see if you agree.


Filed under Advertisements

Ad Campaign – Bates, 1946

Here’s an example of how ads can aid in researching an item.  A few years ago a friend of mine was trying to piece together a biography of Louella Ballerino, when I ran across this ad featuring her working in Bates fabrics, making swimwear for Jantzen.  Not long after that I found the swimsuit below.  While it sports the Jantzen and the Bates labels, there is no reference to Ballerino.  I think it is safe to say my suit is part of the same collection, seeing the use of black in conjunction with the distinctive print.

In 1946 the two piece bathing suit was relatively new, having been first shown by Carolyn Schnurer in 1931, but taking almost a decade before gaining popular approval.


Filed under Advertisements

Ad Campaign – Harris Tweed, 1951

I bet you are not surprised to see that I have a bit more to say about Harris Tweed.  These two ads are from 1951, while Britain was still operating under the utility scheme and clothing rationing.  During that time most of the Harris Tweed, (and other British clothing items such as cashmere) was being produced mainly for export, as the trade was badly needed.

As you can see on the fabric scrap in the second ad, there is an actual stamp put on each piece of Harris Tweed, a guarantee that it is the real deal, produced entirely on the Isle of  Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.  The orb and cross trademark has been in use since 1911, making this the 100 year anniversary of the usage of the trademark.

Today, each length of finished cloth is still stamped by hand at regular intervals.  The Harris Tweed Authority registers every piece produced, and the label always has a number stamped on it for identification purposes.  The Harris Tweed Authority has books containing every number, and so they can tell when the piece was made, who the weaver was, and to whom the piece was sold.  It’s an amazing historical record, and unless they have put it on computer in the last few years, the books are still referred to whenever a question arises.

Three years ago, the BBC4 did a three part series on the troubled Harris Tweed industry, and though things have changed since then, it is still a very good look at the industry, and the crisis it was facing at that time.  For a while in 2008, all the spinning and finishing mills had closed, but today there are three in operation.  There have been several high profile collaborations – including one with Nike – this year, and awareness of the historic fabric is increasing.

Do yourself a favor and watch this series, if for no other reason than to see all the fabulous examples of the tweed.  There are over 8000 tweed patterns, and the variety is truly amazing.  There is also some great historical footage, and for those who like a little drama, there is even a villain!

Amazingly, there is a scene in the documentary where a visitor to the island goes in search of Harris Tweed garments.  The only place he found that sells them is the charity shop!  I’m always looking for the tweed in my own thrift stores, and I’ve found some really remarkable pieces.  Most of what you will find is in the form of men’s jackets and coats for men and women.  I look for garments with holes, and then I take the garment apart to use the tweed in projects.

You can also buy lengths of the tweed online, and there are several sites that sell finished products of Harris Tweed.  All are beautiful!


Filed under Advertisements, Viewpoint