Tag Archives: hiking

Mountaineering in Short Skirts, 1904

I recently ran across these two prints that are dated 1904.  To someone who knows about fashion in the early twentieth century, this would seem like a very improbable skirt length for the time.  But they reminded me of the words of outdoorswoman, Annie Smith Peck, who wrote in 1901:

“…Men, we all know, climb in knickerbockers… Women, on the contrary, will declare that a skirt is no hindrance to their locomotion.  This is obviously absurd, and though a few ladies have climbed mountains like the Matterhorn in extremely scanty and abbreviated skirts, I dare assert that suitably-made knickerbockers… are not only more comfortable but more becoming… A scant skirt barely reaching the knee and showing the knickerbockers below, such as some ladies have worn, is as ungraceful a costume as could be devised; and for a woman in difficult mountaineering to waste her strength and endanger her life with a skirt is foolish in the extreme.”

While these pictures seem to show the women in leggings rather than knickers, the outfit is pretty much as Annie described it.

The imaginary women in the prints are also shown as if they were wearing corsets.  What did Annie have to say about that?

“It may not be necessary to add that no one should climb mountains or even hills in corsets.  One must have the full use of the lungs, and the loosest corset is some impediment to the breathing.  As ordinarily worn they are impossible.  Moreover, they greatly increase the heat, impede circulation, and promote rush of blood to the head.”

Images of women participating in sports were popular in the early 1900s.  Artists like Coles Phillips and Howard Chandler Christy were known for their sporty, but still very feminine, women.  This artist seems to be sexualizing the women somewhat, with the posing and the slender legs.

I think the signature is T T Pollock, but I could not find a reference to that name, nor to Polleck.  Maybe someone will recognize it for me.

No skirts for Annie!

Update:  Researcher extraordinaire Lynne has discovered that the artist was Homer Polleck, though some references have his name as Pollock.  He lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, and died in 1917.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Curiosities, Proper Clothing

Vintage Abercrombie’s Camp Ruck Sack

My Goodwill Outlet Center is a place of wonderment.  Walking through the door one gets a feeling of infinite possibilities.  What will I find in the over-stuffed bins?  Will they be full of seldom worn but already looking tired fast fashion, or will there be pristine vintage galore?

Vintage and antique people seem to me to be the world’s worst lamenters over “the good old days.”  I’ve done my share of it, whining over a closed flea market or an antique mall turned into a decorator marketplace.  People even lament that the Goodwill is not as great as it once was, and the truth is, I haven’t found any early clothing there in a long time.

But I always say that treasure is where you find it, and if you don’t look, it is not going to be found.  I can’t help thinking about what happens to all the unfound treasure at the Goodwill Outlet.  It is bundled to go to a rag house where the stuff is picked through again, and hopefully anything of value is plucked from the piles before they are rebundled for transport to Africa, or even worse, to a textile recycling facility where the clothes are shredded for reprocessing.

On my latest trip to the land of vintage possibilities, I was going through a bin of used handbags and nylon backpacks.  At the bottom of the bin I spotted a scrap of old fabric, and quickly uncovered what you see above.  At first I thought it might be an old military bag, but the interior of the bag had a promising label.

That’s when I knew I had a treasure.  The Abercrombie on the label was David Abercrombie of Abercrombie & Fitch, outdoor outfitters to the early twentieth century adventurers.  The business was started in 1892 by Abercrombie,who was joined in the business in 1900 by Ezra Fitch.  In 1907 the two parted ways, with Abercrombie leaving the business he had started.  The following year he went on to manufacturer and sell camping supplies, and even made items that were sold in the Abercrombie and Fitch store and catalog.

Abercrombie set up his new business, Abercrombie’s Camp, at 311 Broadway. The company also sold through a catalog.  The earliest I could online find was dated 1912.  It seems a bit odd that Abercrombie’s name was continued to be used by Fitch, as the two were competitors for the same market.  I imagine they were often confused for each other, as I was when I first saw the label.  I thought it was an odd A&F label, but instead, was an entirely separate company.

Lucky for me, I do have that 1910 A&F catalog, and it does have my bag, or a very similar one, pictured.  They called it a ruck sack, also known as a Swiss mountain pack.  Mine is the gabardine version.

“The best pack ever devised for the carrying of light loads and the small personal belongings.  Makes an excellent pack for a woman’s use and is handy for carrying a few necessities when ‘going light’.”

One big problem that collectors face in an object like this one is how to best preserve it.  Does one wash it?  Should it be returned to a “better” condition?

To me, one of the charms of a piece like this one is that it shows that it was used.  I’d  much rather have it than a pristine example that did not go on numerous hikes across the Southern Appalachians.

And it was obviously used a lot.  One of the leather straps has about seven inches missing off one end, and the little leather piece that fastens the top flap is partially missing.  I thought about either replacing the straps, or having a leather crafter replace the missing bits, but ultimately I’ve decided to leave them as is.  If I ever display it I may make temporary repairs with brown fabric to show how it would have been used.

I did decide to use a bit of leather cleaner and conditioner on the leather pieces.  I also gave the bag a quick mild detergent bath to loosen any dirt or oil that was not set in the fibers.  I can’t tell that it improved the appearance, though it did produce a very dirty tub of water.

A bonus with this bag is that there is a name.  I can’t decide if it is M. Clark II, or McClark II, but I’ll be searching the records of the local hiking clubs (which go back to the late 1920s)  to see if there is a match.

And here is the bag after the little bit of cleaning.  You can still see all the years of hard use this bag was subject to.

I really can’t narrow down the date of the ruck sack very much.  I know the earliest possible date would be the year Abercrombie’s Camp was established, 1908.  The missing information is how long was this bag in production.  The next A&F catalog that I have is 1939, and the style is not in that book.  Still that is a range of thirty-one years, and I’d really like to do better than that.  If you have an Abercrombie’s Camp or an Abercrombie and Fitch Catalog dated before 1939, I’d sure appreciate hearing from you.

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1920s Tomboy Hiking Suit

 

One of my latest acquisitions came by way of Instagram.  I know that some people think that social media is just for teenage girls to get themselves in trouble by posting nude photos of themselves, or for pictures of the neighbor’s cat, or for showing off your breakfast at Starbucks.  But I say it is what you make of it, and that includes scoping out items for my sportswear collection.

I couldn’t believe this knickers and vest set that was posted by @thegirlcantdance.  I contacted her and she sent more photos and a detailed condition report.  Even though I already have a linen knicker set, this one is khaki twill, and was less of a fashion piece than my “Fad of the Hour” set.  So I was thrilled to be able to add it to my collection.

The tern “tom boy” (or is it “tomboy”?) was already in common use by the early 1920s went this set was most likely made.  I love how the label name fits in perfectly with the idea of girl as garçonne.  A note about the label: Even though it reads “Trademark”, there is no evidence of this label on the US trademark database.  Those of you who were teens during the 1970s might remember a different label that was called Tomboy.

The knickers are fitted at the waist, without a waistband.  I mentioned in the comments a few days ago that you can generally tell female pants from male before the mid 1960s because the great majority of them have a side opening, whereas male pants have a front fly.

Some former owner had a small waist, and you can see the stitching where darts had been inserted.  The buttons had also been moved but I put them back in the original position so that the pants would hang properly.

I’m really happy that this was complete with the button belt.  So often the small pieces are missing.

I think it is interesting that although it was becoming acceptable for women to wear knickers, the manufacturer made sure to provide an over-vest that covered that crotch.

The knicker legs also close with buttons.

How much more do I have to say about knickers?  Al the present I’m pretty much finished with the topic.  But in the world of fashion history, one never knows when a new discovery will be made, so don’t be surprised if I revisit knickers again sometime.

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Knickerbockers for Women: From Under the Hiking Skirts to the Fad of the Hour – Part I

I may have mentioned here that I talked myself into submitting a paper for possible presentation at my regional Costume Society of America symposium.  It sounded like a good idea at the time, though I wasn’t even sure the paper would be accepted.  Well, it was, and so I’ve spent way too much time over the past few months on the research and writing (and rewriting, and rewriting…) of it.  But the symposium is this weekend, and I think I’m all ready, with a fancy PowerPoint and a new skirt fresh off the sewing machine.

I wish I could take all of you with me, but since I can’t, I’m doing the next best thing.  I’ll be posting the paper here over the next four days, without the fancy PowerPoint, but with the same photos with annotations.  I hope you enjoy it.

Knickerbockers for Women: From Under the Hiking Skirts to the Fad of the Hour – Part I

By the mid 1920s women hikers were openly taking to the trails wearing their knickerbockers and breeches, while the first women hikers, just two generations before them had to make do in the woods wearing skirts that dragged the ground.

There are many factors that led to women wearing pants as a matter of course, and one of them is how the popularity of hiking and camping led women to adopt an increasingly practical way of dressing for the woods.

Hiking as a pastime began in Europe.  As early as the 18th century rich English travelers had been traveling to Switzerland for a bit of mountain rambling.  Hiking tourism really took off with the formation of the Alpine Club in England in 1857, and with the first Cook’s tour to the Alps in 1863.  By the 1880s walking, hiking, and rambling were common forms of exercise for both the men and women of Britain and the Continent.

In the US the situation was different, with hiking not really being an attractive activity until late in the 19th century.  As the US was settled westward, long distance walking accompanied by camping at night was not a choice, but a necessity.  The wilderness was to be conquered, not enjoyed.  In the mid 19th century many Americans were too close to the pioneer experience to have a positive view of the wilderness.

But even as American pioneers were continuing to move into wilderness areas, people in the settled East were taking a more romantic view of nature, perhaps being influenced by European writers and travelers.  At the same time improvements in transportation, especially the railroad, made getting to wilderness areas much easier.

As improved technology gave Americans more free time, the idea of vacations became popular with even the middle and working classes.  Magazine articles and books began recommending an outdoor vacation as a cheaper and healthier alternative to resorts and beach holidays.

The healthy effects of long walks out-of-doors were recommended by Harper’s Bazar magazine as early as 1867. Throughout the rest of the 19th century Harper’s Bazar was an advocate for outdoor walking and hiking.  An article in 1885 stated, “The more of out-door life we have, the better it is for us, morally, mentally, and physically.”

Tomorrow: What women hikers wore in the 19th century.

 

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

1920s Knickers and Accessories

I thought that with all the talk about knickers and hiking clothes that you might want to see examples from my collection.  The set above is a matching linen vest and knickers.  There is a very similar set in a 1925 B. Altman& Company catalog which shows the vest and knickers paired with a blouse, plain wool cloche,  knee socks and brogan shoes.  I was lucky enough to find a similar blouse which I’m showing here.

The vest has no closure except for the belt that buttons below the waist.  The knickers button on both sides.

I’ve seen this “The Fad of the Hour” in other knickers from the 1920s.  In looking through my catalogs and magazines I first saw knickers for women in a 1919 catalog, and their last appearance was in 1929.  That’s a pretty long lasting fad!

And just because I love this detail, here is the two button closure on the leg band.

Here is another pair, this time in black and white linen tweed.  Note how they button on both sides of the waist.

There are pockets on both sides as well.

Just for fun I paired these with a late 1920s sweater.  This one has a Marshall Field’s label, but I’ve seen this style in catalogs such as Sears from the late 1920s.

This is an odd cross between a middy and a blouse, but seeing as how it is made from cotton duck, I can safely say the intended use was for outings such as hiking and camping.  The bottom band actually folds up and buttons (that’s the exposed seam you can see).  I’ve seen ads for middies that proclaimed their superiority because they did not fasten at the bottom.

These unworn 1920s knee socks were a very lucky find, from Carol at Dandelion Vintage.  Best of all, both pairs are unworn.

Just like in the photos I shared earlier, the decorative tops of the socks were worn over the bottom band of the knickers.

And for the feet, a pair of Walkover brogans.

Topped off with a plain wool cloche, our hiker is now properly attired and ready to walk.

When collecting, I like to think of the entire ensemble.  To me it is just so interesting to see how women actually wore their clothes, and to be able to assemble all the pieces that was necessary for a look.  As another collector once said, “It’s not just about the frocks.”

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What I Didn’t Buy – Trapper Nelson Indian Board Backpack

As a collector of women’s sportswear, I’ve been very tempted to veer into the vintage sports equipment world.  A canvas golf bag with a few hickory shaft clubs would look great with that vintage golfing frock, wouldn’t it?  Or how about a nice pair of ice skates to go with the 1940s skating dress?

Thankfully, common sense continues to prevail here.  As of yet the only real equipment pieces I have are a pair of 1940s roller skates that were a gift, and my own 1970s tennis racket.

But I did love seeing this vintage backpack.  I know absolutely nothing about it, but I did find this old blog post in which a lot of people sang the praises of the Trapper Nelson.   Hopefully someone will stumble by with some  information.

According to the seller’s tag, this Pioneer Brand Trapper Nelson Indian Pack Board by the Jones Tent and Awning Company of Vancouver, dates from the 1920s.  Since this is a #3, it is possibly newer than that, as these were made for a very long time.    It was priced at a healthy $125, and I have no idea if that is a good or a bad price.  I do know that old canvas bags are currently in vogue, due partly to exposure in certain blogs that love that heritage, “authentic” look.

And speaking of which, in the past year I’ve noticed that flea market and antique booths are getting darker.  I mean that literally, as the omnipresent white painted shabby look seems to be waning.  Considering that Shabby Chic by Rachel Ashwell was published in 1996, and by that time the look was already quite popular, I’d say it’s time to move on.  But what the heck will happen to all that white painted furniture?

 

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, I Didn't Buy...

Welcome, Spring!

Yesterday made it official, spring really is here.  That means it’s time to get out and enjoy some nature.  Fortunately, I live in an area where just a walk down the road makes that happen, and a short drive can take me to numerous mountain trails.

These trails didn’t just happen.  In the 1920s and 30s, hiking became very popular in this area, and in other parts of the Appalachians (ap ə ‘ lach ənz ).   At the time there were few organized trails, no Great Smoky Mountains National Park, no Appalachian Trail.  People interested in hiking began to form clubs in order to organize hiking outings.

Probably the most important club in the western Carolinas was the Carolina Mountain Club.  It was partly due to their efforts that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, and they were responsible for much of the building of the Appalachian Trail through North Carolina.  In the days before the formation of the Park, the mountains were extensively mapped by member George Masa who was assisted by several women members of the club.

In looking at the archival photos of this club, it is interesting to note that there were almost as many women members as there were men.  The days of women doing casual walking and calling it exercise were over!

I don’t have any photos of the Carolina Mountain Club, but vintage photos of hiking clubs are actually quite commonly found.  I have several from the 1920s and 30s which are, unfortunately, unidentified.  Still it is interesting to study them and to note the clothing.  It would be fun to borrow an idea from the Pensacola Tweed Riders, and do a tweed hike!

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Filed under Summer Sports, Vintage Photographs