Sometimes you just have to break the rules. In the case of this teddy, I broke two of my self-imposed buying rules:
1. Buy online only from sellers I know.
2. Do not buy lingerie.
I really do not buy a lot online because I greatly prefer the experience of vintage shopping in the real world. I like being able to examine and learn. I like talking to dealers. And most of all I like using my skills to assess whether or not a piece is worth the price and is worthy of a place in my collection. I also don’t buy online from people I don’t know. I’ll not go into details, but not all vintage sellers are created equal.
I also have put an end to buying any lingerie. It just does not, for the most part, add anything to what I’m trying to develop as a collection. But never say never.
I was doing a rare ebay search for “sports” in the women’s vintage clothing section when this teddy came up. At first I was sure it was from the late 1970s with those high-cut legs, but I clicked on it just to satisfy my curiosity. The close-up photos showed an authentic-looking print showing sportswomen (and a few men as well) dressed in mid 1930s sports clothes. But prints can be deceiving.
The bra section was interesting, with a little gusset inserted for fullness. I also noticed the edging. It was looking promising.
The back was fitted by way of a bit of elastic, which looked vintage.
But what sold me on this piece was actually the crotch, or more exactly, the buttons in the crotch. I was convinced this piece was actually from the 1930s.
And when it arrived, my thoughts were confirmed. It’s not usual to see a rayon novelty print on underwear of that period, but one of the great things about collecting clothing is there is always something to be discovered, something one had no idea even existed.
A picture may paint a thousand words, but in this case it does not tell the entire story. What looks to be a very nice lingerie piece from the 1920s is actually a fairly well trashed bed jacket.
I pulled this piece from the bins at my Goodwill Outlet and was sad to see multiple holes and staining. When a piece, especially in silk, is in this type of condition there is nothing that can be done to restore it.
Still, I put it in my cart because the lace and ribbon were still good. I kept thinking I could even replace the silk to make a pretty little piece for myself. But that was about five years ago, and the thing has been hanging on a nicely padded hanger in my studio all this time.
I finally took it down to give it a good look and realized that even though it seems to be a complicated design, it is actually just a big rectangle with uneven edges, folded in half and a slit in the front for an opening. Putting the lace onto another piece of fabric would be a relatively easy task.
But for now it will hang a little while longer, until I finish up some other more pressing projects, like flannel pajamas. Yes, it is three days until the start of spring and I’m sewing cold weather pjs. I’m running a bit behind.
So, is this piece worth salvaging, or should I just enjoy it in all its Miss Haversham-like glory?
As a bonus, the bedjacket has a label, something you don’t always expect to see in a 1920s lingerie piece. Franklin Simon & Co. was a New York City department store that specialized in imported goods. In the 1920s, that pretty much meant France, not China.
The Fashion History Museum has a newly opened exhibition at the Peel Art Gallery Museum in Brampton, Ontario, Waist Management It’s all about how undergarments have been used to help women achieve a fashionable silhouette, something that is apparent in just one photo from the display.
A while back I wrote about selling items from my collection and how I’d do it only if I were convinced that the person wanting an item wanted it more than I. The truth is I’ve also been known to actually give things away if I know someone needs it.
Back in the very early days of Ebay I was smart enough (actually that would be lucky enough) to buy a bit of the lingerie line that Emilio Pucci designed for Formfit Rogers. At the time it was considered to be a poor alternative to the wonderful silk jersey vintage Puccis that were already getting nice ending prices on the auction site, but the lingerie was cheap and so I bought a few miscellaneous pieces.
After the onslaught of fast fashion made of tissue paper thin poly, the thin nylon Formfit Puccis soared in price. They were seen not only as wearable clothing, but gained deserved respect as a part of fashion history.
Several months ago I was mindlessly browsing the site I love to hate, Pinterest, and noticed that the Fashion History Museum had begun posting parts of the collection. In their lingerie section was a Pucci Formfit Rogers matching bra and girdle. I was pretty sure I had a matching piece, and a quick look through my catalog revealed that I did have a matching robe.
I emailed Jonathan at the museum to ask if he would like to have my piece for the museum’s collection, and of course he did. I sent it off along with another donation and an ad that showed that this design dates to 1969.
I was delighted to get the photo in my inbox last night. Knowing that something I had accumulated is now being used to educate others about fashion history is a great feeling.
Not long ago I spotted the half slip pictured above in my not-so-secret shopping place. My first thought was that it was an Emilio Pucci for Formfit Rogers so I started looking for the evidence: the initials EPFR printed within the print. I was just about to give up and call it a good copy when I spotted them.
In 1959 Pucci decided that he wanted to expand into lingerie. Rather than do the production in-house, he was advised to look for an established lingerie company that would handle production. Pucci came to the United States, and signed a deal with Formfit Rogers, a Chicago company. Pucci provided the designs which were printed onto nylon tricot. Much of the production took place in a factory in Tennessee.
I’ve seen the uncut fabric. They printed it in big squares, about 72 inches, with an overall print surrounded by a small , about three inches, border. The pieces were cut, using the border at the hem. Sometime the border was cut and sewn, for a detail like a V-neckline.
We tend to think of designer “collaborations” as being a new scheme, but this is a good example of how even in the 1960s designers were finding ways to get their designs into the hands of people who could not afford their regular designs. In 1969, a Pucci for Formfit half slip was priced at $9, or about $55 today. Years ago I bought a bra and matching slip from a woman in Asheville. She told me that she was living in New York City in 1969, working at her first job. When she got that first paycheck she wanted to go out and splurge, and she ended up buying the Pucci set.
The line was quite successful, and lasted into the 1970s. Still, the pieces are relatively hard to find, probably because people recognize them for what they are and snap them up.
In the early days of ebay, these Pucci Formfit pieces were very inexpensive. I once bought a lot of six pieces for around $30. Then the fabrics in modern ready-to-wear got thinner and thinner, and people started buying the lingerie to wear as outerwear. They are no longer a bargain.
I don’t write a lot about lingerie because I rarely ever buy it. Not that I don’t have quite a bit of lingerie in my collection, I do. It’s just that after years of collecting I have a fair amount of undies, and now I only buy to upgrade items or to fill a gap in my holdings. Sometimes I’ll pick up something odd that I’ve never seen before.
That was the case with this bra/corset. Corsets with bras are pretty common from the late 1940s and into the early 60s. They usually have a very structured bra and elastic garters. But this one is considerably older.
The bra section is covered with a type of lace that I see quite often in items from the 1910s and 1920s. The shaping is very soft, much like the bras in the 1920s.
Both the front and the back are laced with cotton laces. The eyelets are a silvery metal. You can see that the side backs are boned.
The corset closes on the side with a row of hook and eyes.
The straps are a thick satin. The ribbon trim at the top of the bra is typical of that found on 1920s lingerie.
I’ve looked through all my 1920s and early 30s sources and I could find nothing like it. The modern brassiere was patented in 1914 by Mary Phelps Jacob, so I’m pretty sure this falls between 1915 and 1932. Any thoughts?
One of the difficulties of collecting sportswear and accessories is that often these items get worn completely and are discarded rather than saved. I’ve said it before, it’s easier to find a 1930s ballgown than a pair of shorts from that era. It’s easier to find a pair of fine kid gloves from the 1940s than a pair of colorful knitted mittens for playing in the snow. And it is much easier to find fine nylon stockings than it is to find a pair of utilitarian tights.
I was pretty happy to run across this pair in a nearby antique store. They are made from finely knit wool, have an older Best & Co. label, and best of all, there is a US patent number on the label. Having a patent number is like a gift of knowledge. From it you can search for the original paperwork and gain valuable insights into what makes the item special – at least to the designer.
An easy way to look up a patent is to use Google Patents. You just type in the number and it goes either directly to the patent or to a page of search results. My tights came up first on the list of search results. As you can see, my tights were patented by Florence C. Barnard. She filed the patent in 1937, but the design was not approved until 1940. Because my tights have the patent number printed on them, they have to date after the patent was approved.
The paperwork consists of the drawings and diagrams I’m showing, but there are also two pages of written description. It is in those pages that I was able to gain some insight into this design.
Ms. Barnard was living in St. Paul, Minnesota, and as a resident of that city she was concerned with a garment that would keep the legs warm while retaining the appearance of full-fashioned stockings. That would explain why the seam is located on the backs of the legs rather than on the sides. The lack of a foot is interesting. Presumably, the wearer would wear socks over the feet, with would be covered by her skates or boots.
From the patent, written by Florence C. Barnard:
This invention relates to a novel garment… as an added protection against cold weather, and which is more particularly designed for outdoor use.