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Vintage Miscellany – August 25, 2019

1932. It’s almost chilly here in the Western North Carolina mountains so maybe fall really is on the way. Here’s my dream hiking ensemble: snappy pullover sweater, rolled cuff trousers, high laced boots, and a hat that’s part tam, part beret with hair neatly tucked away inside. Was she posing, or simply caught in a pensive moment?

And now for some news…

When I first started writing this blog around fifteen years ago, most museums I visited did not allow visitors to take photos, so I carried a sketchbook to record the highlights of fashion exhibitions. Today, most museums do allow photos, due mainly, I’d think, to social media. When people started documenting every small detail of their lives on Facebook and Twitter (and later Instagram) museums very quickly realized that every post on these sites was free advertising.

There are still plenty of people who object to the practice, saying that the photo has become more important than the experience. To some degree I agree with that thought. We’ve all seen people rushing through a museum or historic site, camera in hand, ready to get that perfect Instagram shot.

I try to use a strategy when visiting an exhibition that I want to photograph for this blog. Ideally, I view the entire exhibition, reading the show notes and absorbing the message the curator is trying to put out there. Only after looking and thinking and studying, I go back and take photos of what best tells the story.

This strategy works best where an exhibition is located all in one area of the site or museum. Often, in house museums like the Biltmore Estate, it’s just not reasonable to take the photos separately from the first viewing. Things are just too scattered about. But I do find I learn more and see more when I have the opportunity to look at an object twice.



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Vintage Miscellany – July 28, 2019

It was 1935, and despite this peaceful scene overlooking Florence, there was something rotten in Italy.  But that does not seem to have affected Wally’s (second from right) “happy and educational” visit.

And now for some more current events…

  •   Can it be true? The 2020 spring exhibition of the Met’s Costume Institute is to be based on the Met’s own collection. I’m imagining a sort of greatest hits show featuring much of what has already been seen in recent years, but one can hope for some rarely seen treasures.
  •   And there will be an exhibition this fall showing off the collection of Sandy Schreier, which has been donated to the Met.
  •    Of all the sports women have participated in over the years, tennis seems to be the most fashion forward.
  •    This article about Red Wing boots shows just how hard it is to re-shore manufacturing.
  •    Playtex, maker of spacesuits
  •    A new book highlights the story of the destruction of the largely Jewish fashion industry of Berlin in the 1930s.
  •    How can a a pair of 1972 Nike shoes be worth $437,500?
  •    And will Babe Ruth’s uniform top them in price?
  •    Fashion historian Kate Strasdin has written a great post about the usefulness of social media in historical research.
  •    Museum workers are unionizing to help secure better pay.  Just because a person works for a non-profit does not mean that they should be asked to work for sub-standard pay.

  • Here’s Wally again, this time in Pisa with her Italian hostesses, the “cultured & aristocratic Guisti girls”. I love how all the hats are tilted at the same angle.


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Vintage Miscellany – July 7, 2019

Today’s photo comes from a small group I have that shows a circa 1915 family at a lake-side cottage. I bet they had fish for dinner that evening.

And there’s a bit of news:

    •   I’ve already written about the Nike shoe situation, but I do want to report that it was a major discussion at the July 4th party I attended.
    •    You can own Princess Diana’s sweatshirt, but hurry, the auction is this week.
    •    In less than a week Kim Kardashian announced that her new shape wear line would be called Kimino, there was a huge outcry, and she announced that she’d be choosing another name.
    •    Ravelry, a site for yarn crafters, has banned posts and projects that support the President.
    •    “It’s time for Colonial Williamsburg to get serious again.”
    •   Lottie Barton “clothed Baltimore’s affluent women and dressed two presidents’ wives, Frances Cleveland and Caroline Harrison.” Learn about her.
    •  I think it’s about time for me to do another post about cultural appropriation, putting it into historical context.
    •  One of my favorite podcasts, Ben Franklin’s World, has a new episode called “Shoe Stories from Early America”.
    •   Zack has never wanted to dress normally, and we should all be glad.
    •    Converse is rethinking the Chuck Taylor shoe.
    •    One of the best cotton mill villages is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
    •    Here are some fabulous vintage and antique photos of women fishing. Thanks to Julie Z. for the link.

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Vintage Miscellany – June 23, 2019

The woman in the photo above presents a bit of a clothing mystery. She’s wearing a mid 1930s bathing suit under a pair of slacks, with a neat rope tied at the waist. It would be several years in the future before a woman appearing on the street wearing pants would be accepted, not to mention that bare top. Yet there she is, lounging on the steps of a substantial building, as if it were the most natural thing ever.

And now for some news…


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Vintage Miscellany – May 13, 2019

This photo was added to my collection for a couple of reasons. First, the poster in the background is for the Colonial Theater, which was the name of the one theater in my hometown. Not that I think this was taken in Canton, NC, but the girl on the right sure looks a lot like my high school classmate Deborah.

The best reason for owning this photograph is because of the sweater “Deborah” is wearing. If I can’t have the sweater, at least I can have the photo of it.

And now for some news…

    •  Recycled tee shirts should soon be a reality.
    •   Here’s another reason to buy only vintage cashmere.
    •   The Western shirt just keeps on going.
    •   There is a Fashion Transparency Index. See how your favorite brands fit in.
    •   Meet five French millennials who hand-stitch couture.
    •   What is the value of a clothing collection?
    •    “Nike is taking tangible steps to grow women’s basketball.
    •   Is it time for a Laura Ashley revival?
    •   I wish I could be as brave as Dolly Shepherd.
    •   “Holy shit, that is some old-timey racism.”
    • And finally, it’s that time again – the Met Gala and the new “blockbuster” fashion exhibition of the Met’s Costume Institute. This year’s theme is Camp, which I was all excited about until I realized the show is not being sponsored by LL Bean.  All kidding aside, I thought this was an exceptionally hard theme, especially since most attendees of the Gala are interested only in looking good.  From what I saw, the idea of camp was just not fully recognized on the red carpet. Some have argued that the same is true of the exhibition.
    • I’m pretty sure I’ll not make it to New York this summer. I try to save trips into the city for when there are exhibitions that really interest me. From what I have heard from attendees of Camp, it is structured a lot like the (hated by me) Punk exhibition of several years ago.  That is, there’s a bit of historical dress at the beginning just so a few iconic pieces (Poiret lampshade dress, anybody) can be trotted out before the onslaught of clothing made within the past ten years, some of which is still hanging on the racks at Saks. And to whoever first thought of stacking exhibits in tiers, a pox on you! Can you imagine putting the Monets and Cezannes and Leonardos ten feet above eye level? If fashion is art, then treat it as such.


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Vintage Miscellany – April 20, 2019

The 1910s and early 1920s were an awkward time for women’s bathing suits. They were getting smaller, and the proportions often just look off. But here’s a young woman who looks great on the beach with her stripe-trimmed bathing suit and jaunty hat. I like to think that the stripes are red and white.

And now for the news…



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Vintage Miscellany – March 31, 2019

As a girl going to school in the 1960s and 70s, and later as a public school teacher, I’ve experienced both sides of the dress code debate.  In 1971 a lawsuit against my school system forced it to amend the code to allow facial hair for males and pants for females. Even then there were rules. We could only wear pants that were part of a matching set, with a tunic top or vest that came down to the hips.

By the next year we figured out that the new rules were not going to be enforced. By my senior year in 1973, we were wearing the forbidden jeans. I can remember the first day I wore jeans to class. I spent the entire day worried that I’d be sent home to change. My mother had even tried to talk me into taking a change of clothes with me to school.

But the day passed uneventfully, and before long all the girls were wearing pretty much what we wanted. I’m sure that the school officials figured out pretty quickly that a pair of jeans was preferable to the extremely short skirts of the day.

  •  Maybe that’s why the insistence of a charter school in North Carolina that pants on girls is somehow counter to the “traditional values” of the school seems so puzzling. The ACLU sued the school on behalf of three girls, and last week a court ruled that the rule was a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection provision.  Evidently the school’s administration thought they could take state tax money as a charter, but still pass rules based on their religious beliefs.
  •  In other dress code news, we go to British Columbia, where a dress code for the Legislative Assembly written  in 1980 is being used to tell women not to bare their arms. A bare armed protest was staged the next day.
  •   The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, has a new exhibition, Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence , which can be seen until January, 2020. included in older displays.
  •   Marks & Spencer has developed a played based on the history of the store, using clothing from their archive and replicas.
  •    The popularity of period dramas on TV and in film has created work for historical consultants.
  •    There are quilts, and then there are quilts.
  •    How one museum is reconsidering the out-dated notions included in older displays.
  •    What happened when the Soviet government in the 1920s considered a post-revolutionary fashion for women. 
  •    Here’s the fascinating story of Eliza Hamilton, and how her clothing style “froze” when her husband Alexander was killed.


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