I’ve written quite a bit about the middy blouse over the years, and about Lombard in particular. It’s a garment that continues to fascinate me, and it has been on my short list of things to study in-depth whenever I miraculously find myself with unlimited time. But until then, I’ll continue to park my findings and thoughts here.
I think what is really interesting about the middy is how it started as sailors’ attire, was adapted to clothing for children, morphed into high fashion resort and yachting wear for women, was adopted by all classes of women for bathing attire, became the uniform for college girls, and continues to make a fashion comeback every so often. It has a long and ever-changing history, and it is still associated with the original wearer – the sailor.
This is the fourth Lombard catalog I’ve added to my collection, and it is the oldest. Unfortunately, it is not dated, but the style of the hair and clothing places it to around 1910. As far as the company is concerned, I’ve found very little about it. The front of the catalog proudly proclaimed that Henry S. Lombard had been in business since 1855, but it is highly unlikely that the company was manufacturing women’s ready-to-wear.
I was able to find a reference to Lombard in an 1861 list of Boston merchants and makers. The company was listed as dealing in “fancy goods.”
The next reference I found to the company was in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology magazine in 1895. There was an ad for Lombard that stated they sold “Yachting Outfits of Every Description. Duck trousers, Outing clothes, Sweaters.” We can safely assume that the ad is for men’s clothing, as at the time the students at MIT were mostly male. At any rate, trousers would not have been made and sold to women in 1895.
In 1895 the making of ready-to-wear for women was still in the early days of development. By 1910, there were hundreds of makers of women’s blouses, or waists, and skirts and simple lingerie. It this time Lombard was still making and selling uniforms for yachting officers and crews. I found an ad for these in a 1911 issue of Yachts and Yachting magazine.
In my 1918 and 1920s Lombard catalogs, there is a wide selection of not only middies, but also skirts, bloomers, knickers, and breeches. In this earlier catalog there are only two styles of skirts offered.
Nowhere in this little catalog is the word middy used to refer to the blouses. It is called a yachting blouse, or a sailor blouse. By 1918, Lombard was calling this type blouse a middy.
I found quite a few ads for Lombard blouses in college magazines. Both Vassar and Barnard ran ads in 1912. And the catalog specifically mentions the “college girl” on almost every page. It’s clear who their target customer was.
And finally, a lovely red coat and cap, or you could order the set in navy, or several different plaids.