Tag Archives: scarf

Ad Campaign – A. Sulka & Company, 1946

This ad from 1946 gives a bit of a hint of the luxury that was Sulka.  At one time THE place a gentleman in New York went for his shirts and neckwear, Sulka closed its doors in 2002 after a long downhill slide and a noble but failed attempt to resurrect the company.

Amos Sulka and partner Leon Wormser started the company in the 1890s on lower Broadway.  Originally they made uniform shirts for fireman and policemen, and for butlers.  Before long the employers of these well-shirted butlers became clients of A. Sulka, and the business became a shirt and tie supplier to the ultra rich and famous. In the early years of the 20th century they  started a store in Paris, and in the 1920s the New York store moved to Fifth Avenue and there were stores in London’s Old Bond Street and in Chicago.  They even bought a textile mill in Lyon, France that supplied them with fabrics of the highest quality.   Sulka had arrived, and being a customer of the store said that you had arrived as well.

Sulka products were luxury at its finest, and quality that was matched only by stores such as Turnbull and Asser in London. In all the years I’ve been haunting used clothing shops, I’ve run across only a handful of Sulka items, including a necktie that was lined in the same fabric as the tie, and that had an extra piece in the neck to ensure that it fit properly.

So last week when I pulled a gentleman’s silk and cashmere scarf from the Goodwill bins and then saw the Sulka label, I had to suppress a little squeal of delight.

In 1975 the last family owner sold his share of the company, and for the next 15 years A. Sulka floundered as it was sold several times.  In 1989 it looked as though the company was saved when it was purchased by Vendome, a holding company in the business of luxury brands such as Cartier and Piaget.  It is interesting that in my 1996 book, Style and the Man, author Alan Fusser is cautiously optimistic concerning the future of A. Sulka.  Unfortunately, Sulka’s target customers were more interested in Brioni and Ralph Lauren, and the last store closed in 2002.  The trend toward “heritage” brands came a little too late for Sulka.

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Calder, “I Love You”, Vera

I’d love to say the the scarf pictured above is in my collection, but I’m sorry to say that it belongs to Janis, who is a scarf collector.  Before you start thinking, “Wow, that Vera ripped off Alexander Calder.”  Let me show you a close-up:

Vera and Calder were actually very close friends, and this is just one of several designs she made in homage to her friend.  I first learned of these scarves from reading what is a must-have book for Vera Neumann fans, Vera: The Life and Art of an Icon by Susan Seid.  The book tells all about the close relationship between the two artists and of their mutual respect.

My favorite story is how Calder called Vera one day to tell her he was coming over with a gift for her.  She already was a collector of his small sculpture and jewelry, so she was greatly surprised when he appeared with a 14.5 foot tall mobile.  It was installed in the yard where it was visible from one of the many large windows in her Marcel Breuer designed house.

According to  Vera: The Life and Art of an Icon, there were three Calder scarves.  You can see the original artwork for Janis’ scarf on the left and on the right is an oblong scarf in four different colorways.  After Vera made the initial design, her assistants took over and re-imagined the design in other colors.  The ones that met with Vera’s approval were put into production.

I’m still in the process of narrowing the focus of my own collection, and I’ve chosen three Vera scarves that are now for sale in my etsy store.  These are all very good designs, but just happen to be redundant in the collection.

The top two photos are copyright Janis Deverter, and the contents of the Vera book are copyright Susan Seid.  Please do not copy or repost those photos.

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How to Ski, A Guide for the “Dumb”

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, a time when things were changing rapidly for women.  When I was a little girl, it seemed like the only careers for a woman were that of teacher, nurse or homemaker.  By the time I reached college in 1973, that perception of women’s work was going by the wayside.

Also changing was the idea of women as “helpless.”  Instead of relying on “wiles” young women were learning that they could rely on their own particular set of skills.  This scarf, which was probably thought to be clever in 1962, would not have flown in 1972.  Or would it?  I was completely convinced this scarf was from the early 60s until I found a second signature – that of designer Michaele Vollbracht.  Vollbracht didn’t even finish design school until 1969, and he worked as an illustrator during the 1970s and 80s.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of graphics which portray women as helpless, or dumb, or as sex objects.  I don’t see the appeal of pinups in today’s world, but I can certainly appreciate that they did have a place in history.  The same goes for an object like this one.  I’d be accepting of the scarf as a reflection of the early 1960s, but knowing it is from a later date is just sad.

Other dating clues:  The scarf is made from acetate, and was made in Japan.  It was made by Glentex, which has been closed for a number of years.  My best guess it that this is from the early 1980s.

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Filed under Collecting, Viewpoint, Winter Sports

What I (almost) Didn’t Buy – 1950s Brooke Cadwallader scarf

When I’m standing in front of a huge pile of textiles, most of which are less than five years old and were cheap junk to begin with, I can’t stop the heart from beating a little faster when I spot a silk wad like the one above.  It had that unmistakable look of vintage.  I’m not sure if it was the shades of color or the fonts of the letters or the look of the silk itself, but I just knew.

Unfortunately, pulling it out of the bin revealed the awful truth:  this scarf was trashed.

And that’s just one of the holes; there are at least fifteen of varying sizes.  So why did I throw this in the cart anyway?  Because I’m a sucker for an important designer.

Brooke Cadwallader was probably the first great American scarf designer.  He began work in the US in 1940, after three years in Paris studying painting and then opening his own studio.  But when the Germans arrived in 1940, Cadwallader assisted in the evacuation of Americans from France, and then he returned to the States to resume his business.  He opened shop in New York, and became a leader in the scarf trade.  According to a 1946 Life article, Cadwallader scarves sold for $15 to $20 each.  That means they started at about $175 in today’s dollar!

Cadwallader’s work was clean and uncluttered, a style that became so popular in the 1950s.    He used a lot of historical references, and his scarves often had the look of an antique engraving.

Until 1950, all the scarves were produced in Cadwallader’s small Manhattan workshop, so output was relatively small.  Don’t expect to find these scarves in the quanties you might expect from, say, Vera.  In fact, this is the first Cadwallader scarf I’ve ever found.

In 1950, Cadwallader moved himself and his company to Mexico, where he continued to manufactures scarves and ties.   Production ended around 1957, but was resumed in the mid 1960s.  I could not find a definite answer on when it ended.

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Burberry’s Travel Themed Scarf

I wouldn’t go so far as to call this Burberry’s scarf vintage, but it is definitely the type of thing I’m always looking for.  The 1930s travel theme is reminiscent of the ads actually ran during that time, but I do not know if these illustrations came from actual vintage advertising.  Here’s an example from 1934.

Burberry has seen some huge changes since Thomas Burberry opened shop in 1856.  From the beginning, the business was  “designed by sportsmen for sportsmen” as Thomas Burberry got into the textiles business because he saw the need for a better waterproof coat for hunters.  He developed a waterproof cloth, called it gabardine, and proceeded to make the coats that would make him famous.   After King Edward began referring to his coat as his “Burberry,” the name stuck as a synonym for raincoat.

In 1901 Burberry developed a coat to be worn by British officers.  During World War I this coat was adapted to life in the trenches, and thus became known as the trench coat.    (However, there are other companies, such as Aquascutum, that claim to be the creator of the trench coat.)  In 1924, a special check of tan, red, white, and black was developed for the lining of the trench.  Today, that check is as iconic as the trench coat itself.

Throughout the early 20th century, Burberry was a maker and developer of sporting clothes for both men and women.  He made improvements in motoring clothes in a day when roads were dusty and motoring was a dirty activity.  He also patented a special sleeve for women’s golfing attire, one that allowed the arm free movement in a day when women’s sleeves were tight and constricted movement.

Despite making one of the world’s most desirable garments, by the 1990s Burberry was in trouble.  They had licensed the name, especially in Asian markets, and inferior goods were being made under the Burberry’s name.  In 1997, the company began to regroup in an effort to save their image.  The name was officially changed to Burberry in 1999, though some of the licensed goods continued on under the old name.

In a real twist of irony, the company did make a complete turnaround, but they did so by becoming a fashion brand.  The quiet Nova check lining came out from the lining of the trench and onto everything from dog coats to underwear.  It became known as a “luxury” brand.  I say this was ironic, because Burberry was always a luxury, being made for and sold to those who had the leisure for sporting and the money to support the lifestyle.  Today, the luxury label means little, except to say that the goods are expensive.

I’m always bemoaning the fact that classic American brands like Levis and Converse and Coach are now made primarily in China.  Well, add Burberry to the list.  Their handbags are made in the same mega-factory as Coach handbags.

But there is always vintage, and Burberry trench coats are not that hard to find on the secondary market.  I have one from the 1980s, and it looks fantastic.  And the scarf?  It’s hard to say, but my guess is the 1980s as well.  Here’s a closer look at the fantastic illustrations.

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Liberty Style Jacket from a Scarf

As I suspected, this jacket was constructed from one 37″ scarf.  I’ve drawn a few quick diagrams so you can see how it goes together.  I think this would be pretty easy to reproduce.  Keep in mind the size of the scarf, as this 37″ one fits about a 34″ bust, if tied with the two halves meeting.

I’m going to give simple directions, but I’m assuming you know the fundamentals of sewing – basics like right sides together to stitch seams, and things like that.

First, the cutting diagram:

Note that it is symmetrical.  Here are the measurements for a 37″ scarf.  You could adjust these depending on the size of your scarf.  And because the diagram is symmetrical, I only labeled one half of it.

Cut out the 5 pieces.  For the body, make two slits, 8″ as shown.  These will be the arm holes.

Take the two sleeve pieces.  As you see them on the diagram, they are up-side down, with the sides being between the ties and the extra piece.  Stitch the sides together to form each sleeve.  .

My jacket is hemmed along the front opening and along the bottom.  If you want to hem yours, do it now.

To make the shoulder seams, you will need to put 2 or 3 pleats in the front like this:

Then fold the front shoulder to the back shoulder and stitch on the wrong side.  Then stitch the sleeves into the armholes, placing the point on each piece at the shoulder .

Make the ties by stitching them on the long ends and turning them inside out.  Attach to front.  Slip-stitch the neckline to finish it.

And that should be it.   If anyone tries this, let me know how it goes.  I’m now on the prowl for the perfect scarf myself!

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Vera Neumann, Woman of Many Scarves

 

I’ve written another guest blog for Collectors Weekly, this time on Vera Neumann. I know I’ve talked on and on about Vera until you kind and patient readers are sick of her, but what about all those people out there who have not discovered The Vintage Traveler?  I *must* help them, and you can help too by going to the Collectors Weekly site and “Liking” or Tweeting the post.  It’s the least we can do to further the knowledge of art!

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