Tag Archives: sportswear

1950s Golf Dress – Babe Didrikson Golfer by Serbin

Some time ago I heard from Marianne Serbin, who was part of the family that owned the clothing company Serbin, and later, Serbin of Miami.  In her letter to me she mentioned that at one time famed athlete Babe Didrikson designed golf dresses for Serbin.  Since then I’ve had this line on my shopping radar, and finally, last month, I found a really great example.

Marianne did not mention when exactly Didrikson worked for Serbin, and it’s likely she does not know, as she would have been a child at the time.  But it is pretty easy to narrow it down to a range of just a few years.  First, Didrikson died in 1955 from cancer which was diagnosed with in 1953.

The length of the dress is quite long, and so the earliest it could be is 1948 or so.

The label reads just Serbin, instead of Serbin of Miami.  The company moved to Miami in 1951.  That may indicate that the set predates 1951 and the move, but that’s not guaranteed.  My 1960s golf set from Serbin does not mention Miami either.

I did find two ads online for Serbin golf dresses from 1949.  Actress Jane Russell is the model, but there is no mention of Didrikson.  It stands to reason that , as a very famous athlete, her name would have been in the ad as well. (The hunt continues.  I’ll update if I find a Serbin-Didrikson ad.)

My best guess is, then, 1950 through 1952.  But more important than the actual date of this dress is what we can learn about how fashion was adapted to fit a specific activity, in this case, golfing.

One of the first things to consider in making a golf dress is the sleeve.  Tight sleeves just won’t do, but in the early 50s most women on the golf course were just not ready to go sleeveless. In order to allow the arms full range of motion, golf dress sleeves were often pleated, and in this case, you can see that there are also buttons to give even more flexibility.

An interesting side note – this type of pleated sleeve appears to have started in the 1930s.  In the early 30s it was often seen on fashionable dresses.  So which use came first, the fashion or the sport?  I have no idea.

When unbuttoned, the sleeve is open all the way to the shoulder.

Another must-have feature on golf dresses was a pocket or two.  I really love how this breast pocket was cut on the bias.

I somehow neglected to take a full-length photo of the back of the dress, so take my word for it that this pocket is on the back, not the front.  It’s large enough to hold a ball, a glove, and a couple of tees.

One thing that made me buy this particular dress was that the belt was present.  So many times in old clothes the original belt is missing.  I didn’t realize until the dress arrived at my house that the belt is actually attached to a large flap in the back.  The flap obscures a large opening and the looseness of it allows for good air circulation.  It also makes the dress more flexible in the upper back.  Ingenious.

Here you can see the back opening.

Another interesting feature is that the dress has a front zipper that extends to the hem.  The zipper is actually a separating one, so this dress is very easy to put on.

Even with all the features that make this a dress for golfing, a woman could also have worn this dress for regular, casual wear.  It fits right in with what was stylish in 1950.

My Dad had a golf tournament  in Miami Beach which was Babe’s first win after her cancer and he presented her with a trophy topped with a diamond studded metal golf ball..quite a thrill for everyone.  Marianne Serbin.  Photo courtesy of Marianne Serbin.

I’m always amazed to learn of how so many otherwise famous people from the past also have a link to the fashion world.  Today, of course, it is just another way for a celebrity to make cash off his or her popularity.  But even a hundred years ago celebrities were being approached by companies eager to add a bit of  star power to their products.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Christina, I have a bit more to share.  Didrikson’s autobiography is online, and in it she mentions the deal with Serbin.  She won the British Ladies Championship in 1947, and after that win she was able to sign contracts with quite a few companies, including Serbin.  Later in the caption of a photo she mentions the ongoing deal with Serbin.  This was in 1955.

Christina also found photos of Didrikson wearing what looks to be a dress very similar to mine.  The year is 1950.   Thanks Christina!

UPDATE: Liza has found an ad in a newspaper for Didrickson/Serbin golf dresses dated March 30, 1949.  Thanks Liza!

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Reid’s Holiday Togs 1930s Playsuit

Many of you will recognize the name Rose Marie Reid, as her company produced women’s swimsuits for many years.  The Rose Marie Reid label began in 1946 when she moved her business from Canada to Los Angeles, a center of the swimwear industry.  But before that, she actually had a swimwear and sportswear company in Vancouver, Reid’s Holiday Togs.  The label dates roughly from 1936 to 1946 and is rarely seen today.

I felt pretty lucky when I spotted this sweet example in an etsy shop, Mystic Clutter Vintage.  According to the biography of Reid, the company produced only swimsuits, so finding a garment other than a bathing suit was pretty exciting.  When I received the playsuit, my enthusiasm for it was even greater.  There are so many great little details that add up to a perfect little garment.

One of my favorite features is how the pockets are built into the princess line.  Then note how just below the pocket, a pleat opens in the side seam.

The presence of pleats in a playsuit really adds to the functionality of the garment.  The legs are full without looking full, leading to greater range of movement by the wearer without sacrificing the fitted look of the suit.

The front is closed with a long metal zipper, which helps to date this to the very early years of  the label.  After Canada entered WWII, the Reid biography specifically pointed out that zippers were unavailable to the company.  I love the curved raglan shoulder, which gives the appearance of a bigger shoulder in accordance with the style of the time.  The little round collar is also a nice touch.

The back of the bodice has an inverted pleat which adds to the wearer’s mobility.

The fabric is a nice cotton twill.  The color is very reminiscent of that used in gymsuits during this time, but there is no evidence that I found that Reid made garments for gym classes.  It is my thinking that this a just a more stylish form of the gymsuit that was recognized as functional attire for girls participating in sports.  It is even possible that a matching skirt was made, as that is how playsuits were generally marketed and sold.

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Filed under Designers, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Serbin of Miami by Marianne Serbin Friedman

Almost a year ago I showed off my new Marianne by Serbin golf set.  At the time, a lot of what I wrote in my post was guesswork, as I could find very little about Serbin in my resources and on the internet.  But as I usually do in these cases, I added to the end of the post that I’d love to hear from the Serbin family.

It took nearly a year, but the worldwideweb came through, and I got an email from Marianne Serbin Freidman, the Marianne whose name is on the label.  Marianne very kindly answered my questions, and she sent along some great photos of her family.  That’s her father, Lewis Serbin, in the photo above.

SERBIN FASHIONS

My father, Lewis I. Serbin, founded Serbin Fashions in Cleveland, Ohio in the mid-1940’s. My uncle, John Serbin joined the company a few years later.

In his young years Lewis Serbin dropped out of school after the eighth grade to work and help support his family of his parents and eight brothers and sisters. He was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he met my mother who was from Cleveland, they married soon after and moved to Cleveland, and so did his brothers and sisters.

Before founding Serbin Fashions my father had the good fortune of working for Joe Lample of Lample Dresses. Joe Lample mentored many men who also went on to become very successful in the garment business. One of these men was Maurice Saltzman, the owner of Bobbie Brooks.

Serbin Fashions began as a dress company and became quite successful and in 1951, my dad and uncle flew to Miami many times, where they fell in love with the city and decided to buy a factory. Our families moved and extended the invitation to their key employees to move with the company. The Miami apparel industry was thrilled that Serbin Fashion relocated to Miami as it provided more credibility to the Miami fashion industry.

Mr. Serbin then bought a factory in Fayetteville, Tennessee for production. And in later years a very large factory was also built to handle the expansion of the company; making assured that Serbin Fashions was all “Made in America”. Serbin Fashions grew from a small company to a major force in the woman’s moderate dress and sportswear industry.

I do not remember much about Muriel Ryan. She was very talented and designed for Serbin for many years. After she retired I designed everything and handled Public Relations. Leroy Lustig Advertising Agency handled all the advertising, and there was no marketing firm. Babe Didrikson Zeharias designed the golf dresses for several years. She was the “Woman Athlete of the Half Century” and the greatest woman golfer of all time.

As the years passed Serbin had lines of dresses, sportswear, golf and tennis clothing. The company was famous for the Shirtwaist Dress and Sweater Dress and Sportswear. We also had fashion editorials in fashion magazines. The garments were sold in major department stores, mail order catalogues, pro shops and specialty stores all over the United States.

After the death of my father, Lewis I. Serbin, and fifty years of a fabulous business, our family decided to discontinue the business. My dad accomplished so much over his lifetime. Amazing for a man who never went to school beyond the eighth grade.

Written by Marianne Serbin Friedman
March, 2016

“I am the older little girl. My Dad made the matching mother- daughter dresses and also a giant doll with the same dress.”

“My Dad had a golf tournament  in Miami Beach which was Babe’s first win after her cancer and he presented her with a trophy topped with a diamond studded metal golf ball..quite a thrill for everyone.”

Serbin Sportswear, as seen at Saks Fifth Avenue in the 1960s.

A big thank you to Marianne for sharing her family’s story.

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Filed under Designers, First Person Stories

Bradley Knits: Slip Into a Bradley and Out-of-Doors

I’ve been posting photos from these two 1920s catalogs on Instagram, and realized I’ve not even taken the time to write about them here.  Bradley Knitting Company is one of my all time favorite companies.  They had a very long and rich history, and there is still plenty of material left to make collection of it interesting.

Bradley Knitting Company was located in Delavan, Wisconsin, established in 1904.  They made all kinds of woolen knit goods, including swimming suits, sweaters, and other sports apparel.  This company was very important to the small town of Delavan as it was their chief employer, with 1200 persons working there when the company was at its peak.  In fact, they often had to advertise in larger cities in order to keep enough workers.  It was a thriving business.

I’m not sure when the company closed, but the last label we have on the VFG Label Resource is from the 1960s.  The mill building was, unfortunately, demolished in 2003 which is a real shame considering that today the repurposing of old mills is a thriving business.

My two new catalogs were a lucky ebay find.  One is a winter 1922 booklet, and the other is undated.  It is a bit later, and very likely dates from summer 1925.

The winter 1922 catalog features a lot of sweaters, but it also has accessories such as knit hats and scarves.  All the garments were modeled and photographed on living models, but it appears that they used some old-fashioned photoshopping for the finished pages.

Several years ago Richard York kindly sent to me some photos of his grandmother, Mabel Jennie Gross, who was a model for Bradley during the early to mid 1920s.  You can click through the link I provided to see these photos, which show Mabel in various poses.  It appears to me that the company making the catalogs colorized the photos of the models, and then arranged them in vignettes for each page.  A background was then painted in.

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I love the fancy sweaters on the right, but of even more interest are the two at the bottom left.  These are jersey knit middies, a garment I’ve never seen.  The middy is usually made of  cotton duck or canvas.

The top photo looks like a group of young people on an outing in the snow, but my guess is that this is a composite picture with a fake background.

The later catalog is undated, but features mainly swimsuits.  The introduction has a hint: “For twenty odd years Bradley has been setting the style.”  The firm started in 1904, and the styles look to be right in the middle of the 1920s decade.

By this time, the knit bathing suit had pretty much taken over the swimsuit market.  The old fashioned swim dress with bloomers was simply not in step with the sleek 1920s look.

I have seen a lot of 1920s wool knit bathing suits.  Most have varying degrees of moth damage, and probably ninety percent of them are solid in color like the three at the top left.  Also fairly common are ones like the red model with the stripe at the bottom.

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But occasionally, a real masterpiece appears on the market.  Here are Bradley’s special models, all shown on Hollywood actors.  I have seen photos of the deck of cards suit shown on Anita Stewart at the top.  I wish it were mine.

These fancy suits cost between $8 and $9.50, as compared to the plain suits which started at $3.

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One of the big problems sellers of 1920s bathing suits seem to have is telling if a suit was made for a woman or for a man.  By carefully examining these photos you can see that the main difference is in the size of the armholes.  A woman’s suit will have smaller holes, while the tops of men’s suits were not as modest.  The skirt is still present on most men’s and women’s suits, but the plain trunk style is emerging.  Even a few styles for women, called the “tomboy” suit, were missing the skirt.

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It looks like the V-neck pullover had taken over as the style for sweaters by the middle of the decade.

I looked carefully at the faces of the models, hoping to spot Mabel, but I couldn’t make a positive identification.  I did spot one of the sweaters she was wearing, but in a different pose.  I suppose that the model could be Mabel.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Winter Sports

1950s Jantzen Casual Top

I love finding pieces from the great 20th century sportswear companies.  By the late 1940s many companies that had been only making swimwear or active sportswear turned to making sports separates that were suited for the increasingly casual lifestyle of Westerners.  Jantzen was one such company.

What is designed to look like two pieces is actually one.  The cotton corduroy collar and upper bodice is attached to the cotton jersey shirt, using a color scheme that was a popular one in the 1950s.

The label was used in the late 1940s and into the 50s.  There were quite a few variations of this label with that fluid frame around the brand name.  By the late 50s the frame was gone, and increasingly the name “Jantzen” was woven in gold instead of red.

This seems to a a pretty straight-forward piece, but I thought it odd that the label appears to be in the front of the shirt.  Could it be that the collar closes in the back?

I turned it around to see if the collar actually had a rolled front, but it just looked odd.  So I held the top by the shoulder seams to see how the shoulder and the collar were positioned on both sides.  In most garments the back neck edge is smaller than the front.  In this case, it put the opening in the front.

I think my original mistake was thinking that the collar would have been worn open.  After playing with it for a while it became clear that this was meant to be a closed collar top.  Still, it is a bit unusual to see a label in the front of a garment.

I have not been able to find advertising for this top, but my guess is that it dates between 1952 and 1955.  Dolman sleeves, which were cut in one piece with the bodice, were very popular during those years.

Of course the real fun will come when I find the matching pants or skirt.  I’m sure that matching pieces were made because that was how these pieces were marketed – as mix and match separates.

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Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

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

Bill Atkinson, Glen of Michigan Shorts Set; Early 1960s

Bill Atkinson for Glen of Michigan is one of those labels that one has either never heard of, or that brings back fond memories of great sportswear.   From 1950 through 1970 architect  Bill Atkinson was the designer at Glen of Michigan.  Atkinson accidentally found he had a talent for fashion after he designed a square dance skirt for his wife.  Made from eight bandannas, the skirt was a big hit.  Atkinson decided to make them to sell, and found a company willing to take on his order, Glen Manufacturing, a maker of women’s house dresses.  In 1951 he released his first full line of sportswear separates.  This set falls in the middle of Atkinson’s career at Glen, sometime in the early 1960s.

Sets like this one are enough to make one long for the days when the American sportswear industry was at its best.  Today the cute kite print would be expected to carry the entire design, but a quick look at the details of this blouse show the types of things that made Glen special.  It would have been simpler to have all the buttons one color, but there are three different colors used, all pulled from the print.

The buttons on the sleeves are all different, and the other sleeve has a different combination.

I forgot to photograph the outfit with the shirt tucked in, but included is the matching belt.

This looks like a skirt, but it was culottes, and in most places a girl could have worn this set to school without bringing the dress code police running.

The shorts even have side seam pockets.

As I’ve said before, it is always a treat when I find all the components of an outfit.  So many times the belts are lost or separated from the set when donated to a thrift store or when an estate is sold.  In this case the seller had bought the entire contents of an estate, and all I had to do was wade through the piles of clothes to locate the matching pieces.

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing