Tag Archives: sweaters

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.


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

1920s Shawl-Collared Sweaters, Part II

One of the great things about collecting photographs is that I don’t have to look very far for illustrations for my blog posts.  I found the shawl sweaters in my 1921 catalog so interesting that I looked through my collection to see how women wore shawl-collared sweaters in the 1920s.

Above is an early 1920s photo that was taken at a sporting event of some sort, maybe a college field day at a school for women.  There were lots of young women in middys and bloomers, but there were also some very sporty spectators.

I posted this photo some time ago in a quest to figure out what the heck these young people were doing.  A close look shows that at least one of them is wear a shawl-collared sweater.  (They are pulling a log for some unknown reason.)

This sweater looks like a more masculine style, so it is possible that this young woman has appropriated her boyfriend’s or brother’s sweater.  I didn’t show any men’s sweaters from the Famous Fain catalog, but it does show this style of cardigan – a style that changed very little through the 1960s.

This photo is a bit more recent than the others, being dated 1929.  It’s a good possibility that this is a man’s sweater as well, as those made for women tended to be more “fashionable.”  By 1929, this style had been around for a while.

Collecting vintage photos is fun.  They are easy to store and they do not take up much space.  For practically every interest, there are vintage photos.  I have a really hard time limiting myself to just ones of women in sports clothes and to travelers.  I could easily tip over into people wearing Halloween costumes, homes decorated for Christmas, and kids playing with their dogs.  And though I don’t actively collect them, I always look for ones that are somehow quirky, like ones I saw at the Met several years ago.  I could have a category called “people doing nutty stuff in inappropriate clothing.”


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs, Winter Sports

Ad Campaign – DuPont Orlon, 1954

Christmas sweaters of ORLON are angels to wash!

New joy to get or give sweaters soft as angel’s wings… warm as a Christmas wish…and, oh, so easy to care for!  They’re sweaters of “Orlon” – the fiber that makes luxury sweaters practical for day-to-day living…

P.S. Beautiful way to get kissed, give him a sweater of “Orlon.”

Today we’d be hard-pressed to think of Orlon as a luxury fiber, but in the 1950s synthetics were a novelty, and the ease of caring for them must have seemed to be a true luxury.  In 1955 Givenchy did a complete line of sweaters, all made from Orlon.  And most of the decorated sweaters sold by Schiaparelli in the 1950s were Orlon.

I will say, that’s a nice way to style a twin set.


Filed under Advertisements

Remembering the Missonis

The Missoni family has had a very sad year.  First, son and company CEO Vittorio Missoni went missing while flying in South America, and then last week his father and company co-founder Ottavio Missoni died at the age of 92.

Ottavio and his wife Rosita formed their company in the early 1950s, not as a fashion company, but as a maker of knit sportswear.   This makes sense considering that Ottavio had been an Olympic runner, and  he had helped his trainer make woolen tracksuits for the Italian team in 1948.   In 1953 he married Rosita, and they set up a small wool knitting firm they called Maglificio Jolly.   Within a few years they were producing sweaters for stores in Italy.

In 1958 they changed the name of their company to Missoni.  It was a great time to be getting into the fashion business in Italy.  Italian designers such as Fabiani, Simonetta and Valentino were establishing a good reputation for Italian design, and Milan was becoming known as a fashion center.  Still, it was not until the late 1960s that the company gained international attention.  With the help of Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, they began selling their knits in American stores, and in 1970 they opened their first boutique in the US inside Bloomingdales.

Ottavio claimed to be lazy, but it was he who was responsible for the design and distinctive look of the Missoni knits.  He would play with colors, and using a gridded paper he would color in lines to show the weavers how to set up the looms.   His design lab was full of books of color inspiration and he often turned to nature for his color schemes.

At first the Missonis only designed knits, but in 1962 they obtained machines that would produce a zigzag knit, and this became one of the trademark designs of the company.  They then added other geometrics, and were pioneers in making separates that coordinated in color, but were mismatched in design – dots with stripes for instance.

In the mid 1970s the work of the Missonis was very influential on knitwear.   In 1976 my boyfriend bought me a cotton pullover that was obviously Missoni inspired.  I liked it so much that I married him.

I’ve had this pantsuit for quite a few years, and it is a bit of a puzzle to me.  I thought it was from the 1970s, but the label looks much newer than that, with a newer Saks Fifth Avenue font and the absence of an oval that was seen on Missoni labels in the 1970s and 80s.  Have you any thoughts?


Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing