German Knitwear Manufacturer Bleyle

I recently found this boy’s knitted suit in an antique mall and was happy to find lots of information about its German manufacturer – Bleyle.

Thirty-five year old Austrian-born Wilhelm Bleyle bought a knitting machine in 1885 to make knitted clothes for his six children. Four years later he founded his yarn shop that offered knitted goods in Stuttgart Germany. He began the enterprise with five knitting machines and eight employees. What he offered that was different from most knitted garments at the time was sewn construction made from knitted pattern pieces. This technique produced a better wearing, easier to make garment suitable for active wear.

Left: Company stamp with image of similar suits as one pictured above, I originally thought the suit was 1920s, but now I wonder if it could be early pre WW1 1910s…

Knitted sailor suits were especially popular for young boys at the time and by 1901, his business moved to a full factory building to produce 12 different styles of sailor suits. Manufacturing branches opened in other cities in 1905 and 1912. In 1913 Wilhelm handed over the company to his sons Max and Fritz, as well as his brother-in-law Arthur Weber. Wilhelm died in 1915.

The best wool stocks were seized by the army in 1914, and Bleyle chose to cease making civilian knitwear in 1916 due to the poor quality of wool allowed for civilian production. The company made uniforms and later in the war was retooled for making armaments. Clothing production was difficult in the postwar German economy, but by 1924, the company was once again producing clothing for children, as well as suits, coats, and sportswear separates for women. 

The company left Bleyle family management in 1939 but still exists today with production centred in Italy.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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2 Responses to German Knitwear Manufacturer Bleyle

  1. Lizzie says:

    It could possibly be older than 1920s, but it makes a really cute younger brother to my 1920s red wool ski suit!

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