123 Year old Levis

This undated photo provided by Daniel Buck Auctions & Appraisals shows the front of a pair of 1893 Levi-Strauss denim blue jeans in pristine condition that will go up for auction Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 in Lisbon Falls, Maine. The auction house said the jeans were ordered for Solomon Warner, a businessman and pioneer who participated in the creation of the Arizona Territory. Warner wore them only a few times before falling ill. He died in 1899. (Daniel Buck Soules/Daniel Buck Auctions & Appraisals via AP)

1893 Levi-Strauss Blue Jeans, photo by Daniel Buck Auctions & Appraisals, Lisbon Falls, Maine

These modern-looking jeans in a modern size (44 waist and 36 inseam) were purchased in 1893 by Solomon Warner, a dry goods store owner in Tucson, Arizona Territory. They are in near mint condition, having been worn only a few times before the owner fell ill. Warner died in 1899. The only design features that give away their age are the suspender buttons instead of belt loops, and the use of only one back pocket instead of two.

This undated photo provided by Daniel Buck Auctions & Appraisals shows a leather label on a pair of 1893 Levi-Strauss denim blue jeans in pristine condition that will go up for auction Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 in Lisbon Falls, Maine. The auction house said the jeans were ordered for Solomon Warner, a businessman and pioneer who participated in the creation of the Arizona Territory. Warner wore them only a few times before falling ill. He died in 1899. (Daniel Buck Auctions & Appraisals via AP)

Leather label from jeans

 

The American jeans (the cotton was milled in New Hampshire and the jeans made up in San Francisco) were supposed to be sold at a Maine auction house this past Saturday, but apparently a technical glitch prevented their sale. I suspect its more likely there are many private offers to buy the jeans directly, before they go to public auction. Similar pairs in less than pristine condition have sold in recent years for upwards of 6 figures.

Quick, tell me who is the current designer for Balmain… anyone? anyone?

Its Olivier Rousteing, but I bet nobody in this crowd knows that. Rousteing’s off-the-rack collection for H&M looks like the love child of Yves St. Laurent and Gianni Versace… It’s nice, wearable clothing but there is nothing new or original about it. I have seen every piece before – done by someone else. Yet this Parisian crowd like many other crowds around the world seem to think its underpriced as they grabbed every piece they could to resell online…

It’s official, the world is now going to hell in a handcart.

Here’s a video showing the collection:

Zero is the new 8, or is it…

Vogue pattern, 1954 with both a size number and sizes posted on cover.

1954 Vogue pattern with both a size number and sizes posted on cover.

Anyone who collects or wears vintage clothes knows that commercial sizes have dramatically changed over the years. There was never a need to arbitrarily assign sizes to clothing until the ready-to-wear industry took off in the early 20th century. The earliest ready-to-wear garments were shoes, and their sizing system was developed during the early 19th century that was based on a percentage derived from an actual measurement of the foot. The earliest ready-to-wear women’s clothes were marked with a size number that was an actual measurement, usually the bust – ’36’ for example. Men’s dress shirts are still marked using actual measurements: 17/34 refers to a neck measuring 17 inches, and an arm length measured from the centre of the nape to the wrist of 34 inches. But for women’s clothes, actual measurements were displaced in the late 1920s by a size number that was arbitrarily used to stand in for actual measurements.

In an attempt to create a better standardized sizing system, the U.S. government commissioned a study of women’s sizes in 1940, in part to be able to create wartime uniforms for women in service. This study of 15,000 women took into consideration proportions as well as size. Ultimately, it was realized a standardized system could not work for all women as there were too many variants, which lead to several addenda including: half sizes, tall sizes, petite, misses, and junior sizes. In 1958 the American National Bureau of Standards created a publication to explain how the system worked – for example, a standard size ‘8’ consisted of a 31 inch bust, and 23 inch waist, while a size ’12’ had a 34 inch bust and 25 inch waist.

Chart showing the changes in sizes between 1958 and 2011

Chart showing the changes in sizes between 1958 and 2011

In 1970 the system was revised, the result of which was an increase of about an inch to all measurements. This was because of the new aesthetic for easier fitting clothes – it had nothing to do with a growing weight problem in the U.S. population. In 1983, as part of its deregulation spree, the U.S. government abandoned overseeing a standardized sizing system and left it up to manufacturers to create what worked best, which turned into a vanity sizing free for all.

Manufacturers quickly realized they could reduce the size number, flattering potential shoppers into thinking their clothes fitted their unrealistic size. Over the next 20 years size numbers gradually reduced. By 2011 a size 8 now boasted a 36 inch bust and 30 inch waist, and a size 12 had a 39 inch bust and 32 inch waist.

By 2000, the concept of a size 0 was introduced. This unrealistic pretension measured 26 at the waist and 32 at the bust, a size that is significantly larger than the 1958 size 8. Even a double zero could not match the 1958 size 8 at the waist. For more information check out this article and the links contained within.

Added October 31: I was following up on some fact checking with this, and found there is a LOT more to the story — there is a thesis in this ridiculous topic! Here is a link to another article with more detail.

Fast Fashion Footwear – Jeffrey Campbell

Recent acquisition for the FHM - Jeffrey Campbell Lucite shoes, c. 2010

Recent acquisition for the FHM – Jeffrey Campbell Lucite shoes, c. 2010

I try not to blog about contemporary brands because there are plenty of other blogs that already do that, but Jeffrey Campbell is a bit of a mystery and it took a while to piece together the backstory. Little information is divulged about Jeffrey Campbell – either the man or his company. The secrecy, likely intentional, adds mystery to the brand. My first thought was that there was no Jeffrey Campbell and his name was made up in the same country as the shoes, but a few writers insist he exists.

From what is written about Campbell, it seems he is in his late 40s, has a brother named Dean, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife Christine and three children. Campbell apparently had a long career in sales at Nordstrom’s before starting his own shoe company in 2000, although few people had ever heard of him or his brand before 2010. The company employs less than a dozen people, including his family, and his shoes, inspired by vintage and leading designer styles, are made in China.

The Lita, in brown suede

The Lita, in brown suede

The brand’s best seller ‘Lita’, is a lace-up ankle boot with snub toe, sturdy heel and thick platform sole curved on the ball so it rocks with every step. Over 175,000 pairs of Lita (in a variety of colours and materials) have been sold since their introduction in July 2010. Campbell’s inventory is not collection based – the designs are launched as they trend, sold mostly through online sites like Nasty Gal, and are available for as long as they remain popular.

You would be hard pressed to find a pair of Jeffrey Campbell shoes on the feet of any woman over the age of 40 – the styles are extreme and not in the best of taste, but they are fun – intended for Lady GaGa type fashionistas who want statement shoes.

For more information about Jeffrey Campbell see: Life Below the Ankle and The J.D. Salinger of Platform Shoes

Off the Rack – Donnybrook

Rihanna-GOTSLA-Donnybrook-Faux-Fur-Coat-Street-Style-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO-1

Rihanna wearing a vintage faux fur coat, by Donnybrook

Shortly after Rihanna was photographed wearing this coat a few weeks back, all  similar Donnybrook coats that were being offered for sale online disappeared – presumably bought up by admirers of Rihanna’s style. The last time I recall seeing such an instant rage for anything vintage was ten years ago when Britney Spears donned a pair of Capezio butterfly motif cowboy boots.

Donnybrook coat, late 1980s from the collection of the FHM

Donnybrook coat with similar Art Deco face print, late 1980s from the collection of the FHM

Donnybrook isn’t a rare label, however, although the name is still active, there doesn’t appear to be a current collection offered under the Donnybrook label.  Donnybrook was created as a line of faux fur coats by Donald Levy in 1980. Levy is the grandson of Levy Witkoff, who founded the Levy Group in New York in 1946. This family-owned firm designs, manufactures, imports, markets and distributes various licensed brands and private labels including: Laundry by Shelli Segal, Betsey Johnson, Nautica, Liz Claiborne, Perry Ellis, Esprit, Buffalo, Hilary Radley, Vera Wang, Moose Knuckles… and Donnybrook.

Off The Rack – F.O.G.A. – Fashion Originator’s Guild of America 1932-1941

F.O.G.A. labelled dress, courtesy of Dorothea's Closet

F.O.G.A. labelled dress, c. 1939, courtesy of Dorothea’s Closet http://dorotheas-closet-vintage.myshopify.com

In 1932, a coalition of garment and textile designers created the Fashion Originator’s Guild of America (F.O.G.A.). The point was to create a legal entity that could protect the members from design theft (a.k.a. knock-offs) – a problem rife in the fashion business and the primary reason why the couturiers of Paris created their own Haute Couture syndicate.

F.O.G.A. Guild members pledged to produce only original creations and report retailers of knock-offs. If a retailer was found to be selling copies, they would be added to a ‘red-card’ list of ‘non-co-operating retailers.’

Membership grew, and some designers began registering their designs with a number, as well as advertising their association with F.O.G.A. on their labels. In 1936, the scheme ran into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission and by 1941 the Supreme Court determined that the Guild’s practices were monopolistic and violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. For more information on this case, read more here.

DSCN0087Unfortunately, the registration number that sometimes appears on these labels is not searchable and likely never will be – the records having been lost or destroyed years ago. At its height of membership in January 1941, the 123 companies listed as members of F.O.G.A. were:

Abbate-Swfit, Inc.
Adler & Adler, Inc.
Altmark, Milton, Inc.
Appel, Bernard, Inc.
Arkay Junior Frocks
Armour, Charles, Inc.
Aywon Dress Company
Babs Junior, Inc.
Bagro Gowns, Inc.
Barbara Costume Co.
Barnett, Joseph & Ben, Inc.
Barrack, Rose, Inc.
Bass, Kermit-Gross, Monroe, Inc.
Bass, William Dress Corp.
Bender & Hamburger, Inc.
Blotta & Conti, Inc.
Capri Frocks, Inc.
Carofiol-Silverman Company
Carlye Dress Corporation
Carnegie, Hattie, Inc.
Casino Dresses, Inc.
Cohen, G. W. Co.
Cohen, H.&I. Goshin
Crystal, David, Inc.
Davidow, Inc. “Sportswear”
Davis A. & Sons, Inc.
Deitsch, Wersba & Coppola, Inc.
Dick, Samuel H. Inc.
Doctor Dresses, Inc.
Dolces Dresses, Inc.
Downs, Mabel McIlvain, Inc.
Duke, Anna, Inc.
Elfreda, Inc.
Feigenbaum & Adelson, Inc.
Flora Dress Co.
Fox-Brownie, Inc.
Franklin Dress Co.
Friedell, Eileen, Inc.
Gallagher, Louise Barnes, Inc.
Gans, Henry
Gerrick, Ed, Inc.
Ginsburg & abelson, Inc.
Goodman, A & Co, Inc.
Goodstein, David M, Inc.
Gorgeous Frocks, Inc.
Gotham Coat Co. Inc.
Greenberg, Fred Dress Co.
Gross-Sydney, Inc.
Halpert, Joseph, Inc.
Herbert, Myron, Inc.
Horwitz and Duberman
Illinois Dress Company
International Dress Company
Janowitz-Conrad, Inc.
Junior Formals, Inc.
Junior Guild Frocks, Inc.
Junior League Frocks, Inc.
Kane-Weill, Inc.
Kaplan & Grabois, Inc.
Kaplan & Wassner, Inc.
Kass, Samuel Gowns, Inc.
Katz-Stark, Inc.
Kondazian, Charles & Papaz, Inc.
Lang, Charles-Cooper, Charles, Inc.
Lang-Kohn, Inc.
La Rue Dresses, Inc.
Laura Lee Frocks, Inc.
Lee, Lettie, Inc.
Lenkowsky Dresses, Inc.
Levine, Joe Dress Co., Inc.
Marcus, E. N. & Co.
Margot Dresses, Inc.
Mary Lee, Inc.
Milgrim
Mil-Jay, Inc.
Miller, Charles, Inc.
Milmont Gowns, Inc.
Monarch Garment Co., Inc.
Monteil, Germaine, Inc.
Morris & Strong, Inc.
Muffet, Mary, Inc.
Musman-Pincus, Inc.
Mutual Rosenblum Corporation
Nudelman, Chas. W., Inc.
Parnes, Paul, Inc.
Parnes, Samuel R., Company
Parnis, Jerry, Inc.
Paris-Levinson, Inc.
Patullo Modes, inc.
Perkins, Patricia, Inc.
Pickwick Dress Co., Inc.
Pierrot Dress Co.
Reich Dress Co.
Reich-Goldfarb & Co., Inc.
Reig, Ben, Inc.
Ren-Eta Gowns, Inc.
Rentner, Ira and Miller, Inc.
Rentner, Leonard, Inc.
Rentner, Maurice, Inc.
Robbins, C.H.D. Co.
Robinson Bros. Co.
Rosenberg, Zoltan
Rosenstein, Nettie Gowns, Inc.
Rosenthal & Kalman Co., Inc
Rudolf Gowns, Inc.
Ruffalo Bros., Inc.
Salkin, Philip, Inc.
Schwade, William, Inc.
Shane, Susan
Sheila-Lynn Dresses, Inc.
Silver Dresses, Inc.
Sondheim, Herbert, Inc.
Spectator Sports, Inc.
Sport-Craft, Inc.
Star-Maid Dresses, Inc.
Starr, Frank-Friedlander, Inc.
Steinberg, Sam & Co., Inc.
Strauss-Miller, inc.
Taylor, Janet, Inc.
Troy, Hannah, Inc.
Warshauer & Franck, Inc.
Westheim, David S. Corp.
Witkin & Schneider

Off-the-rack Calvin Curtis

July 25, 1938 article from Life, showing history of brace styles and fancy braces made by Calvin Curtis

July 25, 1938 article from Life, showing history of brace styles and fancy braces made by Calvin Curtis

In an article that appeared in the July 25, 1938 issue of Life magazine, 60% of men were reported as preferring belts over braces. The article also points out a trend, popularized by president Roosevelt, for fancy suspenders that began the previous Christmas. The style revived a fashion for silk patterned braces that Victorian fashion leaders like Oscar Wilde and Benjamin Disraeli enjoyed. The English-made braces, reportedly from antique French silk ribbon stock, were by Calvin Curtis ‘Cravateur’ – a fancy name for a haberdasher (supplier of men’s accessories – belts, handkerchiefs, ties…) From his 55th street shop in New York, Calvin Curtis imported the braces, with matching sock garters, to sell directly from his own shop, and distribute them through high-end men’s retailers such as Brooks Brothers as well as shops frequented by women, like Elizabeth Hawes in New York, where they were purchased as gifts.

Benny Goodman wearing naked lady braces by Calvin  Curtis, c. 1940

Benny Goodman wearing naked lady braces by Calvin Curtis, c. 1940

World War II interrupted imports, but by 1950 the same designs were again being offered. The braces showed up in films: on Broderick Crawford in Born Yesterday, William Holden in Sabrina, and Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind.

Advertisement for Calvin Curtis, 1950, showing some of the same designs available in 1938

Advertisement for Calvin Curtis, 1950, showing some of the same designs available in 1938

Calvin Curtis faded into obscurity at the same time belts won the battle of the waist. Waistbands slipped from the waist to the top of the hips in the 1960s and suspender buttons disappeared from the inside of waistbands. Suspenders with teeth that latched onto the tops of waistbands, a style that had been in use since the 1930s, continued to be made for the shrinking demographic of older men who insisted upon wearing suspenders. Then a wave of nostalgia for prewar styles swept through fashion in the early 1970s and brought suspenders back as novelty items. At the same time, Trafalgar Ltd. was founded in 1972 by Marley Hodgson – a haberdasher who began to supply suspenders for the growing demand.

In 1986 Trafalgar acquired the rights to   Calvin Curtis designs, reproducing the brocade ribbon on historic French looms, and making limited runs of 1000 pairs of braces in each pattern (matching sock garters were no longer being offered.) Yuppie Wall Street bankers and Republican politicians especially took to the style, making Trafalgar braces a success and Marley Hodgson a wealthy haberdasher who has since retired and now lives on a ranch in Colorado.

Off the Rack – Adelaar Blouse Company

Adelaar10I have been building research notes for years about companies that produced off-the-rack clothes but aren’t well known or have little written about them, so I am starting a new category today to transcribe some of the information I have gathered. Off-the-rack’s first posting will be the Adelaar Blouse Company, a firm that produced primarily women’s tailored blouses but also created separates and occasionally dresses and lightweight suits.

Adelaar Blouse, 1951

Adelaar Blouse, 1951

Brothers Emil, Maurice, and Bernard Adelaar founded their blouse-making company (formally known as Adelaar Brothers Inc.)  in 1934 in Chicago but transplanted to New York in 1945 where it was easier to find jobbers (subcontractor manufacturers.) The blouses were designed by Maurice but tailored by different jobbers using the patterns, materials and notions supplied by Adelaar.  The company was at its height of production from the late 1940s to late 1960s when women’s tailored blouses were popular. Foreign competition, rising U.S. labour costs, and changing tastes in fashion in the 1970s lead to the company’s slow demise. The company closed in 1986.