Sophie Gimbel on fashion:
I believe that today as always smart women dress only in terms of their own likes, looks, lives,
Vintage Saks Fifth Avenue fashion ad, 1950; photography by Leslie Gill; available here.
Sophie began her fashion design work as a young girl making clothing for her dolls and grew into an adult who hired as a stylist for Saks. She was hired by none other than Adam Gimbel, whose grandfather was the founder Gimbels. (Kind of ironic, hey?) In 1929, at the age of 31, she was lead fashion designer and manager of the Salon Moderne of Saks Fifth Avenue; by 1931, she would marry Adam Gimbel. Her designs, originally sold under the “Sophie Gimbel” label were so fabulous, she became recognized as an innovator in New Look fashion. By the 1940s, the label was changed to “Sophie of Saks”, and, on September 29, 1947, Sophie would become the first American fashion designer to grace the cover of Time magazine. (Elsa Schiaparelli was the first fashion designer in the world to be on the cover of Time in 1934.) So by the time this news article I’m going to share was published, Sophie was firmly established as a leading force of mid-century American fashion.
The article was in the Montreal Gazette, June 17, 1950, and was about a Sophie fashion show which had been held the day prior at Saks Fifth Avenue. She had designed not only doll clothing for Wanda but a series of matching doll and children’s fashions!
The costumes, which were presented simultaneously on dolls and little girls, are available in children’s sizes three to six and seven to fourteen. They include a pink organdy party frock, a gray flannel jumper suit, a plaid cotton dress, and a blue reefer coat.
I suspect this Sophie’s Original’s For Saks doll outfit may be one of these ensembles, despite being sold as a set for composition dolls. (Wanda Walker and her doll companions were rather pudgy in the tummy in order to accomodate the walker mechanics.)
Here’s an ad from Christmas 1950 promoting some other fashions made for the Wanda Walker doll (by Advance Doll & Toy Corporation and/or Walkalon; that’s a long story I’m covering in the doll articles!): “Organdy hat and dress in pink, yellow, or blue are designed by S.F.A.’s own Sophie!”
This is quite possibly one of those Sophie’s Originals for Saks dresses mentioned in the ad, which was made for, and shown here on, a Wanda Walker doll.
Of course, Sophie continued to design high fashion for adult human females long after this (including creating the red coat and dress Lady Bird wore to LBJ’s 1965 inauguration); but it is more than fitting to include Sophie’s fashion costumes for dolls in her story. After all, Sophie Gimbel began her design work making clothing for her own dolls.
Additional Image Credits:
1950s photo of Sophie Gimbel with models via Patricksmercy.
A stunning vintage Vanity Fair nightgown with lots of lovely details! Buy it here.
Some lovely vanity collectibles from stainedglasssonia:
A vintage Chinese hand mirror with a hand-painted geisha on the porcelain back, an intricately embossed silver metal settings and celadon jade handle. In original box.
A hand-painted Victorian powder box with original powder puff.
An Art Deco handbag made glass beads featuring a fabulous peacock.
Nothing quite cheers me up like vintage strawberry print tablecloths. Especially on a cold night, when Spring still seems like it’s forever away. Here are a few of my favorite recent “pickings”.
This classic from the 1950s is full of red cheer!
This one, also from the 50s, has a very romantic quality with its high-handled baskets and Azurite blue.
Of course, you can’t beat hearts and flowers with your strawberries for romance! In such a lovely pink, it would be great for romantic meals, Valentine’s Day, or, as the seller notes, for Spring bridal and baby showers.
This one may have been made as early as the 1940s — and I love the deeper, purple-red tones.
This one mixes in some other fruits, but who can complain with that sunny yellow around?
It’s rather rare to find these antique seed planters in such good condition — on this one, you scan still make out the original stenciled information. This one is marked “The Triumph” and it was manufactured by Kent Manufacturing Company of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.
These simple seed planters were quite revolutionary in their time. And they still work today! They are simple to use. Simply stab the end into the ground and when you open the handles, the end “shovels” open a section of earth as a single seed drops into the freshly made hole.
We know this seed planter was made prior to 1912, as that’s when the company changed its name to the James Manufacturing Company, using the “James Way” slogan.
This is an antique stamp hammer, and part of lumber history. A stamp hammer was used to make “end marks” on lumber and logs. These end marks are much like bands in that they are used to identify cattle. Like cattle brands, end marks and bark marks (cut with an ax), were symbols of identification and ownership. As such, the log marks were registered with the state. In fact, “sinkers” or “deadheads” with log marks still belong to the owner of the mark.
While your lumber doesn’t exactly mosey on off down the prairie, lumber was left to float on down the river to a sorting works (or boom, which had many divisions, called pockets), or shipped with other logs to a lumber company via railroad flat car. In either case, unmarked logs meant lost property. Like stray cattle found without a brand, a stray log without an end mark was a finders-keepers prize which could be kept. If unmarked logs were found, the finder could use their own stamp hammer to make it their own property; but when unmarked logs were found while sorting, the company would put the logs into a “bull pen”. The contents of the bull pen were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the boom company or mill would keep the proceeds.
As for identifying stamp hammers, you are looking for hammer with a three to eight pound cast iron head with a design on it. Like branding irons, the marks on stamp hammers are cast backwards so that the embossed design can be read properly when struck into the wood. The wooden handle of a stamp hammer is about three quarters the length of a common ax handle.
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without the proverbial box of chocolates! These two boxes are pretty examples of sweet antique advertising ephemera.
The first box marked “Overhauser’s of Spokane” features a Victorian lady with a large hat. There’s a holly and berries sticker on the box that shows this box of candy from the Overhauser Candy Company (Spokane, Washington) was likely given for Christmas — but it’s still a romantic gift, right?
The second antique candy box also features a fancy Victorian lady wearing a large hat — with roses that match the other roses on the paper. This box bears a red and gold foil seal that reads “De Luxe Chocolates, Little Falls, Minn.” Remarkably, the original fancy embossed papers are still inside!
If you’d like to put your antique & vintage irons to good use — without risking your clothing or textiles, or if you’d just like a neat way to display some of your old irons, consider using them as bookends!
55thousanddresses – Over 55 thousand dress privately collected and offered to you.
For 50 years, a man purchased vintage ball gowns, prom dresses, and other dresses for his wife to wear when they went dancing. The collection totals 55 thousand gowns — and now is available for sale (one by one, of course!)
See on 55thousanddresses.com
Some collections are easy to display for the holidays — and don’t require any additional trimmings either. In our space at Exit 55 Antiques, I’ve put the vintage cookie cutters in the ceramic basin of an antique washstand. It would be an awesome way to greet guests at the door, especially if you added some old wooden baby blocks spelling out “Welcome” or “Merry XMas” along the back shelf!
Besides cookie cutters, what would you display this way?
Before electricity made its way into most homes, Christmas trees had the warm glow of candlelight. The candles were attached to the tree branches via little metal clips. Most often they were decorative clips made in Germany, like these shown here. Since using candles to light your tree is neither practical, nor safe, we don’t recommend bringing back that tradition lightly. (No pun intended!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t safely use these charming bits of Christmas past this holiday. They make wonderful placeholders, with or without candles, at your holiday table.
More than that, these vintage and antique Christmas tree clips can be used to display your holiday greeting cards (collectible ephemera and the new ones you receive from family & friends this year), photographs, etc. (As always, I would recommend sliding old or collectible paper in clear sleeves to protect them from the elements.)
This sort of display would work well on holiday trim around doorways, etc.,; not just on trees.
In fact, since the designs on these old tree clips vary widely, including non-holiday motifs, like pine-cones, you could use them year round. For example, instead of clothespins on those framed bits of chicken-wire and other rustic ways to show-off photographs.
While I obviously prefer “old” pieces, if you prefer something more industrial (or at least not so shabby chic), there are contemporary clips as well. Whether you opt for old or new, whether you want to light the candles or not, the fact that they still make these tree candle clips means they still make the right size candles too.
The holidays, with all their visitors, are the perfect time for showing off our collections. And what collector doesn’t want to show off their collection?! Instead of replacing your antique and vintage treasures with holiday pieces, why not deck your collections along with decking the halls? It can be as simple as mixing in some simple holiday trims.
Here’s a collection of vintage soda pop bottles topped with simple gold and silver ball ornaments. It would make a unique centerpiece on any holiday table.
Collect breweriana, not pop? Gold balls really make vintage beer glasses come alive!
Here I used some sparking Christmas tree balls and strings of garland to decorate some vintage pottery pieces.
Even more rustic country displays can be given some holiday glitz this way. I added some silver balls and garland to this set of vintage blue Ball canning jars.
And here, that rustic autumn centerpiece gets a bit more glamorous for the holidays. Along with the ball ornaments, I added some glittery golden picks.
Antique and vintage ornaments are nice to use, of course. And the old glass ornaments are actually much cheaper than you think right now. The kitschy vintage pipecleaner and flocked plastic ornaments, like the shelf-elves, are becoming more popular now and well out-price the vintage glass pieces. In fact, the vintage glass balls and ornaments — even those painted, frosted or otherwise decorated — can be found in antique shops in my area for as little as one dollar! (Contact me at my store page if you want me to be your personal shopper and get some for you!)
However, if you don’t have any vintage ornaments left over once you’ve decorated the Christmas tree, or if you cannot find enough old ornaments to get a color theme for your grouping, you can get extra trimmings inexpensively at the dollar store. That’s where all of these balls, picks, and garland came from.
As I’ve said before, I like useful collectibles — and, because I don’t like anything to go to waste, I like to find new ways to make use of old things. Just because something is “old and just laying around,” doesn’t mean it can’t be salvaged or re-purposed. Like the vintage refrigerator crisper drawers, I knew these old wooden desk drawers I’d found could do something new and fabulous… Worn, paint-chippy wood is so charming!
Immediately, I thought of the holidays and the need for low centerpieces which wouldn’t get in the way of seeing family and friends.
I lined the drawer with this seasons’ hottest decorating fabric is burlap (probably because it is both rustic and natural looking for Fall), but you can use any fabric that goes best with your table settings. Inside, I placed some nested vintage brown glazed stoneware bowls, a vintage brown milk bottle, some little glass bottles with colorful rocks and shells, and then, for some extra seasonal flair, I tucked in some pheasant feathers. Pretty enough for a Thanksgiving table, don’t you think?
You can certainly fill the bowls with pine cones or something else decorative, or use the bowls to help with serving at the holiday table. And you sure can go crazy with red and green for Christmas; or change the colors and decorative combinations to match your china, your every day decor, whatever you’d like!
I may just keep this vintage wood drawer on the table top all the time. It can be awfully practical, serving to store the family’s usual table needs, such as napkins, salt and pepper shakers, the morning’s cereal bowls — whatever you find you need to leave on the table. And since it’s all in one drawer, you can pick it up as easily as any tray (maybe even more so, as the deeper sides mean less things will topple out and over!) to wipe the table clean, change the tablecloth, etc.
(See also Sit Down to Handmade Table Settings.)
We’re at the height of Movember, a charitable movement raising money for men’s health issues like prostate cancer by encouraging men to grow their facial hair while people donate money in amounts appropriate to the growth accomplished. Sort of like Jump Rope For Heart, but with less panting and leg cramps. Beards have been used to raise money in the past as well, but in a much different way.
Peter the Great ascended to the tsarist throne of the Russian Empire in 1682, at only ten years old, and by the time he turned twenty he had seen Europe’s cultural and scientific growth and wished the same for Russia. From a purely superficial stance, one of Peter’s goals was to adopt the dress and style of 17th century Europe.
Until Peter’s modernization push, a thick, bushy Russian beard was a sign of status; when Peter shaved off his beard in the style of au courant European culture, he passed a resolution that encouraged everyone else to follow in kind.
A beard tax was instituted in 1705: men who wished to keep their beard could pay a tax, otherwise men would have to shave. Men who paid the tax were given a proof-of-payment token to show they had made their payment.
Members of the Boyards received silver beard tax tokens and the lower classes received copper tokens. A counterstrike indicated if additional years had been paid. On one side depicted the double-headed eagle of Russia and the words “payment received”, and the reverse showed a nose, mustache and beard with the words ” The beard is an unnecessary burden”.
The tokens are quite rare today and sell for thousands of dollars each. As one might expect, people interested in keeping their beards without paying the taxes made for a flourishing counterfeit beard token market, so fakes are somewhat common. Then, in later years, the Russian mints began producing “novodel” replica beard tax tokens, which are “official” as they came from the mint but are not original nor from the correct era. If you’d just like the pleasure of carrying one around in your pocket to prove your beardiness, you can buy pewter replicas here.
Last weekend we went to the Fargo Record Fair, an annual event where you can find all sorts of records. We, per our budget, bought a bunch of dollar albums. I was pleasantly surprised: all the vinyl I saw was in really good shape, compared to what I run into at thrift shops and rummage sales. Very few scratches, even on the bargain bin albums, and a lot of contemporary music. I’m tired of flipping through a zillion Ferrante and Teicher and Sing-Along with Mitch before getting to the good stuff.
From today’s Main Street on Prairie Public, you can hear (fast-forward to 14:50) Ashley Thornberg interview several of the vendors, particularly Antiques on Broadway’s Uncle Roy, who had a whole room of albums downtown.
You may have seen these vintage wire desk sets, but chances are you didn’t know they had a name — or at least you probably didn’t know their name. Like many vintage items are found without the boxes, it can be hard to find out the actual name of an item. Thankfully, I found this one boxed so I know this little guy is Scotty The Pup, aka Mac’s Dog.
His metal coil body holds letters, his coiled tail holds a pen (or pencil), and you can hang paperclips off his chin. These vintage doggy desk sets came in silver chrome, gold, and matte black finishes. I’ve got one silver, and one black one. The silver desk secretary doggie was an early one; the box is marked that the patent was applied for.
By the start of the 1900s, home sewing and clothing patterns were big business. One of the last to enter the fray at the turn of this century, would become another one of the big names in sewing pattern collecting. According to Zuelia Ann Hurt in Craft Tools — Then and Now (Decorating & Craft Ideas, October 1980 issue):
Soon after 1900 a prominent fashion magazine called Vogue published a coupon for a pattern. For fifty cents, the reader received a pattern hand-cut by the designer Mrs. Payne on her dining-room table.
While Vogue was using its publishing power to spawn a fashion pattern business, the other sewing pattern companies did not slow down. Here are some notable moments — and collectible names — in sewing pattern history.
In 1902, James McCall’s The Queen of Fashion magazine changed its name again and became McCall’s Magazine, widening the contents of the publication to other womanly pursuits and interests.
In 1910, Butterick continued their sewing pattern industry innovation by introducing the “deltor” — the first instructions printed on a sheet included inside the pattern’s envelope.
In 1914, the Vogue pattern department officially left the magazine to become Vogue Pattern Company. (This was in no small part due to the 1909 purchase of Vogue by Condé Nast.) Vogue patterns continued to be sold by mail until 1917, when B. Altman’s department store in New York City became the first store to stock their patterns. In May of 1920, Vogue Patterns launches the Vogue Pattern Book.
In 1920, there was another major change in the sewing pattern industry. This time it was McCall’s leading the way by moving from the perforated tissue patterns to printed ones. Eventually the others would follow suit. McCall’s would also begin working with designers like Lanvin, Mainbocher, Patou, and Schiaparelli.
An advertising salesman for fashion magazine Fashionable Dress, Joseph M. Shapiro, was shocked to find that something consisting mainly of tissue paper would cost $1. Via his connections, he found the way to produce — and profit from — a pattern which would sell for just 15 cents. The Simplicity Pattern Company was born in 1927 and Joseph’s son, James J. Shapiro, was its first president. With such a low price, Simplicity expanded quickly, including internationally.
In 1931, Vogue starts Couturier Line and introduces new large format envelopes.
In 1931, Simplicity began producing DuBarry patterns exclusively for F. W. Woolworth Company (through 1940).
In 1932, Condé Nast starts the Hollywood Pattern Company. Hollywood Patterns featured designs straight of film and usually had photos of Hollywood stars on the packaging as well. The Hollywood Pattern Company ceased pattern production a few years after the end of World War II.
Also in 1932, McCall’s would again push the envelope by, well, pushing the envelope — now full-color illustrations appeared on the covers of McCall’s pattern envelopes.
In 1933, Advance began manufacturing patterns sold exclusively at (and for) the J. C. Penney Company. Because of the J.C. Penny connection, Advance was able to secure a number of designers (including Edith Head and Anne Fogarty) as well as rights from Mattel for authentic Barbie fashion patterns. (The company was sold to Puritan Fashions in 1966.)
In 1946, Simplicity finally fully converts from perforated patterns to printed sewing patterns.
In 1949, Vogue added the Paris Original Models patterns from French Couturiers and was the only company authorized to duplicate these fantastic designs. Such deals with international designers would expand, including millinery designs in 1953 and International Designer Patterns in 1956.
In the 1950s, McCall’s patterns produces another designer line which included French couturier Hubert de Givenchy and Emilio Pucci.
In 1958, Vogue Patterns fully transitions from perforated to printed tissue patterns.
In the 1960s, McCall’s “New York Designers’ Collection Plus” featured designs from Pauline Trigere and Geoffrey Beene, among others.
Starting in 1960s and continuing through 1970s, Butterick produces the “Young Designer” series, featuring designs by Betsey Johnson, John Kloss, and Mary Quant.
In 1961, Butterick licensed the Vogue name and began to produce patterns under the Vogue name.
Images: Vogue Spring, 1916, via hampshire-estate-finds; vintage McCall’s printed pattern via misslacyg; Vintage Hollywood Sewing Pattern # 747 featuring Betty Grable, via ohiochestnutt; and Vogue Paris Original pattern by Nina Ricci via dalejeri.
As you may recall from part two, fashion sewing patterns were still rather complicated in the mid-1800s. However, some, like Ellen Louise Demorest and her husband William Jennings Demorest, began to assist those who were interested in sewing at home — assisting at a profit, of course.
By 1860, Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion began advertising her patterns in magazines. This was still by-hand work, with the patterns cut to shape in two options for the consumer: purchased “flat”, which was the cut patterns folded and mailed, or, for an additional charge, “made up” which had the pattern pieces tacked into position and mailed. At this time, Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion used fashion shows held in homes, along with trade cards, to promote her patterns — as well Demorest publications. In 1860, the Demorests began publishing Madame Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions, a quarterly which not only featured plates of their own dress patterns but included a pattern stapled to the inside as well. However, patterns were still only available in one size at this time.
The beginning of sewing patterns as most of us know them has its roots in the winter of 1863. According to The Legend, Ellen Buttrick and her complaint were the mother of invention; but it was her husband, Ebenezer Butterick, an inventor and former tailor, who revolutionized sewing patterns and fashion history in the winter of 1863.
Snowflakes drifted silently past the windowpane covering the hamlet of Sterling, Massachusetts in a blanket of white. Ellen Butterick brought out her sewing basket and spread out the contents on the big, round dining room table. From a piece of sky blue gingham, she was fashioning a dress for her baby son Howard. Carefully, she laid out her fabric, and using wax chalk, began drawing her design.
Later that evening, Ellen remarked to her husband, a tailor, how much easier it would be if she had a pattern to go by that was the same size as her son. There were patterns that people could use as a guide, but they came in one size. The sewer had to grade (enlarge or reduce) the pattern to the size that was needed. Ebenezer considered her idea: graded patterns. The idea of patterns coming in sizes was revolutionary.
By spring of the following year, Butterick had produced and graded enough patterns to package them in boxes of 100, selling them to tailors and dressmakers. These early Butterick patterns were created from cardboard. However, as most early patterns were sold by mail, heavy cardboard was not ideal for folding and shipping. Butterick experimented with other papers, including lithographed posters (printed by Currier and Ives). While these were easier to fold and ship than cardboard, they were still not ideal. Ultimately the search lead to less expensive and light-weight tissue paper.
For the first three years, Butterick patterns were for clothing for men and boys; in 1866, Butterick began making women’s dress patterns. This is when the sewing pattern business really began to grow. In order to promote the mail order patterns, Butterick began publishing The Ladies Quarterly of Broadway Fashions (1867) and the monthly Metropolitan (1868).
Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion was still going strong, as was their publication. Although the magazine was expanded to include a lot more magazine content as Demorest’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine and Madame Demorests Mirror of Fashions in 1864. In 1865, the name was changed again, this time to Demorest’s Monthly Magazine and Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions — more commonly referred to as Demorest’s Monthly. This monthly was reaching over 100,000 readers.
The success of sewing patterns could not be ignored and the competition would really begin; by 1869, James McCall started his pattern business.
These early sewing patterns by Butterick, McCall’s, and Demorest were not printed, but rather outlined on the tissue paper by a series of perforated holes. They were typically sent in an envelope which had a sketch of the finished garment and brief instructions printed on it. These instructions included suitable fabric suggestions, size information, and a description of how the pieces were to be cut from the tissue and pieced together to form the garment (assisted by a code of shapes, such as v-shaped notches, circles, and squares, which were cut into the paper).
In 1872, Butterick began publishing The Delineator. As with the earlier publications, The Delineator was originally intended simply to market Butterick patterns. However, it quickly expanded into a general interest magazine for women in the home, offering everything from fashion to fiction from housekeeping to social crusading (including lobbying for women’s suffrage in the early 1900s). As readership skyrocketed, the earlier publications were folded into The Delineator — and the magazine would go on to become one of the “Big Six” ladies magazines in the USA.
In 1873, McCall’s would start their own publication called The Queen. In 1896, the name was changed to The Queen of Fashion and it would be the first magazine to use photographs on its cover.
In 1875, the first in-store sewing pattern catalogs appeared. These were produced by Butterick.
Madame Demorest was still around. In addition to marketing paper patterns through the magazines, the patterns were sold through a nationwide network of shops called Madame Demorest’s Magasins des Modes. In addition to the paper patterns and drafting systems, the shops sold ready-made fashion items, Demorest’s line of cosmetics and perfumes, and custom dressmaking services to wealthy clients. It was the latter, along with fashion exhibitions in London and Paris, which really boosted the designer and therefore the company’s profile. By the mid-1870s, there were 300 Demorest shops, employing 1,500 sales agents. Her employees were mainly women, including African-American women who received the same treatment as the white women workers.
In 1877, business was peaking. The Demorest’s Monthly began circulation in London and, along with the quarterly, the company began publishing Madame Demorest’s What to Wear and How to Make It. Just a few years later, however, Demorest business declined. This was unfortunately do to the Demorests’ failure to patent their patterns, allowing themselves to be bested by competition. In 1887, Demorest sold their pattern business, which went on to live on primarily in name only — including sewing machines.
To Be Continued…