Sibley Lindsay Curr Co.: The Store for Men

January 9th, 2017

Sometimes the images and factoids I encounter while doing simple research on a vintage label or garment are so exquisite/fascinating/eyeopening they threaten to burst my head, making a blog post not just timely but a necessary release valve for fashion history-induced speaking in tongues. The single, mind-blowing culprit in this instance is a newspaper ad, dated Friday, September 20, 1929. In a classic example of saving the best for last, I’m going to do just that and instead tell the tale of what sent me hunting in its direction.

Quite simply, then: For some reason, the only items I’ve had till now from Rochester, NY’s grande dame of a department store, Sibley Lindsay Curr Co., have been hats, 6 of them, all outstandingly lovely and a healthy cut above in quality. Then, this year I happened upon a mid-1940s Sibley’s “Store for Men” necktie and began wondering about the history of menswear retailing at Sibley’s—and more to the point, exactly when it opened its “Store for Men”.

Here’s a photo of the hats (an 1880s bonnet, a late teens straw bicorne, and a felt tilt hat from the late 30s or early 40s):

And here’s the tie, a 4.5” wide rayon satin number with what appears to be a popcorn print on it (the jazzy jacquard pattern of the ground is popcorn-like too!):

In past research on the hats, I learned that Sibley’s was Rochester’s oldest and largest department store, founded in 1868 and locally owned until the late 1950s, and known for its elegance and innovative marketing. The original building was devastated by fire in 1904  (along with a sizeable chunk of downtown Rochester); here, in an image from the Monroe County Public Library’s public database, is the original, 12 story building collapsing in that horrible inferno:

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Toasting the New Year with a 100 Year Old Autograph Album

January 5th, 2016

This winter’s staycation project involves a major reorganization of my ephemera collection (vintage/antique fashion magazines & catalogs, and Victorian scrapbooks and photo albums). It’s one of those overwhelming yet soul-satisfying tasks, in which the enormous payoff anticipated (ie the ability to access and view my treasures in an orderly fashion) somehow meshes perfectly with the many moments of distraction along the way.

Right now, I’ve gotten distracted by a celluloid-and-velvet bound autograph album that once belonged to 14 year old Brooklyn schoolgirl Mildred Bosch. I posted a collage of images from it on my Instagram feed a couple of weeks back, but didn’t register till yesterday that it had reached the century-old mark, with the autographs in it dating from January of 1915 through June of 1916. That means, of course, that it needs to be shared immediately with the world at large… :)

Here is the front and back of the album. Note that the Reaper pictured on the cover isn’t the grim kind at all; she wears an “artistic” style dress, her hair loosely bound and beribboned and a scythe poised lightly on her shoulder while she gazes dreamily into the distance. If anything, she’s time’s poetess, not its nemesis.

I’ve cyber-stalked Mildred a bit and learned that she was the fourth of the five children of a milkman and his wife, both German-born. Her school, Bushwick High School, was founded in 1914 and closed in 2006, and many of the classmates who have signed her book appear to be the children of Jewish immigrants.

Here are a few images from the Perry Dame Fall 1916 catalog which may help to visualize Mildred and her teenaged classmates better  (the youth sizing in the catalog seems to be grouped into Girls 6-14 yrs and Misses 14-20 yrs; so presumably Mildred’s crowd was just growing into the Misses-sized garments).

I’ll start off by sharing the first autograph in the album:

And the last:

The pages in between have a much higher proportion of lofty-minded inscriptions than you’d see in a teen’s autograph book today. It’s almost jarring to think of verses that contemplate death and eternity issuing from the wobbly quills of youngsters (”May the sea of life be calm & smooth,/Till thy last voyage is o’er,/and may thy frail bark/Land safely on the golden shore”, for instance, or “Remember me with friendship,/remember me with love,/Remember me dear Mildred/Until we meet above”).

But there are also playful verses like this one:

and this:

Most of the signatories urge Mildred to remember them (there are lots of pages that have the syllables “For”, “get”, “me” and “not” tucked away in the four corners of the page):

About half of the entries eschew verse in favor of plain statement or perhaps a little artwork:

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Tie Silk Swatches, 1926 (Part III)

October 19th, 2015

At long last, the final pages in the 1926 tie silk swatch sample book. The bad news is that the book does NOT represent a spring/summer line of cravat silks, as I seemed to suggest in the first two posts about it; not only is its spine marked “Fall” in faint but clear letters (duh), but the examples in today’s post have distinctly autumnal colorways.

As for the good news: The last several pages in the book (mostly marked “Austria” or “Czecho Slovakia”) contain, to my mind, some of the most staggeringly beautiful swatches of all. Some of the brocades are so exquisitely detailed (and that’s an understatement), it’s almost hard to imagine entire ties fashioned out of them.

So…Happy Autumn, & enjoy!

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Tie Silk Swatches, 1926 (Part II)

June 3rd, 2015

The easily-distracted blogger returns! Because the paper in the swatch book is literally crumbling, with an archeological dig’s worth of manila chips and shards breaking off each time I turn a page, I’m going to plow straight through to the end capturing the gorgeous contents digitally… and then seek a conservator’s help before opening the book again! (I haven’t abandoned the spring/summer Globe Tailoring sample book and promise to share the rest of it before it goes “out of season”… :) )

I’ll present each page or pair of pages so you can see the range of color options the various patterns were offered in, and then show a closeup or two that shows the complexity of the different weaves and of the subtle but astounding color variation. What most amazes me about these swatches is their infinite variety, and what it implies about the vastly superior state of textile arts at the time (ie the existence of jacquard machines that could be reset over and over without bankrupting a company).

Without further ado then…

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Tie Silk Swatches, 1926 (Part I)

March 26th, 2015

And now… a interlude featuring the fabrics a tie might have been made of in 1926. Getting a feel for what early 20th century ties looked like can be tricky, to say the least, since for one thing the illustrations of neckwear options in period catalogs and magazines rarely (if ever) in color. But a sample book containing, on its brittle, crumbling pages, hundreds of tie silk swatches and dated, ever so helpfully, “1926″ on the badly faded, lopsided spine? That’s a giant leap in the right direction, not to mention a mouthwatering feast for the eyes.

Most of the pages in this sample book are marked either “Switzerland” or “Italy”, so I’m guessing those countries were the big tie silk manufacturers of the day. Each page shows a different design, in roughly 4 to 6 color options, with the color variations often impressively subtle. Also, the book begins with elegant but less distinctive striped designs before exploding with some wildly colorful and intricate brocades, so I’ll show the opening pages as collages to keep the overall picture-heaviness down. (As with the Globe Tailoring book, I’ll be sharing the book in–hopefully-more manageable installments).

So without further ado (and with the self-evident observation that textile manufacture just ain’t what it used to be), here goes. Enjoy!

The next couple of pages also feature stripes, but the silks were woven in Italy and with far more complexity and beauty than anything out there today; the chevron-like effect within the stripes is IMO superb:

This brocaded striped design hails from Switzerland:

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The Globe Tailoring Co. Sample Book: Spring/Summer 1926 (Part II)

March 15th, 2015

First in today’s lineup, a  young man’s “two button soft roll sack”, and the fabric options he could have it made in: Serges, silk mixtures, herringbone weaves, and tartans:

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The Globe Tailoring Co. Sample Book: Spring/Summer 1926 (Part I)

March 9th, 2015

Today has been outrageously warm and sunny, with streamlets breaking through the ice on the streets and the snowbanks beginning to recede at long last. To celebrate, I’m posting the first several pages of The Globe Tailoring Company’s spring/summer 1926 sample book. Since, opposite the oversized illustrations, the book features dozens upon dozens of amazing fabric swatches that beg to be seen in close up, I’ll need to break this project into chunks. Even so, the posts will be picture-heavy, so pour yourself a cuppa before settling in to enjoy!

(I’ll be interspersing the Globe Tailoring posts with ones showing silk tie swatches from a 1926 sample book, so you’ll have some idea of the cravats a gent might have worn with his “needle molded” suits…:)

Here’s the front cover of the book, which at a whopping 22″ x 17″ makes modern catalogs look hopelessly puny:

The”Fabric Index” and some introductory remarks, on the “Economy of Good Tailoring” and the launch of the “Deluxe Department”:

And the catalog itself (with each pair of pages followed by some closeups):

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The Mad Men Tie Gets Festive: Cerruti Designs from the Holiday 1960 Collection

December 23rd, 2014

Nothing makes my heart sing louder than a beautifully jacquard-woven necktie, whether it be a jazzy pre-WWII damask or an MCM skinny with heraldic designs. Recently I was fortunate enough to acquire swatch books with woven tie silk samples from the late 1920s and the early 1960s, and though I plan to share the contents in their entirety here over the coming months, since the more recent one—from Nino Cerruti’s early days—features some fabulous holiday designs, I’ll start with those.

In 1950, the 20-year-old Cerruti became head of his family’s textile factory (founded in the 1880s) upon his father’s sudden death. More on Cerruti’s bio to follow in subsequent posts; for today, what’s important to know is that the tie designs he created in 1960, either for his own company (presumably to be sold with his “Hitman” label) or for other companies such as Charvet and Damon, appear to have been manufactured by a Swiss textile concern, Naef Freres. I haven’t been able to find out exactly what the relationship was between Cerruti and Naef Freres  (which seems to have had a satellite in upstate New York), but I do know that Lanificio Cerruti was at that point just what its name indicates—a woolen mill, so tie silks needed to be made elsewhere. Cerruti established a knitwear factory in Scotland in 1961, but I don’t know whether he also owned or just subcontracted work from Naef Freres, which  goes back at least to the 19th century.

Without further ado, in any event, let me present the designs from Cerruti’s Holiday 1960/1 collection. Here is the book itself:

I was surprised to see how many of the designs were produced for legendary haberdasher Charvet. Unsurprisingly, they were tres elegant. The first is called “The Ring”:
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Which? Both!

June 8th, 2014

With the D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations just past and the post-WWII Paris souvenir handkerchief  below settling into its new home, I find myself with some nagging questions about it:

As you can see, it bears a Galeries Lafayette tag and depicts a young woman being courted by two uniformed GIs who present their  hearts to her like nosegays (and it looks as though she may be clutching a previous floral offering to her chest). The hankie has two text captions on it, the identifying phrase “Souvenir de Paris” and the question/answer “Which? Both!!”

Jonathan Walford, author of “Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits to the New Look”, kindly deciphered the hankie for me a few weeks back, explaining that the English text on it, together with the woman’s Phrygian cap and the French flag colors (red, white and blue) of her outfit, suggest that it would have been marketed to souvenir-hunting American soldiers at the end of the war. It does indeed seem to capture the jubilant mood of post-liberation Paris. But…

Who was the intended recipient of this slighly quirky bit of printed silk? The GI’s mother, sister or sweetheart, like other WWII–era souvenir hankies (often embroidered or printed with the helpful designation “mother”, “sister”, or “sweetheart”, like these examples from the  Handkerchief Heroes blog)?

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Vintage Fashion Malady #38: Ad Location Syndrome

May 10th, 2014

If you’ve been bitten by the vintage collecting bug, chances are you’ve gradually become symptomatic with a slew of related ailments. Perhaps you’ve heard of and actually experienced “Set Completion Syndrome”, where a lucky find of sparkly brooch with matching earrings leads you to obsessively seek out the matching necklace (and bracelet, and ring…)

Maybe you find yourself getting up at the crack of dawn (after tossing and turning all night with nightmares about your personal Holy Grail slipping repeatedly out of  your grasp) to put your name on a list to get in line for a high number at an estate sale (“Elbowing Others Out of the Way Syndrome”).

Maybe you return multiple times to a vintage clothing shop or antique mall till you finally break down and purchase something that leaves you without money to pay the phone bill, because it has been “calling” to you for days (“Siren Song Syndrome”).

Well, there’s a new one to add to the vintageaholics diagnostic manual. It involves a compulsion to pore over old magazines or catalogs as well as online till one finds a period advertisement for a vintage item one has taken a shine to, it’s called “Ad Location Syndrome”, and I’ve contracted a terminal case of it.

I’m not seriously complaining, though, because despite how time-devouring the endless trips down twisty garden paths can be, the thrill when I do happen upon what I’m in search of is beyond incomparable. Case in point: I just found the ad to go with a L’Aiglon dress with matching scarf I was preparing to list in my Ruby Lane shop, and learned things from it I would never have figured out on my own.

My dating hunch said the dress was a late 40s/early 50s cusper; turned out it was from summer 1950 on the dot. I didn’t congratulate myself too much, though,, since left to my own devices I would have never have surmised the scarf (called a “kerchief” in the ad) was intended for double duty, either on the head or on the shoulders. And I certainly wouldn’t have known that it wasn’t meant to be tied under the chin á la 1960s convertible-riding bombshell with sunglasses.

I also wouldn’t have tied the sash in back, creating the illusion of an apron (the ad describes the dress as having a “flower-strewn apron effect and camisole top”). Basically, the ad suggests the dress was meant to have a kind of “Country Miss” vibe, which I did not pick up from it as it dangled before me on the hanger mocking my descriptive skills.

Sometimes a picture—or an ad—really is worth a motherlode of syllables!