Category Archives: Coats

Printzess Week, 1917

Printzess Fashion Ad, Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917

Printzess Fashion Ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917

Omigosh! I almost missed Printzess Week! A “Nation-Wide Fashion Event” October 8th to 13th — 1917.

Printzess Fashion Week, October 8th - 13th, 1917. "Nation-Wide Fashion Event. Visit the Printzess Dealer in your City."

Printzess Week, October 8th – 13th, 1917. “The Nation-Wide Fashion Event. Visit the Printzess Dealer in your City.”

I can’t help liking a company that proudly proclaims itself “The Printz-Biederman Company:  Paris CLEVELAND New York.”

Printzess clothing label: "Distinction in Dress." 1917.

Printzess clothing label: “Distinction in Dress.” 1917. There seems to be a hand (?) holding a spear on the logo.

“The Fascination of French Fashions”

This ad doesn’t give prices, but the Printz-Biederman Company was very successful, with sales of $6.44 million in 1922. You can find a brief company history at The Encyclopedia of Cleveland: click here.

In this advertisement from 1917, the company brags about its ability to copy Paris Fashions:

Printzess:  "The Fascination of French Fashion" Ad

Printzess: “The Fascination of French Fashion” Ad

“The secret of style supremacy enjoyed by the French fashion designers lies in their ability to originate beauty of line and grace of fold and to combine them in a finished garment — which is invariably becoming to the wearer.

“Printzess garments are faithful reproductions of original creations by the great French designers — which the world of fashion has adopted as authentic.

“Thousands of women have learned to accept the name Printzess as an assurance of style and a guarantee of quality, materials and perfect tailoring.

“There is a Printzess dealer in your city — be sure you see his stock of Printzess suits and coats before making your selection for Fall. Ask the Printzess dealer in your city to send you the beautiful Printzess Art Portfolio containing Rotogravure reproductions of the last word from Paris in coat and suit styles.”


Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

“This beautiful coat, Printzess No. 521 is one of the season’s most striking models. It is box pleated from the deep yoke, a fashion to be much in evidence this season. The large, convertible collar is of Kerami Mole, and the cleverly designed pouch pockets, hanging gracefully beneath the broad encircling belt, are mole trimmed. The material is an all wool Kersey coating of exquisitely soft texture, half-lined with an excellent quality of peau-de-cygne. Colors are: Black, Navy, Green, Brown and Burgundy.”

Printzess suit No. 601, 1917.

Printzess suit No. 601, 1917.

“Printzess suit No. 601 is made of Rib Rodier cloth. A delightfully youthful effect is conveyed by the plaits which extend downward from the belt in the back of the jacket. When worn open, the ample collar drapes gracefully over the shoulders, terminating in tapering points, and is embellished with a curving band of velvet. The cut-in pockets and belt effect are very chic, and the coat is beautifully lined with Persian. The skirt is an excellent example of the straight line silhouette, and has two cut-in pockets. This stunning suit comes in Pekin, Mouse, Taupe, Havana, Russian, Seal, Navy and Black.”

This is proof that making up non-descriptive names for fashion colors is not a new practice. “Havana” is presumably a shade of tobacco brown; perhaps the comma in “Russian, Seal” is a mistake? Valspar paint still has a color called Pekin; it’s a dusty pink-ish beige. These hats are worth a closer look.

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

Coat No. 521 looks incredibly fattening, with all those bulky pleats, huge hip pockets,  and a thick belt around the waist. (No, it’s not a maternity fashion.) The popular styles of the 1910s can be very unflattering by current standards. It’s hard to believe that chic women ever wanted to buy a dress with a “barrel skirt,” but in 1917-1918, they did.

The Printzess line was still being made in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In 1954,  Printzess employed over 1000 workers, mostly in Cleveland, and had annual sales of $8 million. There are images of several later  Printzess suits online, and a Printzess label. The business closed in 1978.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Coats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Embroidered Wool Jackets, 1950

Embroidered "Mexican" jacket, McCall Pattern 1399. McCall Needlework Catalogue, May 1950.

Embroidered “Mexican” jacket, McCall Pattern 1399. McCall Needlework Catalogue, May 1950.

Someone in my family had a gold-colored embroidered jacket, very much like this one. I remember finding it, sadly moth eaten, while cleaning out an old wardrobe.

I hadn’t appreciated the enormous craze for these jackets until I looked up “embroidered Mexican jacket” online. Plenty of them survived and are available from vintage dealers. In fact, I found a few in the first vintage store I checked — Decades of Fashion, in San Francisco — and took a quick photo or two. coat 72 dpiThis one was made in Mexico, probably brought home as a vacation souvenir.

Img_8530The very helpful clerk reminded me that, during World War II, the United States made an effort to form stronger alliances with our neighbors to the north and south, including trade agreements.

In the 1940s, while the war made it too dangerous to travel to Europe and the Pacific (and with cruise ships turned into military transports,) Americans seeking vacations in exotic locations had an incentive to explore closer to home. Many tourists seeking warmer weather in “Sunny Mexico” discovered a world of brighter colors, brilliant flowers, beautiful embroidery, gaiety, and chunky, handmade Mexican Silver jewelry from Taxco.

Unsigned, chunky Mexican bracelet, probably 1940s -1950s. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Unsigned, chunky Mexican bracelet, probably 1940s -1950s. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

It’s surprising that McCall Patterns would offer several patterns for stay-at-homes who wanted to duplicate the look of souvenir jackets from Mexico, but these patterns for embroidered wool coats — usually unlined — were available for women, teens, and children in 1950.

Embroidered Coat Pattern for Women, McCall #1399

McCall pattern #1399, May Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

McCall pattern #1399, May Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

McCall "Mexican" coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

McCall “Mexican” coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

These coats were usually unlined and could be made from wool fabric or wool felt, so, except for the wool embroidery, they were easy to make. At least one person made one, and it turned up online (click here.)

Pattern #1399 description from McCall Catalogue, Dec. 1950.

Pattern #1399 description from McCall Catalogue, Dec. 1950.

The felt versions that I have seen had edges trimmed with blanket stitch, for definition, but the wool flannel versions had 1/4″ hems turned under and secured with cross-stitch in one or two colors. The red coat I photographed has the same stitching shown in this pattern:

A narrrow hem turned stitched in two colors.

A narrrow hem stitched in two colors.

collar of jacket made in MexicoThe embroidery motifs from McCall include colorful vendors at markets, donkeys and their owners, palm trees, and other stereotyped images, but — happily — not a sombrero-wearing man taking a nap against a seguaro cactus. That was a popular image for 1950s salt & pepper shakers, as I recall; tourists who had never lived in a hot country interpreted the sensible habit of resting during the hottest part of the day — a break in a workday that began before dawn and lasted until dark — as “laziness.” [One more image to file under “painful cultural misunderstandings!”]

McCall Pattern 1327, “Mexican” Embroidered Jacket for Girls 6 to 14

Pattern for Girls 6 to 14 years, McCall # 1327, 1950.

Pattern for Girls 6 to 14 years, McCall # 1327, 1950.

may 1950 p 281girl966I  like the burro loaded with flowers on the back .

McCall Embroidered Jacket Pattern for Boys and Girls Aged 2 to 6

McCall pattern #1464, McCall Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

McCall pattern #1464, McCall Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

Travel-Wise Embroidered Coat Pattern: McCall #1565

“Far away places with strange-sounding names,

“Far away over the sea,

“Those far away places with strange-sounding names,

“Are calling, calling to me….” — song by Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer, 1948

That song was on the Hit Parade for months in the late 1940s. It was sung by Bing Crosby (and others) in 1948 and became a hit; then it was recorded by Perry Como (and others) in 1949 and became a hit again!

One reflection of this travel-lust was McCall’s pattern #1565, from 1950.

McCall "world traveler" pattern #1565, from 1950.

McCall “world traveler” pattern #1565, from 1950.

dec 1950 500 dpi travel coat 1565It could be embroidered in cotton with the names of places you visited — or wanted to — or simplified, with just appliqued images of a plane and a ship on the pockets, and compass points on the sleeves. dec 1950 72 dpi travel coat 1565 plainer front dec 1950 photo travel wise coat975The “nice swingy” back could be covered with images of the Eiffel Tower, a Dutch windmill, etc. dec 1950 72 closeup dpi travel coat 1565 text travel wise coat978

dec 1950 1565 text travel wise coat976

1950s Embroidered Jackets: Who Wore Them?

“Wear it on a cruise or on campus,” says the pattern catalog. However, I suspect that these jackets were most often made as gifts, rather than by the woman who was going to wear them.

I can’t help wondering if the survival of so many embroidered Mexican jackets is due to an experience many travelers have had: The brilliant colors and “peasant” styles that feel liberating in their natural setting often seem loud or “costume-y” when you get them home to your normal, urban or small-town environment.

dec 1950 photo travel wise coat975This “world traveler” jacket — without the place names — looks chic and playful on the model. Would the version with the place names really help you to look sophisticated while sailing on the Queen Elizabeth? Or in Paris?


Even this conservative version of the embroidered jacket, with a floral pattern reminiscent of the 1920s, probably did not get very much wear:

Woman in embroidered wool  jacket, circa 1950 -52. Courtesy of  RememberedSummers.

Woman in embroidered wool jacket, circa 1950 -52. She has not changed her 1930s hairstyle. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.





Filed under 1940s-1950s, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs

A Book I Need to Read Again: The Language of Clothes

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the popularity of striped coats in 1924.

Two striped coats from 1924, Delineator magazine.

Two striped coats from 1924, Delineator magazine.

This week I found this photo in Alison Lurie’s book The Language of Clothesillustrated with images assembled by Doris Palca.

A British fashion photograph of motoring and sports coart, 1924, from The Language of Clothes, by Alison Lurie.

A British fashion photograph of motoring and sports coats, 1924, from The Language of Clothes, by Alison Lurie.

The Language of Clothes, by Alison Lurie, 1981

I was de-accessioning my library, and had listed this book on Amazon, but I didn’t have to read more than a few sentences to realize that I want to read it again. Lurie’s observations about fashion are perceptive, very well-written and often very amusing. Her comment on these coats is:

striped 20s coats lurie p 74777“Women entered the second decade of the twentieth century shaped like hourglasses and came out of it shaped like rolls of carpet.”

When I was teaching, I always stressed that “Costume communicates.” We all speak the language of clothes, and we constantly make judgements based on our reading of what other people wear. Lurie’s book is about the subtle statements and psychological impulses behind our clothing choices, with chapters on “Clothing as a Sign System,” “Youth and Age,” Fashion and Status,” “Fashion and Sex,” and many other topics that explore the clothes we usually take for granted. Her comments on the fashions of the 1920s, in the chapter “Fashion and Time,” interested me particularly, because I have been thinking many of the same thoughts while looking through pattern illustrations of the twenties — but Lurie anticipated my ideas by thirty years.

And she writes really well, so that there is a lot of information packed into her seemingly effortless prose.

Dressing as Children: Thoughts on 1920s Styles

After summarizing several theories about why women minimized their breasts and hips in the twenties, Lurie reminds us that . . .

Child's drop-waisted dress, late 1880s, from Dress, The Jenness-Miller Magazine.

Child’s drop-waisted dress, late 1880s, from Dress, The Jenness-Miller Magazine.

“It has been sugested that women were asserting their new-won rights by dressing like men; or, alternatively, that they were trying to replace the young males who had died in World War I.

“…But a glance at contemporary photographs and films shows that women in the 1920s did not look like men, but rather like children — the little girls they had been ten to twenty years earlier….

“…And although [the flapper] might have the figure of an adolescent boy, her face was that of a small child: round and soft, with a turned-up nose, saucer eyes, and a “bee-stung” mouth.

I have been noticing that patterns for young women, aged 15 to 20 —  i.e., ‘flappers’ — were illustrated with very round-headed, big-eyed, baby-like heads, like the prototypical flapper cartoon character, Betty Boop.

Betty Boop, and fashion illustrations of women aged 15 to 20; Delineator, 1924.

Betty Boop, and fashion illustrations of women aged 15 to 20; Delineator, 1924.

Illustrations of a teenager and an adult woman wearing the same hat pattern, 1925. Delineator magazine.

Illustrations of a teenager and an adult woman wearing hats made from the same pattern, 1925. Delineator magazine.

Very large eyes, spaced far apart, in a round — rather than oval — head, with a tiny nose and “rosebud lips;” those are the traits associated with an infant’s head.

Middy blouse for athletic events; Jan. 1925.

Middy blouse for athletic events; Jan. 1925.

Alison Lurie goes on to say, “One popular style of the 1920s was the dress cut to look like a shirt, with an outsize collar and floppy bow tie of the kind seen on little boys ten or twenty years earlier. [See above, left.] Another favorite was the Peter Pan collar, named after [the boy who] . . . was chiefly famous for his refusal to grow up. . . . Middy blouses and skirts were now worn by grown women as well as children, and the ankle-strap button shoes or “Mary Janes” once traditional for little girls became, with the addition of a Cuban heel, the classic female style of the twenties.”



“I Won’t Grow Up”

My own observation is that dresses considered suitable for little girls aged 8 to 15 (or younger) in the early 1920s became the adult fashions of the later 1920s. When adult women were still wearing mid-calf-length skirts, in 1924, 12-year-old girls were wearing skirts that came just to the knee. Two years later, adult women — not just ‘flappers’ — were wearing knee-length skirts. The curves of a sexually mature female body were suppressed, or at least de-emphasized. The ideal may have been a ‘boyish’ figure, but it was also the figure of a little girl, too young for adult responsibilities, but insisting upon adult freedom of behavior.

Dresses for Girls 8 to 15, 1924; Woman's dress, 1928

Dresses for Girls 8 to 15, 1924; Woman’s dress, 1928


Young girl's dress, 1924; Dresses for ladies, 1928. Butterick patterns illustrations.

Young girl’s dress, 1924; Dresses for ladies, 1928. Butterick pattern illustrations.

Earlier in the century, young women looked forward to the day when they could “put up” their hair and let down their hems. By 1925, women were reverting to schoolgirl clothing styles: dropped waist lines, short skirts, pullover dresses, and middy-type blouses worn outside their skirts rather than tucked in (a look previously only seen on gym suits and children’s outfits.) Here’s another example of a child’s dress influencing the adult dress on the right:

Girl's dress with smocking, 1924; woman's dress with smocking, 1926.

Girl’s dress, 1924; women’s dresses, 1926. Butterick pattern illustrations.

At least, The Language of Clothes got me thinking more deeply about fashion trends. I’m looking forward to reading it straight through– but it’s hard not to skip ahead to such enticing topics as “Sexual Signals:  The Old Handbag,” and the underlying meanings of “Color and Pattern.” It’s available in used hardcover for about $10 plus shipping.








Filed under 1920s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Hats, Shoes, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

This 1906 Coat and Dress Survived San Francisco Earthquake

An afternoon dress and 3/4 length coat that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco have been discovered in a marvellous state of preservation. Read about them  and see very good pictures from the San Francisco Chronicle at There is a slide show which includes more pictures than the newspaper article I read at breakfast.

The ensemble was to be worn to an opera matinee on the day of the quake. When the owner fled her home in the early morning, she wrapped these garments in a curtain and took them with her.  Somehow they survived weeks of camping out and a century in storage. The cream silk coat has beautiful Art Noveau passementerie trim. The black dress is a lacy confection, but it has survived for 108 years.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Coats, Dresses, Exhibitions & Museums, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing