September 10, 2015

Then & Now: National Shirt Shops

 National Shirt Shops was a men's retailer that began as a line of shirts in 1911 and expanded to a full-scale storefront with many locations nationwide by the 1940s.  In Florida alone, there were nine National Shirt Shop locations.  The photo above shows their storefront in a Kentucky downtown area in 1948.

That black & white photo belies the colors that collectors seek today from the National Shirt Shop line.  This vivid tropical print rayon shirt is typical of their label's brilliant hues, meant for summer weekends of carefree style.

National Shirt Shops appeared to have a heyday in post-World War II years, benefiting from the popularity of Hawaiian shirts at the time and the prosperity of post-war America. As their slogan says, they literally spanned the country "Coast to Coast"!

This 1940s Hawaiian style shirt is currently available as of the time of posting.  Write us if you're always seeking them, and we'd be glad to hunt them out for you.


September 09, 2015

Before & After: Something's Buggy

We handle a lot of old clothes... stuff that's been sitting for decades, usually in the most out-of-the-way places like attics, basements, the sparest of spare closets.  We've even pulled bundles of clothes from barns, trash heaps, and abandoned houses (with permission, of course).  Those kinds of places tend to be the worst for textiles. 

 Fabric absorbs just about any liquid it touches, and when combined with decades of heat, cold, humidity and such, the resulting stains can be brutal.


So when we got to this hand-painted vintage shirt, the damage on it looked pretty rough.  It's a fifty-year-old fabric that'd been sitting in the attic of a Victorian home for most of that time.  A fabulous find, but not with these stains all over.  And the paint was worrisome, as some cleaning solvents would wreck this beautiful work.

 The issues were widespread - and like most vintage clothing, it's hard to tell exactly what created those stains in the first place.  Knowing that key bit of info could unlock the door to removing its stains much more easily and quickly, but with old clothes, it's sometimes impossible.

So instead, we read the tea leaves, so to speak.  The cross-hatching seen below shows that there's an oil base to these stains.  That's an important clue.  Dappled tan marks like this often mean air pollution, but the placement of these suggested that it was pest damage.  Ewww... but not a problem once we mask up and put the gloves on.

The work takes days, sometimes weeks.  The soaks are many, and the chemicals can range from something as simple as water to concoctions that are temperature and time-dependent.  We danced the dance with the little buggers...

And voila!   Several days later, a freshly cleaned shirt is unveiled.

The mottled beige marks and cross-hatched areas were gone, after a series of four or five different soaks and careful scrubbing to the fabric.  This is an acetate material, known to be particularly susceptible to abrasion, so the manual cleaning had to be especially gentle and slow.

The only hint of a remaining stain is an extremely faint yellowish cast that cannot be visually perceived when worn or on camera, though if the fabric were scrupulously inspected and compared from one area to the next, a very keen eye could pick it up.  All in all, a nice solution to a pest of a problem.

Always feels good to get the bugs out! 

This shirt's a modern size 12 and listed in our Etsy shop.

September 02, 2015

Little Known Labels: Sebastian Knits

A lady called us up awhile back to sell vintage clothing to us, and one of the labels she'd uncovered was Sebastian.  Oh, Sebastian!  To her it was a delight.  To us, it was hitherto unknown.

It took a trip over and a dig through the old clothes to see what Sebastian was - and is.  Of the many knitwear labels available in the 1960s, Sebastian is pure wool, great quality, and impeccably Italian.  The Cadillac label is comparable, as well as Promenade and some of the better Butte Knits.

1960s Sebastian Knit Suit

But Sebastian stands proud as bolder, brighter, and unabashedly head-turning.  High-contrast colors and large-scale patterning is prominent.  Sebastian strove for an ensemble effect, and the head-to-toe look is (and was) of-the-moment.  Quality is obvious, in thick, soft knits with price tags to match. The ensemble above was marked $185.00 in the mid-1960s - over $1350 in modern-day dollars.

There's little known about the history of this label, except that the California-based company specialized in pure wool fashions - and only pure wool - since 1947.  They made only knitted dresses, separates and coats, and they had a heyday in the 1960s, with the popularity of knitwear in every shape and form from day to evening.


The last mention of Sebastian's existence was in 1983 to announce the company's closing.  Though most of the company's history is not yet uncovered, one thing is clear - they made top quality clothes and they didn't cut corners.  That's reason enough to know this label as a stellar example of 60s fashion.