Figure 1: Kaynee Co./Oliver Twist, boy’s shirt, blue and white striped cotton, 1930. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2004.4.8.

Regrettably we leave the carefree days of summer behind, opening our textbooks for the start of the school year. For boys and girls of all ages, choosing the right outfit for the first day of school can present a challenge.

For young Vaughn Speer (b. 1924), the shirt he wore for his first day of school in 1930 was doubly significant: it was the first store bought shirt he’d ever owned. The garment was manufactured by the Cleveland-based company, Kaynee, which produced washable clothing for boys.

Kaynee was founded by Charles Eisenman and Jacob Kastriner in 1888.[1] By 1919, the company was reported to have five manufacturing facilities, and its success was viewed as emblematic of the city’s growth in the apparel-manufacturing field.[2] According to Elroy McKendree Avery: “It is roughly estimated that 7,234 miles of cloth are necessary to keep the Kaynee factory busy for six months, the supply usually kept on hand. This 12,500,000 yards of cloth is used in the manufacture of blouses and washtogs…. The most up-to-date machinery is used for perfection in manufacture, uniform quality and a high standard of excellence.”[3] Kaynee acquired Hecht & Co., and its boys’ wear brand Oliver Twist, in 1928;[4] both manufacturer and brand name are represented on the label of Vaughn’s shirt (figure 2).


Figure 2: Kaynee Co./Oliver Twist label.

During the mid-1930s, however, the company made headlines less for its fashions or manufacturing prowess than for a tumultuous labor strike in which it was embroiled.[5] The strike turned violent, involving street fighting, tear gas, and vandalism to the homes of workers before it was resolved early in 1935.[6] More detailed information on the history of (as well as numerous images related to) the Kaynee Company can be found on the Cleveland Historical website article, “Kaynee,” by Danielle Rose [].

On Vaughn’s first day of school his Kaynee shirt may have been immaculate, but it was clearly worn often over the subsequent weeks and months, as evidenced by the extensive repairs visible on examination. It appears that Vaughn’s resourceful mother even removed a piece of the striped fabric from the back of the shirt (where presumably it would have been tucked into his trousers) to patch worn areas on the sleeves and shoulder.


Figure 6: Kaynee Co./Oliver Twist, boy’s shirt, blue and white striped cotton, 1930. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2004.4.8.

We hope you find the perfect outfit to start off the school year, and that those garments are as well-loved as Vaughn’s first store-bought shirt.

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] Danielle Rose, “Kaynee ,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 9, 2016,

[2] “Children’s Wear,” Women’s Wear, August 19, 1919, 48.

[3] Elroy McKendree Avery, A History of Cleveland and Its Environs: The Heart of New Connecticut, Vol. 3 (Chicago and New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1918), 125.

[4] “Kaynee Co. Absorbs Hecht & Co., Chief Competitor in Field,” Women’s Wear Daily, May 9, 1928, 23.

[5] “First Parley on Kaynee Co. Strike Fails,” Women’s Wear Daily, November 6, 1934, 16; “Kaynee Shuts Its Factories in Cleveland,” Women’s Wear Daily, November 13, 1934, 31.

[6] “Tear Gas is Used in Bucyrus Strike Riot,” Women’s Wear Daily, December 4, 1934, 30; Danielle Rose, “Kaynee,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 9, 2016,

Happy Fourth of July!


Figure 1: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Art & Architecture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Harper’s July” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 6, 2016.

Happy Fourth of July! Today marks the national celebration of the United States’ independence as a sovereign nation. Perhaps you have some typical Fourth festivities planned, spending today with friends and family sharing food and fireworks.

Forty years ago, however, patriotic celebrations and displays rose to new heights, spanning the months preceding and following the holiday itself: 1976 was the United States’ Bicentennial anniversary. Country wide, Bicentennial events emphasized heritage, patriotism, and community pride. On this lofty occasion, John W. Warner, the administrator of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration stated: “There is a renewed spirit of achievement, of appreciation for the past and a dedication to improving the quality of life for all in the future.”[1]

Perhaps in the truest American fashion, the Bicentennial also provided plentiful opportunities for consumerism. As Warner told the New York Times: “I’m doing everything possible to engage what I call the private sector in the Bicentennial… People want to buy memorabilia connected with historical events, and I wouldn’t insult them by not providing it.”[2]


Figure 2: Bicentennial Logo Commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, members appointed by President Gerald Ford for Celebratory and event purposes, 1975-1976, historical, U.S. government, public domain. Accessed May 9, 2016,

The American Revolution Bicentennial Administration licensed the event’s official logo (figure 3) for numerous products, such as the scarf in figures 3 and 4.[3]

Figure 3 (left): Bicentennial scarf, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2010.2.19; Figure 4 (right): Detail of bicentennial scarf, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2010.2.19.

Yet officially licensed goods were far from the only Bicentennial-related products available. After surveying the market, Philip A. Dougherty commented: “In the land of commerce there seems to be no end to the possibility of tying in with the festivities.”[4] Within the fashion and textile industries, fabrics and furnishings took on a “nostalgic” air, with a “strong showing of Early American, Colonial and Traditional styles” leading up to the event.[5] Red, white, and blue color schemes marked fashion accessories.[6] Enterprising manufacturers and retailers churned out their own unofficial Bicentennial-themed apparel and accoutrements. Predictably, flag motifs were popular. According to retailer Sol Silberstein, of lower Manhattan, the most popular item was a man’s tie, the description of which is similar to that in figures 5 and 6: “We had these ties and shirts with the American flag and 76… The ties we couldn’t sell fast enough. A man would come in and buy a tie, and then he’d come back and buy a dozen more. One man bought 10 dozen. No wholesale rate. Each tie $3.90. The men were either giving the ties away or buying them for others as a favor.”[7]

Figure 5 (left): Golden Clasp by Prince Consort, necktie, polyester, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.15; Figure 6 (right): Detail of Golden Clasp by Prince Consort, necktie, polyester, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.15.

Buying the licensed memorabilia may have truly been the more patriotic choice, however, as it was reported that some of the licensing royalties would help fund Bicentennial-related civic programs.[8]

How will fashion mark America’s Tricentennial? Only 60 more years until we know for sure… In the meantime, don your red, white, and blue, and enjoy America’s 240th birthday!

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] John W. Warner, “‘A Major Turning Point’,” Bicentennial Times 3 (July 1976): 2. John Marsh Files at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, accessed May 6, 2016,

[2] Leonard Sloane, “Capitalizing on a Revolution: Licensing Rush Hails America’s Birthday,” New York Times, January 19, 1975, 159.

[3] “Accessories Briefs,” Women’s Wear Daily, March 12, 1976, 22.

[4] Philip A. Dougherty, “Full Bandwagon for Bicentennial,” New York Times, January 4, 1976, NES30.

[5] “‘America’ at the Mart!” Chicago Daily Defender, January 9, 1973, 18.

[6] Mattie Smith Colin, “Fashion Flashes,” Chicago Defender, August 27, 1975, 13.

[7] Murray Schumach, “About New York: The Bicentennial Question Mark for Business,” New York Times, September 8, 1976, 43.

[8] Leonard Sloane, “Capitalizing on a Revolution,” 159.



Dear Old Dad

Science, Industry and Business Library: General Collection, The New York Public Library. “Model No. 919. Conservative two-button notch lapel style; Model No. 920. Conservative three button notch lapel style; Designed for business wear.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 4, 2016.

“Today is Father’s Day. For 364 days of the year he is a poor, downtrodden, inconsidered [sic.] (though very necessary) nonentity, but today he will get a little respect and courtesy. That is, he will if he’s lucky.”

These were the curmudgeonly sentiments expressed by a writer for the New York Times in 1927.[1] Although some dads may view the occasion with a touch of cynicism, we set aside one Sunday in June to thank dad for everything he does for the family. The first formal Father’s Day celebration appears to have been a localized one, occurring in 1910 in the state of Washington.[2] By the 1920s, the holiday was celebrated more widely, but did not become nationally recognized until 1972.[3]

Amana Colonies, necktie, double-knit polyester, 1970s. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.12; Necktie, cotton, 1970s. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.16.

There may be a touch of truth expressed by those cynical dads, as all too often our gift choice for pop falls into a certain cliché. As Isadore Barmash wrote, on Father’s Day, dad “will be beaming on the outside but grimacing on the inside as [he opens] that all-too-familiar thin rectangular box. Not another ugly tie!”[4]

Utica Clothiers (I & A Friedlich), necktie, silk, 1921-1925. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2009.9.2.

Ties have long been a popular gesture of appreciation for dad. Interestingly, many sources hold that tie-makers and retailers were as much a force for establishing Father’s Day as were the more benevolent desires of individuals and groups to honor the family patriarch. According to the New York Times, there was “much lobbying from the greeting card and apparel industries” in advance of the holiday’s official acceptance.[5] Trade groups seemed especially eager to back Father’s Day as a promotional scheme, particularly with regard to neckwear.[6] In 1923, for instance, the Associated Men’s Neckwear Industries, Inc. launched a campaign, sending out “one hundred thousand cards in color urging the purchase of a tie for ‘Dad’ in commemoration of Father’s Day… to the country’s haberdashers.”[7] A decade later, a report in Women’s Wear Daily indicated that such efforts from the neckwear industry had continued unabated during that time.[8] By 1952, ties were characterized as “the old stand-by.”[9]

Dad & Lad, necktie, silk, probably 1950s. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 989.14.5.

 A number of writers have urged gift-givers to think outside of the box with regard to Father’s Day ties. In 1953, the New York Times regular series, “Patterns of The Times,” suggested transforming one of dad’s old ties into a belt. The project could give new life to last year’s present, and was reportedly simple enough that “a young daughter wielding her first pair of shears and threading her first needle” could manage it.[10] Likewise, years later, Anne-Marie Schiro suggested that the conventional gift could be given a “twist” if unusual or novel patterns were chosen.[11]

In 1987, ties purchased for Father’s Day reportedly accounted for ten percent of the yearly neckwear sales.[12] In the past decade, however, ties have become less of a men’s wear essential than they once were. According to Ray A. Smith of the Wall Street Journal, the year 2008 saw a slump in tie sales, partly due to the fact that “a new generation of menswear manufacturers and fashion designers has grown up seeing ties as optional.”[13] But according to Lauren Loftus of The Washington Post, although ties may be “optional” in many situations, we are not about to stop giving them to dear old dad, even if they may end up “languishing in the back of the closet.” As of last year, she wrote: “Once again this Sunday, good ties and bad, from Snoopy-adorned polyester to silk Hermès, will be gifted across the country as a token of love to the man who gave us life.”[14]

Hermès, necktie, silk, 1987. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2012.21.1.

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] “Father’s Day Dawns—Over His Protest; Ties and Cigars to Be His Lot; Then Obscurity,” New York Times, June 19, 1927, E1.

[2] “Father’s Day Dawns,” E1.

[3] “Father’s Day,” Accessed May 4, 2016,

[4] Isadore Barmash, “For Father’s Day, Prizes for Ugly Ties,” New York Times, June 20, 1987, 37.

[5] Lisa Belkin, “The Selling of Father’s Day: A New Image Emphasized,” New York Times, June 14, 1986, 33.

[6] “To Discuss Father’s Day Plans,” New York Times, May 19, 1928, 29; “Father’s Day,” New York Times, June 6, 1925, 14.

[7] “Buy a Tie for ‘Dad’ on Father’s Day, 100,000 Window Posters to Urge,” Women’s Wear, May 9, 1923, 3.

[8] “Opportunity for Father’s Day Shown in ‘Daily News Record,’ Women’s Wear Daily, May 15, 1933, 1.

[9] “Imaginative Gifts for Father’s Day,” New York Times, June 13, 1952, 26.

[10] “Patterns of The Times: Gifts for Father’s Day,” New York Times, May 11, 1953, 22.

[11] Anne-Marie Schiro, “Father’s Day Gifts With a Twist on Tradition,” New York Times, June 11, 1989, 62.

[12] Isadore Barmash, “For Father’s Day, Prizes for Ugly Ties,” New York Times, June 20, 1987, 37.

[13] Ray A. Smith, “Tie Association, a Fashion Victim, Calls It Quits as Trends Change; After 60 Years, Trade Group Unravels; What to Buy Now for Father’s Day?” Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2008, A1.

[14] Lauren Loftus, “Why We Keep Buying Dad Ties for Father’s Day,” The Washington Post, June 19, 2015, accessed April 21, 2016,

Featured Treasure: Matthew Christopher Bridal Gown

It’s wedding season! We are proud to count bridal designer Matthew Christopher Sobaski among our accomplished alums. [ Visit his website at: ]

Fig. 1 and 2: Wedding dress, 2006. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2011.1.2. Gift of Matthew Christopher, Inc.

“Roman Holiday” is the name given to this off-white silk duchess ball gown featuring fleur-de-lis embroidery on the strapless bodice with modified sweetheart neckline. Tiered ivory piping swags and intricate beading embellish the hemline, with 144 satin-covered buttons trailing down the sweeping chapel-length train. The strapless bodice and bell-shaped silhouette have been popular among young brides since the late 1990s.

This is one of three wedding gowns donated to the Textiles and Clothing Museum by Matthew Christopher Sobaski, the Chief Designer and Creative Director for Matthew Christopher, Inc., a bridal fashion house and manufacturer with headquarters in New York City and Ollie, Iowa. Sobaski’s interest in bridal design began very early; as a child he spent time looking at bridal magazines at a grocery store in the southeast Iowa town where he grew up. His career as a designer officially began after studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and Iowa State University in the Textiles and Clothing Department. Following a move to New York City and an internship at Demetrios Bridal, Sobaski worked as a design assistant at One of a Kind Bridal before accepting a position as a designer at Galina Bridal. In 2002 he launched the first line under his own label: Matthew Christopher, Inc. Along with donating the gowns to the Collection, Sobaski returned to campus in 2011 as the guest designer for the annual student-run Fashion Show.

Recently, Sobaski participated in the first Flyover Fashion Fest in Iowa City. Listen to his interview with Iowa Public Radio to learn more about the designer and his work:

This post is part of a regular series in which we introduce our readers to highlights of the TCM collection, most of which are featured in our collection catalog, Treasures of the Textiles and Clothing Museum. Special thanks to Sara B. Marcketti and Janet Fitzpatrick who contributed the text and research for the catalog and these posts. Stay tuned for more treasures! If you are interested in ordering a copy of the catalog, you can find more details here:

Conversational Handkerchiefs

The arrival of spring may have you reaching for your Kleenex tissues, or perhaps you may reach for the ever-useful handkerchief instead. Handkerchiefs are far more than simply a piece of plain fabric; in fact, the Textiles and Clothing Museum holds its own notable collection of conversational handkerchiefs that includes a design by the American artist, Jessie Willcox Smith (figures 4 and 5), along with a handkerchief that features the popular comic character, Buster Brown (figures 1-3). Both examples have messages that allude to what is and isn’t appropriate children’s behavior.


Figure 1: Handkerchief, early 20th century. Textiles and Clothing Museum, A50.

Buster Brown was a mischievous young character, made popular by being featured in his very own comic strip, Created by Richard Outcault in 1902, Buster Brown was a child of wealth and privilege, but was not always well-mannered and could not avoid getting into trouble. [1] The character is also recognizable in popular culture due to licensing promotional deals with Buster Brown shoes.

Buster was a prime example for showcasing the consequences of bad behavior. The handkerchief in figure 1 shows Buster Brown getting into some trouble with a pair of skates at a park while being left alone for a moment. The clothing worn by Buster and his mother and father are indicators of their wealth, with his mother wearing a fur coat and hat, and his father wearing a bowler hat and long coat. Buster’s red shirt and shorts, complete with matching hat, blue bow and tights are typical young boy’s clothing of the period.


Figure 2: Detail of handkerchief, early 20th century. Textiles and Clothing Museum, A50.

Buster is told by his mother to wait here until we get back, and be a good boy. However, Buster stumbles on a pair of skates and like his stories, he finds himself in a situation he ought to not be in, falling down in an area with a danger sign. When Buster’s mother returns, he finds himself punished, yet again, as his dog, Tige, remarks, I’m sorry he found those skates. A thought to ponder: perhaps the fancy dress of young children of the 1900s was meant to mirror the proper manner and behavior of adults?


Figure 3: Detail of handkerchief, early 20th century. Textiles and Clothing Museum, A50.

The popular American illustrator, Jessie Willcox Smith, was particularly well known for her children’s illustrations, one of which is exemplified in the handkerchief, dating to circa 1903, in figures 4 and 5. [2] Its content alludes to consequences for children who misbehave, depicting a young boy is sitting on a stool surrounded by the text:

When Daddy was a little boy all little Boys were good. And did just what their nurses and their parents said they should. And sometimes when I’m naughty he takes me on his knee, and tells when he was little how good he used to be.

During the early 20th century, both handkerchiefs might have served as reminders to their young owners about the importance of minding their Ps and Qs—and the discipline they might otherwise face.


Figure 4: Handkerchief, c. 1903. Textiles and Clothing Museum, A50.


Figure 5: Detail of handkerchief, c. 1903. Textiles and Clothing Museum, A50.

For more reading about handkerchiefs, we suggest picking up a copy the book, Hanky Panky: An Intimate History of the Handkerchief, by Helen Gustafson, for a detailed history of the handkerchief in America.

Emily Cokeley


Nudelman, Edward D. Jessie Willcox Smith: American Illustrator. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1990.

Thompson, Maggie. Comics Shop. Iola, WI: F+W Media, Inc., 2010.

[1] Thompson, Maggie. Comics Shop. (Iola, WI: F+W Media, Inc. 2010), n.pag.

[2] Nudelman, Edward D. Jessie Willcox Smith: American Illustrator. (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1990), 17-18.

Maternity Mode


Fig. 1: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Mother and child sitting in a park.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 1, 2016.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms and moms-to-be!

For many women, finding stylish apparel for the nine months leading up to mommy-hood can be a challenge. But on the whole, as some writers argue, maternity wear has become more fashion forward.[1]

Certainly, as scholar Marianne Brown pointed out, women have come a long way since the days of hidden bumps in loose clothing and hidden women confined in homes.[2] In her PhD dissertation, Rebecca Lou Bailey wrote: “When you trace the genesis of maternity clothing, lingering Victorian modesty becomes obvious: robe-like at-home dresses, street clothes to be worn with long jackets or under coats, and finally sports clothing—bermuda shorts and blousy tops. You see the pregnant woman slowly emerging into public life…”[3] Bailey argued that “specialized maternity wear seems to have been a 20th century creation.”[4] Brown concurred, chronicling some of those changes from the 1910s through the 1960s, as maternity clothing received progressively more attention in the popular press. Over the twentieth century, maternity apparel has been given renewed attention, becoming subject of fashion, not merely a mode of concealment. As a 2006 New York Times article put it: “Showing? It’s Time to Show Off.”[5]

A number of mid-twentieth century maternity manufacturers credited the baby boom and postwar economic prosperity with raising the profile of the maternity industry. By 1960, Women’s Wear Daily wrote, “Pregnant women” were “more fashion minded.” Trends of the moment were “being adapted for maternity wear.”[6] One specialist in stylish maternity clothing was Ma Mere, Inc. Ma Mere incorporated around 1954, billing itself as a producer of “high-fashion maternity” apparel. Two of its key players were a married couple, Albert Nipon, the company’s president, and his wife, Pearl, who was the first designer for Ma Mere Originals.[7] The company had showrooms in New York, but manufactured its line in Philadelphia.[8] According to Pearl, the impetus for the line was quite personal: “I have to relate to what I do… I became involved with designing maternity clothes because I had to wear them and they just looked terrible.”[9]

The company even claimed to influence fashion trends. In 1958, in an announcement for the company’s early fall collection, Ma Mere, Inc. Albert Nipon insinuated that the maternity industry, and Ma Mere, was responsible for popularizing the flared trapeze silhouette,[10] for which Yves Saint Laurent, the newly appointed young designer at Christian Dior, made headlines that same year. Yet according to Nipon: “Our styling for the past four years has been adopted in the chemise and trapeze silhouettes by the Paris couturiers.” He went on: “We thank them for spotlighting our fashion trend.”[11]

The Nipons also realized that industry—as well as consumers, no doubt—might also wish to see the product represented in a realistic manner. At its fall collection showing in 1958, the models were expectant mothers: “Buyers could see for themselves how the new versions of the Trapeze dress… looked on a mother-to-be.”[12]

Figs. 2 and 3: Ma Mere, Inc. (Albert Nipon), gingham dress, circa 1972. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 992.1.726.

Ma Mere emphasized that maternity clothing could be chic—and that pregnancy was not a condition a woman needed to disguise; in 1967 they debuted “party pants”—bloomer shorts worn under a flared tunic. Women’s Wear Daily’s accompanying copy read: “Just because you’re eight months pregnant… there’s no need to hide in a basic little tent. At least, not when you can be beautifully conspicuous in party pants.”[13] Women’s maternity wear of the late 1960s, like fashions in general, emphasized youthfulness.[14]

By the late 1960s, Ma Mere, Inc. produced lines at several price points. Nipon told Women’s Wear Daily, “My theory is like General Motors… They make Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and Chevrolets… I feel Ma Mere can be that at all levels.”[15] Yet the market was changing. During the early 1970s, the Nipons had shifted focus to better dresses, as the demand for higher-end maternity clothing suffered under the “soft economy.”[16] By roughly 1973, according to the New York Times, the couple sold off their maternity business.[17] Both examples in the TCM collection date near the end of Nipon’s Ma Mere maternity line.

Figs. 4 and 5: Ma Mere, Inc. (Albert Nipon), jumper and blouse, circa 1972. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 992.1.337.

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] Michelle Slatalla, “Maternity Shopping Without the Nausea,” New York Times, January 10, 2002, G4.

[2] Marianne Brown, “The Birth of Maternity Wear: Clothing for the Expectant Mother in America,” MA Thesis, 2009, Fashion Institute of Technology, 1.

[3] Rebecca Lou Bailey, “Fashions in Pregnancy: An Analysis of Selected Cultural Influences, 1850-1980,” PhD diss, 1981, Michigan State University, 235.

[4] Bailey, “Fashions in Pregnancy,” 236.

[5] Ruth La Ferla, “Showing? It’s Time to Show Off,” New York Times, June 8, 2006, G1.

[6] Chuck Kurtak, “Economy, Styles Cited as Factors in Market Change,” Women’s Wear Daily, October 11, 1960, 46.

[7] “Ma Mere, New Maternity Firm,” Women’s Wear Daily, April 6, 1954, 47.

[8] “Ma Mere Has New Philadelphia Site,” Women’s Wear Daily, December 14, 1954, 39.

[9] Catherine Bigwood, “The Dress Makers,” Women’s Wear Daily, March 18, 1974, 4.

[10] Ma Mere, Inc., advertisement, Women’s Wear Daily, April 29, 1958, 36.

[11] Ma Mere, Inc., advertisement, Women’s Wear Daily, April 29, 1958, 36.

[12] “Show Fall Maternity Line on Pregnant Mode,” Women’s Wear Daily, May 20, 1958, 56.

[13] “Party Pants,” Women’s Wear Daily, June 20, 1967, 34.

[14] Frances Borzello, “Mothers Not Getting Younger… But Maternity Fashions Are,” Women’s Wear Daily, July 20, 1965, 26.

[15] “Three for the Road,” Women’s Wear Daily, September 19, 1967, 20.

[16] Catherine Bigwood, “The Dress Makers,” Women’s Wear Daily, March 18, 1974, 4.

[17] Sandra Salmans, “Dressmakers: Albert and Pearl Nipon: In the Year of the Dress, They’re No. 1,” New York Times, February 22, 1981, F6.

Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day

Saturday was “Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day.” Since we had the day off, we deferred our celebrations until Monday.

IMG_0222 Fig. 1: Pajama styles from 1930. Iowa State College Extension Service, “Undergarments,” revised by Helen Putnam (Ames, IA: Iowa State College Extension Service, June 1930).

In June 1930, a publication by the Iowa State College Extension Service advised that “young girls, college girls especially, like nothing better than smart, colorful pajamas for lounging and study hours as well as for sleeping.” According to its editor, Helen Putnam, “the discovery of the comfort of pajamas has already firmly established this new vogue.”[1] We wondered…. can the same be said of today’s college student? Is “Wear Your Pajamas to Work (or Class) Day” a special occasion or an everyday occurrence?

The appropriateness of pajamas in class has been debated for much of the last decade. Sleepwear made CNN’s list of “What Not to Wear on Campus,”[2] and several years ago, even the prestigious University of Oxford was dismayed by the number of pajama-clad students populating its dining halls.[3]

Interestingly, however, during the 1930s, the “pajama” was not strictly a private garment, and could be found in casual, lounging settings, evening wear, and at the beach. Although these garments might be more polished than the traditional sleepwear variety, they shared a relaxed and easy silhouette.

Figs. 2 and 3: Beach pajamas, cotton, 1933. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 989.20.28a-b

The TCM has a brightly colored floral beachwear pajama set—a jumpsuit with matching jacket—in our collection. The ensemble was worn by Florence Davenport Bush on her honeymoon in July 1933.

Early in the 1930s, Women’s Wear Daily reported that one-piece beach pajamas like ours were prevalent, worn “with or without jackets,” and some were even so full in the leg as produce “more the effect of a dress than pajama.”[4] According to the paper, at Deauville, the fashionable French resort, beach pajamas were de rigueur: “Practically every bather at Deauville now wears pajamas over her bathing suit. The beach pajama here has developed into an attractive and flattering costume which is jaunty, practical and individual all at once.”[5] Beach pajamas could be found at both ends of the price spectrum. While the pricey garments likely sported at Deauville might be out of reach of the average consumer, she could find less costly options at local stores. Women’s Wear Daily encouraged retailers to stock “lower-priced versions” in washable fabrics to “appeal to young women who do not live near enough to a beach to warrant investing a sizable sum in beach wear but want attractive pajamas or slacks.”[6]

So break out your prettiest pjs—beach or otherwise—and relax in comfort all day!

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] Iowa State College Extension Service, “Undergarments,” revised by Helen Putnam (Ames, IA: Iowa State College Extension Service, June 1930), 6.

[2] Carl Azuz, “What Not to Wear on Campus,” Schools of Thought, August 31, 2012, accessed April 17, 2016,

[3] “Oxford to Students: Stop Wearing Pajamas to Breakfast,” Inside Higher Ed, May 16, 2012, accessed April 17, 2016,

[4] “Fabric and Styles of Beach Pajamas Strike Note of Simplicity for Summer,” Women’s Wear Daily, April 14, 1931, Section 2, 16.

[5] Paris Bureau, “Beach Pajamas Unanimous with Bathers at Normandy Coast Resort—Jersey Favored in Dark Tones—Hand Knitted Types Present New Aspect—Bright Wool Caps and Sweaters Effective Novelties—One-Piece Bathing Suits in Two Colors Worn,” Women’s Wear Daily, August 18, 1931, 4.

[6] “Promote Inexpensive Beach Pajamas and Slacks During the Summer Months,” Women’s Wear Daily, June 2, 1932, 10.

Brothers and Sisters

April 10 is National Sibling Day. Whether we are best friends or prone to bickering, it is clear that our sibs have profound impacts on our lives. They may even influence the clothing we wear.

At the Textiles and Clothing Museum, we have many examples of children’s clothing shared by sets of siblings. Thrifty Iowa parents frequently saved and reused the clothing of one baby for subsequent children. Such examples from our collection include baby clothing shared by Ames native and former Iowa State professor Harriet Tilden McJimsey and her brother (Figs. 1 -4). McJimsey went on to publish the home economics and fashion textbook, Art in Clothing Selection.

But as they grow older, some siblings choose to share their clothing.

Sisters Kathleen Kay Carpenter Schueppert and Carol Carpenter Hanson bought the velvet coat in fig. 5 at Frankel’s Clothing Store in Des Moines during the early 1960s. Schueppert was a Textiles and Clothing major at Iowa State University (class of 1964), and wore the coat to events on the Ames campus, while her sister donned it for formals at the University of Iowa.


Fig. 5: Coat, burgundy velvet, 1962-3. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2013.23.1.

Former ISU professor (from the department of Applied Art) Mary Meixner (fig. 6) donated many of our mid-twentieth-century designer fashions, including pieces from such famous names as Anne Fogarty (fig. 7), Jacques Heim, and Claire McCardell (fig. 8).

KIC Image 0006

Fig. 6: Mary Meixner. Iowa State University Library, Special Collections and University Archives.

When a Textiles and Clothing student interviewed Meixner for a class project in 1998, she revealed that much of her enviable wardrobe may have been sourced by her sisters: Edna Meixner Anderson, a fashion illustrator for Macy’s in New York City, and Hedwig Wiley Meixner, a fashion illustrator in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the student’s research, Meixner visits to her sisters frequently included shopping trips. Using their natural talents for illustration, her siblings also kept her informed about the latest fashions by mailing sketches.[1]

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] This research on Mary Meixner was conducted by R.A. Rhodes-Murphy for TC555 during Spring 1998.


Unrestrained Exploration of Creative Design Scholarship

Currently on view in the Textiles and Clothing Museum’s Mary Alice Gallery is the exhibition, “Unrestrained Exploration of Creative Design Scholarship: A Retrospective of Doctoral Work by Ling Zhang.”


The designer, Ling Zhang. Photograph by Xiaoning Fang.

Zhang is a doctoral candidate in the Apparel, Merchandising, and Design (AMD) program, working under the supervision of major professor and creative designer Dr. Eulanda A. Sanders, and advised by Drs. Sara Marcketti and Ellen McKinney from the AMD program, and Professors Cindy Gould and Brent Holland from the College of Design.

When she graduates in May, as Iowa State’s College of Human Sciences recently reported, she will have the distinction of completing the program’s first creative design dissertation.[1] Zhang is a pioneer in the AMD program, but she is also breaking new ground in theories related to the design of wearable art. Her research will propose a design process model to benefit her fellow scholars and practitioners of wearable art and creative design.

Unrestrained Dreams (Doctoral Collection by Ling Zhang). Video filmed and edited by Xin Liu.

To test her model, Zhang has created nine wearable art ensembles, all of which are featured in the exhibition. The design inspiration is drawn from aspects of her cultural heritage—Chinese painting and philosophy—but blended with Western garment construction. Within the nine-piece doctoral collection are three subgroups: Chinese Wisteria, Lotus, and Bamboo.

In crafting her dissertation collection, Zhang used a variety of artisanal techniques, including painting with Chinese ink, hand beading, bead embroidery, tambour embroidery, and nuno felting. Accompanying the collection is a series of videos that provide an insight into Zhang’s working process—and also detail the painstaking talent and effort involved in producing these one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

Collection of Chinese Wisteria. Video filmed and edited by Xin Liu.

Rounding out the exhibition are examples from the rest of Zhang’s tenure at Iowa State University. Zhang’s work incorporates elements of sustainability, including natural dyes, upcycling, and slow fashion, but also fuses labor-intensive handcrafts with some of the most cutting-edge textile technologies, like digital printing and laser cutting.


Installation shot. Photograph by Christina Creel.

The retrospective exhibition is on-view until April 9. Please join us for a reception on Sunday, April 3 from 3 to 6 pm, and hear from the designer herself during a presentation at 4 pm. For more on Zhang and her collection, please visit: or


Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] Shannon Stump, “Iowa State Doctoral Student Produces First Creative Design Dissertation,” Iowa State University, College of Human Sciences. Accessed March 29, 2016,

Making Our Museum: #peopleMW

It is #MuseumWeek! Today, we are tasked to honor the #peopleMW that have shaped our museums. At the Textiles and Clothing Museum, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet (1930-2012).


Fig. 1: Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet.

Huepenbecker Burnet was a dedicated Iowa State University professor and administrator. She started her career at Iowa State in 1956 when she was hired as an instructor. Early in her tenure, she was active in cataloguing the collection of the Textiles and Clothing (now Apparel, Merchandising, and Design) program—a collection that would later be codified into the Textiles and Clothing Museum. She was appointed Department Head in 1973 and served in that role through 1993.


Fig. 2: Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet showing items from Iowa State University’s Textiles and Clothing Department collection to a visiting faculty member, 1980s. Special Collections Department/Iowa State University Library.

As an administrator, she was a staunch advocate for the preservation of historic textiles and clothing at Iowa State. She championed the creation of a museum collection that followed best practices, but furthermore, she envisioned a teaching resource that would benefit both students and academic researchers. As she wrote in an internal memo in 1974: “I would like to see a museum complex which places greater emphasis on its educational and research functions than on its display functions.” According to her friends and colleagues, the museum today, with its conservation lab facilities and upgraded storage system, is largely the result of her diligent efforts, as well as her cultivation and nurturing of relationships with its patrons. The objects held within the Textiles and Clothing Museum are readily accessible for “educational and research functions,” frequently used in classroom lectures and independent study projects, in addition to use in exhibitions.

Some of the objects used in class belonged to Huepenbecker Burnet herself. Through her travels and research, she built a museum-quality collection of textiles and clothing from around the globe, especially strong in holdings from Central and South America. Following her death, Huepenbecker Burnet’s personal collection was donated to the museum.


Fig. 3: Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet, with fashion designer Charles Kleibacker, n.d. Special Collections Department/Iowa State University Library.

Huepenbecker Burnet was influential in advancing scholarship within Iowa State’s Textiles and Clothing program. During her tenure, the department brought innovative programming to campus. Fashion designer Charles Kleibacker visited Iowa State to lead a seminar on textiles and clothing in 1978. Videos from the event can be seen on Iowa State Library’s Special Collections YouTube channel: Huepenbecker Burnet, then Department Head, even served as one of his models.

She also promoted the creation of Iowa State University’s PhD program in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. Huepenbecker Burnet’s support of Iowa State’s Textiles and Clothing Museum, as well as apparel scholars, continues through an endowment, which provides graduate students the opportunity to work with the Textiles and Clothing Museum.

Jennifer Farley Gordon