Shopping From the Past

Heritage Collections for Women?

Blueprint for future use
From the Montgomery Ward 1949-1950 catalog
Aside from a few collections and reports to the contrary, the heritage clothing revival has yet to make its way to the female consumer.

Sometimes I think I’m the only woman admiring all the beautiful, Americana inspired sportswear, footwear and accessories featured on blogs like A Continuous Lean and h(y)r collective, etc.

Last Spring 2008, Filson launched their collection for women (a nice effort save for the “peach poplin” blend fabrics and a few unfortunate cut and color choices). Barbour, Carhartt, Beretta and John Partridge all now market outdoor (albeit, activity specific) clothing to women. But beyond this short list (plus a few others, of course), most US and UK heritage brands assume an all male audience for their product lines. Red Wing, a company known for offering shoes and boots in a wide range of sizes, starts sizing for their “Lifestyle Heritage Range” range at 7. Although Red Wing sells smaller sizes to the Japanese market, there are no plans to bring them to the US. Why is the heritage line not being sized to fit a broader market of women and gents with smaller feet? I put the same question to Filson since they have been deflecting requests for footwear for women since the men’s line was introduced in the 1990s.

Even cycling brands like Rapha, Swobo and Showers Pass, all known for non-mainstream designs, reserve their new vintage/”old school” outerwear collections for men only. For examples, see Rapha’s tweed softshell or the Showerspass Portland jacket which are all sized to edit out (all but the most robust) women. On the Swobo website, the pulldown menu for men lists organic cotton, wool and waxed cotton jackets (beyond the staple cycling clothing offerings). The women’s menu offers a few bland selection of jersyes and cotton shorts–but no waxed cotton or wool outerwear. No demand?

All I’m asking for is modern access to the teenage sportswear department of 1949 Montgomery Ward cataog. Those three pages (shown above) contain everything I need, if ordered in multiples, to get me through to my first retirement check: pinwale corduroy and gabardine shirts, glen plaid slacks, denim dungaries, new wool turtleneck pullovers, a nice pea coat and/or a donegal wool “abbreviated storm jacket.” Loafers and jophur boot appear to be the default style of footwear.

You’ll note that the Montgomery Ward catalog items do not default to the easy “feminizing” of overt/excessive pleating, hourglass paneling and terrible color selections of some heritage products resized/restyled for women.

Given how trends shake out, reverberation style, I anticipate nods to the heritage movement in the mainstream Gap and JCREW collections for women in the next year. Any speculation on how they might play out on a literal level? What I’m anticipating is the trace appearance of heritage styling, for example, in the form of models wearing alpine climbing boots with red laces, etc.

Before we get the heritage knock-offs and next generation homages for women, I’d love to see the reissue of a few more first generation originals.
Ginger Rogers and friends in 1937 (from Ginger Roger: My Story)


20 thoughts on “Heritage Collections for Women?”

  1. I totally nod the heritage movement – and see it coming in a big way. Uniqlo in Soho was selling Viyella-like plaid shirts at Christmas and almost everyone in the store had one or two to purchase. Quality at a good price.

  2. I would love a pair of those pants on the left in the Ginger Roger picture….. The double button front ones. Unfortunately, I can’t say Pendleton is doing anything for womens’ fashion, and I am not especially attracted to the clothes for women at Filson. Great post, struck a cord with me….

  3. I assure you, you are not the only woman paying attention to the heritage revival in men’s fashion and wishing there was a female equivalent.

    I’ve talked to girls I’m friends with, and female customers at the store I work in, and there is a major void in the women’s market.

    That being said, all the brands you mentioned (Filson, Barbour, Carhartt, et cetera) don’t make it easy for smaller sized guys either.

  4. Preach it girlfriend! I look at ACL with envy all of the time. Sadly, men’s clothing is not the most flattering on my womanly hips. So sad, or else I’d be buying boy stuff 24-7.

  5. What’s weird is that that you would think in a normal business model, one would add more offerings for women, as (generally speaking) they are bigger shoppers than men. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked about the Wrangler premium denim collection offering a vintage cut (like those Ginger Rogers jeans). I get a blank stare at the boutiques where the premium denim is sold. The gender stereotyping that’s going on in many of those boutiques creates a big dilemma for this market since they’re usually selling a different aesthetic (but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive). I think the huge (unrealized) market is that there a whole bunch of us who are not wearing heels and girly camisoles every day, don’t like the oversized heavyweight jersey stylings of some brands and want this heritage look in an authentic way.

  6. I have 2 boxy Pendleton plaid wool jackets. One (from Archival Clothing’s moving “sale”) is for outside hiking and one is for inside business (or sitting by the fire with Rock Hudson). They’re sturdy wonderful vintage marvels that will last forever, but try and find a decent pair of wide-leg wool sailor-bib trousers to go with them. I don’t think it’s asking for too much.

  7. I’m optimistic about the possibility of a close to complete revival. However subtle, I’ve noticed a resurgence of high waisted, pegged slacks for women (a classic staple), buffalo plaid is everywhere on the hipster market, Urban Outfitters is beginning to sell loafers by Bass-something I didn’t expect. I do, however, have doubts about the quality of this newly manufactured clothing. I’m guessing women will still be going to vintage clothing stores to find built-to-last articles. I could live without the moth ball smell…

  8. great post lesli. Your really onto something here. This weekend when i was poking through the ll bean archive i stumbled across some awesome women’s clothing. quite your working for U of O and start a line. I am sure my mom would buy it!

  9. Foster–

    Archival Clothing product line coming someday…

    Archival all wool sweaters will be my first point of focus. Keep posting comments regarding choice of sweater design/styling.

  10. Hear, hear, to all you say! I’m doubly cursed – female and short. For the sake of the short ladies, consider a petite line when you get your own business going! I would love to see practical clothing that flatters the female shape without being fussy *or* boxy.

    I receive the J. Crew catalog and find it amusing how often they put, for example, the men’s chambray workshirts (pre-washed to death) on the ladies, but never actually offer them *for* the ladies. (??) In some years, their ladies sweaters approach a iconicism (?) that is pleasing, but they haven’t offered them in petites for ages so nothing for me.

    Also, I’ve been searching for a classic leather oxford for ages (something Harriet Vane might wear on a country walk) and totally empathize with your shoe quest.

    That’s all, carry on!

  11. While we’re in wishing mode, could we get Hush Puppies to bring back the Fritzi? My all time favorite ugly/practical/comfortable oxford, and if I’d known they were going to discontinue them (ca. 1997) I would have stocked up!

  12. You’re definitely not the only one. I’ve given up on my search for a pair of Red Wings that don’t make my feet look like canoes, bean boots will have to do for now. Like you, my biggest annoyance when companies DO turn their attention to women’s lines are all the unnecessary ‘girly’ adjustments. All I want are sized down versions of men’s pieces, for me the beauty is in the simplicity of the cuts, shrink them down and don’t change a thing.

    Now, if I could only get my hands on that Montgomery Ward Flight Jacket…

  13. Pendleton still makes the ’49er jacket. Total classic.

    Buffalo check and deck shoes have been mentioned, but here are the rest of my picks to click for heritage movement trends in women’s mass retail:

    — Nordic sweaters
    — Nautical. Deck jacket and Breton shirt to go with the deck shoes.
    — Casual pants (a.k.a. “khakis”) will become roomy, straight-legged and higher-waisted
    — Faux army surplus (see current J. Crew catalog, even!)

    It’s troublesome that women’s sportswear design often prioritizes looking like you’re doing some activity over the actual doing.

  14. My wish list is a decent filson fitted vest in a great plaid pattern. Lots of pockets.One for cell phone, one for camera, one for wallet…. I also want some chaps for rain and or working outside in the blackberries, which I have been doing and wrecking my jeans. Does that bike group you are in stop to pea or do they do it mobile? I heard a rumor it was the later….

  15. Stephanie–

    Filson does have a few nice wool fitted vests for women in red plaid, etc. Also, I think they would be willing to do a custom order for one of their wool vests in one of the wool plaids offered for the gents. Not sure about added pockets for cellphone use.

    I also like the Filson travel vest for women in XS.

    Let me know what else I should include in my next Filson petition.

    And I must tell you that the rumors regarding my cycling club are not true! 10-22 hours on a bicycle encourages one to dismount and rest at every possible occasion

  16. Lesli, what a timely post. Honestly, I also thought I was the only girl within a 10,000 mile radius who was genuinely angry that functional wear for women was always so girly and sensitive to the current fashion. I also love looking at ACL and Hyr and am always sending my boyfriend my favorite posts for inspiration. Glad to know there are so many other women out there who demand the same classic design and high-quality construction as what has been offered to men for hundreds of years.

  17. i just found your blog and have to tell you how inspiring this is! i adore workingwear, for men or women. but you are right, it’s hard to find this type of clothing made for women. at the moment i am thinking about producing similar clothing using vintage patterns. and these images are great! especially the one with ginger rogers! fantastic! in fact, i am just about to cut out a pair of trousers from a pattern dated to 1940. 🙂

  18. Agree completely! I want to buy the whole 5th floor of Barneys mens but it doesn’t fit. Steven Alan does a pretty good job, also Dunderdon. Pendleton for Opening Ceremony has some great things for women, but a jacket is $650 — too much. Another great thing about these men’s clothes is they’re affordable. Im tired of the ridiculous prices for women’s clothes, and most made in China.

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