Archival Clothing - Made in USA

Posts Tagged ‘Montgomery Ward’

Archival Pencil Sharpeners

May 16th, 2012
Shopping from 1949

In our household, we still use pencils for annotating books and recipes, for list making and doodling. We love having a manual pencil sharpener that accommodates the various sized pencils in our collection – from the plumpish Ticonderoga Laddie to my sleek German graphite pencils. Our favorite is the Boston Champion – a model you might remember from youe elementary school days. While X-Acto (who now owns Boston) sells a model that can be vacuum mounted to a flat surface, we recommend purchasing the classic version, with an 8 hole dial, that can be permanently screwed to a table or inside of a cabinet. Ebay seems to be the best resource for a wide variety of vintage Boston sharpeners. As always, I enjoy the background detail revealed through amateur product photography. In this set, the fern fronds are my favorite.

If you are seeking a non mechanical option, here’s a fine example

Shopping from the 1930s: Montgomery Ward

September 30th, 2011

Exemplary outerwear

I’ve been on an ebay shopping spree for Montgomery Ward catalogs (the Archival bible). I’ve secured a few new Fall editions from the 1940s which I’ll be reprinting here–in bits–in the next few months. Copies of the 1930s catalogs are more tricky to source. Inspired by Spokesniffer and Reference Library, I’m capturing auction images as placeholders for items I did not buy. Here are a few frame grabs from vintage catalogs from the 1930s that were beyond my “buy it now” pricepoint. If I could make it so, these would all Archival offerings for Fall 2011. Smitty “Whata Sweater” would be announced as our new Archival mascot.

Smitty Sweater

Heavy weight shawl collar sweaters and cardigans

All wool blazers

Denim jackets, overalls and trousers

Canvas duck field jackets

All wool shaker sweaters

Heritage workwear for women

Pendleton blankets

Shopping from 1958: Montgomery Ward Denim

January 9th, 2011

I’m ambiguous about premium denim. I love brands like Rising Sun, Mister Freedom and Sugar Cane that manufacture jeans using historical patterns, vintage sewing equipment and top quality raw denim. I’m also attracted to denim’s labor intensive care requirements (akin to our own waxed fabrics). But truth be told, I hesitate to pay more than $200.00 for jeans. That’s a price point I reserve for Barbour jackets, Scandinavian knitwear and cold forged bicycle parts.

To save money, I’m shopping from the Montgomery Ward catalog from 1958. I’m looking for Sanforized, vat dyed jeans w/generous, functional pocketing. My preference is for a five pocket model with a high rise and wide, tubular legs. Although Wards offers denim for adults, I’m shopping the “sub-teen” department where clothing is made with extra sturdy materials to better accommodate “rough and tumble outdoor play”.

My favorite pair of denim is on the far right. Check out the front swing pockets and extra large rear pockets. I eagerly await the demise of slim fit denim. Here, that style is reserved for “slim, rangy boys”. Waiting for the day when companies bring back the tubular legs and full seat of Wards traditional “husky” fit (“cut extra full in waist, seat, thighs for top comfort”).

Cutting edge in 1958: plaid cotton flannel lined and water repellent denim. At $2.49, makes for an affordable alternative to the leading competing brand.

At Archival, we design products that will wear until they dissolve. We follow in the tradition of companies like Wards who offer a free pair of jeans if the double knees outwear the pants themselves.

Ladies, I’m sorry to report that there’s not much denim on offer at Wards in 1958. Wool skirts and plaid corduroy pants were the preferred fashions of the day. However, I can recommend a pair of cropped “play pants” in a nice, 9 oz vat dyed denim, “bartacked at points of strain.”

Archival Shocker: Heritage Footwear for Women

October 13th, 2010

Work and safety footwear from 1949
Wolverine 1000 Mile boot for women

Full disclosure:Wolverine sent me women’s shoes and boots from the Wolverine 1000 Mile Collection for review.Since I primarily shop from defunct companies or out of print catalogs, this was a happy turn of events.Even without testing, I can highly endorse the Wolverine 1000 Mile collection as a rare example of heritage footwear offered for women without compromise in design or build quality. Like the original version for gents, the Wolverine Collection for women is made in the USA and is based on the same original 1000 Mile boot pattern.Both shoe and boot styles are made from Horween Chromexcel leather (an A.C. favorite) and are constructed on a women’s last with a stitched Goodyear welt.

Catalogs in the 30s and 40s sold this style of boot for farm and heavy duty outdoor wear. Sizes were offered for both men and women. Price point was determined by quality of leather and method of construction. In 2010, the traditional work boot is a rarified, special edition style selling at a premium price point in menswear specialty shops (or in Japan). We’d love to see more of these classic, stylish, well built, American boots made available to the general public.

Some use notes and photos:

Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots for women on test
When I first received them, I immediately had Cat’s Paw protective rubber half soles affixed to the bottoms of my new shoes by a local Eugene cobbler, Baker’s. The climate here in Oregon is wet and it’s treacherous to walk tiled hallways or to bicycle w/full leather soles.

In my field testing, I’ve found that I prefer the boots since their look is more classic and they work better w/my stove pipe trouser legs. I would say that the sizing is generous. I normally wear a women’s 8.5 wide and both boots and shoes fit a little on the loose side – in the width. However, with midweight wool socks, the boots fit well and are extremely comfortable.

I’ve been wearing both the boots and the shoes in rotation. After sporting loafers and camp mocs for so many months, I had forgotten how much support and structure a traditional work boot provides. Steel shanks, solid arch support and leather heel counters have virtually disappeared from modern footwear. Though the Wolverine boots were originally designed for heavy outdoor use, they break in and become comfortable for urban applications like office work or even shopping.

My main critique of the boots is the choice of an antiqued brass finish for the hardware (eyelets and speed laces). Wolverine may have chosen antique brass as a way to signal that the boot design is vintage–something from the past. I’d prefer a normal (shiny) brass finish that would show my own history of wear and aging.

Solid brass hardware. I’d prefer a non “antiqued” finish.Star rivets. Stitching detail. Gusseted tongue.

The Addie wingtips are sleek, modern, classic without being gratuitously feminized. I love the contrast stitching along the welt. For my own purposes, I’d prefer the oxford in dark brown. I challenge you to show me one other US company producing a classic, US made, low top oxford for women in top quality materials. These used to be standard issue.

Leather stacked sole (great for keeping your foot on a pedal)
Leather sole (pre-Cat’s Paw installation)

Handstitching on sole of shoe. I do wish the stitching were recessed into a channel to prevent wear.

Example of recessed stitching on a pair of Tim Little brogues

Favorite detail: hard rubber sole. You never see these on modern shoes for women.
For interested parties, Wolverine 1000 Mile boots and shoes for women are currently available at Leffot ( in NYC. Leffot will do phone orders and ship anywhere in the world. We’d love to see these shoes and boots become available in brick and mortar stores on the West Coast.

A now a word from our sponsors:

Shopping from Arthur Miller: Work Jackets

January 27th, 2010

by Lesli Larson

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Readers of the online edition of the New York Times might have missed this 1950’s era work jacket worn by Liev Shrieber’s longshoreman character in the current revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. The thumbnail image that accompanies the online review occupies a full half-page in the print edition. In this version of the production still, you can study the jacket’s collar, cut, fabric (including wear marks), pocketing and buttons. (These details disappear into a generic, blue collar worker’s garment on stage). I love the high placement of the slash pockets and loose fit of the sleeves (no cinch at the cuff). Another post could be dedicated to Scarlett Johansson’s side buttoning wool skirt.

I’m assuming Schreiber’s jacket was custom tailored for the Broadway production based on archival patterns and photographs. But if you’re shopping for your own version, here are a few options in heavy duty Sanforized 8 oz fabric from the Ward’s catalog:

Montgomery Wards

Economical, modern day option by Ben Davis

Heritage Collections for Women?

March 13th, 2009
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)


Archival Commerce: All Wool Sweaters

March 6th, 2009

More from the Montgomery Ward 1949-1950 catalog:

Montgomery Ward Catalog, Fall & Winter 1949-1950

See catalog blank in Army Twills post below to place an order.
At some point, I hope to put some of these past images into future production (through Centralia Knitting Mills?). Which sweater would be your top candidate for modern revival? Button-up, full zip or pullover style? Color: camel, brown, grey or woodsman? Default “quality” would undoubtedly be “best.”

Archival Field Trip: Oak Street Vintage

January 4th, 2009

Friends E. and D. have been insisting that I visit Oak Street Vintage, a nicely curated second hand clothing and curios shop in Eugene, Oregon. I was advised to check out the Heath tea service and some of the shop’s West German ceramics (ignoring its secondary collection of 1970s era plastics).

I brought my camera along to document the nicely edited selection of vintage menswear but was immediately distracted by a 1957 Montgomery Ward catalog featuring some of the dreamiest denim and leather footwear I’ve ever seen (or wanted to purchase from Japan). Flipping through the boys section of the catalog, I saw a number of items I would most certainly mail order from 1957. Highlights include the matching wool coat sets and the high waisted (armpit height!), denim trousers w/double fabric knees and decorative trim. Though I released the catalog (for now), I did purchase a few consolation LPs (Jean Shepard, Stan Kenton) while S. scoped out the lamp and telephone offerings (mainly to gloat over her recent, choice, thrift store finds).

Next day addendum: I went back to Oak Street and bought the 1949 Wards catalog (closer to the war, less Orlon and Velcro materials, advised Tom). Heartbreaking product shots (work boots, denim, brogues, woolens for women, whipcord coveralls) coming shortly. If Archival Clothing were a clothing brand, all my garment offerings would be poached from this publication.