Monday, January 17, 2011

One last vintage coat...then Winter gets the boot!

Early last month, when I was still starry-eyed over all the beautiful snow we'd been getting in Minnesota, I posted a few of my 9 vintage coats with a promise to share more of them soon. 

Well, even though Minnesota winters last forever, my excitement over the cold & snow and wool sweaters & coats faded very quickly.  We've had 52 inches of snow in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area so far this season, with another 25" or so expected to fall between now and April - and I've had more than enough of this white stuff for one year! 

But before I give Winter the boot...let me just show you one more fabulous vintage coat that I found...

I'm acting a little giddy modeling this coat partly because I'm seeing sunlight shining through my kitchen windows after a long streak of dreary, overcast days!

What intrigued me most about the coat were the unusual fur-trimmed bell sleeves, which gives it a bit of a Victorian look.

The fur on the sleeves and collar is so soft and cozy.  I believe that it's  mouton fur - which is "a high-grade lambskin that’s specially processed to mimic the density and radiance of sheared beaver or mink fur." Most commonly mouton fur was dyed to a chocolate brown, like my coat - but it was also dyed in other shades, including white.

One thing I don't like about the sleeves is that they are oddly about an inch too short, as you can see in my photos. I'm pretty sure that I don't have unusually long arms, so I don't get it.  

Was this look intentional? maybe to show off gloves? - or was this coat simply meant for a much shorter woman (I'm 5 ft. 5 in.)?  I know that the trend in the mid-to-late 50's was to push long coat sleeves up on the arm to three-quarter's length.  But that doesn't make much sense with this style.  Any thoughts?

Okay, enough about the flaws!  Back to why I adore this coat..   I love the double-button detail.  The buttons match the chocolate brown coat perfectly, and have pretty gold lucite centers.

I've mentioned this before - I think that vintage clothing labels are so beautiful!  And this coat has three lovely labels:  "Friess Original", "Forstmann 100% Virgin Wool", and "Brucewood - Maurice L Rothschild - Young-Quinlan Co."

There's a wonderful guide to clothing labels on the Vintage Fashion Guild site, which is a big help in dating vintage clothing. The guide includes quite an extensive A-Z list of label samples, and my "Forstmann 100% Virgin Wool" label was noted as being found on an early 1950's dress.

Do you think this coat looks early 1950's? Or possibly late 1940's?  

In paging through my Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs from the 40's through the 50's, I didn't find any coats with a similar sleeve design - and just one coat in a 1950-51 Ward's catalog with a mouton collar of the very same shape. Maybe this shouldn't be a surprise, though. The Young-Quinlan Department Store sold a lot of higher-end designer fashions, and these sleeves might have been too unusual for the average Sears and Ward's customer.

Back of card: Young Quinlan, 901 Nicollet Mall, combines the decor of old world elegance with the most famous names in apparel for both men and women. This Twin Cities landmark also offers a gourmet galley, exquisite home furnishings gift shop and the well-known Fountain Room restaurant.

Here is an early 1960s postcard of the Young-Quinlan building, erected in downtown Minneapolis in 1926.  (Postcard courtesy of  Remembering Great American Department Stores.)

The building is still there, but the Young Quinlan department store, where my coat was originally purchased in the 50's, sadly went out of business in 1985 after a 59-year run.  The store's founder Elizabeth Quinlan (1863-1947) had been in the retail fashion business since the 1890's. She was the first merchant to sell ready-to-wear clothing west of the Mississippi. A fascinating woman, The Saturday Evening Post did a four-page spread on her in 1927, and in the mid-1930's Fortune magazine named her one of the country's top businesswomen.

Here's a pert little Mabel Ellsworth brown hat, ca. 1940's, that would probably have gotten Miss Quinlan's approval.  Isn't it sweet?  This was another estate sale find this past summer.

Unfortunately, my mannequin looks much better in it than I do, so I'll probably be selling it next year after I've squeezed every last bit of enjoyment from it...

Ta Da!  So that's it - we're done with Winter now...

From this point on, even if it's 10 degrees below zero outside, in this blog it's going to start feeling like Spring...

...beginning with a song from the 1945 film musical, State Fair:  Rodgers & Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring."  The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year.

Shirley Jones in Oklahoma - photo by J. R. Eyerman

In this 1950's video clip from The Danny Thomas Show, it's sung by the lovely and talented Shirley Jones.

I grew up knowing Shirley Jones as Keith, Laurie and Danny Partridge's mom in the early 1970's Partridge Family television show.  But before that, she had an amazing career as singer and actress, starring in the wonderful film musicals Oklahoma (1955), Carousel (1956) and The Music Man (1962).

Happy (it might as well be) Spring!  Enjoy...

It Might As Well Be Spring

Lyrics by: Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by: Richard Rodgers
From the Film: State Fair 1945

I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm, I'm as jumpy as a puppet on a string
I'd say that I had spring fever, but I know it isn't spring
I am starry eyed and vaguely discontented, like a nightingale without a song to sing
O why should I have spring fever, when it isn't even spring

I keep wishing I were somewhere else, walking down a strange new street
Hearing words that I've never heard from a man I've yet to meet
I'm as busy as spider spinning daydreams, spinning spinning daydreams
I'm as giddy as a baby on a swing

I haven't seen a crocus or a rosebud, or a robin on the wing
But I feel so gay in a melancholy way, that it might as well be spring.
It might as well be spring.


  1. that coat is AMAZING! I think it's late 40s. Those sleeves seem very 40s to me. that hat is great too. I think you should rock the hat!!!

    : )

  2. The sleeve detail and double buttons actually reminds me of the 30s. Check some of your 30s catalogs and see if you see something similar.

    That is a really fab coat, by the way!

  3. You do look just darling in that coat :-)

  4. sweet! They just don't make coats like that anymore...I won't allow myself to buy new coats now- the quality is so much better with vintage fabrics!

    Brrr...we were -20 Celsius today...thank goodness for toasty coats!

  5. Susan,
    You look absolutely adorable in that coat. My guess with the sleeves was so show off.gloves and I rather like the look. The hat is so cute. I love the detail. It os good to be out of the Minnesota winter fir awhile. We are wearing sweaters outside!
    You have a collection to rival Kat's. I would guess she has as many winter coats...all stores in the attic, which has enough vintage clothes to fill a sotre. I do "get it" though. The clothes were so beautiful!
    We will be back in February for the rest of this bleak winter!

  6. ooh, I love this coat!! I agree with Kim Bombshell...there's something 30s about it (slightly reminiscent of the shaping of Ginger Roger's coat in the "A Fine Romance" sequence in 1936's SWING TIME, though her coat is totally fur. Anyway, later 30s to 40s would be my guess and it's fab!

  7. I just love that coat and it is stunning on you!
    I cannot help thinking that they used to give more attention to the labels than they do nowadays to the whole appearance (and I mean on the outside) of the coat. Too bad, but luckily we have some very clever persons to show us the real things in their blogposts, thanks again!

  8. What a beautiful coat, I agree with Suz I think the sleeves are probably like that to show of the detail of beautiful gloves?

    It's not so cold here for January in the UK, usually it's our coldest time but we had lots of snow very early for us in December, then I was hoping for it to end, not so much now, it's ok, but it could return :o(

  9. What a fabulous coat, I love it. I always wish I lived somewhere cold enough to wear things like that, but I know I couldn't handle the cold! I can't say much about the sleeve length, but I can tell you that I used to have a royal blue early 60s mohair pea coat years ago, and its sleeves were a bit short too-I'm 5'2" and was then 48 kg, so go figure. Good to see your catalogues are coming in handy, don't sell them.xx.

  10. I'm glad you all the coat, and aren't too concerned over the shortish sleeves. You're right that a very pretty pair of long gloves would make a big difference.

    I'm still puzzled though about the age of the coat. I agree that it really doesn't have a 50's look. But my big question now is - would that particular Forstmann 100% Virgin Wool label have been around in the late 1930's or 40's?

  11. oooohhhh...I love the coat..and the hat!!!! What a beauty!

  12. You look gorgeous in that coat and I echo the other comments, definately a coat to show off fabulous vintage gloves or a classy manicure and jewelelry. Either way it's so lovely. xxx

  13. Love the coat and the hat. I think it looks 50's to me and I believe the sleeve length does have to do with gloves. I say that because there seem to be a lot of ads for gloves in the old fashion magazines. I just posted a link to your autograph book post on "Madelines Memories".

  14. This coat is a "dream"! I think the sleeves are so fantastic to show lavender leather gloves long, the Lady who bought the coat in the early 50s would under a nice dress with small purple lavender flowers and surely, gloves and matching handbag. A cute brown hat would be the final touch ...... dreams ....

  15. If you find out the age of the coat, post it! I'm curious to see if I was right!

  16. My guess about the sleeve length is back then they wore gloves. Funny how in the olden days they wouldn't go out without a hat, gloves, stockings and very well dressed for what they each could afford. Susan you just look stunning in the coat. Dang you are so lucky to always find these awesome vintage coats, I wish I could track one but when I look at Goodwill etc. they are plain ugly ones. The really great ones are already gone.

  17. Jann - I have never had much luck with the Goodwill stores in my area either. Anything that's the least bit old they mark quite high - even if it's ugly!

    Kim - I'm going to check with Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler ( and She's done a lot of research on old clothing labels and fabrics, etc. and contributes to The Vintage Fashion Guild. She might be able to help solve the mystery!

  18. Ooh it is gorgeous! I agree that some wonderful gloves would look fab with it.

  19. Fab coat.. I think to show off gloves and for me im a shorty dama..that hat is darling.

  20. Oh, I do like your blog, I gave you an award actually, have a look on my blog for it! That coat is divine, love the fur cuffs. It would look lovely with chocolate brown leather gloves.

  21. You look great in that coat. Man alive! What a coat! I know I always talk in emphatic superlatives when I post comments to this blog, but I am sincere, lady. Goodness. Quit posting neat stuff I want for myself and I'll quit raving. :) I have a closetful (like you and you 8 coats...and it's not even cold here most of the time!) of furtrimmed overcoats/bulky knit tie waisted coats/swing coats that I always pick up for next to nothing and then I'm afraid to wear them out lest something happen to their precious pelts. So bully for you and wearing yours. I'll have to screw up my courage eventually before it gets warm again. The buttons and the collar detailing on yours...tops!!

  22. oh my gosh. this post is so cute. your coat is super awesome. don't ask me how many coats i USED to own back in the day!! back in the 80s, our local goodwill had a coat one at regular price and get as many as you want for 1 penny!!! i bought 10 coats that day...ALL VINTAGE...all fabulous...and gave them out to my friends when we hit the clubs that night!!!!! i remember we fought over those coats because they were all sooooo amazing!!! now i don't own any of them anymore. wish i still did!!! lol.
    yours is so unique!!! you look adorable in it. wear it proud!!!!!
    take care

  23. The hat and coat are gorgeous! I just bought a "new" coat myself. It is a 50s wool-alpaca-cashmere blend taupe coat by Rothmoore! It is deadstock and still had the tags on it. I had a grey wool banana republic coat from 2005 and it is now starting to fall apart! I needed to replace it. Anyway, your coat is vintage perfection! Enjoy!

  24. Gorgeous coat and that song is one of my faves!

  25. Susan, I love the fact that you call our attention to the beautiful clothing labels, as you've done before. Now I always notice satin hat and coat labels. So chic!

  26. Piroska - Thank you so much for the award! You are so sweet!

    VintageSue - I can just imagine you drowning under your 10 coats. ;)

    Lady Betty - Oooh, I hope you'll show us your new vintage coat!

    Mitzi, vintage clothing labels are little works of art!

    Speaking of labels... for those who are wondering about the age of this coat: I asked Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler to take a look at my coat and the labels. Lizzie feels fairly confident that the coat is "1949/51 ish" Lizzie has been collecting and researching vintage fashion for a number of years, so I trust her judgment. (Thanks Lizzie!)

  27. Susan, thanks for your comments, I would be glad to be your guide when you'll come in can take your time...Paris sera toujours Paris!;)
    ps: you look like a model wearing this brown fur coat and you have beautiful hands Lady!

  28. Susan, you are welcome. Sorry, i thought I had posted here, but I guess not!! Lovely coat.

  29. Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your kind comments on our blog about our best friend, Hawthorne! It is impossibly difficult to give up a 20 year love affair that started the minute we saw this furry little creature with eyes so soulful they could steal your heart with one glance. He had become so much a part of the rhythm of our daily lives that the loss of him has sent us into an odd panic! Shouldn't someone be walking him, feeding him, changing his water bowls??!! It is the first time since the 1980's that we have not had a pet in the house and it feels achingly empty! Well enough wallowing for one day...
    Thnaks for your posts!! They are a marvellous diversion. You look beautiful in your stunning coat! I have been wearing a vintage one that has 3/4 length sleeves, so I bought a long pair of winter gloves to stave off frost bite!
    Peace & Plenty,
    Sheila and Sherrill

  30. Me again...I have passed on an award to you: x

  31. I like your winter coat and I like the inspiration pictures.


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