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Aug 4, 2016

Eat Your Heart Out, Ralph Lauren! Peter's Original Polo Union Suit


Readers, ever since I wrote about a 1920's union suit I bought on eBay two years ago, I've gotten frequent inquiries about where one might find a pair just like it, or whether I'd made a pattern to make one.

The truth is that I never did make a pattern, no real reason.  I plan to do so now however.  I just picked up another vintage dead stock 1920's union suit on eBay, this one in better condition and better made (albeit frightfully discolored).


The brand is, believe it or not, Polo!  You can see up top (and below) the polo pony and player embroidered on the label.


This union suit is, thankfully, a little too small to try on, so I'll spare you the sight of me in it.

I really like the way this union suit is constructed.  Like the other suit I'd purchased, it has a horizontal knit band at the back waist.


The challenge is finding the right fabric.  As you can see, it's made from a superfine cotton gauze.  I've never seen a fabric like that for sale, have you?


I like the wide neck facing.   At the armhole, the edges are simply rolled and stitched.



Buttons look like authentic shell.


Then there's the back (really backside) opening.  This one is narrower than the opening on the other pair I'd purchased two years ago and I like this one better.


I don't think it's going to take very long to whip up a pattern.  The challenge will be, as I mentioned, finding the right fabric.  I'm open to any ideas you may have, either to source the fabric or for suitable substitutes.

In closing, do you think Ralph Lauren knew of this brand when he came up with his own Polo label?  What are the chances?

Have a great day, everybody!

(A little eye candy for those who appreciate such things...)



30 comments:

  1. The fabric looks a little bit like what I've seen advertised as diaper gauze (e.g. http://www.verybaby.com/products/diaper-gauze). I don't know that much about different sorts of fabric, but the picture and your description brought this to mind.

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    Replies
    1. I was going ot say the same thing. It looks like birdseye pique, which you can also find at JoAnn most of the time.

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  2. That fabric! When artisans were weavers...

    Thanks for the candy!

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  3. I would investigate double gauze. But beware, I have noticed that some fabrics advertised as double gauze are just plain gauze. The best stuff is usually a Japanese import.

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  4. http://vintagefashionguild.org/label-resource/lauren-ralph/

    this article is very informative. it's dedicated to labels and you can see the history of everyone's label. check out lauren's. how old do you think the union suit is?

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    Replies
    1. I had never heard of the Vintage Fashion Guild. I love the site!

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  5. The fabric looks like what they use for swaddling babies / baby muslin squares.

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  6. This might seem a personal question. Are you planning to wear this as an undergarment? Lounge wear?

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  7. The fabric used is called dimity, which was once common for undergarments and baby wear in the 19th and early 20th century (I've read a million vintage and antique sewing books). You can still buy it here:
    https://www.chadwickheirlooms.com/categories/fabric/dimity

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    Replies
    1. What a fabulous resource. Thank you, Katie!

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    2. Great idea Peter! Also, as cunning as Ralph (Lifshitz) Lauren is, it wouldn't surprise me in the least that he stumbled across and appropriated that name! Loved the video!

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    3. Your Welcome!
      Also, I do have a pattern from the thirties for a union suit, which is in knit, top left:
      https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8fTvid7mg_-c1BJOHIta0lublI4a2ZmYkotZjRzbTNHM0Ew

      I find it odd that the boxers shown in the montage for the 50's look a lot like the patterns I have from the 30's.

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  8. Looks a bit like the very loose, very absorbent cotton now used for cloth diapers. I know that Carter's in Georgia still manufactures diapers, and might be a source for the fabric ... there are probably on-line sources as well. (Home schoolers and antivaxxers are great fans of make-your-own baby products, so you should be able to find yardage in the small amounts you will need.) Genuine "dimity" is going to be hard to find, these days.

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  9. To clean up your union suit use Oxi-Clean Powder. I had an old piece of crochet that looked army green. After soaking it in the oxiclean all day it came out a light beige and no damage to the fibers. Renita

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Renita. I'll try that.

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    2. Don't soak it all day. It will eat the fibers eventually. 30 minutes is good enough.
      The diaper gauze looks right. You'll look divine (though wearing that in humidity gives Hot Flash Mama pause)

      Delete
    3. Retro Clean works wonders. I use it for vintage/antique items both at home and for work (I work in vintage clothing). We had a 1920s child's organdy dress that was brown. After a soak in Retro Clean, it was snow white!

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  10. It looks like a Japanese cotton could have that weight and pattern. I haven't bought many of them, but I've seen garments of people who have, and I have a cotton kimono/haori thing that uses that fabric.

    So, maybe Japan is the answer? :)

    But I love your union suit project.

    -- Tegan

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  11. Happy National Underwear Day!

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  12. I'm sure you know that this is far too early a garment to be Ralph Lauren Polo. This is probably from the 1930's and is a fine example of appropriating a former company logo as your own. Never been a fan of RL.....never really saw anything original coming from him and he has an army of designers doing the actual work. I real!y hated it when he cut up perfectly fine, some historical, quilts to use as clothing instead of making the fabric. Such a shame.

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  13. What you say is the truth about Ralph Lauren.....no designing skills whatsoever, just approves what his team comes up with. I've never had respect for designers who don't have an inkling about their craft. He is however, extremely shrewd at marketing himself though!

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    Replies
    1. Making a bit of comeback, are you?

      Glad to see you amongst the flotsam.

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    2. Comeback??! I was always here silently observing! It's good to see you're around too, razor sharp as always!

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  14. Perhaps swaddling blanket fabric?

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  15. Your Union suit can (needs to be) soaked in water then carefully rinsed several times. That yellowing is from an acid that the cotton fibers themselves can produce, but is likely also from paper or cardboard. The acid weakens the fibers.

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  16. Reminds me of a fine needlework fabric.

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  17. I look forward to seeing your creation!

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  18. That is such a nice find. I am always intersted in vintage clothing, but rarely buy them (that might change). I like the fabric in the child's suit; would be nice for summer shirts ;-) It's closer to 80 years old, do you think it could handle a hot soak in white wash powder? I found your blog and went for an old Singer 201 in stead of a modern machine.

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