Monday, 29 June 2015

1920s Knitwear

Among the postcards in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection is a group of four promotional cards, posted in 1926 and 1927. They were sent by Hawke Bros. and Gibson, Ltd., of Trinity Works, Newquay, to a customer (or potential customer), Messrs. Harmers, of The Parade in Redditch.   Hawke Bros. and Gibson made a range of knitwear for women, 'Trin-Knit-Ana'  (awful name), and the cards illustrate current models.

The earliest  has a photo captioned "We are waiting...." and shows a model sitting against a painted background (including the fence that she is apparently sitting on), with a dog (probably stuffed).  The printed message reads:
Dear Sir or Madame,
"We are waiting" for the favour of your instructions to forward the swatch of this new Cape Model (Jumper 28/6,  Skirt 22/6,  Cape 22/6).  It is made in our Mollaine quality (best fine gauge botany) of which we run 32 colours.  The cape lining and jumper collar are made in a toning shade. ... We are exhibiting as usual at the Fashions Exhibition, Holland Park. May we send you a ticket later?
(28/6 is a price: 28 shillings and sixpence.  If you want to know more, this note might help.  According to a historic inflation calculator, the present day equivalent would be  £77.35.  I assume this is the wholesale price.)

The second postcard shows a Jacquard Cardigan, price 39/6, in two colours of Art Silk (rayon) combined with two colours of wool - you would need to see the swatch in this case to get any real idea of what the fabric looked like.

The last two cards show outfits in an art silk/ wool blend: cardigans and skirts, with a matching sleeveless top in card no. 8.   This one also names the model, Miss Norah Baker.  Was she famous?   I haven't been able to find out.

These outfits are not high fashion, though they do show the influence of Chanel's cardigan suits reaching as far as Cornwall.   I guess they were what the averagely well-dressed woman might have worn.  And they look so much freer and more comfortable to wear than the rigid and constrained fashions of only 15 years before, in the last years before the First World War.  The change must have been welcomed with a sigh of relief.


  1. It's a lovely look - elegant yet comfortable, but I honestly don't think many women could have afforded these, especially if the prices quoted were wholesale. My granddad was a bricklayer in the Midlands, not many miles from Redditch, when my mum was born in 1924. He earned £2 (40 shillings) a week or up to £3 in a week with plenty of overtime. He was relatively well paid for a manual worker. A couple of years later when these cards were published, work was starting to get scarcer and by 1930, my grandparents were worse off than when they first married.

    1. I'm sure you're right - by 'averagely well-dressed', I didn't mean average income. In the days before cheap clothing imports, you had to be relatively wealthy to be well-dressed, I'm sure. And in the 1920s and 1930s, as you point out, a lot of working class people were not well off at all, even if they had jobs.

  2. Fascinating and beautiful images!


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