House of Wenger, 3-sided Italian Stitch and a final word on knickers…

A few months back a friend very generously lent me these gorgeous pleated silk knickers to photograph for my reference files. Going by period illustrations and saucy photographs of the time  I would date them as from 1925-1930. (clicking on any pictures will open a large version)

Silk pleats!

Think of the ironing. Though I imagine the woman who originally bought these hand-made silk undies from the House of Wenger in Philadelphia in the 20’s had someone to do it for her…. however they seem completely unworn so maybe she just couldn’t face their upkeep.

There was a 3rd bias-cut un-pleated pair too.

They really are all beautifully made and completely by hand- from the french seams, whipped-on lace and appliqué work to the decorative Italian 3-point stitching on the seams.

House of Wenger label

As to the House of Wenger: all I have found in images so far are some pictures of beautiful 1930s gowns with the same label. and current name links to Swiss Army Knives, watches and luggage.

Wenger seems to have been a fairly common name among Swiss immigrants to America in the 1700s and 1800s.

In the late 1860s in what is now Elmira, Ontario there was a clothing store called Wenger and Ruppel. Later that partnership broke up and the store was only the Isaac Wenger store. But that was Ontario… what about Philadelphia?

Did Isaac Wenger move there and open a clothing store that a few decades later sold beautiful dresses and lingerie?

Well, I don’t know and don’t seem to be able to find out anything further on the internet.

Can anyone shed some further light on the House of Wenger??


Almost forgot about the 3-sided Italian stitch I mentioned in this blog title:

As a collector of Vintage lingerie this stitching detail has always fascinated me and I wondered for years what it was called and how to do it.

So a while back I bought a copy of the 1942 book “The Pictorial Guide To Modern Home Needlecraft” and  there it was called 3-sided Italian stitch.

And since it never just rains but pours the very following week in a Weldons Ladies Home journal I came across it again but there called a Pin Stitch. It may be that a Pin Stitch gives the single row of holes and the 3-sided version the double. It being a few months since I had a go myself now I can’t remember the how and why of the variation but essentially they are worked the same.

Some internet trawling revealed some helpful info, from Heritage Shoppe here and even how to do it by sewing machine on SewNso’s blog here.

I’m more likely to use these two techniques on a blouse than underwear as they are so pretty ..and a little labour intensive.

And just incase you haven’t seen enough yet here are some further examples of Pin Stitching & 3-sided Italian stitching from my own collection… and of course I had to try my hand at doing the stitch and a shell/scallop hem too.

5 thoughts on “House of Wenger, 3-sided Italian Stitch and a final word on knickers…

  1. Lovely knickers! My great grandmother in the 1920’s took in washing and she apparently used a goffering iron to do the pleats when ironing.How you use one of these I have no idea.
    I have tried the three sided stitch myself when sewing lace edges on to hankies.It is easy once you get the hang of it,although time consuming like you say,but I have managed to lose track of where I was several times and had to ” wing it “.
    Beautiful examples thank you for sharing.

    1. Goffering iron! I didn’t know that’s what they were called.
      I had an aunt in America that collected victorian and edwardian ruffle irons and the like but mostly they were used as door stops and paperweights.

  2. These are SO beautiful, thank you for sharing them with us! I’m really intrigued by the 3- sided stitch and now really want to give it a try on my next lingerie project. It sounds like just the sort of detail intense stuff I like to do to pass the time!

    1. It is nice sometimes to just sit down and do some labour intensive by hand sewing isn’t it!
      And since stretch silk has some synthetic in it and can therefore be permanently pleated I am quite tempted to try to replicate these…some day.

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