Harding: A Pattern Through Time
In the twenties, thirties and forties, movie theaters were packed with fans of America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford . But Mary Pickford was a big fan of Pendleton. Here she is in her fringed Harding blanket shawl and Harding duster coat.
Mary Pickford was the golden child of early American cinema, though her reputation took a big hit when she scandalously cut off her trademark golden braids. She didn’t just act. She produced, wrote, directed and marketed her films, and was one of the co-founders of United Artists. Sadly, the advent of talkies ended her acting career. Apparently, hearing Mary Pickford speak was something like reading the Tweets of your favorite celebrities. Sometimes, silence is golden.
But still, she looked fabulous in that coat.
Those of you who have watched The Portland Collection video saw designer Rachel Turk slipping on a coat similar to Ms. Pickford’s.
Nothing would make us happier than to have Mary Pickford’s coat, so we hopefully ventured down to the archives to have a look:
Here it is. It’s seen better days, but it’s beautifully made and still inspirational. The length and styling are close. The buttons differ, but buttons are usually replaced on vintage garments. But…Ms. Pickford’s coat had patch pockets, while ours has slash pockets. The sleeves on her coat are cuffed, while ours are hemmed. Perhaps the strongest clue is the size of the garment. Mary Pickford was only five feet tall and weighed less than a hundred pounds. This coat would have been too big for her. Oh well…we’re glad to have our own long Harding coat among the treasures in our archives.
Where did the Harding pattern come from?
In 1923, President Warren G. Harding and his wife visited the Pacific Northwest to dedicate part of the old Oregon Trail. A presidential visit this far west (in a non-campaign year) was an occasion. The area’s tribal dignitaries, chiefs of the Cayuse and Umatilla tribes, asked Pendleton Woolen Mills to create a unique blanket as a special gift to the First Lady, Florence Harding.
The weavers modified a Chief Joseph pattern and produced a fringed shawl in shades of white, tan, yellow and red. Mrs. Harding graciously accepted the blanket, and by all accounts was delighted with her so-very-western gift.
If you know your history, you know that Mrs. Harding didn’t always have the easiest time of it. We can only hope her warm Pendleton shawl offered a little comfort as the Harding presidency was rocked by scandal.
Despite that, what came to be known as the Harding pattern has been a steady part of the Pendleton line since the 1920s. We’ve used it in menswear, womenswear, accessories and blankets.
From season to season, we dip back into Harding history for accessories and apparel. In 2009, a vintage Pendleton Westernwear ad image sparked our designer’s inspiration.
We have no idea what these gentlemen are discussing so intently, or if they called each other the night before to coordinate their outfits. But the 2009 versions of these sweaters were solid hits. If you’re not sure whether you have the old version or the new, check the label. The newer versions will have the word “Pendleton” straight across, rather than at a slant. If “Pendleton” is at a slant, your sweater is vintage. And that is a seriously nice find.
Heritage is everywhere lately, with even the newest brands trying to connect with the past. At Pendleton Woolen Mills, we don’t have to borrow heritage, because we have our own. Thanks for sharing it with us for over a hundred years.