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Fear of Vintage Shows and Sales: A Cure
featuring personal experiences of a former worry-wart
By Terry McCormick

Have you, like me, avoided large vintage shows and sales? Did you picture yourself moving through a morass of booths featuring wonderful vintage clothing and jewelry priced for Rockefellers and Trumps; squeezing your checkbook, and hoping to infuse new funds by sheer willpower? Then, sodden with unspent desire, buying something you don't like because it's the only thing in the place you can afford? In my worst fantasy I pictured returning home in a hopeless state of unfulfillment; possibly breaking out into a rash. And for this I should pay for transportation and a hotel! Not likely. Imagine my delight, having attended the Vintage Fashion Market in Seattle in May, to discover my worst fears were nothing but fevered imagination.

I found prices and clothing to fit any pocketbook and type of vintage desire. There were even some bargains, and not just for early shoppers - there was plenty left on the second day, too. The place was jam-packed, full; overflowing with vintage clothing! 72 booths of it. This is the way I imagine heaven to be. It was wonderful; and I had a perfectly elegant time. Then, when I got home and laid out my purchases, I realized that I loved everything I bought; and felt good about the prices I'd paid. Now that's a superior shopping trip!

My belief that vintage clothing is intoxicating was proved more than accurate. People were floating around with smiles on their faces; laughing, exchanging stories, and generally carrying on with no regard to propriety at all. In fact, the general atmosphere was what you'd expect if a controlled substance were being piped in through the vents. Thank goodness no one from the DBA came around. How could we explain all this excess of ecstasy was just vintage clothing fever, not anything illegal, immoral, or fattening?

I got a note after the show from Snooks and Jane Hyslop, who came down from Pt. Moody, British Columbia, to shop. Snooks said they sat in their hotel room that night giggling from sheer joy; they'd had such a great time. Lynn Doggetthad an airline pass; and used it to fly from her home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Seattle for the weekend - just to attend the show. Lynn said she didn't think anyone at work would believe that she spent her weekend at a clothing show in Seattle; let alone that she met Tom Skerritt (Top Gun; Steel Magnolias) there and got his autograph. But she has lots of witnesses. Lynn met Sue Moyer, Carrie's Antique Gallery, 1007 1st St, Snohomish, WA 98290, who offered her a place to stay if she can come back to the market in October. Lynn said she's working on it.

For me, it was a special treat to meet in the flesh so many people who have been just names to me for years. Every trip to the lunchroom was another adventure. Not only did I bump into Snooks and Jane, who I've been corresponding with for eons; but Linda VerMeer and Kay Zimmerman popped up just as Snooks was waving her foot around in the air displaying her wonderful new/old shoes. Linda is editor of the Exhaust Valve, newsletter of the Historical Automobile Club of Oregon; and Kay edits the Gas Leak, newsletter for The Horseless Carriage Club of America, Portland Regional Group. We've exchanged information over the years, and Kay wrote the article on recovering parasols which appeared in VCN last year.

Kay is also one of the few women who are full members of the Horseless Carriage Club; not just the auxiliary. I'm reliably informed that she has been seen, dressed in a 1914 dress, leaning inside the engine of her own antique car (which she restored and works on herself), replacing a coil. Kay, her mother, and her daughter, represent 3 generations of vintage clothing addicts. Kay's mother has a project in the works, which you'll see on the Bulletin Board, page 9.

Back to the booths, which didn't look like booths at all. Each booth was decorated; and the area was like a cluster of dozens of lovely little shops, rather than a flea market. Nearly all of the shopkeepers I talked to said they did well, and would come back. The complete range of vintage clothing was represented, from Victorian laces to 50's leopard prints. Over all, men's clothing, especially suits, 40's neckties, and Hawaiian shirts were the first to sell, for everyone who had them. Women's 40's suits and rayon dresses went like hotcakes; and hats and other accessories were big sellers. Surprisingly enough, many dealers reported that shoes sold very well, which has not been typical in shops the last few years. Costume jewelry was not selling well in the booths with clothing; largely, I'm convinced, because there was so much clothing. When you have a good shot at finding clothes that fit, that you like, and maybe even can afford (a circumstance becoming rarer as time passes); it's hard to focus on anything else.

The Glamour Years, which had top quality, restored, Edwardian, Victorian, and 20's beaded dresses did even better than they had expected; including reproduction headpieces which they make themselves. Sandra'Gengler, Tootsies, 609 2nd, Seattle, WA (206)682-0807, found that velvets sold well, as did alligator shoes and purses, and exceptional hats. Art and Janene Fawcett, Vintage Silhouettes, (415)222-6917, El Sobrante, C A, were happy with sales in most categories, including, to their surprise, a bunch of feathers for hat trims. They said the 20' s beaded dresses were not going well. "I think people are starting to be afraid of them," Janene explained. Art and Janene focus their business on mail order, shows, and by appointment.

While costume jewelry did not do particularly well in the vintage clothing booths; the two jewelry-only booths, Rhinestone Rosie, and Glitz, did do a brisk business. Rosie said she found that sterling silver, brooches, and 30's metal jewelry were her best sellers. Rosie, incidentally, is a wonderful find because she repairs costume jewelry; and at extremely modest prices (500 to replace any rhinestone!). And she will take projects through the mail. I got such glowing reviews of her work and prices, that I decided to send her my jewelry mending pile. Was I pleased with the result! (Wish I could take care of my clothing mending pile as easily and inexpensively.) Rhinestone Rosie, 606 W. Crockett, Seattle, WA 98119, (206)283-4605.

Janet Upjohn, Glitz, said her best sellers were sterling silver pieces, marked jewelry, and brooches. Janet's business is unusual, and a very good idea for someone who wants to be in business part time only: she has an open house at her home twice a year. May and November, where she displays and sells costume jewelry; and the rest of the year sells by appointment. To be added to her mailing list write: Janet Upjohn, 218 W. Roy, Seattle, WA 98119, or call for an appointment (206)283-9046.

Neither jewelry booth sold much Bakelite, which surprised me; as the prices were very modest, comparatively speaking. I'm beginning to wonder if Bakelite has not only peaked, but is sliding down the other side of the mountain?! This does happen when any category of vintage becomes so pricey that the downhome types, like you and me, can no longer afford to buy.

While Helena, Montana is not exactly the crossroads of the Western world, Karma's Vintage Clothing, in Helena, seems to be for our world. Karma Alfredson does a lot of business by mail, is why; and many vintage clothing people around the U.S. know (and love) her. At Karma's booth I finally met Harriet Love, who is delightful, and had just returned from a trip to Egypt. No vintage shopping there, which "was actually a bit of a relief!" Harriet said, "But the museums were absolutely fabulous." Karma is in the process of relocating, and we will have a new address for her soon; but for now her mailing address is: 1205 Broadway, Helena, MT 59601; phone (406)442-1159.

Doris Raymond, The Way We Wore, 2238 Fillmore St, San Francisco, C A 94115, also dropped by Karma's to visit. She's in the midst of much to do and ado, having opened a second shop, also called The Way We Wore, at 1838 Divisadero, San Francisco. "I thought I had calculated every possible thing that could go wrong, but I neglected to take earthquakes into account. Naturally, l opened two days before the big earthquake. Great timing!" Doris supplies clothing for movie and television productions (she provided most of the men's suits for the moviefio/man). She has two film projects in the works at the moment, and told me she welcomes calls from people who have vintage clothing to sell. (415)346-1386.

At the Time Was booth I shed tears and hugged Debbie DeMeyer publicly; because here I found the perfect, divine, and it fit, and it was a gosh-damed reasonable price, 1940's jacket. I knew it belonged to me the second I put my arm in the sleeve; and I didn't take it off until I went to bed that night. I'd have slept in it, but I didn't want to have to press it in the morning. My gratitude for the jacket prevented me from mugging Debbie's partner, Elaine Davis, for her turban. Elaine and I share a passion for hats, and we agreed it was best we didn't live anywhere near each other, or there would undoubtedly be fisticuffs on occasion. Elaine and Debbie have moved from their shop into an antique mall at 1331 George Washington Way, Richland, WA. (509)943-2316 for Elaine.

Carolyn Stone, Bluegrass, had a booth featuring antique textiles. She felt she hadn't sold as much as she expected; largely because people were looking for clothing, not textiles. I know that many people are in the market for antique textiles, and hopefully more of them will find their way to the show, and Carolyn's booth next time.

Sue Moyer kindly let me stash things behind a table in the Snohomish Antique Gallery booth. By this means, which I highly recommend, I was able to shop secure in the knowledge I wasn't getting carried away. After all, if I was doing so much shopping, where were the sacks? Sue said she felt successful, since she sold as much as she bought. "What more can you expect from a vintage addict?" she wanted to know.

Hazel Dickison was demonstrating Tuck 'n' Trim, a set of authentic sewing machine attachments, that were used on treadle sewing machines to create tucks, gathers, attach ribbons and laces, and make narrow turned hems on vintage garments. A large supply of these attachments was found in a warehouse in California, and is being marketed until the supply is gone. Tuck 'n' Trim can be used on modem, straight needle, sewing machines to create authentic antique effects for reproduction garments. Hazel told me that 90% of the authentic Edwardian whites at the show had been made with these attachments. A set costs $34.95, including shipping, and includes 3 feet; plus a copy of the original instructions, with line drawings. Write Hazel Dickison, 4426 S. 318th, Auburn, W A 98001, (206)939-0951.

A number of workshops were featured at the market, and got good reviews. After the conservation workshop, where it was suggested that vintage clothing not be worn at all; I overheard the following conversation: "I feel a little guilty about wearing my vintage clothes after that," admitted one person. "Not me!" ex-claimed another. "I feel great because I get to enjoy my vintage clothes. And I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't!"

A good reason to attend the next show in October, in fact it's worth the trip all by itself: Rhinestone Rosie will be giving a workshop on how to take care of, clean, store, and repair costume jewelry. For example, if you've been told to clean rhinestones by soaking them, Rosie has a red alert. "The first thing I tell people is never soak rhinestone jewelry; you will ruin it. Rhinestones are glass backed with foil, and the foil may rust if it gets wet. Instead, use ordinary window cleaner and a Q-tip, or soft brush, and clean each stone individually."

For me this has been the show that never ended. I really planned to behave myself; and mostly I did. I left my checkbook at home, just took a few checks with me, and swore an oath not to use VISA (my husband called in a notary and a priest for the occasion, which seemed a little excessive); figuring this would keep me down to a reasonable amount. It did; although I still managed to bring home a sackful or two of things I dearly love. But... I found a dress and a suit at Tootsies that were soooo nice I couldn't decide between them; so with regret I got neither. When I got home Mark said "Happy Anniversary, call and get both of them." So l did. Then I sent a box of jewelry to Rhinestone Rosie for repairs; and I made an appointment with Janet Upjohn, Glitz, to do a little jewelry shopping. Then I called Holly Rankin, Finery, to see if she still had a couple of Edwardian appliques that had stuck in my mind. She not only had those, she had a bunch more; so they flew over the Cascades to nestle with my other potential projects on the bookcase. I wonder if I'll finish with the last show before time for the next one!

The next Pacific Northwest Vintage Fashion Market, is scheduled for October 6 and 7, at the old (but newly remodeled) Union Station at 4th and S. Jackson; near the Kingdome. You can see it from LU^ freeway, and it's easy to find. I want to urge any of you who have been fearful of unsatisfied vintage lust to take a chance. I think you'll be pleased and surprised. Everyone sang the praises of Elizabeth Ennerson, who produced the show. Contact Somewhere in Time Promotions, P.O.Box 88892, Seattle, WA 98138 (206)848-5450 for further information.

Copyright 1990 - All Rights Reserved, Terry McCormick, Vintage Clothing Newsletter