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Visions of Vintage Clothing
By Terry McCormick

I have spent a disproportionate amount of my life browsing in vintage clothing shops of all sorts. In fact, some of the happiest moments in my life have been spent in such emporiums. (I do hope my husband and children realize that various weddings and births are remembered with at least equal fondness!)

Vintage clothing shops are an important part of the vintage experience. It is a truly individual business; attracting the most interesting and creative people. No one does it exactly like anyone else; and every time I go to a shop I feel as though I'm, in a way, entering someone's personal vision. When I visited Frills last summer, and started to write about it, it occurred to me that the most important component of any vintage clothing shop is the owner. His/ her vision and how s/he expresses a love for the clothing and accessories makes it was it is. Join me on a ramble through just a few of the many visions you'll find behind doors marked "Vintage Clothing."

The instant I walked into Frills, 504 S. Myrtle Ave, Monrovia, CA (in Old Town), I knew I was at home. If I were ever crazy enough to open a shop, this is exactly what I'd hope to create. Tara Root, proprietor, favors the 'attractive clutter' style of decoration; a personal favorite of mine. Antique wardrobes, with vintage clothing hanging inside and out, crowd the aisles; and hatboxes, flowers, gloves, and assorted enchanting empedimentia on top, along side, and on counters and tables. Two large walls of shelves contain hats, and glass cases are full of jewels and treasures. And in the back is a tea room (Frills Tea Parlour)! If I make it to heaven, this is exactly what I want to find.

Tara Root has been a subscriber to VCN for almost as many years as it's been in existence, but this was the first time I'd been able to meet her and see her shop. She started out in a tiny space inTemple City, tea parlour and all. When Frills became so successful that it was bursting at the seams; she moved to this space in an old building in the historic section of Monrovia. She also has a by appointment studio around the corner. The combined tea room and shop outgrew one person; so Tara has sold the tea parlour to a friend. The combination is perfect: people come to the shop, spot the tea parlour and make reservations. Those who come for tea often pause to shop on their way through the store. Tara has cleverly provided pretty soaps, bubble baths, and other irresistibles for those who are not into vintage; but get the itch to part with money (a perfectly understandable impulse) in such an enchanting atmosphere.

If this were not enough, Tara makes and sells jewelry from old beads, buttons, feathers, and oddments; hats; and divine 'pin cushions' from antique velvet and trims. She told me that she covers her basic expenses from sales of herjewelry alone. I fell in love with a huge pin made of gold Bakelite whatnots, feathers, beads, and tassles. In fact, I fell in love with the whole place. Imagine my delight to hear that Tara considers me a factor in her success. Apparently she buys most of her vintage stock from dealers she contacted through VCN. While I was there a batch of clothes arrived from Diane McGee, Omaha, NE, also a long time VCN person. (Diane is author or A Passion for Fashion, and sells vintage clothing by mail: Estate Clothing, 5225 Jackson, Omaha, NE 66106)

I don't want to pass over the Frills Tea Parlour because it is such a special place. The atmosphere is charming, but relaxed. Attire is casual or dressy, as you please. The food is lovely - little sandwiches cut in shapes, and tied with ribbons, scones, fruit, cookies, and tea, of course! Reservations are required, and tables are booked at least a week in advance for week days, 4-6 weeks for Saturdays.

Visiting Tara Root and her creation, Frills, gave me a happy feeling for days. Without Tara, Frills would be just another building with stuff for sale; and it does my heart good to see someone make a living (Tara is a single mom) doing something unique and creative.

LiF Gypsy, 1389 N. Broadway, Salem, OR is another shop that reflects the original personality of its owner, Sam Hart. Lil' Gypsy is a tiny space, filled with wonderful bits and pieces of vintage clothing, jewelry, hats, and various items decorated by Sam herself. Sam doesn't like to consider herself a vintage clothing dealer. She says "I sell keen stuff that I like, priced at what I'd be willing to pay; and I'm darned cheap!" Sam decorates and sells denim jackets and vests, dresses, metal lunch boxes, shoes, and old suitcases in her shop, with a workroom in back. Lil' Gypsy has a large annex, which houses a costume rental shop; a major part of Sam's business.

My husband, who considers shopping on a par with coal mining for fun, and rarely enters any place that even resembles a store; gave Sam a rare compliment. He liked Lil' Gypsy, and said that it was one shop he feels comfortable in. It does indeed have the feel of a cheery, neighborhood place; where one just happens to shop for vintage treasures!

Antrican, 304 E 13th, Eugene, OR (comer of 13th and High) doesn't fit, really, into the vintage clothing category; or any cat-egory, except its own. I suppose you could say it has mostly ethnic clothes and jewelry (old and new), but that's not quite the impres-sion I want to give. Hmmm. It's decidedly funky, and definitely has incense (the clothes smell good), and you can get your ears or nose pierced. On the other hand, there have been lovely Victorian blouses for sale, and 40's jackets, and 20's dresses, and hats from various eras; and there usually are some interesting used modern clothes and shoes. I've found some wonderful vintage things here; including a divine plastic apple pin that causes envy far and wide. And an antique velvet and ostrich feather hat that my cat persists in taking naps on.

Those who pass it by, assuming it's a hippy or punk emporium, are definitely making a mistake. In Eugene, tie dye, ethnic jewelry, male pony tails, and Quatemalan shirts have remained strong fashion statements for 20 years without a break; so Antrican is almost a mainstream shop in that city. I always enjoy a visit with Theda Antrican and her assistant, Vikki Walker; not to mention Dennis the parakeet and Schotki the parrot. Antrican has just moved to a more visible location, and I can hardly wait to see what it looks like. Vikki told me business has doubled in the month since the move.

For the first time in my life I live within walking distance of, get this, not just one, but two vintage clothing shops! I love Deluxe Junk, 3518 Fremont PI N, Seattle, WA, because there's always some treasure I can afford, even when it's getting towards the end of both the month and my bank account. Tom and David carry lots of lovely 1950's furniture, lamps, etc; and men's and women's vintage clothing and jewelry - in fact Deluxe Junk! It's the epitome of serendipity, you never know what will appear. Once I found the display case full of hats from the mid-1800's. Another time they had just bought 150 - 1940's neckties. I've found an Eisenberg necklace in the same case with the most adorably cheap, dangly, buddha earrings ever. Deluxe Junk has been around for years, and deservedly has a devoted following.

Fritzi Ritz, 3425 Fremont N, Seattle, has become a regular stomping ground for me; it being a particularly satisfying vintage clothing store. It's big, there's a lot of good stuff, both men's and women's, you can find everything, and prices are reasonable. I would call it "unobtrusively organized." Sylvan concentrates her stock on the wearable variety of vintage - this is not the place to shop for Victoriana. At the same time, a friend found an authentic child's Roy Rogers cowboy suit here; and my birthday treat to myself, a 1940's cocktail dress, with handpainted and sequinned flowers on the bodice, was a Fritzi Ritz find.

Victoriana and Edwardian are the focus of Madame & Co, 117 Yesler, Seattle (Pioneer Square), the place to go for the collectible, antique variety of vintage clothing. Clothing from other eras, teens, 20's, 30* s and 40's is certainly available; as well as costume jewelry and hats, both authentic and repro. Carol does a big business in antique wedding gowns; and also has a variety of old laces, buttons and trims. The shop is decorated with laces, wicker, and antique furbelows, in a Victorian parlour manner; and is a treat to visit.

Rhinestone Rosie, 606 W. Crocket, Seattle (Queen Anne Hill) is one of the treasures of the vintage clothing world, because she repairs costume jewelry. She does it well, she does it for a reasonable price, and she will work with mail orders. Can you ask for more? Actually, she also has a shop where she sells vintage costume jewelry as well as repairing it. Rosie's shop has the feel of an artisan's workplace. Every thing is visible, well lit and displayed, and convenient; but not at all cold or remote in feeling.

Rudy's Vintage Clothing, 1424 1st, Seattle (by Pike Place Market) is totally different again. Rudy's is geared to allay the fears of people who don't usually shop for vintage clothing. You know the ones who accidentally stroll into a vintage shop, and rum right around muttering 'what's all this old stuff?' At Rudy's, they're part way through the racks before it hits them that this is old stuff. However, the general organization and tidiness shouldn't discourage regular vintage buffs, the stock really is vintage! You just don't have to scrounge for it. It is a "downtown" vintage shop; aimed toward the business man or woman. Susan and Paula feature primarily wearable men's clothing and accessories, but also carry women's dresses, suits, and coats from the 1940's and 50's. They also make and sell a line of vests from old fabrics.

I want to thank all the hard working, big dreaming, people who cast their fortunes into the ring and run vintage clothing businesses. You make the world a more cheerful and charming place, and goodness knows we all need it!

Copyright 1993 - All Rights Reserved, Terry McCormick, Vintage Clothing Newsletter