Earlier this week I had to purchase a gift for a very dear friend. She's celebrating her 30th birthday in Austin-- quite the event. So as I browsed online, trying to find the perfect present, I began to hone in on a brilliant idea. One of her favorite hobbies -- remaking or restoring vintage clothing -- was something worth investigating. And as I continually read about the city's large contingent of shops and boutiques devoted to this past time, I realized this was it.
Perfect I thought as I Googled articles on the best vintage in town. A while back we were at a wedding of mutual friends and she had just gotten engaged. My friend, always up for a challenge, had admitted that she'd already bought her gown. What, I said! Already? (A bit of background, she'd only been engaged for a week or so at this point.) "Yes, I've got it all sorted," she said, proudly. What I came to find out as I delved deeper was that she'd found the dress of her dreams (Angel Sanchez) but couldn't afford it. So instead, she went to a vintage store in California and bought a 1950s white frock with lace and tulle -- something you'd imagine Charles James or Jacques Fath would've created. Both fantastic eveningwear designers they were known to use favorite fabrics like silk, satin, tulle, chiffon and lace netting. It was a beauty but it was also in disrepair. So my friend took the gown and starting tearing and stripping and re-sewing and designing. She gave it quite the go actually but in the end wound up at a sample sale buying her beloved Angel Sanchez.
In any event, vintage collecting and dressing is one of the most wonderful fashion-related hobbies. It's something I've always wanted to spend more time doing, but which I can't really, living in Detroit, as there are only a handful of shops and most carry little or no designer. I have, on occasion, visited my grandmother's closet, but even then I usually stick to fur muffs from the 60s and a decent amount of rhinestone jewelry.
As I've noted before I have a large collection of fashion books. And one of my old favorites is called Dressing up Vintage. It's by Tracy Tolkien and delves into the old-time designers, the most valuable labels and how to care and restore vintage treasures. I really recommend it if you're into anything old and memorable. I especially like the parts on the best shops around the globe. London, coincidentally, is one of the top places to find things. I remember going to Steinberg and Tolkien and staring longingly at old Pucci and Chanel. I then would catch the tube over to Spitalfields Market, and buy a vintage bag (no designer tag) for $15. I still use the green one I bought one rainy day. A clutch made out of something resembling leather that looks as good as new.
Over in the States there are numerous notables but the best, I believe, is Decades in LA. I once interviewed the owner Cameron Silver. He was extremely friendly and passionate about his store, which boasts the crème de la crème of designer pieces. Hermes bags mingle with gowns by Dior and YSL while more current stuff sits quietly off to the side.
For me, I'm taken with this fantastically graphic Oscar de la Renta from Kittygirlvintage.com. Look at the ruffles! The chic length, bold colors and intricate detailing require a cocktail party and a pair of patent leather sling backs. You can't beat the best of the best, that's for sure.