Even More Vintage Shopping Tips!

Personally I feel that it is always a good idea to mix vintage with the contemporary. The general goal is not to dress as if you were in a period movie. Vintage works best in pieces. A great coat with a modern top and jeans, a vintage dress with killer hip heals, a vintage skirt paired with boots and your favorite boyfriend jacket! As with any wardrobe item think about how it works with your current closet. I have had many clients buy an item to literally display as a work of art and collectors buy those items to add to their nest egg of clothes or fulfill the need to own that wonderful piece of art. If you are trying to dress the part from head to heal then do a little online research to see what was appropriate for the time you are re-creating. Do you need panty hose, girdles, a Bullitt bra, hats, gloves and what was  the jewelry like or how high were the heals?

Fashion Tip: Revlon’s Fire and Ice is a must have lipstick created in the 50’s. It is the perfect shade of red! Remember my first tip; it must be fun for you!

Accessorize! You can find truly amazing earrings, bracelets, necklaces and pins in the vintage market... All of these will enhance your contemporary clothes and add a statement. Notice the color combinations, texture and design when purchasing what catches your eye. If you are starting a collection follow your desires and look for those items that draw you in, it may be the glitzy rhinestones of the 50’s or the art deco inspiration of the 20’s. Costume jewelry is truly readily available and in demand. Your mother’s jewelry box is a great place to start. The sparkles can be diamonds or paste but whatever the budget you have a plethora of choices. Remember to treat them with care as they too have seen a lot of years and use.

Buy it when you see it... Vintage is unique and available in limited edition. Rarely will you ever see the same garment twice! If you like it, it fits and it is in your budget, then buy! The old saying, "if you snooze you loose" applies to buying vintage. I have been the victim of seeing something and literally within minutes someone else has scooped up my treasure and it is gone forever... Well that may be a bit dramatic but it is how you feel in that moment, so grab that item if it does not put your finances at risk. I also suggest that if you are in love with an item and you don’t know where you will wear it, buy it anyway; create the need. I do it with sport coats and cufflinks all the time. I recently attended the Hollywood premier of  Breaking Dawn, the latest Twilight movie, thanks to my long time vintage shopping buddy and her partner, and low and behold in my closet was a black velvet tuxedo jacket printed with small bats… When I bought it years ago I knew one day I would need that jacket!!

If you are starting a collection, designer labels will cost more and provide a higher value in the end. It is best to start with an era, designer, color or theme and then let the collection take its own form. Collecting is a very fun obsession and the hunt is what drives the collector! Always look for quality over quantity in collecting. My first collection was anything and everything that was cheap and interesting. I did not really know what I was looking for just that I was a bit obsessed. I now have three collections running with my business partner Doreen Picerne; Hollywood, Scottsdale Southwest, and what I call the New Wave, that includes items from the 80’s and 90’s. Hollywood includes the masters that dressed the stars and were the golden boys and girls of the studios. We have Adrian, Edith Head, Nudie Cohen, Helen Rose, Charles Lemaire.... to mention just a few. Scottsdale Southwest includes Lloyd Kiva New, Leonna Caldwell, Jeri, Kay Bennett, Goldwater’s and just about anything with roadrunners and cactus. The New Wave is really fun. It is in the making but includes crazy, and I mean crazy beaded, sequined pictorial pieces and my new favorite designer Patrick Kelly. When you find something you love you can create the collection! Also remember that the designer most likely did jewelry and accessories, it helps you justify buying that must-have item.

Follow your instincts. When shopping vintage it is always fun to have an enabler along but know that not everyone gets what is going on with vintage. If you are friend shopping and your friend is not into it, find another friend… to shop with! If your friend is a kindred spirit you will learn to eyeball the store quickly and spring into action the minute something catches your eye. Set your rules down early as it is not unusual for your friend, at least my friends, to shove you aside to score that Dior hat! You have to follow that feeling in your gut that makes you pay attention no matter what the peanut gallery has to say. I have several female friends who shop like crazy at the mall but would rather soak in cyanide than buy a vintage garment. I am ok with that as I have made so many new friends who love and appreciate it the way I do. Vintage clothing should evoke an emotion so only buy what makes you feel special, sexy and beautiful or evokes a fond memory. If you laugh, say "oh my", "wow", or feel light headed…. You have found your vintage garment! Warning: People will start stopping you on the street to to ask you where you got that amazing outfit!!

-Robert Black

Vintage Shopping Tips from Robert Black

On my quest to learn more about what vintage truly is I have discovered that in fact I am Vintage… Like a fine wine I feel my vintage, 1959 was a good year that produced a stellar crop. The 1959 Vintage folk grew up with a taste of the girly 50’s, the sexy 60’s the polyester 70’s, the opulent 80’s, the supermodel 90’s and now the confused millennium. Generally speaking it is important to understand that all vintage will eventually become antique so I will jump that hurdle when the time comes! For now, when we use the generic term Vintage to describe clothing we are referring to items that are 20 -100 years old. Vintage items include, handmade, used, manufactured and sometimes new or what we refer to as dead stock. One last term to be aware of as you start your quest is “vintage style” which refers to items currently produced to imitate the style of a previous era, in other words… not the real deal!

Vintage shopping should always be a fun and exciting adventure. Know that dressing in vintage apparel may mean you will step out of your comfort zone but it also means you will be one-of-a-kind! For many of us the hunt is the thrill. Finding that perfect piece to add to your collection or out do your coworkers at the office mad man party. Whatever the motivation you will find yourself in stores like mine where we have curated for you or if you are a die-hard you will be searching racks at thrift stores. Soon the obsession will consume your travels and irritate your family members but I am sure they have their vices also. It is important that on your quest you ALWAYS try on a vintage garment and pay no attention to the size on the label if there is one .Don’t panic if you do look and it says a 14 and you know you are a 4! Many times bust, waist and hip measurements are provided so you can “guestimate” if the garment will fit you on your way to the changing room. There is no standardization in sizes from decade to decade. Make sure if feels good and looks good on your body type! Most stores that sell Vintage apparel have a strict no return policy.

It is also important to know a few etiquette rules of the trade when trying on a vintage item.  Remove all jewelry that may snag, or tear the fabric. Cover your face as you slip the item on and off so that you do not leave a lipstick stain on the garment. Do not put on your shoes until after the garment is on your body as not to damage the item and if you are trying on a dress always bring a pair of  heals so that you can see the drape and line of the dress as it will look when you are wearing it.. They just don’t look the same with tennis shoes!

It is important to check carefully for stains, holes, tears and fading.  Look at the garment inside out, literally... particularly anything knit as you can see light through a pin hole! Don’t assume a stain will come out as it may have set in for a very long time. Fading may show up more often on shoulders and sleeves. It is your risk if you purchase an item with any of these issues. Be sure to check the underarm area for perspiration stains. Find a good quality dry cleaner that will do some work by hand and understands the delicate nature of your vintage pieces. Buttons can melt, beading can denigrate as can lining so ask them if they do vintage before leaving your item with any dry cleaner!  If you find an item that is a must have and there are issues you must ask yourself can I live with the small hole in the fold of the skirt that you can’t see or will I obsess about it being there. If you take it home think about how the garment can also be simply altered to disguise the problem or eliminate it all together. Sometimes a long dress becomes cocktail length or a panel can be added to replace a worn or torn area. When trying on a garment always check the inside for the seam allowance. Most vintage garments were hand made and the quality is excellent. With that came extra seam allowance so often times it is an easy fix to do a little nip and tuck. Do calculate this into the cost however as the seamstress will also be doing this by hand and it will increase the cost of your purchase. You also should have access to a seamstress that understands construction and is willing to do many things by hand.

-Robert Black

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Kachinas, Cactus & Roadrunners…Oh My

Photo: Kelly Capelli Models: FORD/RBA

Photo: Kelly Capelli Models: FORD/RBA

So right before we opened we were doing interior sprucing up on our soon-to-be vintage store, Fashion By Robert Black and found all kinds of interesting items from the former owners who ran our building, then known as The White Hogan. This got us very interested in finding out what was happening in the fashion world circa, 1950 in Downtown Scottsdale.  I set off to learn more by visiting the Scottsdale Public Library, the Scottsdale Historic Society and even the library at my old school ASU. As I poured through file after file I discovered nothing relating to what Scottsdale looked like as a fashion mecca but discovered all kinds of articles on the big opening of the big giant mall, Fashion Square. (Side note: one of the greatest stores Scottsdale ever had was Michelle's that opened in 1961 in Fashion Square Mall... so back then the big box was not all that bad!) Now I was even more curious, so I started chatting up the folks at the Phoenix Art Museum, The Heard Museum and local shop owners that were still around. Over the last five years I have started to piece together some very interesting things about our little Fashion hub. 

In the 1950’s Harper’s Bazaar magazine once staged a fashion show called “Sunset Pink” on Main Street in Scottsdale. The models took a train from New York to Scottsdale to walk a huge runway down the middle of Main Street dressed in all pink fashions. (Grab the book Historic Scottsdale by Joan Fudala to learn more) Shops like Lloyd Kiva, Leonna Caldwell, Novis Denne, The Monogram Shop, Maharanis, and even Goldwater’s offered the latest and greatest in fashion for the locals as well as the tourists that flocked here. The valley of the sun also had Hanny’s that carried designers like Adrian and Irene, Korricks, Switzers, Diamonds, Miriam’s, Fantasia and Phyllis De Trano! We were not lacking for fashion sources in our past... 

In my quest for information I decided we needed to archive the clothing from these stores, so one of our collections was born. We are always buying items for the store and our collection, so if there is a Kachina, Cactus or Roadrunner on the item we want it!!!

-Robert Black