Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wear It Again Sam

When it came to vintage shopping in the USA, I had a theory. With the number of head of population, and the comparative length of their "civilized" history, vintage fashion was sure to be plentiful. My experience, while fruitful, was not the frivolous and decadent vintage affair that I had envisaged. The vintage shopping experience is somewhere between a visit to an overstocked costume shop and a rather smelly flea market. Polyester Elvis costumes hang beside flowered 70's flares, and if you're game enough to rummage through the dross and the miscellaneous stains, you may just happen upon a 1940's silk day dress scrunched up against the wall. Indeed the chances of happening upon true vintage were much higher, but the presentation left a lot to be desired. As a vintage hunter, you expect to find things in various states of disrepair, stained, mildew and perhaps even inhabited by small creatures. This is not the case in vintage stores in Melbourne, where items have at least been cleaned, if not (as in the case of Circa Vintage) lovingly restored. So while this makes for a more Indian Jones style to vintage shopping, it did yield some wonderful gems. The greatest of which was a store and its delightful owners, who had not only a wonderful selection, nicely kept and presented, but an overall respect for vintage clothing and its place in history.

The effervescent Laura

Enter Sam and Laura from Wear It Again Sam. As I walked in the door right upon opening time, Sam took one look at me and guided me straight to the racks of dresses from the 1930's - 1950's. I didn't even have to explain my agenda. After my previous experience with a store so overcrowded with crap and of such questionable hygine I was scratching for hours, this was heaven on earth. A sign in the front window announced, " We have over 1000 purses!" and not only did they have more than that, they were all in excellent condition and beautifully displayed. After sifting through the selection for size, condition, fabric and design; I had amassed a collection that then took me about 45 minutes to try on. In fact, the rack I had tackled encompassed only about 1/30th of the size of the store, so I chose to take a lunch break and then come back for more. Have you ever spent almost an entire day in one shop? If you're shopping vintage I'd highly recommend this intense method, and also spend the time to get to know the proprietors. There is always a secret stash of goodies "out the back" too.

Purses (aka Handbags) galore!

Yes, a couple of these little frou frou nightgowns made there way into my suitcase.

In talking to Sam and Laura, it became clear that vintage is their passion, not simply a way to supplement their seasonal costume sales. Much like a museum curator, Sam showed me the treasured details of her favorite pieces. A bias cut silk here, an asymmetrical sleeve there. Laura with her magnetic attraction to quality and rare accessories, walked me through the collection of Lucite handbags and intricately worked compacts. It was to my great sadness that I couldn't bring any of these Lucite beauties home with me (one was a beehive with tiny little bees on it!), as the danger of breakage - even as a carry on - was just too great.

There is a great pleasure in discussing your passion with those equally enthusiastic. It is somehow like taking a great big drink from the well of inspiration, and even if you spend the entire time saying, "Oh I know!" it is entirely refreshing. As I was talking to Laura about the vintage scene in Melbourne and the level of respect it commands; I looked up to the roof where hanging there, were the most beautiful, frothy 1950's prom dress confections. Then she says to me, " We often hear people come in here and say - You know if I ripped those beads off and chopped that hem off, I guess it could be decent." I thought I was going to have a stroke! Imagine! And so, for the rest of my time vintage shopping in Houston, I felt not only like a true treasure hunter, but also something somewhat more noble; A Liberator of the truly fabulous.

Wear it Again Sam can be found here on Etsy, here on Ebay and here on myspace.


Tizzalicious said...

Oh wow, that store looks fantastic!

Casey said...

EGADS! That looks like Vintage Heaven! :)

Amy G. said...

And now you've seen firsthand why vintage hasn't caught on in the US as a trend--here, we worship the new and cheap, leaving history to (literally) moulder in secondhand shops. Thrift-store shopping isn't for the faint of heart over here! But there are great things to be found if you're willing to approach it as an archaeological dig rather than a pleasant shopping outing. I am so pleased you found an exception to the norm over here!

Kelly said...

I'm a US girl, and I never seem to have the patience for vintage shopping. For me, it's hard to wade through all the ugly. There is only one vintage shop I make a point to stop at when I'm in the area (it's 100 miles away, though!) and even that has been going downhill in recent years.

I admire the women who have the perseverance and determination to go into it, but I can shop all day in modern stores and only buy a few pieces - vintage shopping is simply daunting to me!

Penny said...

ohhh i wish i lived in america so i could go to shops like these. its jam packed with treasures!!

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Helena S. said...

I guess you died and went to heaven. :-)

enc said...

That's a great store.

I love that nightie!

*indie_queen* said...

wow I so wish I could go there!!

Too Many Shoes said...

Does their Etsy store ship to Australia? I've already added them to my favorite sellers/shop list!

Too Many Shoes said...

oooh, how I'd love to rummage through their collection of 'purses'. How did you source the stores you visited in the States?

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Amy G: It was a revelation indeed.
Kelly: It really does take patience. In this case it was my friends patience in waiting for me while I did all this! For me though, given that I wanted to grow up an become an archeologist, this is the perfect solution.
Penny: Check out their Etsy store, and if there is something specific you are looking for, send them a conversation as there offline inventory is HUGE!
Spira girl: Thank you!
Enc: I'll model them sometime soon. They really are the cutest.
Too many shoes: I'm sure they will. Mention that you saw them on here and your bound to get some special treatment. As for sourcing stores, I went to every available store in Houston, with the help of a girlfriend who lives there. So local knowledge really. I tried to find a comprehensive guide list online, but no luck.

esme and the lane way said...

I was just thinking it looked soooo good and that it was a shame I couldn't browse, and then I see the link! Thanks for sharing!

Even if the presentation isn't as polished as Melbs, I think I could live with that if I found genuine vintage bargains! :D

susie_bubble said...

That vintage lingerie/nightwear is making my head spin!