Vintage Shopping Guide & 1930s Fashion

July 15, 2019

It’s a special journey buying vintage and in this post I’ll be sharing an interview I had with Kendall, another fellow vintage expert, about what we look for when picking out pieces to restoring and preserving pieces. These two 1930s dresses are her own pieces. This darling lady has an eye for the most delicate vintage finds and she sells some of her most prized finds. She is a true artist and has an astounding appreciation for art history’s influence on fashion through the years.

                                                                          

                                                                 Me

I fell in love immediately with all four of these dresses and I just have to know, where did you pick up these four magnificent dresses? A vintage shop? Or were they passed down in your family?

 

                                                               Kendall

The two dresses we shot at the beach are from Charm School Vintage (@charmschoolvintage) in Austin, Texas—my hometown. Charm School is great for curated, magical statement pieces. The yellow velvet dress is from Room Service Vintage (@roomservicevintage), which is also in Austin, Texas. The coral velvet dress with princess sleeves is from my favorite seller of all, Guermantes Vintage (@guermantes.vintage), which is currently based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The store’s vendor inspires me immensely, and shares my interest in and admiration of women surrealist artists.

 

                                                                            Me

 

All of those shops sound amazing. I have to check them out when I visit those states. I know as a vintage shopper and avid thrifter I have so many spots that I love to pick up pieces from. My go tos are Beacon's Closet, The Op Shop, Wasteland, Crossroads Trading Co, and Goodwill. What are some other places that you frequent to pick up vintage pieces?

 

                                                           Kendall

In Rochester, I love to go to the Amvets in Henrietta, the Goodwill on North Clinton, and of course I love to support my fellow local vintage sellers at the Op Shop and Little Shop of Hoarders. If I had unlimited cash and could shop anywhere, my favorite sellers I’ve come across are Guermantes (@guermantes.vintage), Sacred Estate (@sacredestate), Sugar Violette (@sugarviolette), and Strange Desires (@strangedesires). A lot of those shops are highly specialized and particular with their garments, so they are typically out of my price range. My favorite places to pick up vintage are most often from my stylish, artistic, inspiring friends. Then the garments also carry with them some of my friends’ energy, aura, and spirit.

 

                                                               Me

I love that. There is something really special about passing along a vintage piece to a friend. Now what about these four dresses attracted you to them when you saw them?

 

                                                           Kendall

I am very invested in material histories, and I’m especially fascinated by silk and the process by which its extracted and refined by boiling silkworm cocoons. Three of the four dresses are largely made from silk/silk velvet. I also love vibrant, artful, evocative colors—the punchy and shimmery coral, the glow of goldenrod, the pale lavender mist paired with powder blue netting, and the washed-out delicacy of the baby pink.

                                                             Me

Wow. I didn't even realize that three out of the four dresses are silk/silk velvet. That must be why I was so attracted to them. The materials I am most attracted to are silk and velvet. I don't have alot of 1930s pieces in my own personal closet but wearing these pieces really peaked my interest and desire to add more pieces from this era to my collection. What sets 1930s dresses and women's fashion apart from other eras for you?

 

                                                          Kendall

The 1930s feels like a ghostly and haunted moment, almost folkloric. I admire that the dresses maintain some of the mod, shapelessness and drop-waist features of 1920s flapper style, but are more fitted and sculptural. I love the high theatricality of the massive, puffy princess sleeves, the strange and unexpected shapes and cut-outs, the understated peplum waists that nonetheless add a decorative, romantic feel. There is something so inexplicably couture about 1930s silhouettes that is unmatched by any other moment in fashion.

 

                                                             Me

God, I love how you said that. There is something "inexplicably couture about 1930s silhouettes". I am going to marinate on that for a while. These dresses were very haunting and highly theatrical. The actress in me instantly felt transported into a character wearing both of these dresses. There is something so dramatic about them both. Any time I go out to vintage shop I spend hours looking through everything the shop has to offer. What I am most attracted to is colors, patterns, and the fabric. If I’m not familiar with the brand I do my research to see if it is an eco friendly brand or if it was created or supported by women, queer people, or people of color. What attracts you most when you are vintage shopping?

 

                                                          Kendall

Textures, colors, materials, and silhouettes—I find myself magnetically pulled towards anything unexpected and unusual. I love when a garment surprises me, or is unlike anything else I’ve seen. My relationship with fashion foregrounds the generative, endless possibilities of transforming the body. I like to feel as if I am performing, metamorphosing, expressing, continually changing, unfolding. Strange, idiosyncratic garments from other eras make me feel as if I can add elements of chance, surprise, and delight into daily life.​

 

                                                             Me

Girl, I am with you. I rarely buy something I have seen someone else where. The more unique and strange the better. We have a similar philosophy but our closets are so different which is so beautiful. Now, I was struck by how delicate the velvet dresses were and your careful care of them and the work that you had done to restore them. In my journey with delicate, older vintage pieces restoration has always been part of the process in preserving their original state. I always have a needle and thread with me when wearing some of my most delicate pieces in case I have to repair something while I'm out and about. It's rare that happens but on occasion it does. What were the state of the velvet dresses when you first got them and how have you restored them? How do you preserve them?

 

                                                          Kendall

 

Honestly, the yellow velvet dress was fairly wrecked when I purchased it, which is why it was more affordable. It’s entire back was basically non-functional. I’ll be frank though, I hand sewed a zipper bordered with thick marigold velvet trim in it pretty sloppily. I’m pretty bad when it comes to delicacy and patience, and I hadn’t yet fixed up my sewing machine and serger work station. Lauren (@ltracks) from the Op Shop used her machine to sew a zipper into the back of the coral velvet dress, but that beauty has been so fragile and undergone more mends than I can count. I’ve played with so many ways of “fixing” the openings of the peek-a-boo back details—buttons, elastic, hooks and eyes, ribbons, etc. But the fabric itself is not strong enough to hold much tension. Long story short, restoration and preservation have never been my strength—I’m more about romping around, playing, and living in the garment so the beautiful colors, materials, and shapes can be in the world, adorning bodies.

                                                          Me

Anything else you want to say about these dresses and thrifting?

 

                                                        Kendall

I’ll add that fashion, garments, and dressing are some of the most intimate, bodily forms of art, though they often go overlooked in canonical, fine arts spaces. Many of my biggest fashion icons are artists: Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Maruja Mallo, and Meret Oppenheim. Musical artist Bjork is also one of my all time favorite dressers. I believe fashion can alter and change our experiences of ourselves as a form of world-making and self-making. It’s deeply personal, inherently relational/social, and often political. As an art scholar, I hope to bring more attention to the material histories and thematic resonances of what we wear and its relationship to who we are.

 

                                                          Me

I love that. Bjork is iconic. Her music and fashion choices are in conversation with one another in the most complex way. Your fashion choices say so much about you and are such a beautiful and powerful statement. Fashion for me has always been a way that I express myself and is a reaction to myself and the world around me. Thanks for such a beautiful interview. Follow Kendall on Instagram at Silky Juicy and shop her lovely vintage finds at Earthly Delights Vintage.

This day was one for the books. It was the end of April and Olivia, Kendal and I had gathered to shoot a few spring looks at the beach in collaboration with The Op Shop. Of course it just so happened to be 20 degrees and snowing the day we planned to shoot, despite it being spring and in the 70s the previous day. We decided to accept the gift nature was giving us. We danced around and posed in the wet sand and stormy snow weather by the water. It was a sight to be had. I allowed myself to be grateful to the crashing of the waves and the snow flurries. I thanked the mud seeping into my shoes squishing itself between my toes. Our bodies were cold and our feet and fingers were even colder. Our styled hair became a wet beachy mess. We threw out words of encouragement every other minute to one another, to the fitful gusts of wind and soon we were running back to the heated car to warm our bodies so as not to get frost bite. I learned a big lesson that day. One I’ve always known but began to understand more deeply. The people you surround yourself with is so important. I don’t know if I would have been able to shoot a bunch of spring vintage looks in 20 degrees in the snow had I not been able to feed off of the electrifying and contagious positive energy of Kendal and Olivia I can’t emphasize enough how beautiful the souls of these ladies are. Surround yourself with amazing people and you’ll find you see the world in the way they do and feel ten times more amazing and accomplish things you didn’t know you could. Hope you enjoyed the interview with Kendall and this post. 

 

 

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