Vintage Clothing: What’s Old is New


Whether it’s a top hat fit for Fred Astaire, or a satin gown that could have been worn by Ginger Rogers, vintage clothing has never been more popular. Because New York is the fashion capital of the world, gathering together some of the best sources for vintage clothing seems appropriate. The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, to be held Friday, February 6 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, February 7, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., brings together more than 80 clothing and textile dealers from all over the Northeast. The event, held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, always attracts hundreds of buyers.

Why is vintage so popular? “A lot of fashion is mass produced and women want to look unique,” says Stacey Iannacone, whose store, Exquisite Costume is located at 377 Broome Street. Many designers study vintage for inspiration. Marc Jacobs, for example, recently looked to the past when he designed harem pants for a spring collection.

Elin Wilder, who takes private clients for her company, Unique Boutique NYC, believes that growing concern about the environment also plays a role.  “Why keep throwing things out when they can be reused?” asks Wilder. “I love quality. Why am I going to shop at a store to buy something new that will fall apart?”

Wilder, a former producer for NBC who also has designed for the theater, frequently supplies the entertainment industry, supplying stars, like Nicole Kidman, with outfits for a role.

Many sellers of vintage clothing began as buyers and collectors themselves. “I’ve been collecting for twenty-plus years,” says Jen McCulloch. “My mother has always been my inspiration.” As a result, she named her store, Olive’s, at 434 Court Street, Brooklyn, after her mother.

Olive’s carries an eclectic mix of vintage clothing. “I also look at current trends so I know what people want this year,” she says. Like many vintage retailers who moved from collector to seller, McCulloch often has trouble parting with an item. “The things I love most go into my closet for a couple of weeks,” she says. “If I don’t wear it, I’ll take it back to the store.”

Leonore Newman, who has a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, grew up in the retail industry. Her shop, Patina, 451 Broome Street, in Soho, specializes in all twentieth century clothing. She began collecting for herself in the mid-1970s. “I have a friend in the real estate industry,” Newman says. “She had a space for me. It was a whim.”

The clothes-buying public’s fascination with vintage, however, is not a whim. And with the economy limiting what women can spend on clothing, recycling a jacket or handbag from the past, or spending less on a dress with a mysterious past, is a trend that will continue to build.

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