LOUISE SLEIGH CATWALK CREATIVE VINTAGE Lover of Vintage Louise hails from Manchester, UK, + runs an exclusive online vintage clothing boutique, Catwalk Creative Vintage. Her love of vintage fashion began back in the early 80s when she made her first purchase from the iconic Afflecks Palace. Since then, Louise has been an avid collector of vintage and decid- ed to branch out into her own business in 2006 after becoming increasingly frustrated with the fastfashion boom. The Catwalk Creative web- site has been designed by Louise who want- ed to make it informative, easy-to-navigate with unfussy descriptions and lots of clear photos. Promoting the wearing of vintage clothing is something Louise is passionate about. She writes a vintage blog (Catwalk Threads) + is an active member of the Vintage Fashion Guild (VFG) + The Textile Society (UK).
This special vintage edition of The Fashion Birdcage is dedicated to vintage lovers all over the world
It's Vintage, Darling!
Credits: Swimming Costume from Glamour Surf; Red Dress with large bow from Catbooks; 80's Black Knit Dress with Beaded Shoulders from Viva Vintage Clothing;
Just For Fun ... WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST FASHION MEMORY? In the early 1970s, my mom had a navy and red bandana print cotton midriff top and long skirt (with hot pants underneath) ensemble - definitely memorable! WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION? A 1920s peach velvet, wide-brimmed cloche hat that was given to me when I first started working in the vintage biz. It was as a gift from the owner of the store, a friend and a mentor.It was such a nice gesture, and it is so beautiful, that I have yet to wear it.
70's Berries and Leaves Print Maxi Dress $95.00
Louise Sleigh interviews Amy Mayberry from Viva Vintage Clothing ...
FAVOURITE VINTAGE ERA AND WHY? I love both the elegance and the perky cuteness of 1930s vintage clothing, from evening gowns to sportswear and uni- forms. I enjoy imagining all of the
YOUR PERFECT DAY WOULD BE ...
60's Lilli Diamond Black Fringe Evening Gown $165.00
Wandering around a new city, admiring the people and the architecture, shopping, eating and drinking, until I drop with exhaustion. Or 8 hours in a comfy chair with a great book. IN THREE WORDS, HOW WOULD YOUR FRIENDS DESCRIBE YOU? Loyal, disciplined, sarcastic.
wonderful women who may have worn these clothes, from screen sirens to tough dames to cheerful-inadversity chorus girls and waitresses. In particular, I love more casual pieces like daytime suits and blouses or cotton dresses that have wonderful asymmetrical details, and lovely prints. Of course, I love great prints from every era. TOP THREE FASHION ICONS ... Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, and Jean Harlow.
70's Black Knit Dress with Red Piping $55.00
About Your Business ... HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE BUSINESS OF SELLING VINTAGE? I started working for a great lady who owned a vintage shop in my college town, and ended up managing her shop, called Fabola, for several years after school. She decided to get out of business, and I thought to myself, "I've learned how to do this, why not give it a try?" I had my bricks and mortar shop, Viva Vintage, for 10 years before moving to web-only selling at vivavintageclothing.com, so it ended up working out well for me. Based on my experience, I absolutely recommend a period of 'apprenticeship' or mentoring with someone as a good way to learn whether or not the business is for you. I think a lot of people get into vintage selling knowing that they love the clothing, but maybe not knowing that much about how to run a small business, and the joys and suffering that come with it.
60's Brown Lace Ruffle Cocktail Dress with Bow $125.00
WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS UNIQUE AND SETS IT APART FROM THE REST? I think every vintage shop/website/seller has their own unique taste that makes their inventory a very personal 'collection'. I'd like to think that being very organised and focused on detail allows me to be very careful about the condition of the vintage items that I choose to offer to my customers. Also, being a very girly-girl, and loving prints and fabrics, I think that my selection tends to run more to the feminine and pretty, rather than the trendy 'look of the moment'. Even with vintage, trends may come and go, but a great cotton or classic cocktail dress, or a garment with unique construction or fun detailing is always going to catch my eye, so that's a lot of what I sell.
Late 50's Pink and Ivory Floral Silk Dress $125.00
DO YOU WORK ON YOUR OWN? Yes, and my boss is a hard task-master! (Can't really complain about myself when your self won't let you take a day off - or can you?) HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD YOUR WEBSITE? DO YOU GET MOST OF YOUR SALES FROM YOUR WEBSITE OR FROM ELSEWHERE? My website went live in January 2008, and all of my vintage items are sold there.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A NOVICE VINTAGE BUYER? WHAT SHOULD THEY LOOK OUT FOR ESPECIALLY IF BUYING ONLINE? Buy from reputable dealers if you want to ensure a good shopping experience. I recommend checking out the many wonderful members of the Vintage Fashion Guild as a place to start to find knowledgeable, experienced sellers. Condition and quality are important, especially relative to price. In other words, if you pick up a $5 bargain and it has got a few problems, who cares? But, if you want to get a high quality piece of vintage clothing, and the condition and workmanship are excellent, you should feel OK about paying a bit more. I have some vintage pieces in my personal collection that I have had for over 10-15 years (and they were at least 40 years old when I got them!) I wear them and get compli- ments on them, and I intend to do so for many more years. A good vintage piece is an investment, and as long as you take proper care of your clothing, it will last a lot longer than many modern, mass- produced things you could buy a the same price point.
70's Black Knit Dress with Red Piping $55.00
WHAT WOULD A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE AT VIVA VINTAGE CLOTHING?
DO YOU TAKE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPHS? IF SO, WHAT CAMERA DO YOU USE?
A typical day involves some or all of the following: check email, answer emails, pack and ship orders, visit the post office, prepare inventory for photo- graphy, take photos of new inventory, write descr- iptions of new inventory, update the website, check in at the Vintage Fashion Guild, make a trip to a nice little old lady's house to look at her clothes (and hopefully buy some), answer more emails, repeat.
I do take my own photos, which have gotten better, considering that I'd never used a digital camera before I started (!) I use a Nikon D40, which I'm pretty happy with.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT PROMOTING YOUR BUSINESS?
I mainly purchase whole 'estates', whether that means a few items lovingly saved or many closets full. Often, friends or relatives contact me; although I love buying clothing and accessories from the origi- nal owner, since from them you get the stories about when and where things were worn. I love the history behind people's clothing, as well as the garments themselves.
I do a small amount of online advertising, including in the online Yellow Pages, and on a few websites. Mostly, though, it's through word of mouth. Also, it helps to have a very searchable website, so that Google can find my stuff easily when some- one is searching for something specific. I recently started a fan page on Facebook, and I try to add photos there weeky of the new items listed on the site.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SOURCING YOUR VINTAGE AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST AMAZING FIND?
That said, I used to do more thrifting for inventory, way back in the day (like, the mid 1990s). I once found a beaded 1920s dress in a thrift store for $3.
So, you never know what you'll find, although lately I only thrift occasionally, mostly for recreation. Not that it is everyone's idea of fun: dirty, smelly, timeconsuming, hard work, and then sometimes the unlikey buy exciting find. DO YOU THINK SHOPPING VINTAGE HAS BECOME MORE POPULAR OVER THE PAST 1015 YEARS? IF SO, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
I think that as "alternative" culture has become mainstreamed, something as potentially odd as wearing other people's clothes has become as normal as tattoos and piercings. Lately, promoting vintage as green (recycling) and affordable (compared to modern garments of similar quality) has been the marketing angle. Whatever the reason, I'm very happy that more people have come to appreciate the value of vintage clothing!
It has certainly become more talked about in the media, as famous folks walk the red carpet wearing 'vintage' - even if it is only a few years old, in some cases. I imagine that the availability of vintage on the internet has changed the business. It used to be that vintage shops catered to their own local crowd of vintage lovers, hipsters and costumers. Now that anyone almost anywhere can buy great vintage online, it certainly broadens the market and allows more people to have access to great vintage clothes. Also, 60's Metallic Gold Wool Knit Dress $85.00
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE 3 ITEMS FOR SALE IN YOUR BOUTIQUE RIGHT NOW?
HAS THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE AFFECTED BUSINESS? IF SO, WHAT STEPS ARE YOU TAKING TO COUNTERACT THAT? Yes, I think everyone in the retail world has had to adjust their expectations as money is tighter for most people. However, although impulse buyers may be buying less, I think the market for vintage remains relatively strong. Serious vintage lovers and collectors will go without food to shop - right?
Late 30s Olive & Purple Print Silk Dress $125
80s Black Knit Dress with Beaded Shoulders $45.00
Since the web version of my business was born into this world of financial doom and gloom, I'm hoping that there is nowhere to go from here but up! I'll keep offering quality products, and hope that is the case. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BUSINESS IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? FUTURE PLANS? Hmmmm ... I may be hitting my stride in this vintage web world about then, and hopefully be better known to stylish shoppers all over the world. But, I could also see getting out of the selling aspect of vintage, and moving into studying textile conservation, if I can afford to study it at a program not too far from home.
60s Red & Black Dragons Pleated Mini Mumu Dress $85.00
WHERE CAN YOUR MERCHANDISE BE PURCHASED FROM AND HOW CAN CUSTOMERS CONTACT YOU? All of my vintage clothing and accessories for sale can be found at : vivavintageclothing.com. I can also be reached via email at: email@example.com, or by phone at (847) 475-5025.
Lilli Diamond Brown Sequins V-Neck Sweater $50.00
Playboy 4561 Limited Model of the Year 1986 A true Rarity!
Dior 2060 Colorful King Size Model Characteristic of the 70s!
Porsche 5620 Produced from the late 70s until the mid 80s Worn by Yoko Ono on the cover of the Rolling Stone Magazine (October 1981)
1960s Lime Green Pin Stripe Hip Huggers with matching Jacket $225.00
1970s Blue Velveteen Jumpsuit $75.00 1960s Pauline Rader Mod Necklace $245.00
1980s FLY Clear Vinyl Motorcycle Style Jacket $125.00
1970s Naf Naf Jumpsuit with Patches $125.00
Late 1970s/Early 1980s Avant Garde Issey Miyake Paper Airplane Jacket $145.00
1970s Slinky Black Peasant Boho Maxi Dress $86.00
1970s Anne Klein Plaid Annie Hall Vest & Midi Skirt Set $98.00
Late 1950s Lilli Ann Olive Taupe Boucle Jacket $95.00
Late 1940s/Early 1950s Hand-painted High Heels $150.00
Early 1970s Vintage Geoffrey Beene Fit and Flair Pussycat Bow Dress $195.00
The Billy Idol Michael Hoban North Beach Leather Jacket $195.00
1980s Thierry Mugler Silver LeatherBelt
1960s Marie Silver Paris $60
1960s Pearl Silver Crown Trifari Earrings $24.00
Bally of Switzerland Emily Shoes $68.00
Laced Spectator Oxfords Leather and Suede $49.00
1980s Garolini Teatro alla Scala Peaude soie and Suede Diamante Pumps $80.00
80s Red ruched Prom Dress Size S $65.00
70s Fitted Pinstripe Blazer Size S $34.00
60s Cropped Purple Jacket Size S $50.00
80s Wide Red Cinch Belt Size L - XL $15.00
80s Grey Leather Cinch Belt Size XS - S $15.00
70s Sheer Wrap Tunic Top Size S - M $28.00
80s Acid Wash Denim Dress Size XS - S $40.00
60s Olive and Blue Wiggle Dress Size XXL $70.00
80s Matte Gold Sequin Tunic Dress Size L $65.00
70s Green Pullover Hooded Sweater Size XS $34.00
Etsy: Penelope Pups Vintage Web: Penelope Pups Vintage
Vintage Chunky Turquoise, Coral and Sterling Silver Bracelet and Ring Set $375.00
(LEFT) 80s Black and Gold High Collar Gown by Susan Roselli for Vijack $125.00 (ABOVE) 70s Brass Rope Necklace with two teardrop shaped adjustable Pendants $45.00
50s Navy Blue Wool Dress Coat by Louis Feraud @ Saks Fifth Avenue $440.00
80s Black & White Patent Leather Handbag with Brass Studs & Removable Strap by Jasmin $58.00
Early 60s Black Sequin Evening Jacket $52.00
Early 80s Purple & Teal Plaid Blouse with Dramatic Shoulders & Ruffles by Amonard $45.00
40s-50s Red and Cream Polka Dot Cap Labelled 'United Hatters Caps & Millinery Workers Int'll Union' $65.00
Vintage Tie by Liberty of London with Art Nouveau Print $28.50
50s Light Blue Beaded Cardigan $30.00
(PREVIOUS PAGE) 50's Catalina Black Velvet Wing Ding Swimsuit Bathing Suit Size 38 $385.00 at glamoursurf.com
50's Alfred Shaheen Sarong Wrap Wiggle Dress with Detachable Shoulder Sash $450.00 at glamoursavvy.com
80's Michael Hoban North Beach Leather Corset Laced Dress Size S $265.00 at glamoursavvy.com
40's (new with tags) Catalina 'Hawaiian Fish' California Hand Print Two Piece Swimsuit $650.00 at glamoursurf.com
1965 Rudi Gernreich Orange & Purple Paisley Silk Cocktail Mini Dress B34 $275 at glamoursavvy.com
(PREVIOUS PAGE) H942 - 50's Red Velvet & Feathered Turban $65.00
M463 - 60's Jerry Marsch For Mardi Gras Yellow Chiffon Dress $125.00
M428 - 60's Averarado Bessi Silk Jersey Dress $325.00
L661 - 60's Suede and Faux Fur Boho Coat $195.00
G2010 - 1939 Wool Gabardine Split Tails Jacket $95.00 S166 - 50's Black Tafetta & Tulle Gown $125.00
Mock Turtle Vintage http://mockturtlevintage.etsy.com
(PREVIOUS PAGE) 1940's Bullion Hand Embroidered Clutch Bag $59.00
(THIS PAGE) 80's Rich Copper Party Dress by Wallis $55.00
50's Stunning Glass Copper Sparkle 3-Tier Strand Necklace $40.00
70's Fun Gold Silver Lurex Weave Maxi Dress $28.00
60's Susan Small of London Silk Day/Evening Dress $90.00
60's Black Slingbacks with Diamante Bow Detail $15.00
Viva Vintage Clothing http://www.vivavintageclothing.com/
(PREVIOUS PAGE) 60's Vera Orange Op Art Print Silk Scarf $40.00
(THIS PAGE) Trifari Mod Squares and Glass Charms Pendant & Drop Earrings Set $65.00
60's Caramel Leather Purse with Chain Handles $75.00
Mocha fleck Wool New Look Suit with Full Skirt $135.00
60's Judith Leiber Black Leather & Gold Metal Box Purse $235.00
60's Gold Suede Mod Coat $55.00
60's Two-Tone Hot Pink Wool Coat with Lucite Buttons $115.00
80's Banana Yellow Gabardine Jacket with Black Frogs $45.00
60's Raspberry Beaded Fringe Silk Blouse $75.00
50's Navy Wool Crochet Flowers Sweater $65.00
Pink Vintage Tie-Dye Silk Scarf $15.00
70's Lurex Halter Neck Evening Gown $90.00
80's Black Sequin Evening Dress by Rina Z $80.00
60's Back Cocktail Dress by Melbray of London $155.00
80's Crop Top by Jean Paul Gaultier $49.00
Late 60's/early 70's Red Ruffle Hostess Dress by Susan Small $250.00
30's Peek-a-boo Lace Blouse with Ruffle Front $80.00
80's Floral Silk Scarf by Bill Blass $9.00
First of all, it takes years of research before you can call yourself a true connosseur. Vintage enthusiasts will tell you that the learning process is ongoing; there's always something new to discover. That's what makes collecting vintage so appealing and exciting. This piece is aimed at providing you with some basic knowledge that will help you along your way, thus avoiding costly buying mistakes and having to deal with unscrupulous sellers. Let's first look at how to spot a geniune vintage piece from a reproduction. Certainly this can be difficult to establish, especially is you're buying online. It's impossible to inspect garments up close and so you really have to rely on the knowledge of the seller. Just to digress a little - if you intend buying from Etsy or eBay for example, always check the seller's feedback in detail. This may seem like an obvious thing to do but it's so easy to be tempted by a nicely presented photographic set with-
1940's Fashion Image Courtesy Trevira at http://www.flickr. com/photos/trevira/133676147/
(PREVIOUS PAGE) 1930's Gown by Jeanne Lanvin
out concerning yourself too much about the person selling it. Always read the seller's terms and conditions or shop policies before purchasing and if you're in any doubt, contact the seller directly. If you're not happy with the response, or lack of it as the case may be, take your business elsewhere. I strongly recommend searching the member pages of the Vintage Fashion Guild (VFG) who have strict guide- lines in place for all their trade members. In addition, the variety of merchandise available is truly outstanding.
So, back to spotting a genuine vintage garment. In vintage circles, it's a well known fact that unscrupulous sellers have been offering last year's reproduction bowling shirts as the genuine 50s article, making a massive profit at the buyer's expense. 80s tea dresses have been passed off as genuine 40s and sometimes from well established vintage boutiques. Don't worry! This is not commonplace but it's not unheard of either. It's true to say that not all these sellers are unscrupulous. Some are inexperienced and have a limited knowledge of the garments they are dealing with and therefore date them incorrectly - it can happen. What you need to be looking out for is the quality of the fabric along with the cut and style which are probably the easiest ways to identify what era the garment derives from.
For example, Grecian style dresses, although popular in the 30s, became a favourite in the 70s made up in rayon or jersey. The only way to know whether a dress is from the 30s rather than a very good 70s reproduction is to look at the construction. Methods have changed considerable throughout the twentieth century so if you can, look closely at the seams and stitching . Slightly irregular stitching and extra fabric in the seams indicates handmade garment possibly prior to the prevalent use of machines. Garment fastenings are another good indicator that can tell you about the age of an item. Zip fasteners were rarely used before the 40s with most garments having hook and eye closures or were made to fit comfortable over the wearer's head. Metal zippers were widely used during the 50s and 60s. The label is another indicator. Many (but not all) outfits prior to the 50s were made by dressmakers and didn't have labels and anything made pre1960 didn't have size labels. Fashion houses would use different designers over the years and so it's possible to date a garment from looking at the label.
1950's Dress by Norman Linton
For example, Ossie Clark designed a diffusion line for Radley which was made mainly in the 70s. In addition, clothing manufactured in Canada and the USA by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is another useful way of determining the age of a garment. Vintage Fashion Guild (VFG) label source Tips on dating merchandise
1920s ... arguably the most daring decade: the drop-waisted dress, the androg- ynous look, knee-length and less form fitting clothing with plenty of flesh on display!
1930s ... dramatic drop in hemlines to calf-length and full-length, bias cut silk gowns.
Late 1970's Dress Suit by Benson Landes
1940s ... pared-down and pratical: square shouldered military-style jackets, slim-cut knee length skirts, rayon tea dresses. 1950s ... the hourglass silhouette, high-waisted full skirts. 1960s ... street-wise fashion: psychedelic prints on polyester and other man-made fibres, Peter Pan collars and the mini. 1970s ... glam rock and disco: wide lapels, trouser suits, bell- bottoms and skirt lengths either mini, midi or maxi. 1980s ... high-flying: wide shoulders, nipped in waists and above the knee pencil skirts.
Obviously, there are no fixed rules here, but my advice is to always buy the very best quality you can afford. Certainly you can expect to pay more for a haute couture garment but the actual price of vintage clothing will depend on many factors including: age, condition, size, fabric, designer, workmanship, what the seller paid the supplier (yes, they don't get them for nothing!), and where you are buying your vintage from. Expect to pay considerably more for your vintage if purchasing from a boutique in the centre of London or LA, for example.
Early 1970's Lace Dress by betty B
Their prices will include overheads such as rent, rates and perhaps which local celebrities shop there. Also, bear in mind that reputable vintage sellers are providing customers with an excellent service. Not only are they sourcing the clothing for you (saving you valu- able time), but quite often they are repairing, cleaning and pressing to ensure the garment is enjoyed for many years to come.
If you prefer to buy your vintage from a shop rather than purchasing online, it always pays to know a little about store etiquette. This may sound like a basic lesson in manners and cert- ainly, I don't mean to patronize but there's no harm in sharing a few pointers. Firstly, being polite doesn't cost anything but it does go a long way to building up a good relationship between customer and store owner. 'Waltzing' into a vintage boutique, pulling delicate vintage pieces from neatly arranged rails and tugging at zippers in order to squeeze into a vintage frock is certainly not going to win you 'Customer of the Year'. If your waist measures 30 inches, trust me, it's not going to fit into a dress with a waist measurement of 26 inches - it just won't. Save yourself a whole lot of hassle by investing in a
good quality tape measure - and use it! Knowing your measurements is key to finding clothes that fit properly, otherwise you run the risk of damaging the clothing you are attempting to try on. It's costly and time consuming to repair vintage clothing. If you don't know your size, ask the owner for assistance. Most will be happy to oblige and it's better to ask than to run the risk of damage. And just in case you don't already know, your waist measurement should be taken from your natural waistline, not from where the top of your low-rise jeans fit. Yes, some people don't even know where their waistline is - not a brilliant start if you're planning on shopping for vintage.
The choices of styles, designs and fabrics offer One last pointer ... Don't insult the merchandise! If you try endless opportunities and will give you a styish, engaging the sales assistant or store owner with an opening unique wardrobe for years to come. comment such as "Do people actually buy this stuff?" don't expect a polite response or wonder why a stony silence has engulfed the shop floor. If you want to win favour, I recommend treating the clothing and the store owner with the utmost respect. Ask questions by all means - a vintage clothing connosseur loves nothing more than talking about their merchandise with an enthusiastic buyer. However, don't assume that insulting the clothing is going to result in a discount. On the contrary. It's more likely to result in a verbal 'clip around the ear' and your hasty removal from the premises with proverbial 'tail between the legs'! Now with all this talk of quality and value for money, isn't vintage fashion supposed to be fun? Well yes, of course it is but you should always care enough about the quality to find yourself the best-made examples. By doing so your clothes will 1950's Green Velvet Cocktail Dress look better and last longer. If you treat your clothes well, it will be possible to enjoy them for years to come or even re-sell them at a later date in order to acquire more additions to your collection. Once you've discover-ed the beauty of wearing vintage, you will never look back. Louise Sleigh runs a successful vintage clothing business, Catwalk Creative Vintage + you can find her on eBay, Etsy, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter + Facebook. If vintage is your bag then Catwalk Threads is the blog to check out for more information.
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The Fashion Birdcage, Issue 2 Skating Bullets On Angel Dust, The Vintage Edition