Clothing of years past seems to stay in the fashion scene whether vintage inspired or the original. But for some people, original vintage merchandise is their specialty.
With items that date back as far as the Victorian era to the 1980s, vintage is a category all of its own. This collectable and wearable clothing business can reach people with different styles and tastes and a lot of vintage stores like to keep that in mind.
"Everyone has a different idea" of vintage says Tara Selario owner of Eclectic Threads in Arlington. Elinor Coleman owner of Vintage Mirage in Old Town Alexandria said "In some businesses, they won’t take an item that is more than 2 years old," it just depends on the store.
Jeff Elmendorf owner of Funk and Junk, a store that used to reside in Old Town Alexandria but decided to go to the web, defined the term vintage when he said "It is really important to make the distinction about what it really is, [because] it means different things. Anything past a couple years could be vintage." He also said "the natural roots of it was antiques but made [its] transition to vintage."
When asked why she sells vintage, Stacy Ditata owner of The Remix, a store that relocated from Del Ray to Washington D.C., said "I started wearing it [and] I became enthusiastic about it."
"I have always worn vintage clothing, personally. We are talking [since] high school. I have always liked something unique" said Coleman. She also explained that her family was in "the garment business" and she "felt like that connected" her.
BESIDES THIS PERSONAL connection of wearing these items, the store owners also seem to have a certain appreciation for the clothing. Elmendorf said "We sell vintage because it is better quality than the new stuff." Coleman also said "there were some wonderful garments created in [the] 30s, 40s, and 50s. Vintage garments, every one [of them], is one of a kind. There is a sense of history in these garments."
Old things have always been collectables throughout the years whether inherited or bought. Even if it’s grandmother’s jewelry, father’s concert t-shirt, an old batman lunch box, or a flapper dress from the 20s, people tend to hold on to things. And that is how a lot of these stores get their inventory.
Through consignment, thrift stores, estates, or others, these store owners are getting their merchandise from within the community. Selario said that she gets her inventory through "consignment." "There are certain styles I like. [But] I do have to be careful about what I take. It’s not a specific brand I won’t take, it’s either cool or it’s not." She also said "It has to be wearable and not a rag."
Coleman explained that she gets her items by helping people downsize estates and on some occasions she will "get a story from the family ‘oh so and so wore this.’"
Elmendorf said he gets the clothes "wherever we can. We used to buy single stuff off the streets, as long as it is affordable and we can pass it off affordably." He also searches thrift stores but he said "the stuff isn’t out there like it used to be. Used to be, back in the 70s and 80s, you could go to thrift stores and find stuff."
WITH THE VINTAGE ITEMS being so hard to find, so are the stores that carry them. Eclectic Threads and Vintage Mirage are two of the known stores that still reside in Arlington and Alexandria.
The stores are just not reaching enough of the public for them to stay in the area. Funk and Junk and The Remix are two examples of having to focus their attention elsewhere; and either decided to relocate to another location or move to the Internet. Ditata said "[I] felt that when gas prices went up, I felt Del Ray was not a destination."
"We always had business come in," said Elmendorf, but "we just made the decision to concentrate on being a better business." As an example, he mentioned that "there are times that I will hand deliver things in the area."
Though these stores sell their inventory from various places, each of these stores continues to have something different and special from the next.
Every one of these stores carries things from various decades but each tends to have its own style as well. "I specialize in the 50s and 60s," said Ditata. She said that her store is "probably more of a girly-girl shop. I do not consider myself a grunge shop."
At Eclectic Threads, Selario said, "Right now I have stuff from 1910 to modern." But though she sells a lot of older items, she said "I do not think anyone can do straight vintage. I had to branch out and get newer [stuff]."
Coleman said "I carry Victorian to the present… [and] a lot of the pieces are designers and patented." She even carries "a huge Native American collection [of jewelry] for sale."
Elmendorf said he carries things from the 20s but "the real concentration is the late 30s and on." With the help of Funk and Junk’s sister site Digital Vintage, Elmendorf offers a wide array of vintage pieces.
"Well, we really run the gamut," said Elmendorf, "We like to sell wearable vintage…if you want a complete outfit we can help." It just depends on what type of vintage you are looking to buy because each store seems to have its own niche.
From a Red Cross nurse’s uniform (found at Eclectic Threads) to hat pins from the Victorian era (found at Vintage Mirage), these stores offer a little bit from the past. They also give us the opportunity to own and possibly wear something historical.
But do not worry, even though these stores might be far and in between, Elmendorf says "We should have stuff for years to come."