Who’s inside Dorothea’s Closet Vintage? Why Angela is! (Yes, that’s her in the photo on below!) Let’s find out more…
How long have you been selling vintage fashions? Why did you start? And is it hard to part with items?
I’ve been selling about 3 years. I started when I had a newborn & my husband got laid off, so we needed some money. All those slips I’d collected that weren’t even my size were the first to go. When it comes to feeding & housing your child, you part with what you have to. I became addicted to finding more to sell — and the business was born.
Is this a full-time or part-time gig?
It started part time, I worked full time and sold on the “side” (nights, weekends). I do this full time; quit my hateful job at Home Depot in April. That’s when I was able to build up savings, inventory & clientele to the point I could leave a job I hated, stay home with my daughter & do vintage full time; something I never thought would happen when I became a single Mom!
I sell on Ebay under dorotheascloset, on my website, and dabble in selling at etsy.com. I sell locally by appointment and am getting involved in groups such as www.evintagesociety.com that focus in vintage fashions, collecting etc. All of this and being Mom to a 3 year old keep me very busy!
In general, I like the idea of vintage being worn. If its not too fragile, or a super collectible rare label, wear it! Its part of why I do what I do. I love the idea of a great 50’s dress getting to go out dancing again, a 40’s sophisticated suit lunching with the ladies again, a 30’s gown hostessing dinner parties again.
I like to think by unearthing these pieces, from attics, trunks, closets and even thrift stores, that I’m giving them a chance to live again. I wear as much as I can! Clothing, lingerie, jewelry, shoes, bags… as much as its practical to when I work from home!
What would you say your store specializes in?
I love glamorous things, frilly, feminine, curve enhancing textiles, details. Its a pretty wide range, but if anything is specific, it’s that it’s all women’s. I rarely mess with men’s, and rarely mess with “later” vintage. Pre-mid-60s women’s wear is likely the best way to classify the majority of it.
When & why did you start your love affair with vintage clothing & lingerie?
I think for me the attraction started as a child. My grandparents lived in town near us so I spent a lot of time at their house growing up. My Grandfather played clarinet in big bands and he & my Grandma were sharp dressers. My Grandma had wonderful things I got to play dress-up with.
She was tiny, too, so that helped! 4’10” & a size 3 1/2 to 4 shoes. My Mom has since told me the shoe stores would hold the shelf samples (which came in those dainty sizes) for her & when the shoe was discontinued she could buy the sample. My most vivid memory of wearing her things is those tiny shoes… My favorite being a pair of black velvet Springolators with rhinestone trimmed bows on the clear plastic vamps. They fit me in about 4th grade! I still have them, they sit on my fireplace mantle.
It was that love of pretty things I got from her, so it was fitting I name my business after her: Dorothea’s Closet. In fact, she really spelled her name “Dorothy”, but after she passed away I found a handful of things from the 30s, one being the sketch I use as my logo. But also a metal ash tray she made at a World’s Fair with a Mickey Mouse on it — she signed it to my grandpa, Floyd, “from Dorothea”. I was surprised and charmed by the idea that my Grandma briefly changed the spelling of her name to something I imagine that at the time she found more romantic or interesting. How many of us have done that in our youth?
Most of us remember when we realized we were ‘collecting’… Do you have a story about this?
My collection started I suppose like most vintage lovers. I wore it. Starting in highschool, I hunted local thrift stores for cool stuff that would be “different” than what the kids were getting at the mall. I don’t know then that I had as much of an attraction to the hunt or to the history of the pieces; lingerie was a great thing to mix in for a little shock value. (This was the 80s, so you can thank Madonna for that inspiration!) In college I was able to go even more bold with that.
After college, the 90s made it totally acceptable to wear a slip as a dress with tights & boots — and suddenly it lost its appeal to me to wear it the way I had been. Thrift store chic, vintage & lingerie were everywhere, so I found myself becoming more attracted to subcultures that approached vintage on a purist level. I discovered Rockabilly, Swing and whole groups of people who loved the things I’d loved all along — I had never known there were others like me. I was able then to go full scale into vintage, and my passion for it really grew. But I still didn’t realize I collected.
I had a lot of vintage, but it was luck & hunting that enabled me to have so much. I did have a habit of buying slips. All sizes, all colors… any slip I loved, I bought. I didn’t see it as a collection ’til the day I got the idea to use some of them to do a sort of window valance on a picture window at the front of my apartment — sort of clothesline meets burlesque dressing room. I decided against doing that for fear of fading them and at that moment I realized I took them seriously and was a collector.
Is there a style, era, maker/designer or item of apparel you focus on personally?
I love slinky, Harlow-esque bias cuts gowns… peignoir sets with billowy sleeves… rayon dressing gowns. However, I’m 5’2″ & curvy, so full length & clingy looks silly on me. Hasn’t stopped me from buying and keeping many… but it does make it easier to sell them!
For my personal wear, I adore 40s through 60s slips. Heavier satins & rayons in a bias cut from the 40’s are great as dresses. The nylons are perfect for lounging too. Soft, stretchy, lacy… a great way to feel glamorous while in “pajamas”!
I also officially collect Daniel Green satin (or at least girlie) slippers. I have 30s through early 60s. Satins, rabbit fur trimmed, sheer flower trimmed, clear with metallic leaf appliques. Some fit, but those I don’t wear! They are leather sole indoor slippers, and I don’t want them scuffed up.
What are the most prized pieces in your collection? Why?
My grandma’s shoes. A wedding dress that belonged to Jean, who’s estate I ended up with. She had no family at all, so I have the dress set (late 20s), cloche hat & shoes as well as a newspaper article about the wedding and the invitation. I have chronicled my finds in her estate at my myspace blog.
A few bias cut nightgowns I cannot part with, even though I can’t wear them! They were thrift store finds, and those days are long gone… I never find great stuff there anymore, so these are nice reminders of the days of good thrifting.
I have a killer black satin 40’s bias cut slip, by Seamprufe, with white lace over black chiffon making the entire bust & ruffle at hem. But it’s never fit right, so it’s finally being offered in the lingerie section of my website — click on Peep Show.
(Or the photo, left. All the photos lead to something good!)
What vintage pieces/makers/styles are the kind that if you found them, you’d believe you died & went to heaven?
As far as lingerie, I’m always pleased to find GOOD pre-70s Vanity Fair. It’s a good solid seller, not rare but not as easy to find in good shape in a wearable size. But it’s not gasp-worthy. For me, a Pucci (for the money!) or any 20’s lingerie by Beer. I never find 20s, so that in & of itself would excite me! Non-vintage, again, a Beer or Worth. Adrian or Ceil Chapman, too. And of course a Fortuny!! There are so many it’s hard to say. I don’t find many designer labels around here, so there are a lot that would make me giddy to find.
Do you think there are any modern makers which compare in quality & design to vintage makers?
I don’t buy much modern, so I can’t answer that one… I do buy basics at Target & embellish with vintage…
Embellishing with vintage? Oh, you’ll have to share your ideas and tips with when Slip Of A Girl gets creative with Crafts Week!
Of course! It sounds like fun.
So, stay tuned to this blog for more from Angela and details on my upcoming theme weeks!