6B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 16, 2004
The Michigan Daily - Thurs
VINTAGE 'IT' GIRL CASEY DAWSON BRINGS GROOVY RETRO FASHIOI
NS TO DOWNTOWN ANN
By Alexandra Jones
Daily Weekend Editor
On State Street, stuck between
Espresso Royale and the new Noo-
dies & Co. is an unassuming glass
door with a poster of a girl crossing a
street. She's tinted green and decked
out in go-go boots, teased blond hair
and a scandalously short miniskirt.
That image marks the doorway to
Primitive Vintage, Ann Arbor's new-
est and coolest vintage clothing store.
Underneath the sidewalk, you'll find
exactly what the girl on the poster
stands for vintage styles waiting to
be sublimated into era-eclectic avant-
fashion, retro looks ready to be recre-
ated in daily life, a super-cute shirt,
stand-out belt or sleek armchair that
complements your existing collection
in short, mid-century glamour that's
perfect for the '00s.
Venture past the boom box that's
constantly blaring pure '60s garage
rock, around the corner, down the
stairs pause briefly to check the
bulletin board for upcoming rock
shows - head down the hall, and turn
the corner again. You'll meet Casey
Dawson, owner and operator of what
is undoubtedly State Street's hippest
clothing store. (Take that, Urban Out-
Since midsummer, Dawson has pro-
vided cute dresses, totally hip jeans,
flashy accessories and sophisticated
furniture to downtown shoppers in
the know all for reasonable prices
lower than you'd find for "trendy" stuff
at Briarwood. She's usually perched
behind the sales counter, wearing one
of her many chic and unique vintage
While most of her customers are
students, Dawson, 24, and her husband
Ryan, 28, didn't discover their love of
vintage style until rather recently. "It's
been within the past couple of years
that we really got into this kind of
thing and started dressing like it. Col-
lecting for the store only started a few
Wear a patterned button-down shirt with a pair of jeans, vintage slacks or a skirt for true
Psychedelic patterns, Peter Pan collars and multicolored hangers - oh my!
months before it opened," she said.
"When we first started collecting
for the store, we went on all these
trips out of state, searching out estate
sales. My parents live down South, so
we'd go visit them and go anywhere
- anywhere you'd even take the
chance to look and see if they've got
anything," Dawson explained. Since
local retrophiles can search southeast
Michigan for vintage finds with rela-
tive ease, she looks for hidden fashion
treasures elsewhere: "We don't really
shop around here very often; we try to
travel and do big shopping excursions
at least once a month."
The Dawsons became interested in
vintage clothing via vintage music.
"When we got married, we decided to
start the band - we actually played
at our own wedding reception," Casey
Dawson related. "We'd gotten more
and more into this type of music. Ryan
must have found some Kinks music
online, and we were really inspired
by that (style) and decided to do it ...
Deck out your man --and your feet - in snazzy vintage accessories.
We're like 60s rock 'n' roll, we try to
stick to the really basic, early Who-ish
sound." They're core members of the
Riots, a Detroit-area '60s-style rock
outfit. She plays bass guitar and sings
backup while he plays lead and sings.
"We started the band, the Riots, and
got into the music more and more and
got engrossed in the whole time peri-
od. I personally like the '60s the most.
(Ryan), too, is really interested in
jeans, T-shirts, bellbottoms [from that
era]." Casey loves British Invaders
turned high-minded pop masters the
Kinks (of "You Really Got Me" fame);
the Gories, a Detroit garage rock out-
fit; The Who's early mod work, like
The Who Sell Out; and retro jazz-pop-
pers Stereolab ("for their amazing
Despite her relative immersion in
far-out vintage styles, Casey leads
a pretty normal life. "I do corporate
finance for a health care company (as
well as running Primitive Vintage) and
Ryan does computers, most recently
for U of M as a contractor. He was laid
off from his job, and we said 'Well,
what are we gonna do?"'
The solution was right under their
noses - or, rather, inside their clos-
ets. "We were really into everything
from this time period, and we had a
big collection of our own, and just
decided we wanted to share it with the
world," she explained.
But moving from corporate finance
to owning a small business wasn't
an easy transition for Dawson to
make - at first.-"(It was) very, very
scary, but at the same time we knew it
wasn't anything that was gonna make
or break us. If it didn't work out, that
was cool, but we thought it would be
neat to try it."
"Ann Arbor is known for its eclec-
ticism," she continued. "Business is
going better than we could have ever
expected, even more so now that the
students are back ... It's mostly stu-
dents now. They come in huge packs
of people." Even before the season-
al explosion in Ann Arbor's youth
population, Primitive Vintage was a
hit with the area's fashion-oriented:
crowd. "Before school was in, it was
all local kids just spreading the word
around, which I thought was cool."
Recent trends in mainstream fash-
ion have brought back an interest in
clothing from the past - or cloth-
ing that at least looks like it's a few
decades old. "Everything (in fashion)
is going back to '60s right now. You
can find A-line dresses at Target, and
they're cute," she remarked. "This is
definitely a specialty store, but it's
really cool when you see "normal"
girls - you know what I mean, non-
indie rocker chicks - coming in and
buying mod dresses. It's so exciting
for me. I'm like 'Sweet, that sorority
girl is wearing a mod dress."'
Although Dawson will often wear
a vintage outfit complete with shoes
and accessories from a bygone era,
she loves clothing combinations that
mix different styles. "I think it's real-
ly cool when people can put together
a shirt from the '80s with a new skirt
and an old-school pair of shoes - it's
great when people can throw random
outfits together," she said. "I'm a very
straightforward go-go boots type of
chick, but that's one reason people
like this store. They can find clothes
in here that they can incorporate with
their other stuff."
Not sure if vintage is for you?
Unsure of how to incorporate '60s
fashions into your own style?
The charming Dawson recommends
a few pieces that will help vintage
novices get started: "Western shirts
are good for boys, because even boys
who aren't very stylish can pull off a
Western shirt. (For girls), scarves are a
good way to ease into (vintage). Shirts
are a must-have; you can mix them in
with other stuff."
"I love the old lady polyester pants.
I always try to get girls to try them
on, because on the hanger, they're not
cute at all," she continued. "But if you
put them with a T-shirt or a blazer,
whatever - they can look really, real-
Dawson lists her fashion don'ts:
"The skirts that are so short that girls'
butts are hanging out. Like every girl,
if you look on the street right now,
has one of those. Either a cutoff jean
skirt of one with the ruffles going on.
I think that stuff could be really cute,
but they're so short! I love minis and
I wear them, but I feel like that's dif-
ferent," she explained. "They've got
everything else hanging out too, and
I feel like leaving something to the
imagination is a much bigger state-
ment. Maybe that's why I like the
'60s era; everything was like that.
The movies were really sexual, but
they weren't in your face. And rock
songs were all about girls, but it's
One rack at Primitive Vintage holds
dozens of gorgeous dresses - bright
colors, stripes, patterns, long skirts,
minidresses - an enticing collection
for any admirer of vintage fashion.
"Some of the dresses, the really far-
out space-age styles, are really cool,
like the kind of thing you see in mov-
ies ... Star Trekish, polyester dresses,"
But what's a dress when you need
the right footwear to complete your
look? "I really like the original go-go
boots (as well)," she said, "But those
are rare, hard to find. Everybody
wants them. On eBay, they get to be
like $50, but when we resell stuff we
want it to be affordable."
Besides the increasing rarity of
quality vintage garments - interest-
ing styles that are in good condition
and stain-free - a problem that arises
for retrophiles is simple wearability:
Since clothing sizes have increased
over the decades, shoppers may real-
ize that it's difficult to find clothing
that fits average-sized people. "(I like)
A-line miniskirts," Dawson explained,
"But the sizes were so small then (the
'60s). '50s stuff is even worse (for
Primitive Vintage doesn't just sell
clothing. Along with a considerable
collection of shoes, ties, handbags
and jewelry, Dawson's shop features
furniture, as well as music-oriented
items like record players and radios.
"If I could do my house in all old
furniture, I would - and we're kind
of getting to that point, it's cool," she
said. One doesn't have to imagine
what her vision might be, because
in the back of Primitive Vintage, she
has designed a mid-'60s style living
room, complete with art, armchairs
and appliances like an old TV set.
Topped with a decidedly mid-century
antenna, it shows static while custom-
"I really like the record players that
we've found," she added. When she
can find them, Dawson sells musical
accessories like record players and
Transistor radios and formica tables are just a few of the housewares Primitive Vintage offers.
Dawson models one of her cutest finds in F