26 Thursday, March 25, 2010 // The Fashion Issue
Thursday, March 25, 2010// The Fashion Issue EB
Immersing yourself in the old at Star Vintage
The vintage paradox
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es and st
irky clothes and undress. On the floor lies a miniature
Coca-Cola cabinet - when opened,
Sual jewelry from it reveals delectables like Camp-
bell's soup tins, Burtoni high-protein
bygone eras go macaroni shells and Reynolds Wrap
er round literall doled out in doll-sized proportions. It
almost seems like little fairy people
used to live here, dining on plastic
By JENNIFER XU shells and finishing off their meals
DailyArts Writer with a slurp of imaginary Progresso
wiched between Espresso Star Vintage feels less like a throw-
and Noodles and Co. on State back to a specific era and more like a
ts a lone rack of old sweaters. mishmash of everything and anything
tery sign above it reads "Star that used to be. The concept behind
As you cautiously enter the vintage has always been about paying
ast the rack of colorful cloth- homage to history while embracing
the graffiti-slashed walls and the ever-evolving trends of the cur-
ety old stairs, past the bizarre rent decade.
ting you know "There is no "I think a lot of fashion is rehash,"
be curious kitty," you enter said Tillie Whitt, Star's owner. "I
ent room that confronts you think it does repeat itself. The '60s is
tat can only be described as a throwback to the Victorian era, the
assault. fashion of the '80s is a certain retake
are displays everywhere, on a '40s style, with the more geomet-
several different eras: a '50s ric lines and squared-off shoulders. I
g room,'80s Joan Jett and one think it does continue to reflect parts
Patty's Day, half taken down of history with a new spin."
ed by twinkling white lights. Known formerly as Primitive Vin-
n there's just so much stuff tage, Star Vintage was rechristened
ywhere - on the ceiling, on when Whitt bought the store five
rs, toppling off stands. Fluo- years ago.
wigs, wide-rimmed sunglass- "It's always been that weird base-
acks of shoes line the walls. ment shop where no one knows where
dressingroom, crooners and it is until you know where it is. That's
anet Jackson, Andre Previn, what I've always liked about it; it's
eche and Duane Eddy smile made it more mysterious," said Anne
ntly down at you as you Coombs, store manager.
Perhaps unique to Star is how each
of the items in the store is named.
on one side, the tag features the era
the piece is from and the price; on
the other, a sassy name describing it:
"Melty Cuteness," "I vant this dress,"
"It's just something that I started
when I first started the store," Whitt
said. "When I first started tagging
everything, I thought, 'Wow, this
looks like Audrey Hepburn, or this
looks like James Dean or Johnny
Cash.' And then I just started naming
things. And it's been a traditionof ours
for five years."
Coombs says that the customers
tend to flock in, either from far away
or in literal flocks.
"We'll get big groups of sorority
girls that'll just want to try every dress
on, just have fun with it. But a lot of
people from out of town that come to
Ann Arbor and want fun activities to
do also find us here," Coombs said.
In terms of the store's turnover,
clothes come in and out fairly often.
Every week, Whitt brings back gar-
bage bag-sized drops from places
ranging from estate sales to rag hous-
"The world is a treasure hunt. I
have a house out west in Wyoming, so
I'm always shopping (everywhere),"
"A big thing with working in a store
like this is that there's so much stuff
that if you don't rotate and change it,
clothing that we feel isn't selling any-
more, we just donate it," she added.
Coombs, who was just promoted to
store manager a few weeks ago, will
soon be learning to price the items.
"Pricing isn't standardized; it's
based on the rarity of each piece and
the quality - those are probably the
two basic criteria," Whitt said. "I
will be spending a lot of time with
(Coombs) just really going over the
fine-tuned detail of 'how to identify
various pieces and relating to their
quality and era and rarity. It's a very
specific educational process."
Although the staff doesn't usually
go with Whitt on her famous "trea-
sure hunts," they actively participate
in designing the store displays and
naming the items.
"It's a wonderful collaboration of
everybody's input, and really always
has been: It's really the very fun,
unique, expressive representation of
the employees," Whitt said.
When clothes are fresh on the floor
and customers haven't had the chance
to see them yet, employees have been
known to indulge in a few pieces for
"It's hard to be around the store
every day and not buy something,"
Coombs said. "Especially when I first
started working here, I was like, 'I
want this and this and this.' All my
favorite clothes are from here, defi-
Whitt admits that sometimes she
can't help herself.
"It's been known to happen. I think
one of my original fantasies with
having a vintage store was having
this massive store where I could just
change clothes a hundred different
times," she said. "When you end up
dealing with it as a business, most of
the things that I buy end up going into
the store. But there are occasionally
those pieces that never make it down
Whitt is considering making
some of the items in her store avail-
able online. Purely online vintage
stores like ModCloth and Etsy enjoy
great success, taking advantage of
contemporary society's reliance on
technology and interest in obtaining
"There's definitely a section in the
back that we are not allowed to touch,"
Coombs said. "(Whitt) has really
amazing, really old stuff back there,
which would do a lot better online
because it's the easiest way to reach
Still, Star Vintage will not be leav-
ing its Ann Arbor location in favor of
online sales. Meanwhile, the store's
consensus about large chain stores
like Urban Outfitters is generally not
"The prices are not OK with me. I
think it's overpriced and was probably
made in sweatshops. That place has
no soul," Coombs said. "This place -
I feel like it has a history to it. It's all
different and it's unique and you won't
find two of the same thing."
"If you're buying the repro (repro-
duced) stuff knocked off in China,
you're not going to have an original
See STAR, Page 8B
backward makes you
By ARIELLLE SPECINER
Daily Arts Writer
In the 1950s, Coco Chanel intro-
duced the revolutionary "Chanel
Suit," which allowed women to
express what many saw as a new-
found social freedom. Then, in the
1960s, the mini-skirt was introduced,
paving the way for the ultra mini-skirt
we see today. In the following decade,
wide-legged disco pants were all the
rage for boogieing to "Saturday Night
Fever." The '80s transformed the way
we wear spandex, and the 1990s took
us down a looser path by introducing
the world to the grunge era (thanks
for that, 1991... I guess?).
What do the 2000s bring us? Well,
it's difficult to categorize the 2000s
into one trend. The 2Ks have shown
us a conglomerate of all five decades of
fashion, and even includes some ear-
lier ones. And we call it: vintage.
Vintage style is made up of pre-
viously worn apparel from bygone
decades (or even just years). These
pieces from the past only grow bet-
ter with age. An older designer dud
(say, a vintage Valentino gown from
the 1960s, for example) can be worth
double, even triple the amount of a
new garment of the same type.
But what propels this seemingly
paradoxical movement? Designers are
looking backward in order to move
forward, and new customers are quite
literally buying into it. So, to ask it
bluntly, what is it about vintage cloth-
ing that allows these fashion "innova-
tors" to get away with recycling of this
Uniqueness, rarity, the sense of
owning something that, most likely,
not too many people possess anymore.
It's possible that this appeal alone is
enough to push a new fashion fad for-
ward. After all, fashion is about defin-
ing yourself as a unique individual. So
despite the fact that the vintage trend
barelyincorporates newlooks intothe
fashion world, it might be credible to
call it a "new" fashion advancement.
And present designers seem to agree.
In the Fall 2010 Louis Vuitton col-
lection (which debuted during Paris
Fashion Week), LV's creative direc-
tor, Marc Jacobs, brought audiences
back to a time when voluminous,
high-wasted, knee-length skirts were
donned with feminine blouses, remi-
niscent of the '50s sock-hop days. Also
duringthat Fashion Week, designer
Miuccia Prada for M iM hincorpo-
rated a '60s theme into her designs,
presenting short go-go mini-dresses
that looked as if Twiggy would have
been destined to wear them.
However, the question is whether
the vintage fad shows a lack of cre-
ativity and originality in the designers
and the consumers. Have the sarto-
rial minds of the once innovative and
visionary fashion houses led us astray
with just remnants of the past to dwell
on? The answer is really a matter of
opinion: Some may see the vintage
trend as a waste of time, while others
see it as a creative way of moving for-
ward. But even those in the anti-vin-
tage camp should admit that vintage is
anything but lazy.
Pulling together the perfect pieces
from the fashion pinnacles of former
decades is not an easy task. In fact, it
can be even more difficult than tradi-
tional innovation. Vintage-influenced
designers must foresee tomorrow's
fashions and do extensive research on
past trends, then find an impeccable
balance between the two. Erring even
the slightest bit too much toward past
or future could result in the complete
failure of a look. A dowdy pair of wide-
legged jeans from the '70s can seem
quite obsolete if paired with another
piece of'70s flair. But if one decides to
balance it with a tight-fitting tank top
tucked in to the denim, a great look
can be created.
This new generation of old looks on
the runway converts to not only a shift
back in time for retail establishments,
but also a boost in sales for many sec-
ondhand stores, which has far-reach-
ing benefits. Buying clothing from
thrift stores is now considered "cool"
because thrift stores are among the
only places to buy authentic vintage
garb. And even though many shoppers
may not have this in mind, buyingsec-
ondhand has a real, positive environ-
Buying used means less demand
for fabrics and other materials whose
gathering or production have a nega-
tive ecological effect. Also, as fewer
new garments are being produced to
meet the smaller demand, less dyeing
is performed. (The dyeing of clothes
has among the greatest pollutant
effects of any aspect of the fashion
Some might protest the recycling of
old looks, saying there's nothing cool
about living in the past. But, like it or
not, the vintage craze is here to stay,
and there's more skill involved in it
than one may expect. Successful fash-
ion is always reincarnated in some
form - it's just more blatant now than
it has been before.
Fashion is always reinventing itself,
and this trend is no different. St's just
that this time around, fashion has cho-
sen to reinvent itself with, well, itself.
people won't see it, they just won't
know it's there," Coombs said.
SOM U "And if there's a certain amount of
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