6B Thursday, March:25, 2010 // The Fashion Issue
Getting down with vintage at
Thursday, March 25, 2010 // The Fas-hion Issue 36
Costume Jewelry: a timeless obsession
by: LeahBurgin, Daily Fine Arts Editor
Americana finds its
revival surrounded by
vinyl and kitsch
By MIKE KUNTZ
Daily Music Editor
Kelly McLeod is always on the
Dressed like June Carter dropped
into a John Hughes movie, she eyes
a small, silver owl necklace adorning
the Espresso Royale cashier handing
her a latte. McLeod's curiosity and
enthusiasm are obvious. Compliment-
ing the barista on her find, she invites
her back to her store, The Getup,
where, she assures, more vintage
necklaces like that one can be found.
The owl is barely visible, but McLeod
picks it out like a long-lost friend in a
crowded room. To call her an expert
would be an understatement.
It's this genuine love for pursuing
and preserving the past that makes
McLeod the ideal vintage clothing
store owner. Her store, The Getup,
located just north of Liberty on State
Street in Ann Arbor, is home to con-
stantly revolving racks of lost and
found clothing from as far back as
the Great Depression. In its mere six
years of existence, the store has quick-
ly become a hotspot for students and
locals alike, attracting a followingthat
rivals that of stores five times its age.
"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for
the same SO people I see every day,"
McLeod said. "It's like a Cinderella
story, you gotta like it and it's gotta
fit ... there are so many individuals in
Ann Arbor, and bringing them some-
thing that's really gonna turn them on
is a lot of fun."
Since its start in February 2004, in
the cramped attic above its current
location, The Getup has evolved into a
bustlingstorefront packed to the walls
with Dust Bowl-era prom dresses,
rock tees from the '70s (Styx, Jeffer-
son Starship and Peter Frampton tour
shirts line the rafters), a kitschy Elvis
painting and shelves (and shelves) of
old cowboy boots. It's like walking
into a time machine that got trapped
somewhere between a Norman Rock-
well painting and a Hunter S. Thomp-
son peyote daydream. Looking around
is like a history lesson, and it's hypno-
"There really is this moment,
this energy in the clothes," she said.
"Everything in here has to have per-
sonality, beauty or a story."
With a quick glance around the
store it's hard to disagree. Between
the racks of old Western shirts, leath-
er Members Only jackets and Golden
Era Hollywood dresses, it's tough to
imagine McLeod's collection hav-
ing anything boring to say. But with
such storied clothing, she contends,
comes a certain sense of obligation.
"When somebody prior to me
owning (their clothing) has cared
for it for more than fifty years, I feel
there's this responsibility," she said.
"It's like preserving Ame
McLeod's tireless ob
maintaining an old, we
has been with her as lon
remember. From collectii
at age 12 to delving into t
tage clothing to avoid
wasteland of the malls in
years, McLeod's distinct
collection reflects decade
in fashion and pop cultur
"I love history, Ilove ol
movies, and I love mus
"Everything that I've eve
to, style has been a big pa
With all the vinyl on
back of the store (I've hea
Hank Williams and The
it's clear how ferven
believes music and fash
tandem to re-create a pa
thetic. You just know th
on that Stardrive record
the counter, a space-rock
to fall into your lap.
With a small staff of e
ful and impassioned
keeping the store at b
spends most of her tim
store searching for new
her ever-changing coll
traveling all over the cc
turns out, finding most
ricana." the store is a lot harder than one might
session with imagine.
ird America "It's a lot of footwork. Almost every
ag as she can morning I'm at an estate sale or I'm at
ng old aprons someone's home or I'm at an auction,
troves of vin- And (at) out of every 10 houses I go to,
the designer I might find three things that I want to
her later teen bring back to the store," she said.
tly American "My husband and I could be run-
es of changes ning late to a wedding, and I'd see a
e. garage sale and have to pull over and
d Hollywood check it out, it's that bad," she added,
ic," she said. laughing.
r been drawn McLeod and her husband, Paul,
rt of it." also a vintage fanatic, act as a team to
repeat at the ensure a constantly changing lineup of
rd Nazareth, old finds. A graphic designer in Troy,
Yes Album), Paul acts more as a behind-the-scenes
tly McLeod partner, assisting Kelly on her vintage
lion work in clothing hunts.
articular aes- "The majority of my collection
at if she puts comes from personal buys," McLeod
from behind said. When I go to their homes, they'll
outfit is sure pull out photo albums and they'll
show me why their prom dress from
qually youth- 1962 was so special."
fashionistas "There was one woman who
bay, McLeod showed me this beautiful Hawaiian
e outside the sundress, and her husband proposed
additions to to her when she was wearing it. She
ection, often wanted to make sure it ended up with
ountry. As it someone new and not in the garbage."
of what's in Most of McLeod's collection at
The Getup reflects her personal taste,
making it easy for her to connect to
"For me, I love things that came
out of the Great Depression. I love
handmade dresses that were made
from sheets, you know? It speaks
3iv volumes about their generation,
because by the time I look into their
clothes, it's like that love was put
into this threadbare dress and it's
8109 See GETUP, Page 8B
First came the trays. I remember coming home from
school and finding more and more antique serving plat-
ters littered throughout the house. Some were hung on
walls, some decoratively displayed on shelves and a rare
few were actually used as they were intended. No corner
was without a tray. Everywhere the brightly colored tin
demons glared and clinked at me. It was a nightmare.
After our house was stuffed with more trays than
anyone could possibly use in a lifetime, my mother (the
tray-aholic) turned her mania down a different avenue
- antique clothing. Now all the closets were stuffed past
capacity with coats, dresses, belts, shoes and God knows
what else. But it didn't stop. From clothing my mom
turned to purses (oy) and from purses, she turned to hats
(oy vey). We were starting to get worried. Her fanaticism
But we didn't even know what was tocome. There was
no way to predict the all-out, full-throttle, complete and
utter obsession that my mother was to develop next: cos-
My mother became possessed. She would go "junking,"
traveling to estate sales, antique stores or thrift shops like
her life depended on it. Soon, the amount of costume jew-
elry in the house eclipsed the combined number of trays
and articles of antique clothing. Jewelry took over our
lives. And since my mother lived and breathed it, the rest
of the family did too.
But now, a few years later, the crazy has finally calmed
down. My mother still collects costume jewelry, but not
with the same fanaticism. After the initial shock of the
whirlwind of brooches, earrings, bracelets and necklaces
that stormed into my life, I've now come to appreciate -
but not understand - my mother's obsession.
Costume jewelry is beautiful. Though the pieces were
created as cheap substitutes during the first phase of
mass-produced jewelry, the craftsmanship is superb.
Beginning in the 1930s, there was a whole world of jewel-
ry designers and each had their distinct style. There was
no way you could mistake a Miriam Haskell for a Crown
Trifari, and costume jewelry collectors know this - they
look for "signed" pieces, or ones with the designer's mark
on their backs.
There is an art to collecting costume jewelry. Some
vintage designs were reproduced much later by frauds
and paraded as genuine pieces. It takes a trained eye
(with the aid of a jeweler's loupe - which my mother car-
ries with her at all times) to distinguish the frauds from
the real deal.
But there's more than that. As with every collection,
it takes intuition to know which types of pieces should
be collected. Should one try to stick to a particular era
or a particular designer, or try to collect a sample from
every era and all designers? The eventual destination of
the collection is also a concern. Will the collection be sold
to another collector, donated to the Providence Jewelry
Museum, worn for fun or ultimately re-enter the cycle in
the collector's estate sale?
For my mother (and most other collectors) the answer
is "all of the above." My mother wears her jewelry almost
every day, has sold some pieces and has given some as
gifts to her loving daughters and family members. And
her collection mirrors its use. My mother has a little bit of
everything: some rare pieces to treasure and possibly sell,
some fun pieces for novelty and a whole bunch of "nor-
mal" pieces for everyday wear.
Having a vintage jewelry store in my house has been
helpful on many occasions, providing my sister and me
with beautiful, unique pieces to wear for Halloween,
school dances and other fancy events. It's also fun to
just look and admire - some of the pieces are hilarious
(a huge, plastic, googly-eyed dog brooch comes to mind)
and some are exquisite, like the set of Italian mosaic ear-
rings and necklace that my mother gave me last year for
But most important, having almost a century's worth
of costume jewelry at my fingertips has changed my out-
look on what, exactly, is "vintage." People tend to lump
the century's distinct styles and schools of art - art deco,
retro, etc. - with antique jewelry from the 19th century
into the all-encompassing term "vintage."
Now, I'm no expert on style movements of the 20th cen-
tury (or costume jewelry for that matter), but I do think
it's important to know what you're wearing. It's fine to
mix together different eras, just don't do so in ignorance.
Don't just pin a brooch to your cardigan because it's "vin-
tage." Don a pair of screw backs or clip-ons because you
have an appreciation for their historical aesthetic. You
don't have to be as crazy as my mother, but at leastbe cog-
nizant of what jewelry you feel communicates your per-
sonality. Knowledge is fashionable.
Th oicy and Politics
Monday, March 29, 2010 4:00-5:30 p..
1120 Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, Annenberg Auditorium, 735 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 4
Free and open to the public.
Panelists: Patricia L. Caruso - Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections
Peter Luke - Lansing correspondent for Booth Newspapers
Join Proos - State Representative (R-St. Joseph), Minority Vice-Chair
of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections
Alma Wheeler Smith - State Representative (D-Salem Township), Chair
of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections
Moderator: Jeffrey D. Padden - President of Public Policy Associates, Inc.
This event is organized by Professors Jeffrey Moreroff and David Harding, and is sponsored by the Center
for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
For more information, call 734-647-4091. Watch live web streaming at www closup.umich.e
Log on the Interwebs and go to