After an overwhelming response to my article highlighting the best vintage shops on Etsy (which you can read here), I decided to broaden my investigations by venturing out onto the internet, leaving no link left unchecked during my travels, looking for the most interesting vintage shops across the world. I intend to share my discoveries with all of my sophisticated, vintage-loving readers, featuring one vintage shop per week and through a Q&A, you will be able to find out the history of the shop, what vintage treasures they specialise in, as well as pick up a few tips on how to shop for vintage clothes. So, without any further ado, I would like to start the weekly vintage shop feature with Off Broadway!
3110 Central SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87105
Dominique de Merteuil: How did you start your adventure in selling vintage clothes?
My childhood summers were spent at our family farm in a late 1800s turreted farm house. The third-floor attic was filled with trunks of Victorian clothing and other wonderful mysteries. In the 50s and 60s my mother took me shopping for school clothes in upscale department stores and boutiques, teaching me about fashion and quality. In high school in the late 60s I started dressing in my mother’s 1950’s dresses. This bohemian style of dressing served me well as I majored in Fine Arts in college and ended with a Masters in Painting. I even used vintage fabrics and novelty motifs in my paintings.
I started wholesaling a little vintage while I taught art at the university, and finally decided I would rather work for myself. I opened a small shop in 1984, the year my daughter Grace was born. Grace grew up wearing vintage and today has incredible style in her mix of vintage and current fashion, plus the best closet in town! She has an MBA, is a skilled photographer, and was the driving force behind opening our Etsy shop. Over the past 33 years my little shop has expanded into a successful business in Albuquerque, but Etsy has propelled us globally. Grace and my partnership is the best part.
DDM: What can we find in your vintage shop? For example, do you specialise in a particular era or type of garment, accessory, etc?
Our Etsy shop has vintage clothing and accessories from the Victorian era through the eighties. We are particularly passionate about beautiful dresses!
DDM: Is there a process you go through when selecting garments for your shop? Perhaps you have a list or a criteria, that you use when deciding which garments will be perfect for your shop and your clients?
When someone enters my store with an armful of clothes I can usually tell in a glance from across the room if I am interested. It’s all about the fabric. Fabric tells me its’ era and style and quality. I don’t buy clothes that are “tired” or have difficult condition issues. I want happy clothes with a good pedigree that will inspire my customers.
DDM: Where do you find all those beautiful vintage clothes and accessories for your shop? (if it’s not a secret!)
One advantage of being in business as long as I have with a physical shop and a good reputation is that the clothes all come to me. The disadvantage is I have no time to hunt!
DDM: What is your favourite period in time and why?
I love the fresh modernism of the late 50s and early 60s fashion when the United States was in such a hopeful exciting period in history and it was reflected in design. I lived in Washington DC during the Kennedy administration when my father worked there for the government. Incredible times! Then again, the beauty of clothing from the 20s and 30s can make me cry.
DDM: What message/advise do you have for women who have never bought vintage clothes before? For example: what are the key pieces to start building a vintage look? What to keep in mind when making a purchase?
Nothing speaks to a woman like a gorgeous dress. If that is too overwhelming a start for a vintage novice I suggest a great jacket. The philosophy at Off Broadway has always been that vintage is current and modern and should be mixed with your contemporary pieces for a fashion forward look. We can easily put you in one era head-to-toe, but that verges on costume. We stay abreast of current designers to help our customers stay relevant.
DDM: What are your 3 favourite items that you have ever sold and why have you chosen to name those particular ones?
It’s not just the fabulous clothes that I’ve sold over the years – it’s connecting with amazing people and providing them with pieces that inspire and enhance their lives. When I sell a wedding dress it becomes a celebration for us as well as the bride. This past summer an entire family was outfitted from my shop for a very special farm wedding. I have sold many red-carpet dresses to actresses. My favourite was a yellow 30s gown for an actresses’ wedding. Such vicarious living! I recently sold a sweet John Meyer of Norwich suit to the designer’s daughter. She is amassing a collection of his work for a museum and we had a great correspondence. The designer Marc Jacobs bought a 40s ballerina print dress from me and used it throughout his famous Fall 2016 Ready to Wear show. That was a thrill. One of my favourite Etsy customers bought my all-time favourite Tina Leser ochre silk dress and coat. Because of Etsy I connected with an incredible artist – the photographer Suzanne Heintz. Her work uses vintage clothes in a socially biting and hilarious vignettes. Check her out! I have hoarded and held back favourite pieces from my shop but recently released a stunning 30s blue silk gown with extravagant winged sequined sleeves and off it went to be on television. My stories are not unique among vintage sellers. It is why we do it with such passion. And pleasure!
DDM: What are your favourite vintage brands and are they very difficult to find?
I have a magnificent Fontana that I am currently sheltering. An early Jean Patou. A Pauline Trigere 1940s studded jumpsuit. A big Lilly Ann suit. I’m just not ready… and I’m sure most vintage dealers share this affliction!
DDM: What’s in your wardrobe? Do you personally wear vintage clothes on a daily basis?
Both Grace and I wear some form of vintage almost every day. I have a closet full of 40s housedresses, lots of men’s shirts and ties, Chinese jackets, fiesta skirts, and Edwardian pieces. I never go a day without vintage with my 50s aluminum glasses. Grace has stunning rayon 40s dresses, 50s party dresses and is lately into wearing 60s. Today she went off to work in a 60s B&W dress with matching coat in an homage to Mary Tyler Moore.