Sultry Vintage shop of the week is one of those magical places where you will always find something that will be the perfect addition to your vintage wardrobe. Even if you already have two dozen 1940s day dresses or in my case velvet boleros, Lauren, the lady behind Sultry Vintage, constantly adds irresistible new pieces to her Etsy shop and you will struggle to leave empty handed!
It’s Beyond My Control: How did you start your adventure in selling vintage clothes?
Sultry Vintage: The beginnings of my adventure in selling vintage was a light bulb moment and a calculated risk. My husband has a job that moves him around quite often and so when we met I was established as an artist and floral designer and enjoying what steady employment brings to one’s life. That quickly changed once we decided we couldn’t live without one another and each move meant I had to reintroduce myself to a new community and find new work – not often was it a quick process and so I kept lamenting the fact that I wanted to be working but it would take so long to find a good job with each move. I needed something I could do anywhere, anytime that kept me gainfully employed and busy. I wasn’t a stranger to owning my own business, I was a business major in college, my work as a professional artist is a business in its own right, so I was familiar with what it took – I also had/have an insane passion for vintage everything, specifically clothing, and I noticed there was a community built up around that same passion. After hours of internet window shopping (and buying) through some amazing vintage lady’s shops I turned to my husband and told him I thought I could do this. I knew vintage as I’d been collecting since I was a teen, I could sew as I grew up with my mother owning her own seamstress business – so buttons and thread everywhere – I knew the logistics of business from all angles, and I bet on myself. I gave myself a timeline and a set amount in investment in the startup of my plan and insanely enough, it all worked out better than I could have hoped. I work vey hard, I learned all I could about everything clothing from prehistory to modern (which is a never ending learning process), I put all my focus on quality pieces and treating the customer with the upmost care and consideration, and three years on (through some starts, stalls, and pauses) Sultry Vintage is still a thing – which makes me really happy.
It’s Beyond My Control: What can we find in your vintage shop? For example, do you specialise in a particular era or type of garment, accessory, etc? 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?
Sultry Vintage: In my shop you’ll find clothing that makes me stop dead in my tracks. When I’m out on the hunt I tend to push through piles and piles of clothing quickly and it almost becomes an instinctual process. One time I wasn’t even looking at a rack I was walking by but my hand fell on silk velvet and I had to stop, step back, and there was a 20s cocoon collar coat buried between a mess of modern clothes. I tend to source pieces that speak to me personally, but I’m also tuned in to what people are asking for – this includes outstanding gowns as well as daily wear dresses and staples like separates. I focus on the Edwardian era up through the 50s/60s with some 70s pieces. The reasoning behind it is as practical as it is an aesthetic choice – pieces older than the 1900s tend to be difficult to wear and care for, and my goal is to have all these pieces worn again, and I think the quality of garments really starts to fall off towards the late 60s into the 70s – but above all that I focus more on cut and materials. The date of a garment matters less to me than how beautifully it’s made and if the materials are second to none. (With the exception of some poly in the loud, psychedelic 60s, I can’t keep away from that era!) I don’t often pick up accessories (hats, shoes, bags, etc) but you can be sure when I do, they’re truly stunning standouts. My process is that of first being able to locate where vintage clothing may be found (not such an easy task anymore and a lot of research in its own right), then assessing condition before I even begin to think about anything else. Sadly, for each piece I find in wearable condition I probably pass over about a hundred that are not – and this is no exaggeration. My heart breaks constantly when I have to make the tough decision say, on a silk 20s gown, that is so beyond normal (or even expert) repair that the time it would take to restore it would be an unwise business decision. Only the most special pieces do I take on to save when I can. So once I’ve found them and the condition question is out of the way it comes down to what I said before, did the piece stop me in my tracks. It’s that simple for me, it either makes my heart pound or it doesn’t, and that determines if it comes home with me.
It’s Beyond My Control: Where do you find all those beautiful vintage clothes and accessories for your shop? (if it’s not a secret!)
Sultry Vintage: This is a tough one because I think currently there are “open secrets” – i.e obvious places – to find vintage, but the specifics I think every seller is trying to keep close to the vest. With vintage becoming more scarce and the demand going up (which is a good thing in light of fast fashion!) it becomes more taxing on our time and wallets to find and source quality vintage, so with this question I’ll simply say that if you’re familiar with hunting out vintage then you already know where to look, but as to my own personal spots, that knowledge goes down with this ship.
It’s Beyond My Control: What is your favourite period in time and why?
Sultry Vintage: This changes so often it’s really hard for me to consistently have a favorite – mostly too that could be because I think each era has it’s points where it really shines and I love to mix. For me, the accessories/jewelry of the Edwardian/20s are beyond a doubt my favorite, the lingerie of the 20s is an obsession of mine (seriously, if your collection has no 20s silk step-ins you have no idea what you’re missing), 30s evening wear and their finer day wear / loungewear are everything, the 40s pretty much knocks it out on all fronts, the bombshell glam of the 50s is startling powerful and beautiful, and the era that holds a personal spot in my heart is the mod/psychedelic 60s. It was the first era I became obsessed with as a young teen and I would spend hours searching out dresses I could never afford at the time, and the irreverent fun of of it all – I’ll always love it.
It’s Beyond My Control: 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?
Sultry Vintage: Best advice – Know your measurements, know your body – this is key! Perhaps swing into a local vintage shop and try on some pieces from different eras (but please! Know your measurements and don’t squeeze into a piece you may tear – that’s always a tragedy!) You may love the 50s/20s but have a figure for the 40s (as is the case with me. Dear 50s/20s I love you, I wish we worked better together) and taking the time to see these garments in person will build your vintage and fashion vocabulary so you know what to shop for online where a broader selection of pieces in a range of sizes can be searched out. It’s just my feeling but I think you can really start with whatever pieces you’d like when starting buying vintage. Go with what brings you joy and is comfortable. If you happen to love shoes or bags or dresses or jewelry, start with what you like best and build out your collection from there. Trust me when I say that one passion leads to another and your collection will evolve naturally with plenty of people along the way to connect and share with. Soon you’ll find yourself adding pieces to your wardrobe you’d never have considered at first – and that’s the thrill of collecting! My advice about purchasing vintage? Know who you’re buying from. Vintage is an investment and if you want to be sure you’re getting the best, authentic pieces, accurately represented, then check out how the shop presents and details their pieces as well as what others have to say. Vintage shop owners are exceptionally passionate people, this is more than just a business for most of us and we want you to be nothing short of thrilled with collecting vintage yourself, so search out the people who are as passionate as you are and trust that you’ll always be treating yourself to the best vintage.
It’s Beyond My Control: What are your 3 favourite items that you have ever sold and why have you chosen to name those particular ones?
Sultry Vintage: My three favourite pieces I’ve ever sold (tough choices!) would have to be an absolutely impeccable Edwardian blouse that was as fresh as the day it was made and looks like it could have stepped off a McQueen runway, a 1930s surrealist inspired evening gown in iridescent liquid satin, and the dress that started it all for my little shop – a (probably designer) French 1920s sheer net sequinned art deco gown that was bought by the founder of Ripley’s Believe it or Not for his mistress, who lived near my hometown. Each of these pieces were really holy grail pieces to find that just to have held them in my hands at one time was such a thrill. These are the pieces that I think totally justify fashion’s elevation to an art form and I hope they’re living their best life with their new owners! haha. One more I have to throw in to balance out these three decadent stunners is this 20s silk day dress that I wouldn’t have ever let go of if it fit me. The sheer simplicity, made with such a sumptuous fabric, it will always stand out as this piece being the one that got away for me!
It’s Beyond My Control: What are your favourite vintage brands and are they very difficult to find?
Sultry Vintage: Favourite vintage brands that are difficult to find, I think I need to rephrase that to designers & impossible! As far as brands go in vintage I tend to have expensive taste and love decadence. I blame the pochoir illustrations I fell in love with as a teen from 20s magazines for my obsession with designer fashion. Poiret and Vionnet, and because of the silver screen (my first love, old film) Orry-Kelly. What can I say, I adore glamour.
It’s Beyond My Control: What’s in your wardrobe? Do you personally wear vintage clothes on a daily basis?
Sultry Vintage: In my wardrobe are more 20s-40s evening gowns than I’ll ever have a chance to wear unless I become a socialite! I love silks, satins, and velvets. My collection includes silk velvet day and evening dresses, a prized liquid satin 30s gown (a la Carloe Lombard), a lamé 20s dress, lots of 30s/40s daywear, and a healthy amount of 20s lingerie – just to name a few, forgetting all the skirts, separates, and accessories. I try to wear vintage every chance I get. With my work as a painter and floral designer unfortunately I can’t often wear my pieces on the job but I’ve no shame in over dressing (like there is such a thing, pah!) to go out, because, why not?! While I adore the gals who go for the full on authentic era look that requires more work than I can put in so my look is usually a mix of vintage and carefully considered, quality modern pieces. It may just be the sunglasses and a bag, or even an art nouveau hair clip, but everyday I try to incorporate vintage into my look.