Last Updated on March 13, 2023 by Dominique de Merteuil
Bloomers and Frocks is my new vintage shop of the week. It’s a fairly new enterprise, having just celebrated its first birthday and is based in Austin, Texas. Judging by the dazzling vintage clothes and accessories that you can find there, as well as a big amount of very happy clients, I dare say, that they have a very bright future ahead of them!
The shop carries a wonderful selection of vintage wardrobe essentials and beyond, from the 1900s to the 1980s and it’s definitely the place to go for all the speakeasy-era aficionados. Beautiful vintage clothes aside, what made me really want to share Bloomers and Frocks vintage shop with you all is the fact, that you will find an incredibly useful Resources section on their website, that will help you learn how to:
- take care of vintage garments
- everything you need to know about vintage sizes
- the true cost of vintage clothing
Without any further ado, I present you my interview with Rebekka Adams, Chief Clothing Curator at Bloomers and Frocks, the vintage shop of the week!
Dominique de Merteuil: How did you start your adventure in selling vintage clothes?
Bloomers and Frocks: Growing up, I spent summers at the flea market with my grandparents selling costume jewellery and random electronics. This gave me an appreciation for treasures that were previously loved. I loved hearing my grandparents talk about the objects as though they had past lives. After graduate school, I spent ten years working in the commercial corridor and small business development. Through that experience, I worked hands-on with several vintage shop owners, who mentored and inspired me to open my own shop. I originally started selling online, grew to a booth in an antique shop, and about a year ago, opened Bloomers and Frocks brick-and-mortar shop in Austin, Texas.
While I started Bloomers and Frocks, our other half is our shop manager, Chelsea Rossier, who has a wonderful eye for sourcing and style. The shop wouldn’t be the same without her! Between the two of us, we find and showcase vintage magic. Our brick-and-mortar location is located at 1628 South First Street, in Austin, Texas. You can also shop Bloomers and Frocks online on etsy. The best selection is in the Austin shop, and the easiest way to see new arrivals is to follow us on Instagram.
DDM: What can we find in your vintage shop? For example, do you specialise in a particular era or type of garment, accessory, etc?
Bloomers and Frocks: Bloomers and Frocks carry women’s vintage clothing from the 1900′s to the 1980′s, specializing in the 1960s and older. You can find all things vintage for your wardrobe from day wear to evening wear. Our favourites are 1920s flapper dresses, 1950s cotton day dresses, formal wear of all decades, and kitschy items such as this 1940s green bowling dress.
In addition to clothing, we carry a range of costume jewellery and sterling silver. Our favourite styles are Art Deco and chunky statement pieces from the 60s to the 80s, though we have pieces from all decades. We also have all sorts of accessories including handbags, shoes, glasses and sunglasses, hair pieces, amazing hats, gloves, and underpinnings (we have everything from girdles to the hose to bullet bras).
DDM: Is there a process you go through when selecting garments for your shop? Perhaps you have a list of criteria, that you use when deciding which garments will be perfect for your shop and your clients?
Bloomers and Frocks: Our two requirements when sourcing are condition and style. We only select items that have been well cared for, meaning no major stains, holes, odours, etc. We do professionally clean all garments that are in the shop, either hand-washing or professional dry cleaning. For day wear, we generally look for either classic styles or over-the-top prints. Every item we select for the shop must be wearable and able to fit into a modern wardrobe, including Victorian -1920s garments.
DDM: Where do you find all those beautiful vintage clothes and accessories for your shop? (if it’s not a secret!)
Bloomers and Frocks: Honestly, we are always sourcing clothing. I find that many dealers hold these secrets close, but with a carefully trained eye and time to shop, everyone can source vintage. The trick is to be able to find exactly what you are looking for in good condition, in your measurements. Some dealers thrift, some shop estate sales, and some peruse eBay.
However, the majority of our vintage comes from private collectors and estates that are not available to the public. We are constantly searching and networking, which brings us the best quality that you won’t pull out of a bin at your local Goodwill. By the way, if any of your readers have vintage to sell, we are always buying.
DDM: What is your favourite period in time and why?
Bloomers and Frocks: As a curvy woman, I adore the fashion of the 1950s. Dior’s New Look is the perfect style to accentuate curves. The whole decade fascinates me, the attitudes of hope post-war to the rise of rock and roll. As a pre-teen, Buddy Holly was my first love, I was devastated when I learned he had died even before I was born!
That said, I also love the energy of the 1920s and the flapper lifestyle intrigues me. I know if I was alive in those years, I would have been living the city flapper life!
DDM: What message/advice 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?
Bloomers and Frocks: If you have never worn vintage before, I recommend visiting a reputable shop and try on garments from all eras to find which decades works with your body. For example, 1950s works with curvier women, 1920s-30s and 1970s work well for straighter silhouettes.
After you figure out what works best with your shape, try adding one piece of vintage at a time. Mix a vintage skirt with a modern cami, or a vintage dress with modern shoes and accessories.
This prevents you from feeling like you are wearing a costume. Once you get comfortable wearing vintage, it’s easier to mix and match pieces from different eras to pull together your look. Not sure about vintage clothes? Start with accessories. A vintage necklace with a modern dress can make quite a statement.
When purchasing vintage garments make sure to turn the garment inside out to look for holes or discoloration, and do so in good lighting. Find a window in shops or take into sunlight if available.
Make sure all zippers and buttons work. Reputable dealers will make sure that they have good quality so that your pieces will last for many more decades. Finally, ask your dealer how to clean your garments. Cleaning instructions will not be found on older garments and some items are dry clean only.
DDM: What are your 3 favourite items that you have ever sold and why have you chosen to name those particular ones?
Bloomers and Frocks: Choosing three was difficult and while these may not have been my personal favourites, they are the most memorable to me.
Fiorucci rubber Love Boots: The first vintage item I ever sold was a pair of fire-engine Fiorucci rubber Love Boots in their original box. These were such a hot piece of Americana in the 80s and I’ve never seen a pair like them. They actually fit me too. At the time I was excited to make a buck, but wish I would have kept these for my personal collection.
1930s Green Blouse: I absolutely loved this1930s forest green long-sleeve crepe blouse. It had a high neckline with ruffles, ruffles at the hem and cuffs, a matching crepe belt, and matching covered buttons on the back of the neck and cuffs. It was the attention to detail about this blouse that made me swoon.
The Big Bird Dress: This was by far the most interesting dress we have ever sold. It was a 1950s canary yellow debutante ball gown featuring curled ostrich feather sleeves. The construction of this gown was extraordinary from interior boning and built-in crinoline to nipple pads. The tag on this dress was Saks Fifth Avenue made Exclusively for The Adam Room, which was named for Saks President Adam Gimbel (from 1926-1969). This gown came from Dallas where the original owner wore it to her own debutante ball. We used this gown in a fun photo shoot where it got its nickname “the big bird.” This lady flew off to Salt Lake City where we wonder who wore her next.
DDM: What’s in your wardrobe? Do you personally wear vintage clothes on a daily basis?
Bloomers and Frocks: I always have at least one piece of vintage on, usually in accessories. Though I have a carefully curated vintage wardrobe of dresses and skirts, the summers in Texas are brutal and I save most of my vintage wardrobe from extreme heat.
My prize pieces are a 1950s hand-painted Mexican circle skirt with scenes of San Antonio and my Monet jewelry collection. I’m obsessed with Monet jewelry from the 1960s to the 80s, it’s so unique and basically indestructible.
DDM: What are your favourite vintage brands and are they very difficult to find?
Bloomers and Frocks: I shop for vintage based on style. A lot of vintage clothing is quality made but doesn’t necessarily have a brand or tag, or sometimes tags have been removed. I look for garments in good condition that can fit into a modern wardrobe. That said, I am always looking for my own personal collection of Monet jewelry.