As part of the vintage shop of the week segment of my blog, I’m very excited to present you with The Starlet’s Stylist, a shop that has been on my radar ever since I discovered it on Instagram. Run by Sylvia, a person with extraordinary taste in vintage garments, who used to test the vintage market by teasing us all with little previews of what was to come, before finally opening her Etsy shop, where you now can find the most exquisite 1930s and 1940s evening gowns worthy of Joan Crawford.
1950s swing coat
Dominique de Merteuil: How did you start your adventure in selling vintage clothes?
The Starlet’s Stylist: I have degrees in anthropology, history and international studies with various specializations within each field so the past has always been an interest to me. In high school I collected reproductions of ancient artwork and jewellery and I wore them or incorporated them into my school work in whatever way I could. I had big stacks of history books that I read from cover to cover and as I grew up I often found myself in places or at events that were somehow related to history. It was inevitable that I would discover vintage jewellery, hats, clothing and purses and of course once I put them on, I was forever in love. It wasn’t until recently that I realised I had access to good vintage fashion in one hand and due to social media, I had access to vintage enthusiasts from around the world in the other hand. It just made sense to try to unite the two and I am so glad I did.
Dominique de Merteuil: What can we find in your vintage shop? For example, do you specialise in a particular era or type of garment, accessory, etc?
The Starlet’s Stylist: I focus on pieces from the first seventy years of the previous century. I think it’s the sweet spot in terms of wearability and aesthetic appeal. I sell jewellery, hats, purses, and lingerie in addition to clothing. I tend to gravitate toward evening gowns for some reason, especially those from the 1930’s and 1940’s. They’re just so feminine and regal and unlike anything you can get in stores these days. I’ve sold quite a few, still have quite a few and there are quite a few more on their way to the shop!
1940s evening gown
1950s Suzy Perette dress
Dominique de Merteuil: 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?
The Starlet’s Stylist: You know what? I love “the hunt” for vintage. I swear I tend to belly flop through life like I don’t know what I’m doing (because I don’t) but when it comes to hunting good vintage, I’m as graceful as a ballet dancer. Some sources can be very hectic, competitive and like a mad dash but I don’t sweat it in the slightest. I move slow, take my time, observe my surroundings, chat to people, have a snack, get stuck in a porta potty (why does that happen so much?) make friends, contemplate lunch, and before I know it I’ve had the time of my life and I’ve got bags of really good stuff! So my process for selecting stock really doesn’t extend much beyond: “ooooh this is pretty!” and “wheeeeee this is fun.” It’s not the most business savvy approach but it seems to work for me.
Dominique de Merteuil: Where do you find all those beautiful vintage clothes and accessories for your shop? (if it’s not a secret!)
The Starlets Stylist: Sources can be three things: places, events or people. I spend a lot of time independently sourcing stock but it would be unfair to omit the fact that the most important of the three is the people. I have met so many wonderful, warm and generous people and without them, I don’t think I would be as successful as I have been so far. This industry in my experience, like anything in life, is all about the relationships you foster with people. If you want to have a vintage shop of your own it really is about who you know. You have to talk to people and you have to charm the pants off them! Not literally of course, not unless you could sell them… haha!
Dominique de Merteuil: What is your favourite period in time and why?
The Starlet’s Stylist: Right now my favourite period in time is the late 1700’s. Political movements were taking place that were enormous and colonialism began to impact people in ways the world hadn’t contended with before. If not then, then the early 1900’s when medical advancements were taking place that catapulted humanity into health and longevity. I always say I want to be a World War One field nurse when I grow up because the things they were doing then were incredible. Did you know if you broke your leg back then you had an incredibly high chance of dying within six months? The Great War changed all of that! Anyway, in terms of fashion and what I sell, I adore the 1920’s. I love the opulence and the sensuality of it all. I love how the dresses were shapeless but the fabric and the beading are more suggestive and racier than anything today! I also think quality in general has been on a steady decline ever since. There is a reason why 50’s reproduction clothing is passable for some vintage enthusiasts but 20’s reproduction almost never makes the grade. It’s easy to find pretty cotton novelty prints but not so easy to find sequins and beads that don’t look cheap and juvenile. Don’t get me started on modern silk or lame fabrics!
1940s velvet dress from The Stylists Starlet vintage shop of the week.
1960s Ruth Claridge dress
1940s Louella Ballerino dress can be found in The Starlet’s Stylist Etsy shop!
Dominique de Merteuil: 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?
The Starlet’s Stylist: After knowing your measurements and any additional fit concerns that are particular to your body like wide hips (me!), broad shoulders or long torso, my advice is to buy what you like. Is that too simple? It really is that simple. In my experience, people who are interested in trying vintage fashion for the first time, often over-complicate it. I think this is due to two things; one is this strange obsession with having the perfect body and the other is the casual approach to fashion these days. As a result, people think in order to wear what they like they need to be perfect or they need an occasion to “dress up.” It’s a bit of cognitive dissonance because we must be creatures of perfection and yet we need to be muted and casual to fit in. A flow of silly thinking happens as a result and we either end up just admiring from afar or we wet our toes with one or two vintage pieces that blend well with modern life for a look that we didn’t really want. But why do that? In my mind it’s much better to buy what inspires you. Wear what you like, do what you like, and if you need help contact the seller with your questions. If she is anything like me she wouldn’t mind helping you out! The last thing I want to sell is disappointment so I really try my best to help people figure out if an item will work for them.
Dominique de Merteuil: What are your 3 favourite items that you have ever sold and why have you chosen to name those particular ones?
The Starlet’s Stylist: My favourite shop item was a dress that belonged to Miss Canada 1954. The only reason why I sold it was because it was too big for me but it was one of the most well made dresses I have ever found. It was the perfect little black wiggle dress with just the right about of elegance and sex appeal. The fabric was soft and figure hugging but with great movement and the arms and shoulders were sheer black. Her name was Barbara Joan Markham and she once said she didn’t know why she won and that she had only entered so she could showcase her fine art skills. Whatever Barbara, you were a total babe and whoever bought your dress is babe-lier for it!
Miss Canada dress from 1954
Another of my favourite finds is a couture 1930’s gown by Germaine Monteil. It’s so iconic to the era with the vibrant pink, the black lace and the bias cut! It’s currently available as it only hit the shop not too long ago!
1930’s couture gown by Germaine Monteil
I also have to say that whenever I sell a piece of 40’s lingerie I cry a little inside. I can’t keep it all but I don’t think anything out there makes me feel womanly and glamorous more so than a 40’s peignoir, dressing gown or slip. This one has sold but I do have a charmeuse peignoir set available in the shop!
Dominique de Merteuil: What are your favourite vintage brands and are they very difficult to find?
The Starlet’s Stylist: As exciting as it can be to find certain clothing labels, I don’t really search for any in particular but I do when it comes to jewellery! I think jewellery companies tend to differ in creative flare and manufacture much more than clothing brands in any given era. For example, a 1940’s suit is more or less always going to be a 1940’s suit no matter who made it. Sure some are better than others but generally they all stick to the same fashion formula. Jewellery on the other hand, often differs stylistically within the same era from one company to another. I absolutely love Ostby and Barton rings from the 1910’s and 1920’s. They stand out with their delicate metal work and large glass/gemstones. Fun fact: Ostby himself went down with the Titanic. I also love Miriam Haskell sets from the 30’s and 40’s as well as Mazer and McClelland Barclay. Fun fact: Barclay went down with a ship that was torpedoed in the Pacific during World War Two. What is it with jewellery makers and ships?
Beautiful selection of vintage jewellery from The Starlets Stylist.
Dominique de Merteuil: What’s in your wardrobe? Do you personally wear vintage clothes on a daily basis?
The Starlet’s Stylist: I spend 85% of my time in tired yoga pants (ain’t no yoga happening) and t-shirts that smell like pizza. I just cracked myself up because I shouldn’t be so honest but it’s just the truth. I am a mother to two little girls and wife to a career man and while “mother” and “wife” are the last two things I would say to describe myself, I have responsibilities to these people I share my life with. These responsibilities are the natural born nemesis of vintage and since the preservation of my historical artefacts and vintage clothing is the only thing I take seriously in life, I am in slob mode 85% of the time. However, I am naturally a very feminine person and I have always been very particular about what I wear outside of the house. In fact, I decided to give birth at home in the middle of being in labour because I didn’t want to get dressed to go the hospital. Haha! Before I get in trouble for saying that I just want to add that in Canada midwives are educated and regulated healthcare professionals that have medical and legal license to deliver babies at home or at hospitals. It’s a very different health care system compared to some parts of the world! It was a very safe decision after a very long (oh god it was so long) and healthy pregnancy. So “tired yoga pants lady” very much exists but so does the woman who wears 50’s Mexican circle skirts to the grocery store, 40s day dresses when out with friends, 60’s mod dresses when shopping, and 20’s and 30’s gowns or coats when at a function with the husband. I haven’t managed to attempt vintage hair styling and I love modern makeup (hello bronzer!) so I never really look like I’ve stepped out of the past. I’m not entirely sure what I look like to the modern eye or even to the eye of the vintage purist but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all just clothing. It’s all “just clothing” says the woman who took over the walk-in closet and put her husband’s clothes on a rolling rack somewhere, haha!