Transforming your life into hipster paradise takes more than stepping into one of the many antique shops scattered throughout Lawrence. Worthwhile finds means serious scouting, sifting and sage advice from savvy vintage-loving folks who live to find that dress, armoire or Victorian necklace.
So you want to be a vintage fashionista, but you’re not exactly familiar with the ins and outs of buying retro clothing the smart way.
Forget the complications of gravitating to one era. While a fitted dress from the '40s are more appealing to you than the once “groovy” pair of wide-legged bell-bottoms, these tips and tricks are applicable across the board.
Self-proclaimed oddball, Hannah Bobby’s weaknesses are loud, striking patterns and colors that can’t be found just anywhere. She’s been accumulating clothing finds for years from Wild Man Vintage, Antique Mall, Salvation Army and Arizona Trading Co., inheriting her fascination with vintage everything from her grandmother’s collection of antiques as a young girl.
Let vintage-savvy Bobby guide you through a checklist of what to look for when you're shopping for clothes:
• Do you really love it? Whether it’s pants, jumpsuits, dresses or T-shirts (she buys it all), get it if you feel like you can’t live without it, Bobby says. Otherwise your collection can get out of hand.
• Price matters. She isn’t spending more than $40 and it has to be great quality.
• Speaking of quality, check for holes, wear and tear, loose buttons, etc. While it’s personal choice, Bobby doesn’t spend time repairing her finds.
• Try everything on. Sizing has changed over time, and you might wear a 14 in older clothing, when you really wear a 10. Some stores do a basic small, medium and large.
• Refrain from over washing. “I have ruined dresses doing that,” she says. “Especially if it says dry clean only.” These are your furs, leather, and material that no one’s heard of.
• Don’t take vintage to the laundromat, because you don’t know what the machines are like and it could shred delicate clothing.
• Glasses make for a great accent piece. And it’s not just for the visually impaired. Bobby has black Harry Potter frames, gold frames with no lens, and some cat eyes from Wild Man. At night she will wear sunglasses for a classic, mysterious look.
• For night outings, you’ve got to be head-to-toe vintage. This means her David Bowie platform shoes, pink-netted tights, black skirt, black shirt with cutouts, puffy fur jacket with black, round glasses. It’s her “new wave '80s” look.
When it comes to vintage pieces of furniture, it’s not really about transforming your home into another era. Sarah Kellogg, co-owner of Vintage Chic, 1410 Kasold Drive, and interior designer says she noticed years ago that old furniture meant well-made furniture.
Along with her mother Susan Clark, Kellogg started collecting furniture from garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores for a fraction of the price of cheap furniture and hand painting each piece with CeCe Caldwell's Chalk + Clay paint. They saw a huge response from these works of art with a vintage finish, some of which were found on the side of the road and looked near the end of their life.
“Literally people are just passing this furniture out and I make it look like a million bucks,” Kellogg says.
At Vintage Chic, they not only sell the paint, brushes and other supplies necessary to repurpose found furniture, but they also teach workshops to help others create their own masterpieces. A few tips:
• Look at how structurally sound a piece is before ruling it out. Kellogg found a solid oak dresser from the ‘80s with just a damaged door. She remedied the situation by taking the door off, painting the opening and placing a basket in it.
• Pay more attention to the details than to the color, which can always be repainted. Does it have a unique shape? “Some people see an old, ugly color of wood and they only see the piece as an eye sore,” she says. “Imagine it white, simple and pay attention the lines.”
• When it comes to paint color, don’t be afraid to choose a bolder look for a “punch of color” in a room, Kellogg says. It adds personality, and if you ever get sick of it, you can easily repaint later. She also teaches how to use different glazes for antiquing looks.
Because it’s rather inexpensive (or free) to obtain these items, furniture in the shop can range from $25 to $50 for small side tables and up to $500 for larger armoires and dressers.
Home decor and collectibles
Eunha Chung, owner of Up-cycled Repurposed Up-Styled, or URU Lawrence, 1113 Massachusetts St., is new to the antique game.
Moving from the restaurant business in Philadelphia to the quieter life of selling vintage collectibles in Lawrence, Chung relies on guidance from a former antique store owner. Her eyes are drawn to old metalwork in antique toys and cartoon illustrations in old comic books, but those don’t sell as well as mid-century items.
Chung brings an eclectic mix of old Starbucks cups, glassware, cases of art deco and art nouveau jewelry, Kansas Jayhawk memorabilia (that sells right away), and movie posters to the Lawrence vintage scene, constantly rotating items in and out of the store.
“Older people have their stuff passed from generation to generation and they’re looking for the space to get rid of it, and I’m here for them,” Chung says.
Research is a crucial part of the job, she says, answering any questions a customer has and matching the item to the perfect owner.
“I’m Korean,” Chung says. “I didn’t grow up here and I’m learning American and British history. Several eras of everything. I joke around with my mom and tell her I’ve never studied this much in my life.”