Thursday, December 1, 2011

Retro. Retail. Therapy.

A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of taking part in an event at Thairapy Salon in Montrose. The salon recently moved in to a great new space and used their new square footage to host a "A Little Retro Thairapy" in support of Bread of Life, a Houston non-profit working to feed the more than 80,000 families who go hungry in Houston on a daily basis. Hunger, especially childhood hunger, is an issue that I care deeply about, so I was so happy to participate in something that was both fun and very worthwhile.

The idea was to "fall back into a time before botox and boob jobs. When jello molds and cat eye glasses were all the rage, and hair, makeup and style were more 'starlet' than 'harlot.' " Stylists from the salon treated a few of us to retro makeovers with vintage inspired hair and makeup. The lovely ladies at Heights' own Heights Beatniks provided retro wear for us for a complete flash back look.

I went to browse the racks at Beatniks a couple days before the party, where I met fellow participant and lifestyle guru Beth DeLozier. (Beth's company, Tres Chic Designs, specializes in home staging, organizing and personal shopping. I think that might be the best job in the world.) Beth and I perused the racks to find our perfect outfits. One of the things I love about Beatniks is their inventory is carefully curated. They don't have tons and tons of racks to pick through; everything is organized, clean and in excellent condition. There was a nice variety for each decade and each size, including men and kiddos. I ended up with a great blue and white dress and white handbag, but the look was still incomplete. I needed shoes and my dress needed a belt. If I remember one thing about my grandmother's hold-over style from the 50s-70s, it was that everything matched! I knew to really have the look a white belt and white shoes would be an absolute necessity. I didn't want to do it half-way, but Beatniks didn't have any white shoes in my size. I knew I would have to complete the look on my own.

Luckily, I never far from great vintage shopping and headed straight up to 19th Street to finish my look for the paryt. First stop: Retropolis. It's big and packed full- a great place for browsing and trying on things and even doing some reminiscing about your childhood. The 80s are even retro enough now that I can reminisce about high school in the midst of their racks. And, of course, I found exactly what I was looking for! White 50s-60s era shoes, in almost my size (8.5. I wear a 9. It was do-able). I also picked up a white leather-ish belt and was done. Done with my outfit, that is. There was still more to be seen---- and bought!

Me, far right, in my Beatniks dress and purse. The necklace and earrings were my grandmother's from the 50s. Shoes from Retropolis.

The gorgeous Beth DeLozier, left, in a Beatniks top, necklace and purse (her own skirt). Maria, one of the owners of Heights Beatniks, in a dress from the shop. Maria and Diana set up a mini-shop at the party with some of their most fabulous vintage items. 

Even after finding the belt and shoes, the chock full racks of clothes and accessories were calling to me. When I was younger (and thinner) I lived in thrift store finds. I was never artsy-creative-alternative or anything like that. In fact, I am a very plain dresser, but I was broke and was often able to find close to current items at rock bottom prices. The year that JCrew had women's velvet blazers on their catalog cover for $150+, I found a 70s men's velvet tuxedo jacket at a thrift store in Dallas. In fact, I found two. One is a rich wine color with brown buttons, the other is black with a thin lapel. The sleeves on the black one were/are a little short, but I would kind of roll them and it never mattered. They were my pride and joy, for under $20 each. I still have them and still wear the wine one, but the black is a little too snug. That was in the mid-90s. I am older and have had a couple of kids, so my needs for clothes have changed. I am not in the market for velvet tuxedo jackets now, but I knew there was going to be something good to be had. I was right.

A couple booths down from the rack where I snagged my white shoes, I found this great knit jacket. Made in Belgium, 100% wool but light weight with 3/4 sleeves, which are my favorite. This little number is perfect for our Houston "winter." The patch pockets are kind of military and the pattern in the fabric makes it just a little more interesting for my plain Jane, weekday style. I think it was about $30 and I've already worn in every day under 70 degrees since I bought it.

Despite having a plain jane clothing style, I am a freak about accessories. Jewelry and purses give my white shirt and jeans aesthetic a punch and show that I actually have some personality behind these all the solid colors.  At Retropolis, I found three, yes three, fun bags to join my collection.

I loved this velvet bag for it's color and texture. It's big enough to hold my usual lump of junk- phone, wallet, spare diaper- but not so big that it becomes all Mary Poppins.

This little white bag will be great for spring/summer weddings and parties, or even a nice date night with my husband. The great thing about these vintage bags is they never go "out."

And then this navy, faux snake skin purse reminded me of my old schools days of thrift/vintage shopping. Snake skin is the trend right now. You don't have to be a slave to fashion to know it. You can't get a catalog in the mail or walk through the mall without seeing it. Sure, this bag from the 80s isn't real snakeskin or even very high quality, but from a few feet back (and with the strap off, used as a clutch) it is as cute as what's on the shelf at Nordstrom right now. And I paid less than $20 for it. Me for the win!

I was giddy as I dumped my finds in to the back of my car. Little did I know, my best purchases of the day were yet to come. I had about an hour until school pick up for my youngest, so walked down to Carter & Cooley for my favorite Dr Brown's Diet Cream Soda. I swear, C&C is the only place you can get these for miles.

As I headed to the deli, I passed by Replay on 19th. I had actually never been in to Replay before. Outside, they always have mannequins dressed in colorful 70s frocks and a small rack of brightly patterned dresses. I guess I kind of thought that is what they specialized in and there is nothing wrong with that, it's just not my style. This day, though, I had time to kill and a vintage buying bug, so I popped in.

Like Retropolis, Replay is packed with racks full of clothing. The store, however, is well organized and bright. The store is, I believe, owned and operated by a couple, so rather than items grouped by vendor, the store is sectioned so you'll find hats together, bags together, jewelry together. I was greeted and offered help as I browsed the racks. I wasn't pulling out much. I made it to the very back (housewares), tried on some hats. Nothing was jumping out at me, until... Toward the back corner of the store, sticking out from the end of a very crowded rack, I found it. This beautiful vintage Bill Blass coat.

I put it on. Perfect fit. I walked around, catching myself in a couple of mirrors, thinking about the things in my closet I could wear it with. The gentleman working (perhaps the owner?) told me someone else had just been in 3 days before and did the same thing- put the coat on and walked around. "She loved it, she said," he told me. "She said she would be back to get it on Thursday and we told her if she even left just $10 down, we would hold it for her." She said, no, it was ok. She'd be back on Thursday. It was Tuesday. I bought it. Sorry!

Bill Blass was an influential American designer, especially known for sportswear. His career began in the mid 1940s and lasted until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1999. Blass died in 2002.

Well, hello there. The lining of the coat is what my friend Jila calls "a secret smile." It's my own little bit of whimsy when I open the coat to put it on. And when was the last time anyone got a coat at Neiman's for $50?

But here is the real joy from my day of vintage shopping. On top of a clothes rack in the middle of the store was this Samsonite train case. I love it. LOVE IT. I didn't even hesitate on this. I pulled it down and had them hold it behind the counter. These are not exceptionally rare, but this one does have the original Lucite tray, which is harder to find.  It's also in PERFECT condition. It just seemed special to me and I wanted it. Period.

It's hard to describe why I think this is so special or why I am drawn to items like this one. It's not like clothes where I can say "I got this trend for cheap" or "I can wear this all the time." I don't even know what I'll do with it. I hesitate to put make up in it because it will probably get dirty and stained inside if I do. Maybe jewelry? Maybe I'll just leave it on the shelf in my closet and admire it? Either way, happiness is mine!

After my total win with these two items, Replay has a new customer for life. I was so excited about my finds, I popped in next door at The Lift to chat with Rhonda and show her what I bought. If you've never met Rhonda, go in to her store. She is a ray of sunshine. Always. I could have brought in a hairball and she would have complimented me on it, but her almost equal enthusiasm for my train case allowed me to bask in the happiness of buying it just that much longer. Rhonda also made a comment that I have been meaning to investigate. As I was showing her the case, Price is Right style, she mentioned having seen one like this in the back room at Harold's before they closed. If it had been used as a display at Harold's, that would explain how it managed to stay in such good shape and also have the tray. I wonder if Replay (wisely) grabbed this during the liquidation? If so, that would justify my love for this little piece of luggage even more, as it would be a part of Heights history in my possession. I'll let you know what I find out!


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