Dude. I love the fall fashion. I am all about the fall fashion this fall, you know why? Because I already have all this stuff. The catalogues crack me up. Buy a corduroy jacket! Velvet is hot this year! Get the vintage look for $499.99! Dude, go get the actual vintage for $49.99 and spend the rest on groceries for, say, the next year or so. Tweed skirts, check. Sweater coat, check. Gabardine suits, check. Plums and browns and deep forest greens, check. Who knew being cheap was finally going to come back in style?
And it was poverty, for a long time, with the vintage stuff. I was in college, needed a dress to go meet the mayor or do a press conference in, Salvation Army. Or Juju & Moxie, the late lamented vintage store in Madison that was like my crack den for five years. I had ten dollars and for ten dollars I could find a dress. The boys at the paper used to tease me because I always dressed up, but it was so much cheaper than dressing down. I bought a black suit at Juju for $30 and ten years later I’m still wearing it. The only vintage stuff I’ve ever given away or sold, it was because I got too fat for it, not because it wore out.
Then I moved down to a suburban hellhole and started shopping at the mall like everybody else because for the first time I had money like everybody else, and nothing fit. Nothing worked. Nothing looked right. I have a broad back and shoulders and broad hips and I hadn’t yet seen What Not To Wear, I didn’t know about tapers and pleats and how they were the devil’s playthings. So I dressed out of Penney’s and Rampage and spent way too much money and looked like a dog’s dinner and HATED it.
Then I found Keeney’s. Oh, sweet merciful being on high, Keeney’s. I wandered in there one day doing a story. It was a dusty sporting good store upstairs with dead stuffed animals mounted on the walls and antique guns all over, hockey sticks, gym uniforms, baseballs. And Patty, the owner, who knew all the gossip. One day as we were yakking away and she was telling me who said what to who that got everybody all pissed off, she told me to follow her.
We went down a dark staircase and she flipped on a light, and there it was, a space the same size as the upstairs, only instead of dead things and the guns to kill them, it was crammed — CRAMMED — with dresses. Suits. Hats. Coats (my one true love). Jewelry, paste and pearls and antique compacts and pocket watches and earrings and brooches of the type they’re selling for $200 in stores right now. Untouched lingerie still in boxes, the lace still stiff. Her mother’s, mostly, she said, from when she lived in New York in the 30s and 40s and went out dancing with the Rat Pack types every night. And some other stuff she picked up over the years just because she liked it. And dishes, that pale green depression glass I love, and table linens, records, newspapers, books, suitcases, old clips to set your hair in those Jean Harlow waves.
It’s heaven. Today I’ll drive 40 miles out there because it’s just so amazing and her prices are sinful. I feel like I’m stealing. I found a brown tweedy suit and a black satin dress and a red velvet coat and a black patent leather handbag and half the necklaces I gave my bridesmaids as gifts at my wedding, a black sweater embroidered with pearls, a long sari skirt in green silk, and spend less than half of what I’d spend if I bought the equivalents new, plus it all fits because they knew how to dress women with tits and an ass in 1954. Sure, I’ll hit the $15 sales at Old Navy for t-shirts now and then, but if I need a dress for an ex-boyfriend’s wedding, it’s off to Patty’s basement full of wonders.
I drag friends there, even people who don’t like vintage or don’t think they do, because it’s like the closet or attic of the coolest grandmother ever, and playing dress-up never gets old. I hope Patty makes good money this year off all these fall “vintage look” trends. Felt hats? Patent leather belts? Silk scarves? We’ve got all that covered.