In the run-up to National Thrift Store Day on Aug. 17, the ThriftStyle authors are profiling some recent shops we’ve visited from around the country. Here’s Peggy’s report from a stellar vintage shop in Virginia.
Shopping vintage is shopping clothing history. Vintage shops have terrifically interesting inventory because the owners have selected each item for its attractive design or because it’s a great example of a cultural moment.
A five-year-old shop in the University of Virginia college town of Charlottesville, has an eye-popping quantity of pristine men and women’s wear, plus vinyl records, housewares and some furniture. All represent the truly interesting garments and accessories from bygone decades, most with much higher quality fabrics and trims than even couture pieces created today.
Low Vintage is the brainchild of Jessica Shade and Nora Ayala, who met when each rented space to sell their vintage finds at another Charlottesville location. When the larger space of their current shop opened up, they joined forces.
They chiefly gather their inventory from estate sales and auctions. Theater costume designers are frequent customers, as are young women looking for one-of-a-kind date night dresses.
“I’ve always collected vintage and love it,” said Shade. “Vintage is becoming more mainstream and the college kids really are attracted to its uniqueness.”
Shoppers appreciate the detailed tags, which spell out useful information such as the era, manufacturer, and estimated size, down to the bust, waist and hip measurements.
Slade, the mother of four-year-old twins, knows how to multi-task. She researches garments and items while directing customers in the spacious downtown shop (a former youth ministry space and then an art gallery).
We were drawn to a “new” (deadstock from the 1980s) pair of cream-colored Maine Woods ankle boots. Alas, the wrong size.
We did find a great 1950s pink and grey cotton dropped waist day dress for a niece who wears vintage. In perfect shape, it was $16.
A man’s orange Jantzen swim suit from the 1950s was a true jolt from the past. Just like the shorty shorts of men’s basketball from that decade, this swimsuit looks ridiculous in our era of knee length men’s swim trunks. But yes, children, men actually wore those underpants-looking suits to the pool.
The store’s offerings are in terrific repair, even those 70 years old and older. Hawaiian shirts take up an entire rack and there’s a lot of pearl-studded western wear and sturdy jackets with styles that James Dean would have worn.
We appreciated the clever holiday displays and the extensive collection of shoes, boots, costume jewelry, aprons, vinyl records and housewares.
There are sale racks outside to entice customers to venture into this well-organized cornucopia of American clothing history. Definitely take the bait and venture in – your eyes will appreciate it and you’ll learn something.
Low Vintage, 105 5thSt. S.E., Charlottesville, VA 22902. 434-293-9082.
Open Sunday to Thursday noon to 6 p.m.; Friday noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.