HEIGHTSTONIAN - A vintage perspective, from the FIRST ever Austin Vintage Style Festival
Houston has an intense vintage scene for buyers and collectors alike. Always has! It also has a wildly popular second hand market. I have quite a history with both experiences, being I'm from Houston and have lived here all my life. I have pristine second hand and vintage capes, furs, gloves, hats ... you name it and I know how to apply it ALL! I'm always prudently in search of that next special piece for my wardrobe. However, there is simply too much to choose from for me not to have set standards when it comes to vintage specifically. If I see something, no matter if it's one of a kind, I'm not paying retail for something that's almost 40 years old, if can't wear it off the rack. If I am expected to buy something you call "vintage," it has to have endured a multitude of phases in order for me to even consider purchasing a piece at retail cost. For instance, it must maintain its appeal having been undamaged or mended, cleaned, still stylish and ready to wear. Ultimately, it must be timeless, classic. That being said, when I heard about the first ever bi-annual Austin Vintage Style Fest held this past weekend, I jumped, because I've been wanting to explore other vintage markets in other cities for some time now. Hats and sunglasses were an ever-present essential. I wish more in Houston would wear hats, not caps, HATS! I also saw a lot of vintage PLAYBOY in a few of the shops.
I started downtown. That's where I met the good people of 5 Stack Vintage, from HOUSTON!! They're a brand new online start up. They had lots of cool layers for both men and women. Not all mint, but they are still new. The gentleman I photographed really had his quad cuff suit combo spot-on, so I know they're headed in the right direction. From there, I headed south to LOVELY AUSTIN Boutique, and it was nothing short of "fabulush" with the best quality of vintage clothing and accessories in the city by my standards, with little modern touches mixed in to give it beyond you. It's true! They put looks together that offer helpful guidance and I found a coat that I could not stop touching! Everything is mint, fresh and sure there were some second hand fillers that almost went unnoticed. If you're from Houston, recall a place called Step Back, which existed in the 90's, YEAH! It's aaalmost that great. Down the street was FLASHBACK Vintage. Houstonians, think, Wear It Again Sam. They had a lot of over the top vintage pop, with gold beaded, sequenced, and princess dresses. Rare complicated pieces in great shape that are still realistically wearable because of their condition! You must be daring because they have lots of princes dresses and color galore to go around with real FUN to offer. From there, I went to Frock On Vintage, a new shop on Guadalupe. I really liked this shop for one specific reason. Their seamstress, who was hard at work at her sewing machine! Out the gate, Frock On Vintage has a clean, safe-stylistically wearable selection. Nothing too outrageous, so they have room to evolve. I did buy a fantastic hat to go along with my other fantastic hat I bought from Hatbox the night before.
Cream Vintage, in the center of town, is very cool! Half the store is for men, with a rack of vests, a phase for some, and lots of boots, a Texas staple, all of which I like, on the right person of course. They had these big beautiful glazey red bracelets, which I loved. They also have an alterations set up in the back of the store. If you stop in, say hello the lovely Natalie, one of Cream's pro "vintagistas." Next stop... BLUE VELVET, which was more novelty and costume, with lots of fun things to choose from, all mashed together, not quite my favorite thing to sift through, but fun to explore. Next door to Blue Velvet is Breakaway Records. It's like a record library you can buy from, with lots of new vintage arrivals and two listening stations as well as old LP decks to gently spin your classic cuts. Not quite for the heavy handed. Psst! "I want 'The Animals' for Christmas." Waterloo Cycles doesn't have much of a vintage selection to choose from, but it was on my route. I've been hearing more and more about OM Flyers... They had one with wood paneling, another with yellow wheels. I really don't get it, but Mike at Waterloo does layaway with 30% down for 2 months.
Next stop "NOLO," a.k.a. the North Loop corridor where they stack'em deep! Room Service Vintage. There's not much left for serious wardrobe finds but you could date your home back to the 1950's and stack up the decades. Room Service just had everything, with so many wonderful living room sets, desks, dishes, and lamps, that it was fun just getting lost in it all. Ermine vintage across the way, had a few cool things - that's it. Blackbird Clothes and Curios wasn't part of the vintage festival, but fell onto the my radar. They have a dark sort of look, with edgy cuts of style in black and greys, cut into modern layering shapes, complete with jewels that would stack quite easily. Sure it sounds like something you could find everywhere, but it's not. I think it was here where I found perhaps the only real unisex steampunk accessories you can actually buy brand new, that could work in real life, adding color to your character. Ask for the beautiful Eunice ;). Splendor A Retrofit Boutique, coming in at a close second favorite on my list, was pretty amazing. They didn't have quite the extensive inventory the others had, but it's quite obvious they are about quality, not quantity. Everything was beautiful and in great condition but you almost miss it thereon the edge of the "NOLOrridor," so look out!
Within the womb of the Spider House, is The Fresh Up. It's small and sweet with not a lot of room for things to choose from, but it's a nice shop with a few things for your wardrobe and some small accessories. They also offer alterations. Now the Spider House itself, is quite a spectacle. Quiet during the day, for wi-fi and coffee, but I tend to think that at night, the statuettes, live or of stone, come to life. Seriously worth a visit...
Second Time Around is more like Blue Bird in Houston with a gentler, refined and "label" approach. Their primary focus isn't vintage, more gently worn business casual to casual items. Second Time Around reserves a small separate room for vintage, where I found a lot of little black handbags and ladies dresses. Retro Rubbish is set on the north point of the vintage shop compass but had inventory from the 1930's, including publications on women's business, next to 80's retro statuettes on pristine furniture sets, paintings, strange things that light up and it all works! I was impressed. Though last on my list, I'm glad I didn't forego the effort. I was determined and they're were grateful to make my arrival. Retro Rubbish is tough to spot from the street, but it's huge inside and they've recently added a second floor. They had a tall antique telephone that I just loved! Gloves! I love gloves and they had many to choose from as well as a bridal salon.
Austin, Texas has a thriving vintage market and scene, but from what I'm told, not many estate sales, being it's a youthful city. Never a downfall. Overall, it was a great trip. Insightful. Most vintage shops had great second hand finds thrown in but that's part of the flair, if it works, so, it's not disappointing in the least. Besides, many of the shops offer alterations and pricing is reasonable. Just remember that vintage is never corporate, so if you find something you like, it will be special, because it already was special once, to someone. So, what did I get? Two lovely hats.