The petals and I love all things vintage. If you happen to be in Los Angeles, then the only vintage place that counts is Shareen Vintage, a store-slash-warehouse so unimaginably fabulous it needed its own Eleven O’Clock post.
We discovered Shareen’s place a couple of years ago when we ran into a young woman wearing a vintage dress so truly (say it with me . . .) fabulous, we had to stop her so we could tell her what we thought of it. It was this little brocaded number, very fifties, a buttery yellow. As we were dying over it, she thanked us for our compliments, then told us we had to check out Shareen’s. “It’s girls-only,” she clarified. “No men allowed!”
I love Shareen’s for more than just the amazing vintage finds, though. You see, Shareen herself is Someone Special. Here’s the story. Miss Lavender and I made the trek into L.A. one day with the express purpose of talking with Shareen, who, once we had her attention, was so fully present, so in the moment with us, you would have thought we were the oldest of friends. To my surprise, she looked right at Miss L, took her by the shoulders, and pushed them back. Gently but firmly, she said to my five-foot-ten inch daughter, now standing straight and tall, “Don’t . . . ever . . . slouch.” As Miss Lavender processed this injunction given from the Vintage Maven of Los Angeles (and New York, for that matter), Shareen continued. “Your shoulder blades–they’re your wings,” she explained, “and you want them to touch.” Then she illustrated, showing us the way Miss Lavender, with her shoulders back, could have been touching her imaginary wings together.
I loved the metaphor: shoulder blades as wings, always meant to be touching. But I loved other things, too–the way Miss Lavender had instantly become not just a customer but the Pupil Of The Moment. And the way drawing herself up to her full height seemed to give her a vision of herself as someone strong, elegant, empowered. Do you know what that kind of carefully given–and poetic!–advice is worth to a mother anxious to give her daughter reasons to believe she can all but fly if she chooses?
When they fell deep into conversation about vintage, another side of Shareen’s character revealed itself. As she talked about her passion for helping every woman find exactly the right dress, no matter her age or body type, she recounted how a woman who had decided to throw herself a quinceañera party for her fiftieth birthday had left the store just a few days earlier–before Shareen could properly attend to her. “She left discouraged,” Shareen remembered as she explained that this woman had decided there was no point in trying to find a party dress that would flatter her. “We could have found the right dress,” Shareen said with conviction, “but the store was busy that day, and I didn’t get to her in time.”
In the year and a half or so since our visit with the proprietress of L.A.’s most beloved vintage store, I’ve thought about how much she gave my petal: a charge to stand up straight, always, and–equally important–an expressed belief that every woman deserves to feel beautiful when she decides she wants to dress up. That’s part of what makes clothing exciting, after all: the opportunity to play a part, and to make a statement about who you understand yourself to be. With vintage, every piece already has a history that the new wearer often consciously deploys as part of an effort to communicate her sense of identity. When Miss Zinnia dressed up for her “Gatsby” shoot on our terrace in Barcelona one afternoon several months ago, she saw herself as a character right out of a book or a film. Her dress: Shareen’s, of course.
After our afternoon with Shareen, I wrote her, to thank her for her words of wisdom. And she wrote back, telling me she’d wondered about me, about who I was. “And here you are,” she said in her reply, thanking me for acknowledging the gift she’d given a clothes-loving teenage girl. That’s what makes Shareen a force not just in the vintage realm but also–and probably more important–in the realm of Girl Power. At Shareen’s place, every woman learns quickly that she deserves to stand up straight and to feel at ease in her own skin.
(Photo: a Gatsby-esque Miss Zinnia, in BCN.)