vintage

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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.

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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.)

 

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So I could say I stumbled across Beriestain Interiores, in downtown Barcelona, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. I went looking for it. I’d seen some great photos in Habitania magazine, and I wanted to check out the source. The store is a fabulous combination of Mid-century and Now, of artisanal and retro. Moreover, most of the mid-century pieces have been reimagined, their bones remaining wonderfully intact while their surfaces get a little cosmetic surgery or their fabrics get replaced by something that represents a New Take on an old style.

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Below, I love the combination of rustic linens with cut crystal glasses.  And I love that the glasses are distinct from each other. In fact, one of the things I’m enjoying most about a certain European vernacular is the very rustic in collision with the very elegant. Such a cool concept. Same reason a delicate chandelier works in a room whose stucco walls are crumbling, revealing the brick underneath.

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And these chairs? Are they not the happiest things ever?

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Beriestain excels at reinvigorating pieces like the turquoise chair in the photo above. The old metal is treated, primed, and bathed in a new metal; then the seat is reupholstered. The result: mid-century modern . . . for the 21st Century. I’m smitten.

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So if you’ve been on my little blog over the last couple of days, you’ve noticed I’m doing some spring cleaning (which may continue for a while).  I like the idea of blog-as-house, a place where we all pull up a chair and visit. Seemed like I needed to put some things away, however (like my banner).  And create some room.

On the theme of making room for something new (or old), I thought I’d give you a peek at a fabulous place we found over the weekend.  Lucked onto it Saturday afternoon and went back this morning to meet the owners, who scour the country (literally) looking for unusual antiques and vintage pieces.  And there were so many! Like these vintage letters. Such fun.

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Or these antique spools and other ephemera? Just the colors make me happy!

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Miss Lavender is currently into vintage suitcases. She hasn’t seen this one yet.

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Old windows abounded. One of the owners makes a practice of sanding them down–just to remove splinters–then replacing the glass with mirrors.

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Be fun to find a naked wall and hang this one, yeah?

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Or clean out a cupboard and find a home for some vintage ceramic dinnerware?

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This was a personal favorite. I’ve never seen mid-century doll furniture before! So groovy!

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This beautiful old trunk really killed me: the detailing . . . the overall fabulousness.

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But this one did it. Miss Lavender has a box collection. (Can you tell what’s going through my head?)

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So many corners to poke around in!

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Run by five friends and longtime antiques dealers, this little cooperative has no name! But if you’re in Barcelona, find the warehouse at 588 Carrer del Consell de Cent (two doors north of Carrer del Dos de Maig).  Or ring us up, and we’ll walk you down (by way of a favorite patisserie, of course).

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Last fall, the mustache was everywhere–here on the continent as well as back home. I thought I’d revisit Miss Lavender’s Mustache Phase. The pin she found at our favorite market, Els Encants. It’s vintage. The tunic, also vintage, is from Shareen Vintage, in Los Angeles. The ribbed leggings are J. Crew, the shoes (maroon Mary Janes, hard to see here) from a boutique in Bamberg, Germany, the glasses from a vintage store in Vienna, Austria.

I love vintage. So did my grandmother. Once, when my mother picked up a floor-length, dark green velvet skirt at a garage sale–thinking maybe my grandmother could do something with it–my Grammy came over, measured me, and took the skirt, along with (respectfully given) instructions that she work her seamstressing magic and turn the thing into a pencil skirt. As thrifty as they came, she knew the value of a buck. A designer, she also knew real velvet when she saw it.

She did indeed make me a gorgeous pencil skirt.

Where that thing is now, I don’t know. I’ve been scolding myself for years for not hanging onto it tight enough, as it would have been a brilliant addition to the petals’ closets.

Miss Lavender doesn’t much care that mustaches may not be the trend du jour forever. Her pin belonged to someone else once and therefore already had a story when she lucked onto it. She is, however, rather infatuated with pencil skirts at the moment. We picked up two the other day at Kling, in Barri Gotic. One is heather gray, the other raspberry pink. That they fit her was a miracle of Biblical proportions. That they were nearly seventy percent off was another.

Hooray for vintage, for sales, for Grammys, not necessarily in that order. Isn’t it fun to play dress-up??

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Remember Miss Lavender? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, she likes to dress up.

Clothes?–she loves them. If they’re vintage, so much the better. If she can sport them while playing to the camera on a nearby street in the Sagrada Familia District of Barcelona, brilliant.

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But if we assume she’s merely a clothes horse, we miss the point. For her, it’s about personal expression. And about combining the old with the new, the on-trend with the totally unexpected.

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Her outfit, for instance. The animal print blouse and the boots, snagged from my closet. The sweater, a consignment store find. The locket around her neck, a gift from the uber stylish Auntie Deb. The silver ring, a beautiful relic from my grandmother’s jewelry box.   The knit skirt, Anthropologie.  Most folks might not have thrown an ensemble like this together. But Miss Lavender puts it over for two reasons: 1) the combination pleased her, and 2) she delights in experimenting.

Whether vintage glasses will be in style a year from now will make no difference to her. These frames, which she grabbed from a vintage store in Vienna, Little Joe’s Gang, were fitted with prescription lenses. She’ll wear them until her prescription changes. And beyond.

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Miss Lavender likes clothes with stories, recognizing that by choosing to inhabit an outfit a certain way, she likewise gets to craft her own narrative about who she wants to be. To that end, vintage opens up so many possibilities! You want to style yourself as a . . . librarian-gypsy?–your black, horn-rimmed glasses marking you as bookish while your wild colors add vibrancy and flair?

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Then do it!

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Seated on a pink chair, contemplating the vintage scene before her, Miss Lavender wears her thrift store smile (which is not to say the smile itself is second-hand, not in the least!). Wouldn’t you be in fits of joy (the inside kind, of course) if you happened upon a narrow street dedicated exclusively to vintage stores? You want your own authentic flamenco dress to dance in, it’s here. You want dresses from the 60’s and 70’s?–they’re here.  Old theater costumes, check.  Well-loved cowboy boots, check.  Mid-century accessories, yep.

Gosh. Almost too much to take in, no?

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Our favorite place:  Motel, a tiny little store where everything 50’s and 60’s holds sway.

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Both of the Eleven O’Clock Girls love all things vintage. Are you part of the vintage clan too? Where are your favorite spots? Do tell!

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The Els Encants flea market and the odd alleyways that branch off from it enchant my daughter, who simply could not contain herself. Wouldn’t you do a little dance in the air if you stumbled upon a place so full of character?  The vertical leap, she gets from her dad, who used to have a nice one back in his college ball days. The vintage obsession she gets from her mother, who loves “antiguedades” as much as anything else on earth, unless it’s good chocolate. Or a good book.

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What makes your kids jump for joy? Whatever it is, let’s help them jump, shall we?

My middle daughter currently has an obsession with kitchen herbs, and, having obtained an Italian parsley plant now struggling to grow out on our terrace, she has plans to expand her “garden” to include basil, oregano, and rosemary.  We plan to help her develop her green thumb.  (Stay tuned for more on that!)

Once, years ago, when I was in high school, I won a modest prize in a poetry contest. My mother, convinced I’d done something grand, accompanied me to the college campus where the winners were being honored, and we made a day of it, soaking up the salon-like atmosphere, stopping for lunch afterwards. My poem was not special. She may have known that. But for her, the girl who wrote it was. I’m smiling right now as I think about the very big deal she made out of a very small one, like I’d won the Nobel at age fifteen.

I suppose all teenagers want to be able to chuckle to themselves, imagining that their doting parents, too blinded by affection to know any better, just can’t help but celebrate the little victories that wouldn’t seem to warrant any celebration. What a gift we give them, letting them believe we cannot help ourselves, when we know very well that the passions and triumphs they believe to be small are, in truth, the things that matter most.

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Here’s to joyful dances in alleyways. And happy fussing over how to care for temperamental parsley plants.

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So we picked up some cheap bikes.

And we go for rides, all five of us. And it’s nuts, because we’re trying to stay together, trying to navigate the fabulously narrow streets of the older part of the city, and trying (mostly me) not to send whole clusters of spectacularly unaware pedestrians to their deaths.

And we’re rolling through the courtyard of the very old and gorgeous branch of the public library in Raval, and a young woman who just walked past us a moment ago is suddenly on our heels, literally chasing us down, and wanting to talk to Tessa about her outfit.

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So we all stop. And this lovely young Brit, name of Kate, all out of breath for having sprinted to catch up with us, proceeds to tell Tessa how absolutely fabulous her tunic is, and WHERE did we find it, and could she please, if it’s not too much of a bother, take a photo of it so she can, with some imagination and luck, create her own facsimile thereof?

Now my daughter knows a vintage sister when she meets one, so she happily hops off her bike, poses for a snapshot, then recites the history of the tunic, how we got it in Los Angeles, etcetera, and Kate (effusively grateful in a way that only a vintage devotee who has just collided with a great piece can be) affirms that she is going to make her own tunic, using the now-snapped photo as inspiration, a fact that causes Tessa to smile from ear to ear.

Naturally we had to snap our own photo of the lovely Kate posing with the equally lovely Tessa, the eyes of both fairly sparkling with kindred feeling.

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How cool, right?–getting chased down by a girl from Oxford, England, who loves what you’re wearing so much she just has to tell you about it.  And getting your photo taken together so that she can recreate the article on her own, an effort which will no doubt keep the moment alive in her mind the entire time she sews!

Good luck, Kate (pictured here in blue)!  We love your posh accent, your winning smile, and, most of all, your need to stop Tessa so you could tell her just how much you loved the brocaded tunic with the long poet sleeves. May your project go just splendidly!

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The first vintage store we decided to hit here in Barcelona was Magnolia Antic.  My daughter, the vintage queen, literally mapped out where she wanted to go one day, having researched the “offerings” and then plotted them on her little grid of the city.  And so she, my younger daughter, and I headed out along Carrer Provenza, our street, which runs all the way down to Passeig de Gracia, where the beautiful people shop (the Carolina Herrera boutique on the corner being the first clue).

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How to describe this store? First of all, for those desiring everything from pill box hats to beaded opera bags to antique cut crystal perfume bottles to long, headstrong coats that scream Katharine Hepburn, this is the mother lode, and not a single item is in anything but pristine condition.

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You want delicate, artisan jewelry? Also there. Or maybe you’re into collecting medical ephemera?–rare anatomy books, anatomy and physiology models no doubt salvaged from the dusty basement of some university, and instruments whose purpose you can only wonder at?  The woman who owns and merchandises the store obviously has a sense of humor and a dark side.

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Tessa fit right in. Her glasses–a vintage pair we picked up from a store in Vienna (Little Joe’s Gang) and had fitted with prescription lenses. The tunic–a vintage number from the fabulous (and girls only!) Shareen Vintage in Los Angeles. Ribbed leggings–Banana Republic. Maroon Mary Janes–Bamberg, Germany. Lipstick–Viva Glam.  Wrapover braids and vintage smile–all hers.

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(Photos of the store, courtesy of Magnolia Antic!)

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Love At First Type

by Becky on October 16, 2012

in Design, Travel

Saw several of these at the Els Encants Market in Barcelona. and my heart skipped a beat.  Or a keystroke.  Or a something.

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When I was growing up, we had one of these!  In fact, it was all we had, if we wanted to type something.  In middle school, my mother typed up my papers on it.  I loved the rapid-fire sound, and how straight she sat as she worked, and how seriously she took the business of making what I’d written out longhand look So Professional.  Miss Lavender thinks it would be great fun to pick one of these up and make jaunty bracelets out of the keys, the way some enterprising artisans are doing these days.  But could I bear to separate the keys from the body of the typewriter?  Or is the idea of flicking my wrist so folks can glimpse my strand of movable type beginning to seduce me just a bit?  Hmm.  Have a look-see and tell me what I ought to do!

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Spiffy, no?  Love that Shift Lock key!

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