Cathie DiGrazia sees it in the eyes and spirit of her customers. They browse. Flirt with a few items. Eventually they try on a dress or jacket and the addiction takes hold.
“When they get into the outfits, their whole attitude changes,” said DiGrazia, owner of The Vintage Closet, a successful vintage fashion shop in Groton, Mass., and chief organizer of a special vintage fashion show for the Atlantique City Antiques and Collectibles show.
“They stand straight, their shoulders are back and they are feeling really good because their figure is coming out. The cut was different back then and much more flattering.”
The “feel good/look good” attitude DiGrazia sees in her customers will be center stage this season as the Atlantique City antiques show features Vintage Fashion :: Always in Style as the theme of the show Oct. 20-21 at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center.
Vintage fashion as a collectibles hobby and scholarly pursuit is growing in popularity and gaining respect nationwide. Vintage fashion events are seeing record attendance. Sellers and dealers report growing year over year sales. Fashion taste is relying more on vintage styles as designers learn that today’s youth appreciate the look and versatility in vintage pieces. Prices are affordable, too, with stunning vintage accessories and adaptable outfits priced between $50-$200.
DiGrazia has produced vintage fashion shows for cable television programs in Massachusetts as well as charity events.
A lifelong collector and seller of vintage fashion, DiGrazia didn’t get serious until last year. She and her husband started a vintage clothing and consignment shop inside their Georgian Colonial home on Main Street in Groton.
“Vintage fashion occupies the entire second floor,” she says of her home featuring 14 rooms and 11 fireplaces. “Our plan is to expand the vintage to take over the entire building by January ’08.”
DiGrazia’s philosophy in presenting vintage fashion follows a high standard. The items must be well cared for and in immaculate condition – whether she’s working with a velvet cape from the 1800s or a 1950s vintage cocktail dress.
“A 1950s A-line dress paired with leggings becomes an oversized shirt,” she said. “We have a much more casual attitude about clothing than when Jackie O and other icons made those looks famous.”
The main criteria DiGrazia uses to select items for her fashion shows is that the clothes must be wearable today. “They can’t be fragile items to be fussed and worried about,” she said.
“Ensembles may or may not be strictly vintage. In most cases, the outfits are not strictly vintage.”
“Now more than ever people are basing modern after vintage styles: put ’40s day dress with a pair of Kate Spade shoes is very easy and no one would know it was vintage.”
DiGrazia’s Atlantique City vintage fashion shows at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday will compliment a series of informational seminars on vintage fashion as well as this season’s special exhibit.
The exhibit at the show will feature the work of the Whitaker ~ Augusta Auction Co. of New Hope, Pa.
The auction house specializes exclusively in the sale of couture and vintage clothing, lace, linens, accessories, textiles and fashion-related ephemera and objects.
The theme of the exhibition will be “Historical to Hysterical.”
The historical part will be composed mostly from the collection of Tasha Tudor, an important American illustrator of children’s books, as well as a Manhattan museum.
The hysterical part will come mostly from the collection of Whiskey Dust. “Whiskey Dust was a Manhattan store created by Montana transplant Merv Bendewald, specializing in high-end Western wear, cowboy collectibles and cowboy kitsch,” Whitaker tells Antique Trader. “It ultimately became the premier Western wear dealer in Manhattan.”
The late Bendewald used his Western ranch connections to bring the finds to his West Village location. “We will have everything from Nudie Cohn, the original ‘Rhinestone Cowboy,’ suits and exotic skin cowboy boots to Roy Rogers curtains, belt buckles and everything in between,” Whitaker said. “The collection includes items from the store and his personal collection.”
Whitaker began his career as a teenager working in the antique business on Philadelphia’s Main Line. He later established a well-known retail antique shop in Philadelphia and founded the auction company in 1991.
His business partner, Karen Augusta, has purchased, sold and appraised antique clothing, laces, textiles and fashion accessories for almost four decades. She is the owner of Antique Lace & Fashion, an historic costume and textile business geared to museums and serious collectors.
Augusta has curated or acted as consultant for many costume and lace exhibits in the United States and has appraised collections for public institutions and private collectors throughout North America. Augusta is a member of The Costume Society of America and The Textile Society of America. She serves as a fashion and textile appraiser on the popular PBS series, Antiques Roadshow.
Atlantique City, hosted by Antique Trader magazine, is held twice a year in the Atlantic City Convention Center. The next show will feature 500 of the nation’s top antiques and collectibles dealers from across the nation and around the world. Tickets are on sale at www.atlantiquecity.com or by calling the show office at 800-526-2724.