Past Perfect: Los Angeles Vintage Stores Cater to Costume Designers with Curated Couture
By Valli Herman
Perhaps more than any other fashion capital, Los Angeles put vintage clothing on the map. The stylish denizens who so effortlessly mix their retro finds with everything from denim to designer have helped broaden the language of fashion—and the resources for Costume Designers. With more than 100 vintage stores across Los Angeles, the city is a treasure trove of inspiration for Costume Designers. Only a handful of stores, however, are known throughout the fashion and design communities for their deep inventory of designer labels, knowledgeable proprietors and helpful studio services policies.
Here’s a sampling of L.A.-area stores.
Cameron Silver and Christos Garkinos, proprietors of Decades, starred in “Dukes of Melrose,” a docu-series about their 17-year-old Melrose Avenue vintage couture shop. The store’s downstairs features contemporary consignment while the upstairs focuses on vintage luxury, dating to the early 1900s. Most of the vintage is haute couture, with some ready-to-wear. Personable and knowledgeable, Silver and Garkinos are known for their edited selection of vintage finds and future collectibles. The store works on consignment and has an e-commerce component that sells designer dresses and accessories, including $13,000 Hermes bags and distinctive Moschino dresses.
Silver, along with fashion director Eri Hoxha frequently assist Costume Designers who are pulling for shoots. The store has worked with designers for “Mad Men,” “Castle,” and “American Horror Story.”
“They tell us what they’re looking for or describe a scene, a color or a period. If we don’t have it, we will try to source it,” says Hoxha. “We rotate our inventory often, so it’s important to know what someone needs beforehand.”
Decades is known for offering vintage items that have an almost timeless feel. “We offer a lot of special, modern-looking, collectible designers who have changed fashion and the way we dress,” says Hoxha. “You can find very important pieces, and also red carpet gowns, jewelry, head pieces, belts and hats and other accessories.”
The store’s studio services policy charges a 20 percent restocking fee.
Decades, 8214 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323)-655-1990. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. www.decadesinc.com
The Way We Wore
With the ceilings draped in gold lame, walls of tufted white vinyl and stairs carpeted in leopard, entering The Way We Wore feels like you’re stepping into a glorious boudoir.
Owner Doris Raymond’s vintage boutique on LaBrea Boulevard has been a mainstay of Costume Designers, stylists and vintage collectors since the store moved from San Francisco a decade ago. Now entering her 33rd year in business, Raymond has earned her reputation as a fashion historian and vintage expert. She’s even starred in an original docu-series on the Smithsonian Channel, “L.A. Frock Stars.” A second season that focuses exclusively on her store will begin filming later this month, with the six episodes stretching to a full hour. (Past episodes are available on iTunes and Amazon.)
On any given day, stylists and Costume Designers can be found scouting the aisles for camera-ready women’s wardrobes for principal actors. Vintage garments from her store have been filmed in just period epics as “Titanic,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Casino” and “W.E.” Costume designers such as Michael Wilkinson, Arianne Phillips, Lou Eyrich and Sandy Powell make frequent forays through the store.
Costume designers shopping for period clothes will find it helpful that The Way We Wore is arranged chronologically by decade, beginning with the early 1900s and winding through the first floor into the 1980s. Accessories such as handbags, jewelry, hats and shoes are perched on pedestals and racks throughout. Step up the leopard stairs to the second floor’s collection of jaw-dropping finery, where immaculate beaded flapper dresses and Erte-worthy 1920s capes drip with glamour and design inspiration.
Raymond personally curates every item, which is stitch-perfect before it goes onto the racks. Prices range from about $20 to $50,000, though many items hover around $250; upstairs, expect to pay $400 and up. As part of her studio services, Raymond will prepull with advance notice. A 20 percent restocking fee is typically assessed; there are no rentals.
In her next door annex, many of the world’s most notable costume and fashion designers—Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Francisco Costa, John Galliano– have combed through her 1-million-item design research library. There Raymond stocks hard-to-find reference books, fabric swatches beginning in the 1880s, ethnic costumes, antique trims, print fabrics, lingerie, stockings, sketches, samples of knitwear and surface design and much more.
“I joke when I say that this is the center of the design universe, but it is a confluence of all creative design elements,” Raymond says.
Yet the store is only the tip of the iceberg: Raymond has a Gardena warehouse stocked with 40,000 pieces of significantly lower-cost, pristine-to-distressed vintage wear for men, women and children. The clothing is frequently used for background and secondary players, as well as for loss and damage replacements. With advance notice, Raymond can pull items from the warehouse inventory to fulfill a loss and damage claim or for Costume Designers to peruse for shoots.
Through 1stdibs.com, Raymond also sells a selection of designer vintage, such as a James Galanos silk gazar jacket for $695 and a bias-cut Norma Kamali gown for $850 at http://www.1stdibs.com/dealers/the-way-we-wore/. And for designers stocking their wardrobe room for future use, note that the store offers a 50 percent off sale every February and August.
The Way We Wore, 334 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. Tel. 323-937-0878. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. www.thewaywewore.com
Founded in New York in 1996, Resurrection has been bringing a blend of designer vintage to its sleek Melrose Avenue store for the past 14 years. Founded by Mark Haddaway and Katy Rodriguez, Resurrection specializes in vintage clothing from the 1960s through the mid-1990s.
Sienna Scott, the general manager and buyer, said the boutique is arranged to ease the buying process. “Our store is extremely well curated. All the pieces in here are specifically hand-selected for the store. When customers come into Resurrection, it’s not like they have to do the digging,” she says.
Resurrection has outfitted principal actors in projects ranging from “That ‘70s Show” to “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Scott says that prices range from $250 up to $20,000, with median prices hovering around $1,200.
The store offers a studio services department and can arrange for personalized appointments beyond posted hours. Restocking fees are 10 percent per day, per item for editorial shoots that include a store credit, or 20 percent for movies and commercials with no credit.
Costume Designers can shop online for the store’s select pieces on 1stDibs at http://www.1stdibs.com/dealers/resurrection/. The site stocks everything from A to Z, such as an Azzedine Alaia leather crop top to Zandra Rhodes chiffon bubble gown, and accessories such as Chanel suspenders and Yves Saint Laurent cuff bracelets.
In addition to the stock in the New York store, Resurrection also offers a rental archive of top-quality vintage wear for designers and stylists.
Though Scott can’t name the designers featured in the archive, she will admit that the piece are stocked for their “inspirational” value.
“Most of it is a little more avant garde, which is amazing to shoot for an editorial,” she says. Each piece in the rental archive has a separate rental fee; terms are typically a month.
Resurrection, 8006 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. Tel. 323-651-5516. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. www.resurrectionvintage.com