A passion for vintage fashion
Not even a devastating fire could prevent two sisters bringing us the fabulous past, writes Andrea Byrne
Such is sisters Kathy Sherry and Caroline Quinn's love for vintage that even a fire which destroyed their premises in Baggot Street, Dublin, and much of their stock didn't deter them from starting all over again.
Only last month, they reopened their Dirty Fabulous store on the more centrally located Wicklow Street, just above Molton Brown.
Admittedly, the two women, who are originally from Emyvale in Monaghan, had their doubts as to whether it would be worth it.
What made it more agonising for Kathy and Caroline is that they sell one-off original vintage. They couldn't simply ring a supplier and order the same stock. These pieces had been collected for more than four years and would never be found again.
"It had taken us so long to get to the stage that we were at, and build up the collection and the customers; we were only really getting to grips with everything. We'd just taken out an ad in Vogue, and it literally only came on stands that Saturday and the fire was on Sunday," remembers Caroline.
It was the support and encouragement of their loyal customer base, that spurred them on.
You would think that given what's happened and the culture in which it has happened that Kathy and Caroline would be full of self-pity, but it's quite the contrary, because when I meet them in their pretty, boudoir-esque city-centre store, they are enthusiastic, positive and full of fun.
Dirty Fabulous has a collection of more than 200 high-end vintage occasion dresses. "It's for the person who wants something different," explains Kathy.
Their customers includes everyone from the debs girl to the bride, to women in their 60s. "We don't take anything that's damaged or unwearable. We don't want anything looking costume-y either," she adds.
The two women operate their business on a walk-in and appointment basis, offering a very personal, hands-on service. Their styling skills and knowledge of what suits what body shapes is second-to-none. Allow them to dress you and you may discover a shape you never knew you had. There really is nothing like a well-cut vintage dress to transform your shape, which is why vintage is largely regarded as having some of best-made clothes around. "Even at the collectors' fairs that we go to in Manhattan, a lot of the designers are there looking through the dresses, picking up designs," reveals Caroline.
Aside from being incredibly well-made and body and age friendly, what's special about vintage is that it never goes out of fashion and you're guaranteed total exclusivity. You can't put a price on that.
You'll be amazed to know that the average bridal dress at Dirty Fabulous is €500, and for a glamorous party dress, expect to pay between €150 and €250, which, when you consider that you're getting original vintage, is great value. "We did lower our prices when people started losing their jobs. We thought 'we're all in it together'. It would be very easy to add a zero for the bridal, but we don't want to go down that road," explains Caroline.
They may well be sisters, but Kathy and Caroline are different in both look and style. Kathy is more into pretty, Fifties prom styles, while Caroline prefers Forties wiggle dresses. "It means we get a more varied buy," says Kathy.
An appreciation of good clothes was instilled in both women at an early age. Their mother worked as a costumier and they come from a family of tailors and dressmakers. Keeping it a family affair, their brother looks after the website, while their mother does a lot of adjustments to the wedding dresses.
Being forced to go abroad to find good-quality vintage clothes prompted the two women into setting up Dirty Fabulous. Most of their stock is from the Forties and Fifties but you will find nods to eras before and after. What you won't find is separates. The dress is key.
Almost all the clothes are sourced from America. "In Ireland, it's so hard to get original vintage, because there was no value attached to it whatsoever. It was thrown out, cut up, worn to pieces, so that's why we go to the States, they had more money and more space," explains Caroline.
It's clear the minute that you speak to Caroline and Kathy that they really love what they do and you can't help but come away from Dirty Fabulous also loving what they do.
"Anytime we are away, we physically cannot walk past a vintage store, it's on the brain constantly," says Caroline, with Kathy adding, "It's 24-7. Even if we're sitting at home watching an old movie, we'll be calling each other commenting on the clothes. Because there is so much work involved and so much upkeep, because you have to constantly source, you have to love it, you have to keep wanting to look for it, and to be passionate about it."
All clothes and accessories from Dirty Fabulous, 21 Wicklow
Street, Dublin 2. Shoes stylist’s own. For more information
and for opening hours tel (01) 6111842 or see
Photography: Paul Marconi www.dontshoot.me
Styling: Kathy Sherry and Caroline Quinn Models: Paula
Kwasniak, Ciara McFerran and Aneta Kordecka Hair: Anna
Curran Make-up: Melissa Curran www.makeupbymelc.com