Style Fashion

Saturday 30 August 2014

My vintage love affair

Bairbre Power

Published 03/02/2013 | 06:00

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Blanaid Hennessy has always loved vintage clothes.
Clare and Niamh Adams owners of Gladys Antiques and Vintage.

Bairbre Power asks vintage store owners about the pieces they cannot part with

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Alistair Elliman

The 3rd Policeman

121 Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6. Tel: 085 848 7763; facebook.com/ t3rdpoliceman

Trained musician Alistair Elliman runs the 3rd Policeman vintage store in Rathmines with his mother, Denise Sinnott.

Touring the brocantes around France and beyond, Alistair admits he was initially attracted to vintage technology and big wooden pieces. Slowly but surely, however, he has developed an eye for other pieces as his vintage adventures widen.

Art Deco, Art Nouveau, retro collectables – the temptation to keep for yourself is huge, but he doesn't.

"At the moment, our store is full of lots of really interesting pieces, but if I had to keep anything for myself it would be this satchel briefcase from France," he says. "It's a beautiful colour and made from really heavy leather. It's reduced to €40 at the moment, so it's great value.

"I love the old suitcases which people are buying now for storage, and, among the clothes and accessories, the women's laced-up suede boots are very special. They haven't sold, probably because they are a small size, but they are in beautiful condition. And I often wonder about who might have worn them and the life they lived in France."

So many pieces come with a story, such as the blousy big hats which belonged to Ireland's legendary socialite Mafra O'Reilly, whose penchant for outlandish hats made her a permanent feature on the best social pages.

Caroline Quinn (co-owner)

Dirty Fabulous

21 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01-611 1842; info@dirtyfabulous.com.

Caroline Quinn has a specialist eye for the 1940s, and her co-owned store on Dublin's Wicklow Street is a treasure chest of authentic pieces.

Today, Caroline – who is originally from Co Monaghan – is dressed in a 1950s full-skirted dress in red silk.

"I picked this up on my last buying trip to LA," she says. "I had tried it on, thinking I would wear it for my 40th birthday, but I ended up wearing it to a friend's hen party."

While Caroline has ample oppor-tunity to fill her wardrobe with treasures, her two favourites pieces both involve velvet. The long, fur-trimmed, wine-coloured velvet strapless dress is from Saks in New York. A genuine 1950s gown, it has a dramatic piece that falls glamorously to one side, like a long throw.

"I'm a big fan of velvet and I saw this on a buying trip two years ago. It is stunning on. I wore it, with a little leather clutch, for my brother's Christmas wedding.

"This is a 1930s cape and a 1920s flapper dress which is, in fact two pieces – a lace dress and a tunic which I bought separately in New York."

Caroline admits that loving velvet brings its own problems. "The last time I wore this blue outfit, it was raining, so you have to mind it. The marks on the velvet will come out with dry cleaning.

"I don't particularly keep things for special occasions. The last time I wore this was to an exhibition opening."

Caroline says her philosophy is "wear fabulous things and worry about the cleaning later".

Jean Cronin

The Loft

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2.

Art student Alison Rooney (left) is the third generation of her family to love vintage, and here she wears a 1950s wedding dress which has been lovingly preserved by her mother Jean Cronin, who sells vintage in The Loft in Dublin's Powerscourt Townhouse Centre.

This dress was made by Priscilla of Boston, the high-end wedding shop on Boston's Newbury Street that shot to fame after actress-turning-princess Grace Kelly bought bridesmaids dresses there for her wedding in Monaco.

"A friend of my mother sent this dress over. I remember as a child playing in this dress at home, the hem sweeping along the ground," says Jean.

She started her first vintage business, Xanadu on Dublin's Drury Street, after leaving NCAD, and, after raising her family, Jean came back into the vintage clothing business four years ago.

"I never buy online. I always have to see and feel the piece," she says. "I buy from a lot of specialists and there are two favourite pieces that I would never sell. The first is the wedding dress, which is so beautifully cut and has a lovely beaded neckline.

"The second piece is an Ib Jorgensen black velvet and organza dress from the 1980s. I can't remember where I bought it, but I often wear it myself and I love it because it is so easy to wear and has a very flattering shape."

Jean's parents were antique collectors and, for her 21st birthday, she convinced her mother to buy her a beaded 1920s blouse. "I still have it, and I love the fact that my daughter likes wearing the pieces that I have collected over the years," she says.

Marie Little

A Store is Born

34 Clarendon Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-285 7627

Marie Little, by her own admission, does not keep lots of specialist pieces aside for herself.

"My shop is my wardrobe," says Marie, whose A Store is Born pops up on Saturdays in the entrance of Dublin's Clarendon Street.

However, there are exceptions to her no-hoarding rule, such as this stunning 1930s midnight-blue, long velvet coat and devore silk and lamé dress.

"I adore them and I will never sell these pieces," she says. "I wear a lot of Ghost clothes because I am long and the coat goes brilliantly with them. It looks amazing with this bias-cut dress, which has a very flattering shape.

"I don't hang on to things; I bring all my new pieces into the store when I buy them. Recently, Florence Welch was in and she bought nearly all my favourite key pieces, such as a Chinese hand-embroidered vintage jacket, a silk pongee embroidered coat, a 1930s lace and crepe bias-cut mushroom dress and some vintage scarves.

"I'm always on the lookout for absolute one-offs for special orders, such as wedding dresses and debs dresses."

Clare and Niamh Adams

Gladys Antiques and Vintage

Riverview Commercial Park, Cloncollig, Tullamore, Co Offaly

Tel: 057 934 1516; gladystyle.com

Photo: James Flynn

Clare and Niamh Adams are the second generation of their family to specialise in vintage clothing. Their late mother, Gladys, was an acknowledged vintage expert. People travelled from all over the country to her large store in Tullamore's Riverview Commercial Park.

It wasn't so much a shop, but a giant warehouse filled to the brim with delightful historical and important designer pieces, which Gladys would spot on her travels. She started out in antiques in 2001, but, given her love of fashion, it was only a matter of time before she started collecting fabulous pieces.

Sadly, Gladys died late last year after a short illness, but she handpicked these specific pieces for her daughters to keep. For Clare, there was a late 1930s/early 1940s rayon crepe dress with gold lamé braid and silk tassel trim. The jacket would have caught her magpie eye, with its decorative trim.

"This was the dress that Mam had me search the house for before she passed away because she wanted to leave it to Clare," explains Niamh.

"I love this 1980s lace, silver and gold cocktail dress, which is more my style.

"We are privileged to take over her mantle and share some of the pieces which she collected with a passion of 10 years.

"There was everything from valuable accessories to wedding dresses, and we will be working with our dad Paddy to ensure mam's legacy and love of all things vintage continues."

Blanaid Hennessy

Shutterbug Vintage

27 Patrick Street, Kilkenny.

Tel: 056 770 3312; folkster.com

Photo Eoin Hennessy, ehp.ie

"I've always loved vintage or second-hand clothes – I very much enjoy the fact that you have to be a bit more creative with your wardrobe if it's full of random things that you just couldn't leave behind," says Blanaid.

"I love to reintroduce once-loved dresses back to the social scene; emancipate them from the attic and take them out dancing again.

"However, when you are working with one-off pieces, you do have to train yourself to only see them as items that belong to the future loving homes of your customers.

"I went a little too far with this blinkering system, and ended up not updating my own wardrobe with anything at all for around six months – until I saw this dress.

"I immediately loved everything about it – the halterneck and backless cut, the muted grey-blue shade, the delicate beading.

"I feel as if I foster the other dresses until their new owner comes to pick them up and take them home, whereas this one needed to belong to me fully and live in my wardrobe forever.

"This dress made me remember to have fun with my own style, be more adventurous, and enjoy it all. Oh, and yes, I have already taken it out dancing!"

Agnes Stencel

Vintage Trig

30 Michael Street, Waterford City. Tel: 086 055 3747; vintagetrig.com.

Photo: Katie Kavanagh, katiekav.com

"I found this navy and cream printed dress about three years ago when I was travelling abroad to source stock for my online shop, which I opened in late 2010," says Agnes.

"The dress didn't look much to me at first, until I looked at the tag. It was an original, wartime frock marked with the CC41 logo designed by Reginald Shipp. CC41 stands for 'Civilian Clothing' or 'Utility Clothing', and 41 stands for the year it was made.

"Because of fabric shortages during the Second World War, the British government set specifications regarding the amount of material used for each garment, and each garment had to be marked with this tag.

"I had the dress out on the shop floor, but every time someone was looking at it my heart was beating faster. So now I can't let it go, as I feel very lucky to possess such a piece. It is a part of history – it's a museum piece, and I can't believe is mine.

"The more I look at it, the more I think about the person who owned it before. During the war there was food shortages, so it makes me think that the dress, being a modern-day size 12/14, belonged to a wealthy lady.

"When I saw these beautiful vintage Chanel shoes my heart nearly stopped. I love my shoes! They're the most unusual pair I've seen, although they're a size five and I take a six. My toes hurt like hell, but who cares – they're Chanel!

I do have lots of gorgeous, genuine vintage dresses and accessories in Vintage Trig; I don't keep it all for myself.

The power of the internet is amazing. We have a Facebook page (facebook.com/vintagetrig) where you can see new arrivals. Sometimes we don't get a chance to list them on our online store as they sell fast.

I travel abroad to source all our stock; we only pick genuine vintage pieces dated from 1940s to very early 1980s. It's not an easy job. Once, I came back from a buying trip empty-handed, as I refuse to buy 1990s or secondhand clothes that are not vintage.

Each piece is unique, so you don't have to worry that someone else will show up in the same garment. Our dresses start from €35, with the price depending on the garment's condition and age.

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