Lulu's Vintage

The Style Council! Holly of Lucitebox

LuluComment

This month's vintage lover is Holly Rhode of Chicago. Holly is the proprietress of Lucitebox.com, she blogs at Holly Gab, and has a Lucitebox Facebook page.

- How long have you been collecting vintage clothing for?

I've been interested in vintage clothing for more than a quarter-century, although I've never really considered myself a collector in the truest sense. I buy vintage to wear and sell.  I have friends and colleagues  who are hardwired for collecting,  and they happily spend copious amounts of time on research, acquisition, and organizing. While I do that for Lucitebox.com, ultimately, I just buy what I love. If there happens to be a recurring theme, it’s an added bonus. I feel like I'm a student of fashion history:  Learning about the stuff is one of the responsibilities of handling and dealing with garments that have such rich histories.  And it’s fun, too!

- What got you into vintage clothing? 


I was 17 and had recently started my first part-time job. My mom and I were shopping together at Goodwill when she found a dramatic '40s coat she loved, but it had a fabulously high price tag—even for Goodwill! It seemed so unlike anything she'd normally wear, but she was crazy about that coat. That Christmas, I surprised her and used my first three paychecks to buy it for her. At the time, it felt like a ton of money, but we really needed some holiday cheer around the house because that was the year my parents separated.

I think that was the first time I realized that clothes have transformative power. The coat made my mom feel glamorous at a time when things were really grim. And there's something really wonderful about putting on something that has a sense of history built into it. I like knowing that my mom and I are, in some tiny way, linked to the lady who originally wore that fabulous coat more than 50 years ago.

- What are your favorite eras of clothing?  


I'm not good at pulling off an entire outfit from one particular time period. However, if you look inside my closet you'll see that the bulk of my clothes are from the late '40s to the late '50s. I love classic designs that somehow don't look their age or seem all that vintage-y in the context of everything else I have on. I'm like anyone, I think. I like to mix things up based on my mood; I don't often plan what to wear. I typically try to include at least one "statement" piece that is vintage. That one thing—be it a flashy jacket, a novelty print skirt, or wacky hat—gives my outfit that special little twist that makes me feel happy and stylish.  

I'm an equal opportunist when it comes to adding vintage eras to my wardrobe. If it looks good on me, I want to find a way to make it my own. It doesn't matter how old it is. Right now, I'm enjoying an '80s blue-gray A-line dress made by an Asian American designer, Yeoh lee Teng. When I bought it, all I really knew about her was that she was an important but somewhat lesser-known designer. I carefully considered the purchase because the dress is staid and even at a resale price, it was a little spendy. But I opened my wallet because it's just so perfectly crafted and right. After I got it, I put it away for about 10 years. I'm now pairing it with a chunky, gold vintage '70s necklace, tall leather boots, tights, and a ’60s cropped faux-leopard-fur jacket. I feel like it looks fresh and interesting. I'm sure I'll find plenty of other ways to rev it up with vintage pieces in the future. 

 - What do you like about clothing from these eras? 


There are some people who are just meant to wear certain eras based on their body type and general style and attitude. Now that I'm in my 40's, I think I'm a lot more attuned to that. When I was younger, I don't think I had the same sense of restraint I have now. That's a blessing and a curse, I suppose. I used to wear things that would have made the Sartorialist recoil in horror, but I was a lot more fearless with fashion; I mixed it all up with abandon! Now I think I get a little too caught up in trying to wear what’s appropriate—for my age, for the occasion, for the weather! I used to believe that the more outrageous I looked, the better.


These days, I don't like clothes that don't fit right. The clothes that happen to work the best on me are from the later part of the ’50s. However, they require foundation garments and really good posture, and I'm not about to walk around town in a waist-cincher and a girdle every day. This is why I need to pull in things from many periods and seek out clothes I love based on the unique characteristics of the garments themselves.

- Who are some of your favorite vintage designers? 


I love the sculpturally extreme clothes of Charles James. Gilbert Adrian's another designer I'd consider a favorite. I like my fair share of kookiness, and Schiaparelli's Surrealist designs fulfill that requirement quite nicely. In a past life, I must have gone to Reno for a quickie divorce in the ’50s because I'm crazy for vintage western wear. Naturally, the master designer of stage wear Nudie Cohen is my favorite. Then there are the giants of the '60s like Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, and Geoffrey Beene—their clothes don't entirely suit my body type, but I sure love to look at them. And I'd be remiss if I left out the American ladies I love: Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin. But as much as I appreciate these two legendary sportswear designers, I'm just as interested in the kinds of clothes that the average woman wore and could afford. There were so many great, lesser-known manufacturers before we started having everything made cheaply overseas. I'm always taken aback by the amount of detail in a moderately priced dress from the past. As they say, "They don't make ’em like they used to." Really, though, the label doesn't matter that much to me. The style is in the details, the textile, the construction, and how the garments look on the body.

- Who are some of your favorite modern designers? 


Ralph Rucci blows my mind because he makes clothes that are so perfectly constructed and elegantly refined. I really can't think of anyone as significant today who does things with such grace and exacting detail. Inside me is a closeted minimalist who fights like hell with the woman who loves the opulent, vibrant textiles and the decadent, over-the-top fabulousness that you see in haute couture by John Galliano.

- What would be your ultimate vintage find?


I honestly don't know. I have a feeling I'm like a lot of people who love vintage. It's hard to pick out a single holy grail. The list is long because I love a lot.

- Where do you do the majority of your vintage shopping- garage, estate and rummage sales, thrift stores, vintage stores, online vintage stores or eBay?

I shop anywhere and everywhere, but lately my primary sources are vintage stores. It's often much more relaxing to shop in an atmosphere that's already organized rather than battle the Chicago thrift-store mania. (When I'm in the right mood, though, I love thrift stores!) Shopping in new towns is great. It's fun to discover little vintage boutiques that clearly underscore that the proprietor has style and taste. Antique shops appeal because I'm interested in more than just the clothes one might find there. Estate sales are often fabulous, but they hurt my psyche. I sometimes leave them feeling really drained and saddened—even when there's good stuff to be purchased. It feels pretty unsettling to be inside someone's house digging  through their lives, so I have to gear up mentally to do it.

- Is vintage clothing popular in the city that you live in?


In Chicago, it really depends on what neighborhood you visit. Over the 12 years I've been in my neighborhood,  I've noticed a lot more people in vintage. Many younger people are into '80s and '90s vintage. We have a diehard rockabilly scene here, but I really don't see that much everyday vintage on the street. Maybe I just need to get out more!

- Who are some of your favorite style icons?


Franciose Hardy, Lauren Hutton, Julie Christie . . . oh, gosh. Lots! I do have a newish discovery who's a style maven that I adore—Iris Apfel. And Cyndi Lauper and Annie Lennox made huge impressions on me during the '80s. Huge. Oh, and I love looking at the wise and silver-haired set on the blog Advanced Style. Really, anyone can be my style icon if their clothes express something about them. I'm deeply interested in self-expression and all the little nuances that go into that. What I'm not interested in is a style that's somehow above it all or cooler than thou. It seems so forced and disingenuous.  


- What are your favorite vintage movies, music and television programs?


I enjoy period films—I like watching contemporary designers approximate a different era onscreen. Very few period movies seem to get it right, but when they do, it's absolute bliss. I went berserk over A Single Man. Tom Ford's first movie is replete with gorgeous interiors and great style. In fact, it's almost too perfect, but then again that would follow for the guy who made those Gucci commercials, right? As for television, half the time I can't remember the plot of Mad Men because I'm so mesmerized and distracted by the clothes and set design. I don't watch a ton of old movies, but I do try to keep a few in my Netflix queue at all times. I think one of my favorite vintage movies is Midnight Cowboy. Oh, and All About Eve!

I mostly listen to indie-pop music, but I also like old classic country, girl groups from the '60s, and '80s new-wave music. My taste is eclectic. I can't help but turn the radio up when a Led Zeppelin song comes on. And don't get me started on how thrilled I am when Johnny Cash is on the jukebox. 

- Do you collect any other types of collectibles or antiques?


I am a bona fide '50s and '60s kitschy crap hound! At times, it terrifies me because as I mentioned before, inside me there's a minimalist who wants nothing more than to have a clean, spartan living space. My apartment is furnished mostly with mid-century modern commoner design. (I don't have anything against the big-name MCM designers, I just don't own any of them.) My place is small, so I have to work hard to rotate my stuff. I'm at the point where I don't feel good about bringing in a new vintage piece unless something I already have gets rotated out. It's not easy to live this way because I really am attached to things; I love stuff. It's safe to say I'm not going to be able to retreat to a Buddhist monastery any time soon, and I'll never be asked to serve as the poster child for the Container Store.

Thanks to Holly for answering our Style Council interview questions

You too could be featured on Lulu's Vintage Style Council!

Just email me- lulusvintage (at) yahoo.com a quality photo of yourself wearing vintage (it can be a modern outfit accented with vintage accessories or a complete vintage ensemble) and answer my questions:

    - How long have you been collecting vintage clothing for?
    - What got you into vintage clothing?
    - What are your favorite eras of clothing?
    - What do you like about clothing from these eras?
    - Who are some of your favorite vintage designers?
    - Who are some of your favorite modern designers?
    - What would be your ultimate vintage find?
    - Where do you do the majority of your vintage shopping- garage, estate and rummage sales, thrift stores, vintage stores, online vintage stores or eBay?
    - Is vintage clothing popular in the city that you live in?
    - Who are some of your favorite style icons?
    - What are your favorite vintage movies, music and television programs?
    - Do you collect any other types of collectibles or antiques?

    Please also include your name, city and state or country of residence.

This post was originally published on March 24, 2010.