Amy Ernst Mayberry of Chicago, Illinois. Amy is the owner of Viva Vintage Clothing.
Viva Vintage Clothing placed fourth in the 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice Awards for Best Online Vintage Clothing Store.
Since Amy's store is the recipient of both the 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice Award and my 2014 Lulu's Personal Top 25 Vintage Clothing Websites I am dividing her interview into two parts. Posted below is Part I. Stay tuned in the future for Part II.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Hobbies, interests and work outside of the vintage world.
I have been enjoying tap dancing for about 5 years now. I love it: it can be a great workout and it always reminds me of 1930s and 40s Hollywood movies! I have been volunteering when I can with the development stages of a new food co-op here in Chicago, for about a year or so--we hope to get it off the ground soon. But, my all time favorite, can’t-do-without-it hobby is reading, across many genres. You will never see me without a (real, paper) book!
What got you into vintage clothing? How long have you been collecting vintage clothing for?
I was always interested in color and fabric, even as a young child, possibly because my mom is an accomplished home-sewer—a skill I dearly wish I had acquired! Once I was old enough to choose my own clothing, I did my best to find unique items, even in the suburban shopping mall, but once I discovered vintage I was entranced! Digging through the thrifts in high school (the late 1980s), I found fun, inexpensive vintage pieces, and I’ve never looked back. My senior homecoming formal dress was from the 1950s—and much prettier than anything modern I could have found! In college, I began working for a wonderful lady who owned a vintage clothing store, and learned so much from her. After working with her and eventually managing her shop for a few years, she decided to close, and I decided to take the plunge; in 1998 I opened my first vintage shop.
How much do you incorporate vintage clothing and accessories into your everyday wardrobe?
I try to wear something vintage every day, sometimes head to toe in one era, sometimes mixing eras, and sometimes wearing mostly modern clothing with vintage accessories—whatever my mood is that day—and, weather permitting!
What are your favorite eras of clothing for wearing? What are your favorite eras of clothing for admiring?
I admire the elegant lines of clothing from the mid-1910s and also the 1930s, but the curvier shape of late 1940s to early 1960s clothing suits my body type best, so that is the majority of what I wear regularly. Also, it is sturdier, on average, and therefore easier to wear and care for.
What do you like about clothing from these eras?
My favorite late 1940s to early 1960s clothing has a feminine silhouette, that works to enhance, not disguise the shape of the wearer. I especially love the whimsical cotton print dresses and blouses from the 1950s, everything from colorful florals to abstract/atomic patterns—and of course, novelty prints! The rise of classic American sportswear in this era also means well-made separates that are versatile and easy to wear, but I am always a sucker for a good dress! One-piece dressing, with a cardigan for warmth, and of course some vintage jewelry, and maybe a hat…..
Who are some of your favorite vintage designers?
To name just a few: Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin for clothing that a real woman would really want to wear, Luis Estevéz and Dorothy O’Hara for figure-flattering and fabulous cocktail dresses, Charles James for over-the-top glamorous ball gowns and Alfred Shaheen for resortwear, of course! Bes-Ben for hats.
Who are some of your favorite modern designers?
Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Anna Sui and Miuccia Prada.
What would be your ultimate vintage fashion find?
A stash of circa 1930s vintage wide-leg pants, in many fabrics and colors, in my size, naturally.
Is vintage clothing popular in the city that you live in?
Yes, I would say that Chicago people do mix in a bit of vintage here and there, mostly the younger, hipper crowd. Seeing someone sporting a vintage bag or coat is more common than a head to toe vintage look. Also, the rockabilly scene here is very vibrant, and vintage is a huge part of that.
Who are some of your favorite style icons?
Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Edith Head and Barbara Hulanicki of Biba.
What are your favorite vintage movies, music and television programs?
Movies: Ball of Fire, Gold Diggers of 1933 (and other Warner pre-Code films), It Happened One Night, The Women, and The Best of Everything (for the clothes), to name a few. Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey have been recent TV favorites for the costumes.
Do you collect any other types of collectibles or antiques?
My largest and most out-of-control collection is definitely vintage hats: I sometimes open up a hatbox and say, "Oh, I'd forgotten all about YOU!” But, I also have a fairly large collection of vintage cat figurines and wacky vintage barware.
Thanks to Amy for participating in The Style Council! To check out my recent picks of favorite vintage clothing items from Viva Vintage Clothing check out this blog post: Lulu's Favorite Finds from Viva Vintage Clothing 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice # 4 Award Winner
Amy has participated in The Style Council before. Click here to see her previous interview that was posted in September of 2009!
Stay tuned for Style Council interviews with all of the winners of the 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice Awards, as well as Style Council interviews with my 2014 Lulu's Online Vintage Clothing Store Recommendation winners.
If you are interested in participating in The Style Council please contact me at lulusvintagepdx (at) gmail.com
This post was originally published on March 14, 2014.