Friday, June 4, 2010

The Vintage Scene-What Is It Like Where You Live?

The photo above shows the DC skyline and the Pentagon near Interstates 395 and 295. This is my backyard. Well, not *actually* my backyard per se, but I do live in Northern Virginia. Washington itself is about 20 miles away. I often feel lucky to be living near the nation's capital but most of the time I feel a sense of disappointment because it seems as if I am the only vintage gal in town!

However, a couple of months ago, I did meet one the manager's of my local Trader Joe's and he was totally a rockabilly guy. He said he was from the West Coast and asked what the "scene" was like here in the DC area and I told him, "You're looking at it!" I know I am more than likely wrong but I have yet to come across another vintage guy or gal in the DC Metro region, especially here in the suburbs of Northern Virginia.

Whenever I visit New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Silicon Valley, or Las Vegas, I usually see vintage girls. This is especially the case in LA and NYC. When I was in Vegas in March of this past year, I visited the MAC Cosmetics Pro Store in The Caesars Forum Shops. Not only did I get some great makeup, I also got to meet other vintage girls working there! It felt so great to finally meet other vintage enthusiasts face-to-face!

So, what is the vintage scene/community like where you live? Or are you, like me, pretty much the only vintage gal in town?


  1. Providence, RI has a famous art college (RISD) and many grads have stuck around and opened quirky, vintage or vintage influenced businesses. There's also an active swing dance scene here. So we saw an opportunity to start something and started a vintage night called Speakeasy. Since then another cabaret event has started, both events made front page news in one of the local art mags, and now vintage inspired entertainment is going to be a big part of one of the major street festivals here this summer. So we've got a cool thing going...not to shamelessly plug us but we blog about it at

  2. I live in a small town near Manchester in England, and am the only Rockabilly in my town - I think! There are quite a few vintage dressers and rockabillies in Manchester - but not where I live :)

  3. I live in a rural coastal college town in california. i see plenty of car culture/rockabilly types but i'm the only "vintage" gal i've met here. sad but true.

  4. Denver's pretty bad. There are a few vintage people besides me and my BF but they are few and far between. There are two things that really bug me about Denver. 1-people here dress like crap. They are more 'outdoorsey' so therefore they never wear anything creative and cute. 2-The music scene here is awful. It has gotten worse lately. There just isnt much going on. What I love about Denver is the city itself. The architecture and beauty still amaze me. But I am bored. Which is why the man and I are looking for somehwere else to call home.

  5. Speakeasy,

    Thanks for your comment and input! I checked out your site and it looks great! That is wonderful that you are able to have an active community that also has neat vintage-themed events.

    As for where I live, I know Baltimore has an eclectic art/vintage community. But here is the 'burbs of Northern Virginia, government workers and J. Crew reign surpreme!

  6. Dolly Cool Clare,

    I visited your blog and I love it! Your style is so cute! I love the floral print halter neck sundress you are wearing in one of your photos!

    Like you, I have not seen any other vintage enthusiasts. Oh well! At least we are original and get to celebrate our unique style every day!

  7. Shrinky Inky,

    I love your hair! It is amazing! I also like your blog!

    From what the comments I have read so far, I think it is safe to say that living the vintage life is still a rarity. Some places may have more vintage enthusiasts than others, but most will have maybe one!

    All I can say is thank goodness for the Internet! Retro gals from California, NYC, DC, Denver, LA to the UK can meet and share tips and ideas on living vintage!

  8. Temperamental Broad,

    I have visited Denver several times and I am starting to know my way around. The husband has clients there and it is our goal to move to the high country in the next year or so. I am so done with living in the 'burbs of the DC Metro region!

    That is interesting what you said about Denver. When I was walking down Colfax with the husband to go to Emilio's for lunch one day, I noticed a few of the government people from the Capitol building were giving me odd looks. However, when I was in Watercourse on 17th having dinner, no one really seemed to care.

    I do agree that most of the people are outdoors types. Lots of Northface and Columbia gear. Can we say fleece? lol The mountain towns are the same way. The locals are laid-back and tend to have a "come as you are" attitude but when they see you skiing wearing a vintage ski hat and 50s cat eye glasses, they do stare.

    It is worse in Aspen though. The locals are very nice but wow, the snobby rich tourists can be downright rude. I was in Aspen in the summer of 2008 with the husband. (He has clients there too). One afternoon, I decided to take a walk and check out some of the shops. I noticed this rich mother and daughter staring at me and whispering. I did nothing. But then I saw this really classy, older lady come over to me. She reminded me of Joan Vass. She said that not only were most people too afraid to be themselves, they had no idea about real fashion. She said I looked amazing and to "keep up what you are doing. It's fabulous." Now, that made me feel so good!

  9. I live in a small village in South Wales, until two days ago I thought I was the only vintage girl here but a visit to my local chip shop introduced me to a seemingly-rockabilly girl (or skater girl) with bright pink hair who was working behind the counter (she has some fabulous tattoos).

    Unfortunately there's no vintage scene to speak of here, not even in the capital. Cardiff has a couple of vintage fashion fairs a year and a small burlesque scene but that's about it ... that I know of anyway! The Welsh aren't exactly known for their fashion style ;)

  10. Toria,

    Thanks for the comments! I met one fabulous vintage gal in DC about three years ago. She is the sister of one of my sister's friends, Jimmy. She lives the vintage life and has tons of tattoos as well. Other than her, I have yet to meet another retro enthusiast.

    A couple of friends have told me they have seen vintage car shows but it is mostly older men!

    As for DC style, the government is really big here so the look is suits and classic conservative preppie.

  11. Watercourse is a different world!! The vegans and vegetarians here all have amazing style! Most of my friends are Vegan, which explains why I have fabulous looking friends. They aren't vintage, though. Mostly just tattooed and wear a lot of black. Lol! I work near the Capital building on the 16th St mall and oh, the looks I get!! Priceless! But I'd rather get odd looks and stares than shop at North Face or Patagonia any time!! If you come to Denver anytime soon please let me know and I can take you to a few great places you may not already know about. It really is a beautiful city.

  12. Temperamental Broad,

    Isn't the food at Watercourse the best? Have you ever had any of their baked goods yet? They have a complete bakery on the premises. A while back, I had their vegan cupcake with the violet icing and it was amazing! The vibe in there is great! Most veggies and vegans are very cool, non-judgemental people. My tattoo artist and friend (a vegan of 20 years) took me there in 2008 and I was so impressed with the menu! It was huge! The food was fantastic!

    I agree that I would rather get the odd stare than to shop in REI or Northface! I love to ski and I often get frustrated because all of the ski clothes are so boring. I would love to design a vintage-themed line of ski clothing. I also love seeing vintage 40s photos of ladies in their ski attire! So cute and so chic!

    Next time I am in Denver, maybe I can look you up and find out where the good vintage shops are!

    The husband says that next time we go, he wants to see how cheesy Casa Bonita in Lakewood really is! Everyone keeps telling us that we have to see it for ourselves!

  13. More on Denver...

    I am from Northern California and I have to agree that Colorado is pretty bad. And I hate the cold. I run on the cold side anyway so it is hard for me to dress cute in the winter! At least as Tempermental Broad mentioned before, I at least fit in on my un-cute days! It's sad though, because I really feel self-concious when I dress the way I prefer (which means I do it less, much to my husbands sadness).

    I would love to move... I know a lot of people really do love living here, but I am so ready to go back to the Bay Area. There are some cool spots and people, but they are too few and far between. And I've lived here for a decade now and I cannot stand the attitude of the "typical" Coloradans (save much of Denver and some of Boulder). Conservative, judge-y, and rude!

    And there is this sort of state wide chip on the shoulder that Denver isn't as big as L.A. and N.Y.C. Which completely saddens me because I'm all for embracing the uniqueness of a place, and I don't think that happens here. It's all about generica and ski-tourism and cowboys, lol.

    Aspen is awful! My husband and I like the western slope (Glenwood Springs, his old stomping ground) and I had the silly idea of going to Aspen for shopping. I think we made it halfway down the street before we got back in the car, lol.

    And now, my novel is complete ;)

  14. wow what an interesting read- I am from melbourne australia. So interesting to hear other talk about what its like living your life in your neck of the woods. Having been only to SF, NYC and LA I think I probably foolishy thought there would be at least a concentration of like minded folk in most big cities (I never thought in a minute it would be the same as CA or NY but at least thought there would be a bit)So I feel pretty lucky to have the group of pals that I do! Melbourne has a pretty decent music scene for hillbily, rockabilly etc and a big car scene but the crowd can be pretty mixed, and not so many people are into the whole enchilada (enjoying vintage clothes) and the younger kids tend to dress more kustom culture style. There seems to be some younger girls getting back into vintage here which is super cool! So I feel pretty blessed to have a solid group of gal pals who dress like me and share my passion- and I feel pretty blessed for that and it makes me admire girls who are doing it on there own even more! So if you are the only gal in town stick to your guns and get your community virtually through blog sharing- we all need someone occasionally who says to you- "your frock rocks- I love it"!
    michele xx

  15. Nicole,

    Thank you for your comments and great insight! I do love Colorado for its amazing landscape and for skiing. I am a huge ski freak!

    The husband has lots of clients based there and it is our goal to be in the high country within a year or two. I know the vintage scene there is basically non-existent but the government, yuppie mood here of DC is just killing me!

    Even though Colorado is lacking for vintage, I felt more at ease due to the hippie, 'come as you are' attitude of the locals in the mountains. Aspen, as we both experienced, is a rich tourist town! I could never live there! The locals were cool and accepting but the tourists with their private jets and Dolce sunglasses looked at me like I was from the moon. The only two stores I like there are Carl's pharmacy (reminds me of the general stores from the 40s) and the Cos Bar (like an upscale, mini Sephora). Other than that, I stayed away from the Gucci, the Louis Vuitton, and the other high-fulootin' places. I went into a cute shoe store that had a pair of vintage-looking, black patent Stuart Weitzman heels on display but the lady working there (more than likely the owner) looked at me like I was trash so I just walked out.

    I have to agree that Denver is not a vintage-friendly place but again, it is better than the DC Metro region!

    I was in San Jose/Sunnyvale about two years ago and I felt more accepted there than anywhere I have been. Most of the people were really nice. I also felt very accepted in LA and Vegas. Vegas is home to the annual Viva Las Vegas event and the whole town is very glam. Even the a couple of the girls working at the MAC counter in the Caesars shops had vintage style! However, when I was walking through the casino floor of Planet Hollywood, my best friend Sunny noticed this very drunk (I mean staggering drunk) girl pointing and laughing at me. She, complete with her super short, grey sequined tunic dress falling of her while clutching a drink, had the audacity to make fun of me? I just ignored her because everyone was looking at her making a spectacle of herself. Oh well.

    Vintage community or not, we can make the best of it. But it is nice knowing there are others like ourselves who live the vintage life!

  16. Phenolicfanatic,

    Thank so much for your comments and views! I love your style! That is cool that the vintage life is alive and well in Australia! I think it is great that you actually have a group of friends who are also living the vintage life!

    Even here, most of the people dabble in the vintage scene. They dress up for dances, concerts, car shows, or events like Viva Las Vegas but when it comes to their '9 to 5' life, they dress 'normal.' One of my good guy friends (he is like the brother I never had) loves rockabilly and psychobilly music. He dresses up Reverend Horton Heat and Tiger Army shows but when it comes to the everyday, he shies away from "going all out vintage.' I tell him that life is short and that he should go for it but he says that he is too conservative for it. I say phooey! Oh well! That just means more vintage goodies for me!

    Like you suggested, I am "sticking to my guns" by continuing to be vintage everyday!

  17. I can imagine that Denver would be a step up from the DC area... I am constantly reminded that while Denver is far from ideal, it is much better than many alternatives. It's hard for me to keep that persepctive coming from California, which is pretty much my ideal place to live, but hey, Denver is where my house, job, and husband are so I can't lose sight of what's important. Politics and fashion come and go...Plus the cost of living is less here, so I guess another upside is that I can own a house and still have money and time to go visit all the places I love.

    Anyway, good luck on getting out here permanently! As much as I would love to move back to California, making that kind of change at this point in my life is beyond daunting so I have total respect for people who actually make that type of move!

    And good for you for staying vintage!

  18. Nicole,

    I visited your blog! I love the fact you have a vintage car! I now have a '05 Volvo (zzzzzzz!) but when I met the husband he had a '72 GTO. I have been pining for a pre-war, 1940s side-step struck for years! I also will take 50s autos too! Modern cars are just so boring and ugly! The worst is that 'shoebox on wheels,' Scion! Eugh!

    Anyway, as far as stuffy and politics go, DC is the proverbial birthplace of it all! Like I said before, this is the land of the business suit lobbyist and J.Crew yuppie!

    Denver may be not where it's at totally but it is better than here! lol

    Thanks for the well-wishes regarding me getting of here! It is going to take time, thanks to the housing market, but I know it will happen. I just have to be patient!

  19. My blog (giggles)... that one day will actually contain real posts! I keep composing them in my head and then chicken out!

    I love old trucks too! And old wagons!

    I love old cars in general, but I lucked out because my mechanic hubby does all the real work, I just get talk about it like I know something! lol. We actually just got a '63 oldsmobile for a song, and we've been trying to drive that as much as possible, but alas, our real daily drivers are yawns... 97 Tacoma and a 98 4runner. I agree about modern cars, just awful. They look like ugly fisher price toys!

  20. Nicole,

    I did not jump on the blog bandwagon until recently. I am a professional writer but I tend to be lazy when it comes personal, non-business topics. Now, I am also writing for fun and it has been cool so far.

    I agree that most cars are toy-like. They are boxy, soulless chunks of metal. Imagine our modern technology paired with the lines of the 40s! Oh, I would die. My husband used to be a mechanic. He and his brother rebuilt both of their old 70s muscle cars but they ended up selling them a while back.

    I would love to get a old 50s/40s truck and have it rebuilt and refurbished with modern amenities like power steering and brakes.

    The '63 car sounds great. My dad bought a '63 Tempest when he moved to the US from Norway in 1965. Then he and my mom sold it when they had my sister in '68. My father-in-law had a 64 and 1/2 Mustang but when the husband was born, his parents sold it.

    Oh to dream! One day I will have my vintage dream car.

  21. So much for my belief that living in a real city automatically means it would be easy to find like-minded friends! Thank goodness for the internet!
    I'm surprised that Denver doesn't have more of a vintage scene. Who lives in Krisana Park and Arapahoe Acres then? I suppose just because you can afford a mid-century modern home doesn't necessarily mean you are going to adapt every aspect of a vintage life-style.
    So, Temperamental and Nicole are in CO. Betty's looking at heading that way, and my hubby has a job interview in Denver this month - that would be four of us, LOL! Maybe we can just start our own scene ;)

  22. Moxie Tonic,

    Sounds like a plan! lol

    As for finding like-minded vintage gals, I agree that the Internet is amazing. We may not have the luxury of being part of an actual community but at least we have places like our blogs to share and communicate!

    I do think Denver has more of a scene than here in DC. I have noticed the Mid-Atlantic in general is quite preppy and conservative while places like NYC, Miami, Austin, San Diego, San Fran, Portland, Washington, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles have more of an accepting of vintage vibe.

  23. Hi, I just found your blog and I live in DC... Been here for about 2 years now. And when I fit, I'm all about my vintage clothes (30s-50s) and the retro life though I get lazy and rarely pin curl!! Otherwise I am guilty of giving into dc-ing it and shopping from Ann Taylor!!