In the realm of vintage hunting there are numerous different personalities and experiences involved, in acquiring, buying, and collecting treasure. There are the “diggers” who will eagerly dive into a dirty roadside thrift shop and brake for estate sale signs just to paw through heaps of beige sweaters in hopes of scoring a Chanel jacket for less than $80. The massive turnouts, like Brimfield (Massachusetts) and Roundtop (Texas), bring together hunters of all shapes and sizes and provide ample opportunity to float freely between niche vendors and the whatever shopping equivalent of a tailgate party is. Live auctions are hit or miss but also exciting and unexpected, largely for the people watching and eclectic clientele. And of course, there are the specialty shows of carefully curated vendors, such as The Manhattan Vintage Show.
Three times a year Manhattan Vintage rounds up over 90 dealers to showcase fine collections of clothing, jewelry, accessories, and textiles; a veritable time capsule of fashion history all in one place.
When I worked on 42nd street years ago, I used to run down to the show during my lunch break and then reluctantly drag myself back to the office, never having enough time to truly explore. The vendors have a curatorial knowledge of designers and trends and putt together their own edits, each with their own unique signature. One with an Edwardian bent (where I tried on the ostrich feather shrug) another the hipster (Fiat gym bag anyone?) and others giving me Wes Anderson vibes with vintage Gucci, and elegant Cartier scarf with bejeweled parrots or a house dress that looks just like Grace Kelly in Rear Window. At shows like this there are not necessarily deals to be found, but the curation is impeccable, and I’d liken it more to attending an antique car show as opposed to scouring a used car lot.
For five years I owned a retail store that sold curated vintage items (jewelry and clothing) amongst my own designs, so I know the labors of love that go into sourcing, steaming, dry cleaning, tagging, and transporting. Not to mention, vintage sizing which can be wildly off the mark of contemporary standards.
From the weird (a baby's head in a vintage fur muff) to the wonderful (a fox head necklace), a very specific customer often has to connect with a very specific item—and fit in it like a glass slipper. But when they do, it’s pure magic. A few of my favorite vendors at Manhattan Vintage, all of whom sell online as well: