Several nights each week, Vanessa St. Clair spends hours painstakingly replicating the look of eras come and gone.
Unlike her peers, St. Clair, 16, of McMurray, isn’t into the latest fashions.
Instead, the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School sophomore spends her weekends visiting local consignment stores throughout the Washington area in search of that perfect piece of vintage clothing to add to her collection.
“I’ve been wearing vintage since I could dress myself,” St. Clair said. “I really loved Elvis (Presley) movies and fell in love with many different time periods.”
Particularly the 1920s.
“But clothing from that era is difficult to find or is expensive,” she said. “So I’ll wear anything from the '20s until 1995.”
St. Clair said the 1960s, with their pencil skirts and shirtwaist dresses, complement her body type the best.
“I like to go completely vintage when I dress up. I’ll practice the hair and makeup the night before, staying up late. Then, I’ll get up early the next morning to do it all again.”
St. Clair frequently visits the same stores in her search. One of her favorites, Vintage to Vogue in Venetia, is the perfect place to find vintage accessories.
“They have these beautiful fur coats,” St. Clair said. “I love to go in and just try them on.”
St. Clair is just one of a growing number of young people who are purchasing vintage clothing and furniture, much of it older than they are. While the trend has blossomed in the Pittsburgh area – numerous vintage-only shops have popped up throughout the South Side – and across the country, Washington and Greene counties have been slower to embrace it. Although teens and adults in the area are wearing and purchasing vintage items, there are just a handful of stores that offer a wide collection of vintage pieces.
The trend can also be seen on the Internet, where many online sites devoted to vintage clothing and furniture can be found.
Cindy Rutherford, owner of Vintage to Vogue, said she strives to provide area residents with both the latest and vintage fashions. The store, which is a combination of consignment and retail, has high standards. Clothing must be in excellent condition, and newer, brand-name or high-fashion pieces will only be accepted if they were purchased within the last two years. Rutherford also sells vintage furniture. The same high standards apply.
While certain vintage pieces – like shoes – are hard to come by, Rutherford is proud of the options she provides vintage-seeking customers.
“I have vintage furs, coats and speciality pieces,” she said. “Right now, it seems like outerwear and handbags are a bigger thing.”
Rutherford said vintage pieces allow individuals to stand out from the crowd.
“The people who wear vintage, they want to be different. They want to create their own look,” she said.
Depending on the item and the seller, Rutherford said vintage clothing can range in price. At her store, a wool, vintage coat would sell for $30.
She said she sees a mixture of teenage girls and adult women purchasing vintage pieces.
“It stands out,” she said. “It’s the mixing of old and new.”
While some turn to vintage pieces to express their unique sense of style, others navigate towards the inexpensive piece tag that can accompany vintage purchases.
Since rapper Mackelmore and producer Ryan Lewis released their single “Thrift Shop,” David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill of Southwest Pennsylvania, said employees have seen an onslaught of teens and college-age young people shopping at Goodwill stores.
“It’s a great place to get good stuff at a good price,” Tobiczyk said.
On top of the price – you can get a shirt for roughly $3 – Tobiczyk said consumers can find a variety of clothing items.
“We have vintage pieces and pieces that have never been worn with the tags still on them,” he said.
As a college student, Caitlyn Arroyo-Myers, of Washington, said shopping at Goodwill allows her to find items at a reasonable price.
“I’m into older things,” the Penn State University junior said. “I like finding something unique that I won’t find in other places.”
That includes vintage clothing and furniture. Arroyo-Myers said she regularly visits consignment stores with her family to locate an item.
“For me, it’s a game,” she said of shopping vintage. “It’s a challenge to find something and figure out how I’ll use it.”
While some are interested in vintage for the chase, others – like St. Clair – are in it for the long haul.
“I’ll always wear vintage,” she said. “Some people find it off-putting, and other’s think they can’t pull it off. But it works for me.”