Vera Vague is the delightfully quirky name of one of the most exquisite on-line vintage boutiques. With a real emphasis on curating clothes Vera and Victor Vague spend tireless, but endlessly enjoyable, hours searching the globe for beautiful and sometimes forgotten treasures to tempt and titillate!
Iced Vovo caught up with Vera Vague about their vintage delights:
Q: What was the impetus for starting a vintage boutique?
A: Vera Vague started back in the summer of ’08 mostly on a whim. I (Anastasia) had heard of Etsy and checked it out a bit, and on my own time I opened an account under the name Vera Vague (after a very funny 1940s B-List actress). But when I approached Mr. Vague with the idea, he was on board right away. The rest, as they say, is the rest 🙂
Q: How long has Vera Vague been operational?
A: We are coming up on our 5th year in the business and we’re still learning new things every day. It’s a lot of work but a fun venture.
Q: Your shops focus is very much steeped in the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods – what is it about these eras that you love the most in terms of fashion and style?
A: I can’t explain exactly why, but I personally have always been deeply drawn to the past, and the late 1800s to the early 1900s in particular. Victorians were so sombre and steeped in superstition, all against a backdrop of the gorgeous Nouveau style. But with the turn of the century, industry took off – and so did ladies’ corsets. The Edwardian period, while still a bit “stiff” and proper was a the beginning of a turning point in women’s fashion. The under garments they wore are a testament to craftsmanship: such gorgeous crocheted lace and embroidered details, it’s a very romantic period. And then after WWI, things really started to get loose and free, and the Deco and Flapper movements bore some of the most gorgeous, intricate and feminine fashions, with an emphasis on shapeless drape, making it a stark contrast to the Gibson Girl silhouette of just a few years earlier. I think boudoir items from the 19teens just may be my favorite things right now, but the evolution of fashion throughout all ages fascinates me.
Q: I loved the phrase you used to describe what you do as being like “the archeologists of style”.
+ Firstly, what do you love most about finding garments for your shop?
A: The thrill of the hunt never gets old! But an aspect of gathering inventory that has been an added bonus is meeting and being in contact with so many different kinds of people from all over the country, and, indeed, the world. The most fun is traveling to different places, doing impromptu photo shoots and meeting other small business owners like ourselves.
+ Secondly, what do you love about rejuvenating them?
A: When I was a kid, more than anything in the entire world, I wanted to be an archaeologist. It’s the first thing I remember being passionate about. Now that I’m grown up, instead of digging through dirt for evidence of lost civilizations, I sift through cobwebs and dust for artifacts of a different kind. It’s a way of keeping the past relevant. And we love knowing that one more hand crafted item is saved from a landfill.
+ And lastly, what do you love about selling them on?
A: We really do get a kick out of knowing that these items we once held in our hands will go out into the world and make someone else happy. Clothes are our second skin, and there’s nothing that can give a person the confidence that putting on a special garment can give.
Q: Are there certain characteristics that you look for when searching out items for Vera Vague?
A: We’ve honed our inventory down to very select pieces and focus quite a bit on antique and museum-quality items. We find pieces of history that are disappearing from the world and we want to know they’re going to a loving home, so almost as important as the item itself is they way in which it is displayed. We want to convey to the viewer that an item is the high quality piece we say it is, and we try to keep the garment as the focus of each shot, not the model.
Q: Coming across so many beautiful items yourself, how hard is it to part with some of them?
A: Oh my goodness, yes! This is maybe the most frequently asked question I receive, and the answer stays the same: it’s oh so hard! It’s especially tough to let go of blouses from the 1920s, hand beaded dresses, and anything that would be at home in a fairy boudoir (which happens to be our specialty). I try to think of it as a great lesson in letting go of material goods ;). Of course I can’t let everything go, and so there are some select pieces over the years that I’ve added to my personal collection. I’m very petite so if something fits me particularly well, it can be hard not to feel like it’s ‘meant to be’. There are always those pieces that you wished you’d kept but… honestly, I try not to think about that too much!
Q: The business is very much a partnership from the sourcing of the garments to the modelling and photography etc – what do you like about working together and do you play on each others strengths?
A: Great question. We feel extremely grateful to have created a career together that weaves perfectly into our lives, combining our mutual interests and giving us a place to grow our individual strengths. We definitely inspire and motivate one another, but we’re also lucky to have a good amount living and working space, which helps to keep a balance. We’re constantly learning from each other, sharing ideas and thinking of ways to make the business better. Luckily a lot of our work involves playing. Living in the same place you work with your partner can have it’s own challenges, but we mesh really well, we listen to one another, and we always talk through any disagreement.
Q: What has been the most exciting item you’ve found and why?
A: It was late summer a few years back. We had just crossed the border into New Mexico and Anastasia very much needed to relieve her bladder, so we took a random exit and soon found ourselves in a sleepy little One-Stop-Sign town. We turned a corner onto a street sporting building with false fronts, Wild West style. It was early evening, but a couple shops were still open. We pulled into a parking space in front of an old Mercantile shop and staring at us from the window was the most beautiful Edwardian wedding dress we’d ever seen. It was hand beaded from nape to hem in iridescent and silver glass beads, with a tiered skirt, tassels, lace neck, satin, mesh… all the bells and whistles. It weighed about 10 pounds, I’d reckon. We paid a little more for it than we would have liked, but we were not leaving that shop without the gown. We have yet to shoot her (the waist sash needs to be re-attached) but she’s absolutely jaw dropping. We’re saving her for a rainy day…
Q: What is your own favourite personal item of clothing and why?
A: Right now I love the vintage Afghani metal and glass head pieces I found on Etsy. They make me feel like a Queen of the Desert.
Q: Where do you source all your lovely items?
A: While I can’t tell you how we make the rabbit disappear from the hat, I can tell you that hundreds of miles are spanned every week in search of the lovely items with which we fill our shop.
Q: Can people contact you if they have items to sell?
A: Anyone can feel free to contact us through Etsy, and anyone with a solid collection of old (1970s at latest) or antique items similar to those in our shop can email me.
Q: I also read that when you have a spare moment Vera you like to sew your own range of clothes. Can you tell us a little about the range and style of your own collection?
A: I do enjoy dabbling in the sewing, though the vintage shop takes up most of my time. I use a lot of vintage patterns (when I’m not free-handing my own) and I sew on a Singer Featherweight, from the 1950s. I make rompers, shorts, blouses, dresses and, because I can never find any in stores that fit, I sew a lot of my own pants. I just wish there were more hours in the day!
Q: What are the plans for Vera Vague in 2013?
A: Ever onward and upward! We’re in some Lookbooks that will be coming out soon, we’ll be launching our website in the near future, we have some collaborations with artists in the works and we’re always taking art photos of our own to add to the coffee table book we will one day put out. We just hope to be able to continue doing what we’re doing, always making it better and better!