ShareenVintage3Shareen Mitchell may very well be the fashion world’s best-kept secret. A self-taught designer, Mitchell is known for her one-of-a-kind approach to vintage clothing, breathing new life into old dowdy duds by turning them into chic frocks, making her a hit with the stylish in-crowd.

With two women-only retail outlets on both the east and west coast of the US, Mitchell’s hip boutiques target the fashion-savvy vintage lover. Now, thanks to her hit show, Dresscue Me Shareen Vintage, she not only helps those in need of fashion-aid but she changes their lives in the process.

Mitchell shares her tips on how to identify vintage clothing, her take on Mad Men and why she bars men from her stores.

 

 

HWP: You’re definitely the guru when it comes to vintage clothing. When does a piece of clothing get certified as “vintage”? Does it necessarily have to be 20 years old?

Shareen Mitchell: Yes, it does. Vintage means at least 20 years old or older. At this time, garments from the early 90’s are now considered vintage where as five years ago they would have been simply considered used. 

HWP: We’ve heard from a vintage-lover that zips pre-1950s are all made of metal, not plastic. Is that true and what details should one look out for when purchasing something vintage?

SM: It is true that garments made prior to 1970 did employ metal zippers but zippers, buttons and hems have nothing to do with what I look for. I look for beauty in the way of distinctive textiles and bodies ( gorgeous cuts and styles). I also look for anything that is relatable to fashion today.  

 

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HWP: When buying vintage, what kind of clothes can we alter and what kinds of clothes should we avoid sending to the tailor?

SM: Anything can be altered as long as you are not starting out with a garment that is too small. However, some things are more difficult to alter then others, one such thing is beading.  They are difficult to deal with. Another thing to consider is if the fabric can withstand the alteration. Old fabrics have a tendency to shred. 

HWP: What tips do you have to get rid of age-stains?

SM: Some stains cannot be removed and generally they are the yellow stains under the arm. We have stain-removing products that are very good at removing general discoloration, blood, coffee and oil stains. They are rather harsh modern stain removers such as 409, Awesome and Oxy-clean. I use them all along with bleach.  Often, especially with whites, a long soak in water will do.

HWP: What tips do you have to get rid of the aged vintage smell on clothes?

SM: Dry-cleaning, washing, hanging in fresh air and a good perfume. And bear in mind that the smell of mothballs is not a bad small.  It means that the garment was well taken care of. 

HWP: We’ve noticed that the costumers of Mad Men are huge fans/clients of yours. From a sartorial point of view, how accurate is the costuming on the show as compared to what people wore in the 1960s?

SM: From my perspective, Janie Bryant (Leading costume designer of Mad Men) is doing an impeccable job of maintaining the authenticity of the period.  Although, I do have to wonder if Joan’s (played by Christina Hendrick’s_ costumes have been tightened just a bit to make them sexier.  With that said, Marilyn Monroe did the same thing too.

 

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HWP: In one of your episodes, you were in a bit of a fix to find a dress to wear to your client’s wedding. Has anyone ever came to you to alter a vintage wedding dress passed down from their mum or grandmother? Would you advise anyone to wear a hand-me-down wedding dress?

SM: I often redesign vintage wedding dresses and they are very popular in my client base. I also highly suggest wearing or updating your mother or grandmother’s gown.  If the dress is made with lovely fabrics and can be tailored to you, why not?  Its a lovely tradition.  

HWP: You’ve two boutiques situated in both Los Angeles and New York. How different are the styles on both coasts?

SM: The styles on both costs are remarkably different. LA girls take many more risks in the expression of their personal style. It is a town of women who want to stand out. Woman in New York, on the other hand, prefer a more understated approach to dressing and seek to blend in, of course, in a very chic way. Additionally, LA girls love to dress in a way that is bohemian where as New Yorkers prefer classic tailoring. 

HWP: Which is your best-selling era when it comes to vintage clothing?

SM: The best selling era is always going to be a reflection of what is going on in fashion. Currently, girls are asking for the classic lines of the 70’s and the romance of the 30’s. The 30’s are found again in the 70’s and 90’s making it relatively easy to supply. And the classics of the 70’s are timeless and abundant. That said, if a young woman is going to a party she will almost always pick 50’s. The 50’s just made the best party dresses.  

 

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HWP: Last but not least, why the no-boys-allowed rule?

SM: Well, it is  simply problematic to have men around when women are changing out in the open. The stores are set up as if they are the home of a female artist that has an expansive and extraordinary wardrobe. Clients are invited to dress in one of two very bohemian living rooms or in the bedroom.  There are also little hidden spots by vanities and bureaus where one can dress as well.  The feeling becomes very female and very creative for women. And it also creates a unique bonding experience as well.

Dresscue Me Shareen Vintage airs every Thursday, 11pm on Life Inspired (Li TV) Channel 22 on Singtel mio TV.