In Las Vegas, Vintage is the New Modern
July – August 2019
The Arts District is the place for retro fashion finds.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY ALEXIA ZILLIKEN
If you’re a psychedelic soul born in the modern age, or just looking for a stunning hard-to-find ensemble, look no further than the Arts District in newly revitalized downtown Las Vegas. Stretched along 18 blocks and just 1 mile from The Strip, the Arts District has been the beating heart of art and culture of Vegas since its establishment in 1998. Old warehouses and factories have been revamped to become art galleries, studios, bars and restaurants, and retail spaces. With its huge colorful murals and retro signs, it feels like you’re strutting into Vegas in its heyday. The vintage clothing and antique stores in this area are not just a highlight—they are the best kept secret in town.
Depending on what you’re seeking and your poker winnings, you can wind up spending $200 on a trunk full of gems or the same amount on one rare and luxurious piece. If you are in the market for an evening dress and find yourself smitten by a top-quality 1950’s gown by Suzy Perette or a satin crêpe number from the early 1930s, it could be yours for the low price of $1200 before tax. These are items you might see either on the red carpet or up for auction at Christie’s—vintage clothing can be an investment. Luckily, there are shops where retro fashionistas can find cool, one-of-a-kind clothing that won’t bleed you dry.
SHOPPING FOR FINDS
The first shop to hit is called—shockingly enough—Retro Vegas. You can find anything from apparel to a 1960s cone fireplace to a vintage spiral staircase. With their claim to fame as the Mecca of mid-century modern antiquity and everything fabulous about Las Vegas, the second floor is full of racks of clothing and accessories for ladies and gents in a range of sizes and styles. They specialize in 1970s Hawaiian dresses and military-style jackets with an incredible array of fabrics, prints, and colors to fit your mood. The pink warehouse with a flamingo on it is guaranteed to satisfy your craving for old Vegas style.
A second destination for those clamoring for the classics is the aptly named Vintage Vegas. They have a whole floor in the back where you can find anything from a 1940s nightgown and robe to a 1980s power suit, shoulder pads and all. There is also a small section on the other side of the store with an assortment of dresses and blouses from the 1960s. This shop is loaded with, as their website put it, “dead people’s junk and cool crap,” which is not far from the truth. They carry everything you can imagine: neon signs, memorabilia from old hotels, racks weighed down with garments, collectibles, and toys, etc. If you come across something mind-blowing but the price is too steep, the sellers may be willing to haggle with you by phone or in person.
The final shop you definitely can’t miss is Glam Factory Vintage. Owned and operated for the past seven years by Stephanie Roshto, this cottage holds a treasure trove of clothes for women and men as well as hats, jewelry, and much more for a great price. Glam is the perfect word to describe what awaits you inside the tiny orange and yellow bungalow.
Specializing in items from the 1920s to the 1970s, the Glam Factory caters to those looking for a costume for a theme party or an outfit to fit your preferred decade of style. Walking in the door can make your head spin: between the bright colors, sequins and plethora of attire. Stephanie’s advice for getting into vintage is to be open-minded and try something that you might not leaned towards normally. As she puts it, “I buy everything that speaks to me. So just try things that speak to you.”
MAKING GOOD CHOICES
If while you’re out digging you worry that what you find may not be genuine vintage, fashion historian and professor Deirdre Clemente offers some great tips to help you walk away with pure gold instead of an armful of fool’s gold.
The first tip is to get the item in your hands. Clemente instructs you to “touch the fabrics. Pick up the object and see if it’s heavy.”
Quality of the material is important to look for. If you need a comparison, Professor Clemente recommends going to a higher end shop on the Strip to see and feel the quality of expensive fabrics. Secondly, if the tag says ‘Made in China’, keep moving. Vintage clothing was predominantly made in the U.S. or in Europe. Finally, if the clothing is baggy or has holes “Take it to the tailor immediately.” As a fellow vintage lover and woman who above average height, Professor Clemente stresses the importance of making a tailor your best friend.
With these helpful tips, you’ll be ready to see and steal the show. The vintage scene in Vegas is truly something special; it transports you to a time when Frank Sinatra reigned supreme, showgirls danced in bejeweled glory, and men and women got dressed to the nines to play poker all night. These clothes are a shiny piece of history that you can touch and wear every day. When you slip into vintage from Vegas and walk into the bright neon of the Strip, ‘Viva Las Vegas’ takes on a life of its own.