A pink-and-gold Dior jacket, a vintage Chloe dress, Diane von Furstenberg circa '86... these are just some of the things that vintage virtuoso Mary Elizabeth has hiding in her closet after many an estate sale, antique store scouting, and thrift shop rummaging. And we're not just talking the usual vintage suspects here. Mary Elizabeth takes her vintage seriously, making visits to Lakewood Antiques Market, many an estate sale, and countless Goodwills in the northerly reaches of the 'burbs. After our too many ill-fated adventures through Hanes Beefy Tees, we begged her to share some of her tips for adding a little old-school flair to your wardrobe:
SCOUT: How did you become interested in vintage and thrifting/antiqueing?
MARY ELIZABETH: I first truly fell in love with vintage after sophomore year homecoming, when I wore a dress I found in sewing scraps of a family friend’s grandmother; it was a miracle. A champagne-colored silk bodice dress with lace overlay…it felt like a dream on, fit to a tee. The lace was in shreds after one-night’s wear, but that glamorous feeling can’t be beat – I was hooked on finding unique, beautiful pieces of vintage. A good piece of clothing is as valuable as art or music, timeless and truly special.
SCOUT: What are some of your favorite knick-knacks you've discovered on your vintage hunting?
MARY ELIZABETH: A favorite find is probably my hot pink and gold brocade Dior jacket. Next favorite, a Sgt. Pepper-style jacket from Scott Antique Market. I love collecting Middle Eastern, North African and Native American jewelry, the detailing is insane – you can find these pretty easily at Lakewood 400 and in Chamblee. Also love tailor-able suits and blouses from Goodwill, you can find great wool and silk.
Always on the hunt for vintage fur (best/cheapest sources: estate sales, Craigslist, eBay) and have a pretty solid collection, mild Georgia winters be damned…Mongolian curly lamb (uber Penny Lane), black and white striped beaver fur, rabbit fur baseball jacket, alpaca bomber jacket. Found an awesome satin baseball jacket from the Beverly Hills Hotel for $1 from an estate sale. The new Goodwill on Northside Drive is great for blazers, shirts, love the men’s sweaters (lots of wool and cashmere for lounging around). Outlying/OTP Goodwills can be shockingly good, found a beautiful vintage Chloe dress, some ‘80s Nicole Miller, Diane von Furstenburg, and more in Norcross!
SCOUT: Your favorite spots for finding the goods? Any places most people wouldn't think about or know about?
MARY ELIZABETH: Everyone knows Stefan’s rocks. They are the best at curating amazing pieces and treating them so well, love those folks! That said, Chamblee is a treasure trove. Broad Street Antique Mall has incredible jewelry and the prices aren’t bad at all. Up the road is my favorite place for vintage clothes in Atlanta, Antique Factory. Shelly travels extensively and curates an amazing variety of beautiful pieces in great condition, her prices are great. They have great design/furnishings as well, very funky place.
For designer finds, Alexis’ Suitcase (in Roswell, Johns Creek and Buckhead) is good; as is b chic in Buckhead. Scott Antique Market and Lakewood 400 are obviously the big kahunas – we’re lucky to have such amazing markets like this in Atlanta. Scott Antique Market is amazing, there’s an amazing turquoise dealer (and costume jewelry in general), the outdoor sections feel more like a flea market, chock full o’ treasure!
Estate Sales can be hit or miss, but the AJC, Craigslist and EstateSales.net are the way to explore them.
SCOUT: Sifting through all those musty t-shirts or bad 70s furniture at Goodwill can be overwhelming. How do you sort out the good stuff from the bad, and find that one perfect thing among all the other stuff?
MARY ELIZABETH: Seek out quality - skip the poly-blends and look for what has/will stand the test of time. At Goodwill, I usually just hit the best bets – blazers, blouses and anything tailor-able, plus wool and cashmere sweaters and good ole Levi’s.
Thrifting and vintage shopping is not for the faint of heart, it takes a lot of love and patience.
SCOUT: Do you have any favorite periods for fashion/art/furniture?
MARY ELIZABETH: If I could live in any fashion decade, it would be the 1970s – the rock & roll, the disco, platforms, big looks; no rules! That said, nothing beats the glamour and togetherness of the 1930s and early ‘40s - the silks and beautiful silhouettes – all about the hats (especially men’s fedoras), gloves and costume jewelry; anything delicate and intricate, Deco or Art Nouveau inspired.
SCOUT: Any thrifting or antiqueing tips for newbies?
MARY ELIZABETH: Patience is a virtue, don’t expect to find something amazing on the first try and don’t go in looking for just one specific thing. Know your style, know your quality preference and be open to the rest. It’s an adventure!
Get to know the owners/buyers/staff!! Not only are they often fascinating folks, but you’ll find most very knowledgeable about the merchandise and can tell some of the back-story, which is most of the fun of vintage!
Know your tailor and dry cleaner and don’t be afraid to get out the needle and thread if a piece needs some TLC. A well kept piece of clothing is a true find, and sometimes you have to keep on loving it.
Follow Mary Elizabeth's adventures on Twitter and on her website, Idlewild South.