Online e-tailers such as eBay—and now, even Instagram—may have taken over the vintage fashion scene, but there’s another more intimate shopping method that’s reinvigorating the thrill of the hunt: by-appointment boutiques.
The idea behind these shops is that with the founder on hand, you’ll not only be able to learn more about the pieces, but you’ll get an insider’s view of where the garment came from—consider them the equivalent of salon-style showrooms. Read on for three by-appointment vintage stores that are changing the game.
The Lowry Estate
Located in a small studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, The Lowry Estate was founded by Corliss Williams, a former art director with a great eye for vintage. Her shop stocks a highly curated range of dresses, sweaters, purses, trinkets, and menswear, with each piece personally sourced by Williams. Take, for example, a detailed skirt suit in mint condition owned by her grandmother, or a silk metallic pleated dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves that she found in Philadelphia. Williams says her style and concept is inspired by her grandmother Mabel Lowry, who traveled the world in chic furs and plenty of Ferragamo.
The store is open to the public during a set schedule, but she also employs the by-appointment method Wednesdays through Fridays. Williams plays the part of stylist and storyteller, as guests try on different pieces in an intimate, almost couture-like salon setting.
Morphew, located in a midtown Manhattan showroom, takes vintage fashion seriously. You’ll find archival museum-quality pieces from labels such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Margiela, Halston, and more. Bridgette Morphew and Jason Lyon, the well-connected duo behind the space, receive shipments of vintage fashion from contacts around the world. They choose what they like and send the rest back. What stays is sold to customers strictly by appointment (a portion of it on their online site). Otherwise, it goes to major design houses, including Alexander McQueen, Valentino, and Chloe, to use as design inspiration—be it in the form of textile patterns, embellishment, or even structure—through Morphew’s consulting business, Paradox.
Prices run high here—but the endless array of designer names, coupled with mint-condition gowns from as far back as the ’30s is hard to beat. The founders are also incredibly knowledgeable about design and fashion, verging on historians.
This West Chester, Pennslyvania, vintage boutique is a surprising gem. Just more than a two-hour drive from New York City, Malena’s small shop specializes in antique jewelry and accessories, as well as vintage clothing from practically every time period.
There are plenty of dresses and tops in great condition and well under $100—graphic brushstroke dresses from the ’80s and lacy, bell-sleeve dresses of the ’20s among them—but what might be most appealing is the store’s extensive collection of archival pieces, which are located in a by-appointment-only showroom next door. It’s a gold mine for stylists, costume designers, and straight-out vintage fashion aficionados.