Once in a great while, I meet someone who practically sneers at our tagline, “Clothing and Accessories with a Past.” I can almost read their minds, if not their faces: “Ooooooo, yuck!” they seem to say. “Pre-owned clothing that’s been worn and kept by God-knows-who.” For people of my ilk, the idea that vintage clothes are old clothes sullied by sordid people in unwholesome circumstances is either cause for despair or celebration. On one hand, we go forth prayerfully, in hopes that no precious vintage gem may fall into the hands of such dangerous people. (“Don’t you understand?” I want to say. “These are clothes the likes of which you’ve never seen before.”) On the other, we privately rejoice, “More for us.”

Custom tailoring tag on a cashmere coat we’re about to introduce.

In an age of mass produced clothing made in places like China, Vietnam and Guatemala, it should probably come as no surprise that Americans’ concept of quality and style have been assigned to clothes we can buy at Nordstrom, Talbots, and Gap. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not knocking the accessibility of fashionable, affordable clothing. But there is simply no comparison between these factory-made garments and the finely designed, handcrafted vintage pieces that give me a rush.

One of our labels, showing imported silk from France.

To be in the company of clothing made with such exquisite detail and perfection, if only for a short time, is a heady experience. If it weren’t for my friend and collaborator Emily, I might feel weird about saying that. When we spot one of these decades-old masterpieces, we’re a little like my Dad’s bird dogs when they spot a covey of quail in a fence row; one moves in while the other one backs. “Whoa,” we will say to each other quietly, hoping not to stir up a competitive buyer. In these moments, I know that I am not even remotely weird.

A dressmaker’s label in a silk jacket, coming out later this month.

What causes us to go on point? Handmade buttons, Chanel-inspired jackets weighted at the hem by inside chains, silk linings edged in embroidery, hand-crafted top-stitching, a long, perfect box pleat that runs from collar to hem, and finally, the label of a custom tailor. We always try to show these details when we photograph these pieces, but sometimes, you just need to hold it in your hands to grasp the perfection. A custom dress is rich with detail and complexity. It is a thoughtfully planned, one-of-a kind work made with carefully-selected, sometimes imported fabric, perfectly tailored for a certain person, perhaps for a certain occasion or use.

Can you make out the hand embroidery inside this lining?

The kind of vintage garment that makes us swoon isn’t the product of a semester or two of high-school sewing lessons, but of artisans who fine-tune the craft of sewing at the feet of other artisans. They were born at a time when you could make your living sewing dresses and suits for people who didn’t run to the store when they needed something special to wear. They came to you instead. In such a time, even non-professionals became accomplished seamstresses, especially if they didn’t have the budget for a dressmaker.

When I pick up a garment like this, I imagine the experience is a little like tasting a fine wine: the sum is greater than the individual parts of soil, climate, and grape. I catch a whiff of all that is ordinary and sublime in a life of baptisms, confirmations, homecomings, graduations, proms, parties, engagements, weddings, babies, work, church, concerts, dances, more parties, reunions, inaugurations, retirements, and yes, funerals. Only vintage clothes hint at the amazing dash we make in a lifetime of reaping and sewing, sorrow and joy, striving and resignation and our hopeful ascent to what I like to picture as a heavenly catwalk where everyone’s clothes are custom made by a Master and no one’s butt crack is showing.

Good luck on your program, Leah. Thanks for connecting our group! www.circlecitystyle.com

Fortunately, the world is full of people who totally get our tagline—without a longwinded sermon. Among them are friends we’ve made through Twitter from central Indiana’s fashion industry, some of whom we got to meet for the first time yesterday in Bloomington. Thanks to Leah, from circlecitystyle.com for organizing our meeting and to everyone who came and shared what’s going on in your corner of the world. It’s great to go places where people instantly understand and support each other. Let’s do it again sometime!

P.S. If you want to know which of our garments fall into the class of custom dressmaking, be sure to check the label of each product description. That’s were we call out all the custom-made garments.

Thanks to our friends at:








We love your T-shirts, Kaitlin. Keep on styling, right-side out! www.tpartyclothing.com

Thanks for the photography tips, David @ www.dvanderman.com

Janelle Cissell from rubyleonne.blogspot.com, as gracious in person as she is online.

Julia Rutland, aestheticdesignstyle.com, thanks for the encouragement and the shout-outs!

Welcome to Indiana, Erica. We’re glad you’re here!

We appreciate the play you’ve given us, Christy! We’re going to be watching you. What a great stroke for the Indiana fashion industry @ www.fashionwrapup.com

Jessica Quirk, WhatIWore.tumblr.com, we love your blog! Congratulations on your new book!