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Have you ever considered shopping with strangers? You may not find a thing for your wardrobe, but you can count on meeting like-minded people with fresh ideas about how to build a vintage look that suits you. Why? Because they are totally objective about you! There’s no one I’d rather shop with than my Mom, but I must admit I’ve made a few buys I later regretted because I bought things that fit her idea of me. Same with close friends.

When you’re shopping alongside someone who has more than a theoretic appreciation for vintage fashion, it’s more fun. You share combined memories and guesses about every garment’s history. You oooh and ah over its potential, delighting in each other’s discoveries. And if you keep your ears open, you may pick up some tips about smart buying.

That’s how it was last Saturday when I met Lori and her god-daughter Brittany shopping at Minx on 16th street in Indianapolis. From the dressing room, I could hear Lori coaching Brittany on the fine points of evaluating a vintage gown. “Check under the arms,” Lori said. “That’s where you’re most likely to see some wear.” Hmmm. I’ll have to remember that. Not that a stained armpit has ever dissuaded me from something I really wanted.

Brittany selected a sweet nightgown in mint condition. Love the red rosebuds on the bodice! She’s a high school student from Ft. Wayne, Indiana with a gorgeous operatic voice. Listen to this You Tube video of Brittany singing “Music for a While” from Oedipus, the opera by Henry Purcell. We were in the midst of a mutual euphoria over our vintage finds, so I never got around to telling Brittany that I’m an opera fan.

Brittany and Lori also introduced me to vintage aficionado and family friend Lecia Doss. She is a California fashion writer who has loved vintage since she was nine-years old. Doss works for a Zooey Magazine and blogs about vintage on the side. She dishes about all the vintage stores in her locale. Reading her blog, I felt we were soul sisters from two very different generations.

As contemporaries of roughly the same age, Lori and I had an accurate read on some of the 1970s dresses because we remember our mothers wearing them. “At one point, I was just the right size to wear some of my Mom’s clothes, but I hated polyester,” Lori said.

“If I wear this, will I look like a vintage lady wearing a vintage dress?” I asked as I stepped out of the dressing room in a buttery yellow Leslie Fay dress from the 1970s. By consensus, Lori and store-owner Jennifer Shirk Mentzer agreed I might manage it with updated jewelry and shoes. I love the wide cummerbund AND pockets. I paired it with a red straw purse and red patent slingbacks. I hope I never outgrow this dress!

A word about Leslie Fay: when I was a high school senior, I worked the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at a nursing home to help pay for college. The best memories I have of that experience were the evenings I was asked to help an elegant woman in her 90s. Her private room had a double closet that ran the length of her small rectangular living space. I loved hanging her clothes and ogling her wardrobe, which was filled with Leslie Fay dresses.

Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in 1993 and eventually reorganized under other brand names. According to the Vintage Fashion Guild, Leslie Fay was one of the last unionized clothing manufacturers in the U.S. The Guild also says Leslie Fay was never known for its fashion forward look and mostly dressed middle-aged women. Well, what do you know? I’m finally old enough that Leslie Fay is age appropriate!

Whose closet do you most love to ogle?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.