1960s Vintage Cape

Harloh’s Vintage

1110 Prospect Street, Indianapolis

Sunshine. Every day. For a whole week. In January. That’s what happened in central Indiana during the first week of 2012. Unheard of! Maybe it’s just the extra serotonin in my system, but if this is a harbinger of what’s ahead I say, “Bring it on.” When you live in central Indiana, it’s almost unnatural to feel this optimistic in January.

The pragmatist in all of us knows that winter is coming. Super Bowl visitors, be advised: it’s good to come prepared for winter when you’re visiting Indianapolis in February. Fortunately, winter coats are on sale. That’s good news because you can go into any big box store in the country and buy a trendy coat to keep you warm for as little as $50. Or you could do what I do: head for Indy’s Fountain Square neighborhood, where two of the city’s best vintage stores are just steps away from each other. Both are just a few blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium and downtown.

Indy Swank and Harloh’s are my favorite vintage shopping destinations. The majority of what I own originated from these two treasures, owned by people I admire because they’ve placed their heart and soul into what they do. If you’re someone who cares for vintage clothes like a suspicious guardian, then you can expect a special shopping experience in both stores. They are smart, fun, creative people who make it a pleasure to shop.

Vintage aficionados, they will know you when they see you, mostly by how you handle garments. For you, there’s always a possibility of getting a peek at things that aren’t on display for the average shopper. Hint: vintage connoisseurs do not throw garments around as if they were sweaty gym clothes. These owners have gone eyeball to eyeball with old ladies who are selling their own wedding gowns. After such tender negotiations, they aren’t likely to show their finest gems without knowing the adoptive parent.

Here are two of my favorite winter discoveries

At Jennifer Von Deylen’s Indy Swank on Virginia Avenue, I found two extraordinary silk brocade coats. One is navy. The other is black. Both are custom made. I wear them any time I’m going to a fall or winter concert. They aren’t warm, but when the stars are properly aligned, it doesn’t matter; my feet will barely touch the ground and my backside will barely catch a draft. If I am lucky, my husband will glance down at my high heels and decide to drop me at the venue entrance before parking the car. Occasionally, I resort to heavy hints, but that’s beside the point if he obliges without mentioning my too-high heels and too-light coat. Those are glory days for a girl who grew up associating boys with decapitated dolls.

Around the corner on Prospect Street, you’ll find Harloh’s Vintage, where Tammy Dyson offers one of the largest and choicest collections I’ve seen anywhere. If I were guessing, I’d estimate the value of Dyson’s inventory at well into six figures. The winter coat collection at Harloh’s makes me drool. You’ll find sumptuous wools, cleverly-detailed leathers, and, for those with no compunctions, fur-trimmed jackets. Best of all, Ms. Dyson is offering a 25 percent discount to celebrate her recent move to the Prospect Street location. The 1960s wool knit cape in today’s post is a Harloh’s discovery. If ever there were a statement piece, this is it. Wearing a cape makes me feel like I’m channeling Wonder Woman or some other super hero. They’re just fun and practical.

If you feel the slightest hesitation about choosing a vintage coat over a new one, let me pose this question: how do you think an acetate-lined import from JC Penney compares to a carefully-preserved, silk-lined wool coat from the early 1960s? Even when you skip over the fact that natural fibers do not attract static electricity as synthetics do, I’m sure you know the answer to that question: there is no comparison.

Why not ditch the big box coat sales? When you arrive in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, head for Harloh’s Vintage or Indy Swank. They’re waiting for you. We’re all waiting for you.

P.S. I wanted to be a Super Bowl volunteer, but there were so many people interested that I was placed on a waiting list. I wonder if they would make an exception for a woman in a cape?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.