BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“Wearing vintage is a way of wearing something unique and unexpected that no one else will have.”
Pals say that beautiful Stuart Dyer Mesires, owner of Ladybug Vintage, can uncover a treasure in any flea market.
The Grace Kelly look-alike not only wears vintage clothing and accessories with verve, she serves as its best voice. Noting the high quality and superior manufacturing of pieces from the past while advising not to dress vintage head-to-toe (her most used hashtag is #mixofvintageandnew), Stuart sat down with us to explain the vintage advantage.
How did Ladybug Vintage get started?
I started Ladybug Vintage in 2009. Just to give you a little background on myself, I received a BA in Art History from Hamilton College, then moved to New York City, where I completed course work at Parsons School of Design in fashion design. I then started a 15-year career in fashion, which included working at a company that specialized in vintage textiles and as a clothing designer for such companies as Tommy Hilfiger and Lilly Pulitzer.
From as far back as I can remember, I have been an avid fan of vintage. I have always collected it for myself and, while working as a designer, I collected it to use as design inspiration.
Eight years ago, I decided to turn my passion for collecting vintage into a business.
How did you get started collecting vintage clothing and jewelry? What were your first pieces?
I started collecting vintage clothing and jewelry when I was very young. My mother is an avid collector of antiques. I would often accompany her to flea markets and antique shows where she would look for British antiques and Chinese export pieces.
I wanted to collect something, too, so I would look for things that I could afford with my allowance. Vintage clothing and costume jewelry were items that no one really wanted at the time, and thus my collection began.
I can’t remember my first piece but I do remember being in my teens and buying two amazing 1960s Emilio Pucci blouses for $5.00 each. I still have them today.
Why do you like wearing vintage?
I love wearing vintage because I can find one-of-a-kind items that no one else has. I also like the high-quality of construction and materials found in vintage clothing and jewelry.
People seem more interested in wearing vintage now than they did in the past. Why do you think this is the case?
I think there is more of an interest in vintage now for a few reasons. The first being mass market retailers. You can now find the same retailers all over the U.S. and the rest of the world. People used to dress differently from each other in different regions of the U.S., as well as throughout out Europe and Asia. Now, wherever we go, people pretty much dress the same: the same trends and same brands.
Another reason is technology. As soon as a designer shows his or her designs on the runway, images of them are disseminated to the world through social media and the web. By the time the designs reach stores, they have already been knocked off by lower end retailers and our eyes have seen the same designs for many months.
Wearing vintage is a way of wearing something unique and unexpected that no one else will have. These days, people interested in fashion are not interested in looking like everyone else. They don’t want to show up to an event in the same outfit as someone else.
There also seems to be an increased interest in wearing vintage because of the high quality of the pieces. Clothing and jewelry were made to last longer—there were not as many trends changing all the time, and people didn’t buy or own as much as we do now, so what they had really had to last. I find that vintage pieces that I own from the 1960s and 1970s are often in better shape than new pieces that I bought just three to five years ago.
What dos and don’ts would you share about buying vintage?
Try it on—especially the clothing. Sometimes vintage clothing looks different on the hanger than contemporary pieces do, and it doesn’t have the same hanger appeal.
Also, you can’t go by the sizes that are written in vintage garments because sizes have changed. For example, a 1960s size 8 is equivalent to a modern day size 2. It is also a good idea to try on vintage pieces because the fit has changed over the years due to the fact that our body shapes have changed. More women exercise now than they used to, and the types of undergarments we wear have changed. In the 1950s most everyone wore a girdle, in the 1960s women wore bullet bras, and in the 1970s some women wore no bras.
What dos and don’ts would you share about wearing vintage?
My number one rule about wearing vintage is not to dress in it from head-to-toe. You want to allude to an era, not look as though you are wearing a costume.
You don’t even necessarily want someone to know that you are wearing vintage. You just want them to notice that you are wearing something fabulous. It’s important when wearing vintage, so that you don’t get that costumey look, that you mix it with contemporary pieces.
If you are wearing vintage clothing, make sure that you wear updated shoes and handbags. If you are wearing vintage jewelry, mix it with other contemporary pieces and wear it with contemporary clothing. The same goes for vintage accessories. You also you want to make sure your hair and makeup are updated.
If you are nervous about wearing vintage, you should start small. You could start with accessories such as a scarf, a statement necklace, or a vintage handbag. Also, you could start by wearing one piece of vintage clothing at a time and pairing it with contemporary pieces. You want to feel comfortable because if you aren’t comfortable, you won’t feel confident, and you will not want to wear vintage again!
What is your favorite era for vintage pieces?
I love the 1960s and 1970s. The clothing and jewelry are fun, whimsical, and irreverent—they don’t take themselves too seriously, yet there is an air of sophistication. I also love all of the color and pattern found in the clothing and accessories.
Do you have favorite places to look for vintage clothing and accessories?
My favorites are always changing. It’s really a game of chance. A particular auction house or flea market might be great one time and not so great the next. That being said, I am always looking. Even on vacation I look for flea markets, antique malls, and garage sales.
One time in Florida, I saw an advertisement in the paper for a garage sale. I went and found a trove of fabulous pieces: vintage Pucci, Kenneth Jay Lane, and Oscar de la Renta. You just never know what you are going to find, and that’s one of the things I love about it.
You have a love of fashion history, do you do research on the pieces you wear?
I do. I was an Art History major in college, and I am sort of a geek when it comes to research and finding out about the history of things. It is a true passion.
Are there certain designers that we should look to collect for jewelry, clothing, and handbags, for example?
Just like art, I think you should collect what you love. That being said, some of the bigger designer names—Chanel, Hermes, and Yves Saint Laurent—tend to hold and often increase their value.