Photos by Melissa Lile
Article by Jeremy Benson and Jeanne Lesinski
Buying vintage clothes, some would argue, is fantastic for the environment: instead of crowding a landfill, the clothes get second and third lives in your closet. Besides, the clothes themselves were likely made to last longer, with better fabric and construction that was designed for easy repairs and alterations.
Plus, vintage clothing is kind of in. Just look at Regina Spektor's latest music video, or Zooey Deschanel's entire wardrobe for the film 500 Days of Summer.
Here we detail two Saginaw stores that specialize in vintage and antique clothing.
814 Columbus Ave.
Bay City, MI 47808
Walking into Glad Rags is like stepping into a painting—the walls are home to a collection of collages and paintings, the racks of clothes are colorful and flowing. Owner Mary Bush warns, "If you're afraid of fashion, this store isn't for you."
Only about a third of the Glad Rags' inventory is technically "vintage;" the rest is sure to be unusual. The store specializes in original creations, including hand-embroidered sweaters, home-sewn smoking jackets, and hand-made dresses. Mary also sells handmade cards and jewelry, made from found objects, although most of the jewelry she sells is not her own.
Mary prides herself in being able to help customers find the right style identity. "I can figure out what looks good on people." At an unabashed 64 years old, Mary is proud to admit she has lived through most of the eras during which the "smashing styles" she sells were most popular. She has an extensive fashion library and is fairly well-read, however, usually refers to her experience when dispensing fashion advice.
Glad Rags caters to "the older women who like embellished jackets," but occasionally men stop in looking for tuxedos with tails or Hawaiian shirts. "Some of the more unusual teenages come in, too," says Mary.
412 Court Street
Saginaw, MI 48602
Wednesday through Friday 11-5
Dennis and Melodye Adomaitis have been dealing in vintage clothes for 30 years. As collectors of costumes and antique clothes, they once hosted dress-up parties, until a move into a smaller house required them to sell a portion of their collection. From there, opening a store was a natural progression.
Although the market for vintage clothes was booming when the store first opened on Court Street in 1980, the last three decades have had plenty of ebb and flow. The couple has met slow business with creativity, renting their inventory to theater companies, theme weddings, and private parties, while using their knowledge of antique clothing to both appraise and auction estates. The Adomaitises are approved by the International Society of Appraisers, and have received awards from the National Costume Association for their ability to provide authentic dress from the underwear up. Adomaitis has even designed clothes for museums and films.
World travels helped to spur creative ideas. After learning of King Henry's Feast during a visit to London, Dennis and Melodye organized the Dickens Dinner. Dennis, then an art teacher at Freeland High School, encouraged students to volunteer as wait staff for the events, dressing them in Victorian costumes. For 13 years, the Dickens Dinner benefited Boysville, a residential treatment center for troubled teens.
The internet has been especially beneficial to the store. "Getting online has restored my faith in my vintage clothes," says Melodye, who can now reach a much larger sampling of her niche clientèle. Dennis and Melodye use Etsy and eBay to find buyers for some items, occasionally shipping sold items to Europe.
© Jeremy Benson, 2010