Fashion is cyclical (though we can hope that Zubaz and hyper color shirts never make it back around), so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the marriage of a vintage shop and current high fashion trends should go so well together. Karen Kinney-McMullan lends her expertise as designer and trend forecaster to The Vintage Studio, a cozy vintage boutique at 50th Street and Xerxes Avenue where one can find anything from a classic pillbox hat to shoes that look like they stepped off this season’s runway. That’s not to mention the array of garments from the 1940s to the ‘80s (though Kinney-McMullan is quick to point out she’s picky about what she brings in from the fashionably questionable decade of the ‘80s, and we can thank her for that).
Ask Kinney-McMullan what’s trending in high fashion, and not only will she cite color combinations and specific accessories (neutrals paired with bold colors are big this season, and tribal-inspired necklaces are making a comeback) but she’ll be able to point you to authentic, time tested items in the shop that match what the biggest names in fashion are highlighting right now.
Vintage virgins need not fear a fashion faux pas at The Vintage Studio. One of Kinney-McMullan’s favorite things is to help perusers find their perfect items, and she’s made it her mission to prove that vintage can blend seamlessly into modern wardrobes. There’s no need for it to come off as costume. Want proof? Kinney-McMullan was dressed in head to toe vintage when we met, and–far from theatrical–the look was classy, even modern.
That’s the thing with fashion. It seems to always be looking backwards and forwards at the same time. Every new trend has a reference point, often from decades ago. Kinney-McMullan’s expert eye does the matching so you can do the browsing. And in The Vintage Studio, that’s what it is, browsing, in sharp contrast to rummaging, which is what discourages some potential vintage shoppers. That, Kinney-McMullan says, and the freaky mannequins.
But there are no freaky mannequins and there's no rummaging to be done at The Vintage Studio. Kinney-McMullan’s done the rummaging already, at estate sales, auctions and the like, hand inspected every item, and brought the best to the shop.
An eco-friendly and economical shopping option (vintage items are by definition reused, and we found a flawless clutch for $18), Kinney-McMullan said she is also “really trying to create a boutique feeling” at the shop–and she’s doing it all herself. A one woman retail army, Kinney-McMullan does absolutely everything for the shop, from selecting each item that comes through the door to laundering the garments and running the store. When Patch met her, she was helping a customer select a dress for a wedding, taking out a sewing measuring tape to determine the size of the dress (dress sizes aren’t what they used to be). She then pointed out other items in the shop that had come from the same woman’s collection.
The possibility of finding your fashion twin is an unexpected perk of shopping at a boutique vintage store. Do you look best in green? Have an affinity for chunky jewelry? There may be another woman from an earlier era with the same tastes–and her collection may just be in Kinney-McMullan’s boutique.
In this way, in addition to finding fashion, Kinney-McMullan said customers have the opportunity to “wear a piece of history.” And not just a piece of American history, but an individual’s history that the new wearer becomes a part of.
Since vintage pieces all have past lives, when you buy vintage, you buy as-is, though everything you see has stood the test of time.
“A woman came in and said, ‘Is this going to tarnish?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. It’s been here since the ‘50s and it seems to be okay,’” Kinney-McMullan said.