Vintage clothing store offers sneak peek

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No caption. Photo by Lindsey Raymond.

Though it hasn’t officially opened, Fashionista Vintage and Variety — which recently moved to the corner of Trumbull Street and Whitney Avenue — has a large sign on its door announcing: “What the heck, come on in.”

Before the vintage clothing store’s upcoming grand reopening at its new location, Todd Lyon and Nancy Shea, co-owners of Fashionista, have been allowing customers to stop by the vintage store to shop. Racks of vintage clothing, mannequins dressed in cut-out bathing suits, lacy night gowns and lush fur wraps scale the walls, and one rack of coats overflows into the hallway. But Shea and Lyon still have more merchandise to cram into the new space and hope to remodel one of the rooms to add their costume collection, which has been popular among Yalies but currently resides in storage boxes. Lyon and Shea said they have not yet chosen a specific date for the reopening.

The owners were notified early this fall by their leasing company, Track 180 LLC, that the rent for their old property at 33 Church St. would more than double. After telling the company that they could not afford to lease it for another month, Lyon and Shea were told to vacate the space by Jan. 31. Throughout last fall, they frantically searched for a new location near the School of Medicine and all around New Haven. At the last minute, Lyon and Shea found the Trumbull Street property.

But with a smaller size, the new location posed a challenge. Lyon and Shea held several large-scale sales during the fall and donated many of the store’s costume items, resulting in a reduced selection that focuses on vintage clothes, Lyon said.

Still, the new location may be a blessing in disguise for the owners, they said, because of the increased foot traffic and proximity to Yale. Yalies and local residents interviewed who frequent the store said they are pleased with the move because the store now has a storefront and can rely on more than just word-of-mouth to attract new customers.

At the front of the new Fashionista is a wooden gate opening into a display window with a selection of vintage prom dresses. The store has an green awning with the name “Fashionista” and several stars all painted white. Inside, there are three rooms with vaulted ceilings. One enters the store through a pair of French doors into what Shea and Lyon called the “Gold Room,” where the jewelry and tchochkes section is sandwiched between a large menswear collection, where racks filled with fringed cowboy vests and boater hats are watched over by a grinning plastic skull donning a jaunty beret and Harry Potter glasses, and a tiki bar, which serves as a checkout counter, wine bar and DJ booth.

“We had to put menswear front and center because men have tunnel vision when they are shopping,” Lyon said. “If the first thing they see is a dress, they assume we only have women’s clothes.”

Behind the men’s wear collection is the “Rose Room,” dominated by a mannequin wearing a Marilyn Monroe-themed vintage dress, which is seductively blown around by a fan discretely beneath it. The women’s section is stocked with suits to sundresses, along with three large racks filled with vintage ball gowns.

Housing the lingerie collection, the “linger-way” room is filled with everything from demure lace robes to a racy red vintage thong. Mannequins with vintage bathing suits line the warm, gold walls, and the two dressing rooms in the back left corner of the store have Hawaiian print curtains.

Behind the tiki bar, a narrow hallway leads to the outerwear selection, which is located in a room painted a frigid blue, and what Shea and Lyon hope to turn into their costume shop.

“Yale must be one of the most dress-up-crazed places in the world,” Lyon said. “It seems like students come here every week looking for something different.”

Lyon and Shea have outfitted several Yale theater productions, including “Hell Meets Henry Halfway,” directed by Gabriel Bloomfield ’11 in February. Bloomfield said he has been a “religious shopper” at Fashionista since his freshman year. He said he likes the vintage clothes and the snacks the owners give him as he shops. Although he said the new location is not significantly more convenient, Bloomfield said the walk to the new location is nicer and that “you can combine your clothes shopping trip with a really good meal” at the nearby cheese and wine shop, Caseus.

Lori Angeletti, a Fashionista customer and New Haven resident, said that although the new location is now farther from her house, she will still shop there more frequently for her everyday wardrobe.

“The old location on Church Street may have scared away some timid undergraduates,” added Carys Johnson ’12, who shopped at the old Fashionista for four costume parties this year. “The new location feels much safer.”

Lyon added that she and Shea are fond of a “secret” passageway that runs from Fashionista into Caseus; Fashionista, which stocks wine in the restroom and serves it daily to customers, is “the house that wine built,” they quipped.

Lyon and Shea said they will unveil a “Fashionista music video” when the store opens, but they declined to comment further on the video except to say that it will feature the two of them.

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