Friday, November 7, 2008

Best Dressed For Less

Italian Male/Female 60s Buckled Belt. ($350.00).
By Anita Sarko

Whatever financial catastrophe it is that we are currently experiencing … recession ... depression ... Americans have been reeling from high-end clothing ticket shock for some time. The weak dollar can make even the most sturdy gym bunny positively weak at the knees when one’s typical label staples have increased their price tags to such amounts that one has to weigh the importance of obtaining a new frock against paying the next few months’ rent. I’m not even an haute couture type, but it was quite unnerving when I returned from my last trip to London without my usual clutch of Westwoods and an extra suitcase of shoes. When a typical one-way cab trip cost $80, how was I supposed to feel comfortable with plunking down my hard-earned WORTHLESS American bucks for some finery? Bummer.

Now that you’ve wiped your eyes, it’s time for the GOOD news! There’s a wonderful treasure trove that has popped up in Manhattan that will solve all of your upcoming holiday clothing issues when making an entrance and standing out in a crowd is just what you need to achieve a fierce wallop of holiday cheer.

Since opening two years ago, RARE VINTAGE (24 W. 57th St., Suite 501, 212.581.7273) has had its fabulous frocks showcased on red carpets via such gorgeous gals as Angelina, Anne Hathaway, Rachel Weisz and America Ferrera. Actresses wearing high-end vintage has been going on for years, but they usually procure their finery from such LA mainstays as Decades and, especially, Lily et Cie.

NYC has some purveyors, but the ones I’ve known about have had reputations for being a bit difficult to find and difficult to deal with. That’s why the lovely owner of RARE Vintage, Juliana Cairone, is such a find: Not only is her taste flawless, but she is also a down-to-earth, extremely helpful, SANE and sweet individual.

Cairone is a former waitress and writer, who, after her twins (a boy and a girl) became 6 years old, decided she wanted to get out of the suburbs and “... work for a while.” Juliana says that the idea for RARE Vintage came about by accident: “I always wore vintage and my clothing was spreading outside my closet.” When she began draping clothing over paintings, her husband gave her a “... not so gentle push ...” to do a closet cleaning. Cairone found a vintage show online and did so well, she decided to open a space that would help take care of the other element of her vintage clothing addiction that her husband’s original plan hadn’t taken into consideration: Her love of SHOPPING and the thrill of THE FIND! To his dismay, after the original castoffs were sold, she just bought more. And so, RARE Vintage was born.

The space is sunny and well laid out, dotted with huge photo prints from Hollywood’s golden years. “My husband’s grandfather was a photographer for ‘Life’,” She says of the iconic black and white images. Another nice feature is that, though every item is beautifully displayed, hung, spread out or folded, there is nothing precious about the presentation. As you can see from the pictures, the clothing is impeccable, yet you don’t feel that weird fear that you can’t touch or get too close to the treasures or something very bad will happen.
Little Black Dresses. L. to r.: 1994 CHANEL Bell-shaped Sequin with Horsehair Underskirt and Lace Trim ($2,600.00. Size 6-8); YVES ST. LAURENT late 70s "Moulin Rouge Collection" Silk Velvet and Taffeta ($2,300.00. Size 4); LANCETTI Haute Couture Silk Gazar with Inner Belt and Organza Lining ($1,600.  Size 4-6).
DONALD BROOKS 1967 Pheasant and Ostrich gown ($3,500.00. Size 4-6). CHLOÉ (Last year LAGERFELD designed for the house) 1983 Mirror-Trimmed Silk Dress ($3,100.00).
It’s useful to know that most of the clothing at RARE Vintage is in current US sizes 4 and 6. “I try to find pieces that are collectable and wearable. I don’t encourage a lot of tailoring. My goal is to have pristine-condition museum-quality pieces that you can’t find.” Cairone explains. “I talk about the past lives of clothes. I personally don’t care about dead stock, which is clothing that was unworn with the original tags.”

In her quest to unearth unique treasures with a past, Juliana has become a frequent visitor to Italy and France. “The production was smaller, so the pieces weren’t made to ship. Many were dressmaker dresses, weighted and decorated with hand-stitched beads.” Cairone packs all goodies in unbuffered acid-free tissue for storage so that they hold onto their value. “Some things are okay on hangers, but anything heavy should be stored flat because the materials will become stressed over time.”
CHANEL Runway Haute Couture Late 70s Chinoiserie White, Gold and Pink Beaded  Sik Chiffon Blouse ($2,100.00. Size 4.)
GIANNI VERSACE 80s Bondage Bra. "The gold is a very vivid yellow gold, very 80s. (Donatella) Versace doesn't use that shade anymore." ($1,100.00). FERRE 80s Red Silk Velvet Sword Evening Bag ($1,100.00).
As a collector and wearer of vintage, I once became a victim of the fragility of my obsession. One night, I stupidly wore a heavily beaded chiffon flapper dress to DJ in. By the end of the night, the weight of the beads and my constant motion had reduced the beautiful frock to beaded shreds hanging precariously from the flesh colored leotard and skating tights I had had the good sense (and modesty) to have worn underneath. On a similar note, my mom once issued the following instructions when she bequeathed me one of her crystal beaded Norell column gowns: “No steps, no sitting, no dancing. Just stand there.” And, when a dress weighs nearly 40 lbs., you listen to your mother.

Though there are some shoes, jewelry, sunglasses and bags scattered throughout the loft-like space, Juliana says that she will be increasing her accessory offerings beginning in late November. “I try to have things in different price ranges. I’ll buy something if I think it is fun.” She explains. She is particularly excited about the semi-precious jewelry and some costume pieces from Yves St. Laurent and Chanel.
GIVENCHY 70s Backless Chiffon Goddess Gown ($3,100.00). THIERRY MUGLER Crystal Pleated Synthetic with Piercing Detail ($2,100.00). Original price was $4,070.00.
THIERRY MUGLER Suit from early 90s ($1,100.00. Size 4). DIOR (FERRE Designed) White Organza with Chiffon Pleated Mini-Dress/ Blouse. All edges are hand finished. "It will cost a fortune to dry clean this." ($2,100.00).
RARE Vintage is open on Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:30 AM to 6 PM. Private appointments are offered and Juliana will stay late or come in on Sundays if a client wishes.

Now ... enough talk. Look at the pictures and check out These may be old clothes, but the new reality is that half of her business comes from the Internet. And also remember that, though you will be seeing price tags in the thousands, those numbers are a far cry from their original cost. A Thierry Mugler dress may be $2,100, but it was originally $4,070 ... in early 90’s dollars. Do the math.
PIROVANO 60s Acid Green Organza ($1,500.00). COURREGES HYPERBOLE (His clothing line for younger people) early 70s Mint Green Wool Crepe ($2,100.00).