Deluxe Redux met with Amy Ernst Mayberry, owner of Chicago boutique Viva Vintage Clothing. Viva Vintage Clothing has been in business since 1997 and focuses on mid-20th century clothing and accessories, and select items from the 1920s and 1930s.
Amy has loved textiles since she was young. "I’ve always enjoying playing with color and texture since I was a very small child, so I think that predisposed me to be interested in fashion from that perspective," she states. She loves the feel of good fabrics, color, and print and loves vintage specifically for the quality and uniqueness of the textiles compared to what is available in a modern store.
Amy inherited her fashion sense from her mother, a beautifully well-dressed woman who knows what styles suit her. Her mother is also an accomplished seamstress, so Amy learned about fabric and construction quality by watching her mother create clothing.
Amy went to high school near St. Louis in the late 1980s. At that time, there was a heavy influence on fashion from the 1940s through the 1960s, which she still loves today. Vintage allowed her to handle more beautiful and well-made garments than with modern clothing. With a limited budget, Amy was able to purchase original fashion pieces from that period through thrifting.
She knew what suited her body type and coloring, and wanted to create a unique look, instead of wearing the cookie-cutter options available at the local mall. She thrifted for unusual men’s suit jackets and vintage dresses. The first significant piece Amy remembers purchasing was a 1950s homecoming dress she found at a thrift store. Over the years, Amy has amassed a vast personal collection of clothes and vintage hats that she sees as 'little sculptures' and pieces of art.
Amy went to college in Evanston, IL and worked at a local vintage boutique called Fabola from 1993 through 1997. It became somewhat of an apprenticeship as Amy began working there part-time, continued to work on a full-time basis, and eventually became the manager of the retail store. In 1997 when the Fabola owner decided to close her business, Amy took the plunge and opened her brick-and-mortar vintage store in Fabola's place which she named Viva Vintage Clothing.
Viva Vintage Clothing
Amy operated Viva Vintage Clothing in Evanston, just north of Chicago, from 1997 and closed the retail storefront in 2007 when she launched her website. She sold exclusively online through vivavintageclothing.com until 2010.
In 2010, after receiving numerous requests from local clients preferring to shop in person, Amy moved the business into the current showroom located in the Ravenswood neighborhood on Chicago's north side. The showroom is open only by appointment. With the addition of the showroom, people have the option to shop online, pre-shop at online and then come in and try on the items, or visit the showroom to browse both online pieces and inventory and accessories not posted online.
Amy photographs the inventory and posts the online listings herself. Her husband Jamie Mayberry assists with marketing, design, and other business needs.
Amy's inventory focus is mid-20th century clothing and accessories. Clothing condition is one of the key factors, as she finds vintage from the 1940s to the 1960s are sturdier and more durable than earlier pieces. She does stock older items from the 1920s and 1930s when she can find them in wearable condition.
The second key factor in selecting inventory is quality. Clothing and accessories from the mid-20th century, even those vintage items originally sold at lower-end stores like Sears, are often better constructed as compared to some older pieces from the 1980s and 1990s.
Viva Vintage Clothing is located in a neighborhood of former industrial buildings, now a corridor full of artist studios and creatives of all kinds. Viva Vintage Clothing participates in the annual Chicago Ravenswood Artwalk (RAW). One weekend per year, the local businesses come together and open their spaces to the public and host other artists. With food trucks, beer, and entertainment, it has become a great community event. The 2017 RAW will be held on September 16th and 17th.
Amy recently launched a new website for vivavintageclothing.com. It's mobile-friendly with a search function and easier ordering process. She will be spending more time developing her marketing plan for increased internet presence through social media and SEO.
Although Amy appreciates all eras, she feels the hour-glass silhouettes of the late 1940s to 1950s suit her best. However, for pure visual appeal, Amy loves the tailored, sculptured fashions of the 1930s for the asymmetry, unique lines, and surrealist-inspired details. Finding an iconic piece by Schiaparelli would high on Amy's list of vintage “holy grails.”
Chicago Vintage Fashion
Amy noted that vintage was not mainstream in Chicago during the early 1990s. Between the 1990s and the 2000s, she observed a massive shift in the acceptability of vintage as street wear and people being more comfortable mixing vintage with their contemporary wardrobe. Currently, there is a higher comfort level with second-hand items, thrifted pieces, and consignment stores.
"It is still rare to see someone decked out in full on vintage walking down the street in Chicago as compared to New York City or Tokyo, for example," says Amy. "Communities like the rockabilly scene keep a vibrant market for specific vintage eras alive and well here."
Contact Amy for a showroom appointment and sign up for Viva Vintage Clothing's newsletter and get the latest on her special deals!
Viva Vintage Clothing
Deluxe Redux® is a vintage fashion blog based in Chicago celebrating fashion history. I feature designers, vintage boutiques and fashion historians..