Like cold-hardiness in roses, pragmatism is bred into Minnesotans, which has spawned a rich but not spendy vintage scene. Here's the economics: One buys a few good things every year, holds onto them for, say, 70 or 80 seasons, and then donates said clothes to a second-hand shop.
Despite the very public efforts of MK and Ash, the distinction between thrift and vintage is still hazy for some Twin Citians, so vintage prices remain relatively low on a surplus of tasty finds. The home of Target, General Mills, Prince, and the Coen brothers, the Twin Cities also manage excellent vintage trawling, without resorting to hipster acronyms like Dumbo or SoMa. No sir, you got Minneapolis and you got St. Paul. One could be tempted to do something intemperate.
ï¿½ Via's Vintage, 2408 Hennepin Avenue S., Minneapolis
Via's itself is a vintage establishment with 25 years in the biz. She's got a vast inventory spanning 1880 to 1980, and something no other vintage shop can boast-oodles of space. The goods are organized by waist measurement. Via's is the way to go for shoes, lingerie, and furs, with a robust representation of the 1940s and 50s. The young and fun-loving hipsters of the neighborhood flock to the shop in such numbers, the proprietress puts the rare and fragile stuff up high or in the back.
ï¿½ My Sister's Closet, 1136 Grand Avenue, St. Paul; 651-222-2819
The sisters of My Sister's Closet are debating how to describe their shop on their coming-but-not-yet-up website. Vintage, quality consignment, and couture seems to fit, but we would lobby for something along the lines of: The most amazing, happy jumble of exquisite vintage, current finds from here and across the pond, chapeau, kicks, bags, baubles, all in a big Victorian house. It's the mix that makes My Sister's Closet: pair some True Religions ($28!) with a full-length dream of a 1940s baby blue fit-and-flare coat ($48!) and you've got wearable wonderfulness, not a historical reenactment.
ï¿½ Go Vintage, 1560 Selby Avenue, St. Paul
The greatest and most tightly curated selection of pristine condition vintage pieces in the Twin Cities. Truly remarkable is their collection of Edwardian and Victorian frocks and 1940s skirt suits. What Go Vintage lacks in space and ambience, it makes up for in organization, with dresses, skirts, suits, blouses, and outerwear ordered by decade from 1880 to 1980. Most dresses are in the $50 to $90 range, which is a steal for the quality. They also have lovely lingerie, some sassy 1950s bathing suits and menswear downstairs.
ï¿½ Lula, 1587 Selby Avenue, St. Paul; 651-644-4110
With a bit of a rocker-y edge to this grand dame of the St. Paul vintage scene, Lula is celebrating 22 years of anti-establishmentarianism. Gotta have a John Cheever suburban cocktail dress to go with your Tom Collins? You're home, baby. Lula is strong on 1950s, 60s, and 70s frocks, bold color and pattern, high-waisted jeans, and menswear. Dresses abide in the $35 to $70 range, in a pierced and hot-punk environment.
ï¿½ Melrose Antiques, 13 NE 5th Street, Minneapolis; 612-362-8480
In the way of fabulous curiosity shops, Melrose Antiques surprises and delights everywhere you look. A chaotic obstacle course of Biedermeier secretary, Aubusson carpet, and fringed lamp lead past a jewelry case of estate rocks, the good stuff, arranged by color of stone--emerald, ruby, rhinestone, sapphire. If you can tear yourself away, head through a connecting door and over the resident Sharpei, and you'll be rewarded by a small but exquisite clothing collection. A stunning black wool art deco coat with jeweled latch closures ($220) was practically buried on an unassuming rolling rack. The pieces are not organized or sized, and seem to be mainly from the 1920s to 1950s. Serious style hounds go there for the jewelry, outerwear, and day dresses. It's not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is.
Home of Prince and the Coen brothers, the Twin Cities is also touchdown for great vintage. Our mid-west spy gets the scoop.