On Friday, a few hours before the season’s biggest snowstorm was set to shed over a foot of snow in New York City, a line of people stretched outside the Metropolitan Pavilion. Inside, at the first Manhattan Vintage Show of 2022, almost 80 vendors offered their best secondhand finds. The excitement was palpable. Some people were negotiating over vintage Moschino and Gucci Jackie bags, while others were marvelling at displays of antique jewellery. And, although the vintage treasures alone were worthy of trekking out in the cold and snow, it's the street style that makes this showcase a can't miss event every year.
“There are so many cool people who like to dress so great,” says Jade Oliver, the founder of Vintage Queens NYC, a Queens-based vintage boutique, who sported a strawberry shirt and blue overalls, paired with a red tie, green hat, and a rhinestone face mask. “You really get to see the interesting dressers in New York when you come here.”
Since 1992, the Manhattan Vintage Show has been a mecca for vintage sellers and collectors alike. The two-day expo has consistently amassed nearly 100 exhibitors that range from handbag and jewellery collectors to purveyors of vintage Chanel and Dior suits and original Levi’s denim. It’s also a place where personal style is fully on display with people wearing everything from retro pillbox hats and berets to clear plastic dresses, skull-shaped jewellery, and lots of fuzzy details.
“I love the fact that this show brings out your creativity,” says Vivian Rodgers-Hill, also known as Lady V, the owner of Lady V Second Time Around. “I feel like I’m reliving the fun part of my life.” Rodgers-Hill opened her boutique in 2014, after retiring from her previous career as a middle school vice principal, following decades of nurturing her passion for thrifting. “I had to segway into a business that I would still be getting the energy from people,” she says. “I love people!”
And people were there. Some, like Lachlan Watson, planned their outfit to stand out from the crowd, which fills up the space as soon as the doors open. “I wanted my friend to be able to find me very quickly if I got lost,” says Watson, who whore a hot pink velvet vest and pants, paired with a matching fuzzy bucket hat and a white turtleneck. Kayla Robinson, a first-time attendee, sported a T-shirt with the face of Frida Kahlo emblazoned on the front, a beret, and a pair of plaid pants. “These are all clothes I've had for a couple of years that I’ve just continued to maintain and just mix and match in different ways,” the Texas-based collector, who loves vintage shopping for the sustainability factor, says.
It’s a sentiment shared by Sheryl Roberts, owner of the vintage boutique Indigo Style, which includes an impressive collection of hard-to-find pieces from Patrick Kelly. Roberts sees the Manhattan Vintage Show as a tool to educate people on how vintage shopping can be an eco-friendly and long-lasting alternative to shopping new. “It's a way for people to really see how vintage design is made, the quality, the fabrication, the fit, everything,” she says. “Everything about vintage is better.”
While the Y2K trends may reign in today’s fashion landscape, at the Manhattan Vintage Show, attendees are going back in time. In particular, the ‘70s were a big inspiration this year. Roberts, for example, made a case for wearing a three-piece suit in polyester, which she calls “the defining fabric of the ‘70s.” Meanwhile, Laurieann Harbin, a pastry chef, opted to channel the disco decade with a micro mini dress, worn as a top; flared pants; and platform boots. “It’s a very cool kid style; maybe she's on her way to the club, but not quite yet,” Harbin says.
There were also quite a few contemporary dressers. Take, for example, attendees donning Demna’s Balenciaga and recent Marni collections. For some, their purchases ended up becoming part of their outfit. Annika White, a Depop vintage seller, put on the pale blue coat with fluffy trim she had just bought to match her equally plush socks, an Etsy purchase handmade in Ukraine.
For most attendees, dressing up for the Manhattan Vintage Show is all about self-expression. “Every morning I wake up feeling a very different type of way and I'd really represent who I feel and who I am in how I put my outfit,” says José Osorio, a fashion designer. On the day of the show, it was a ‘60s robe, paired with a headpiece from the same era and Jeffrey West heels. Tomorrow? Who knows.