“You can wear vintage every day and still look modern,” explains Brianna Lance as she tries on a delicate white crochet dress, with a few dangling threads from years of love, in the dressing room at a photo shoot. It’s a theme in Lance’s life: Basic Rights, a menswear line that the designer, model, and Bad Girlfriend frontwoman co-founded earlier this year, uses deadstock fabric for 80 percent of its pieces; before that, she was head designer at Reformation, pioneering the brand’s casual-cool-girl uniform made from sustainable textiles and repurposed vintage clothing. When buying vintage for her own closet, Lance subscribes to a philosophy: Layer, layer, layer. Today, the vintage dress sits atop a current-season Etro gown, paisley silk peeping out underneath crochet. “Mix it in with everything you already own,” she says. “It’ll look natural.”
The fact that so many big labels — Gucci, Prada, Valentino — are finding inspiration in vintage for their fall collections makes this task particularly easy, says Lance: “Everything has this treasure-hunt feel, with beautiful embellishments, like you found it in an antique store.” But that’s still no replacement for a real treasure hunt, so we followed Lance to three of her favorite New York City vintage stores. The loot we found seemed swiped from the runway — or was it the other way around?
377 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013
Tiny Nolita boutique Ritual feels like a rock star’s closet. There are original glam-rock platform boots, a fringed Victorian mourning jacket, purple lamé disco pants, custom patchwork bell-bottoms. Every piece seems to have a story, which owner Stacy Iannacone is happy to share. “I just sold a 1920s embroidered piano shawl kimono to a good friend,” she tells me. “And then I stumbled across a picture of Janis Joplin wearing the same one.”
Lance is also a musician, formerly singing and playing guitar in the band Bad Girlfriend, and now working on a solo project, so it’s no surprise these clothes fit her aesthetic. But while the pieces might seem tricky to wear offstage, they mix seamlessly with the right modern elements, says Lance. “The main thing I love at Ritual are slip dresses, which you can wear day or night,” she notes. And in the winter, nothing vamps up jeans and a sweater like a vintage fur, of which she and Ritual have plenty. “Fur is controversial, but when it’s vintage you’re taking something that would otherwise be trash and making something of it,” Lance says. “Whereas a new, mass-produced coat, even if it’s made of nothing to do with fur, does damage to the environment.”
Iannacone hardly keeps up with runways when curating pieces. “I follow my heart and my instinct,” she says. “I love to think about the good times someone had in that pair of custom platforms or those lovingly patched jeans. Just like my party clothes are out there, too, hopefully having another spin.”
104 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002
Owner Edith Machinist curates her airy Lower East Side store for classically chic — if also trend-conscious — New Yorkers. Well-cut trousers, silk blouses, and sturdy Chelsea boots are the store’s main course, with a generous scoop of runway-influenced pieces for dessert. “The clothes are fresh and ladylike,” says Lance. “When you buy them they feel modern already.” Vintage that doesn’t look vintage is “kind of the goal,” adds Machinist.
To keep up with fashion, Machinist looks first to street style. “The best part about New York is that it challenges you; people experiment and you see the trends appear a couple of seasons later on the runways,” she says. Lately, her finds have played into the Seventies office look: for instance, an original Missoni knit and a silk jersey dress by Bruce Oldfield, one of Princess Diana’s favorite designers. “And I’m feeling the pussybow blouse — maybe it’s the Gucci influence,” Machinist says. Lance pairs it with Gucci loafers and jeans, or menswear-influenced suiting à la Annie Hall.
In that movie, Diane Keaton’s wardrobe was full of dark colors and tweeds; Machinist’s store is similarly dominated by elegant neutrals like black, navy, and gray. Some trends never go out of style.
9th Street Haberdashery
346 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003
This East Village boutique specializes in clothes from the 1950s and earlier: 1920s kimonos, chambray button-downs, varsity jackets, tennis dresses. But while the clothes are antique, they’re curated with contemporary fashion in mind. “We do our research and see color stories and trends,” says Meri Rauber, who co-owns 9th Street with Stacey Luckow. Recently, as designers found influence in the Seventies, Rauber and Luckow curated a selection of pieces from the Thirties and Forties. “That’s what the Seventies were influenced by,” she notes.
Rauber’s personal style is sporty (think Levi’s 501XXs, World War II–era tees) while Luckow’s is feminine (embroidered Mexican blouses, satin pajama sets). Lance embraces both points of view. “I get a lot of beautiful vintage dresses at 9th Street, and jeans,” she says. “They do a great job finding interesting denim with unusual hems or patchworks.” Recently, Lance paired straight-leg Levi’s with a chambray top and a metallic fringed Missoni jacket for a look that was half Badlands, half Boogie Nights. “It’s interesting because everything is so referenced now,” she says. “When you take a piece and put it in a different context, it can look totally new.”