Best of Shoppin 2007: Vintage Boutiques

Vintage shopper extraordinaire Leigh Canlis digs through the piles to find the best boutiques in tow

Category: Shopping + Fashion Articles


Grab the Purell—it’s time to go vintage shopping! Who is brave enough to try on a shoe with an old Band-Aid still stuck to the inside? I seriously considered it—not my size, thank God. Actually, I am a bit of a germ freak (I barely touch a door handle with my hands), but I still like to dig through the racks at Goodwill—searching, searching for that one perfect piece that has miraculously made it through decades of love/hate relationships. Oh! I see it: a perfectly intact, celery green coat from the ’50s, original buttons, no stains…inner lining sewn with the name “Lorraine.” The coat has a history no one will ever know; it is my destiny to give it life from here on out. A trip to the cleaners and that baby is ready to roll!

How do you do it? people often ask about my gift for hunting down great vintage finds. I like to start in my grandmothers’ closets. They have impeccable taste and have taken care of their clothes.

When it comes to shopping for vintage clothing, flawless condition is key—but the real secret to the perfect vintage look is to wear pieces sparingly. When added to your favorite pair of jeans and a great little top, the right pair of vintage shoes makes an outfit a standout. Notice I say one piece of vintage—please, people, save the head-to-toe vintage look for your cousin's disco party. Wear that vintage muumuu to an outdoor cocktail party in summer, but not to the movies in February. We’re not going for shock value here, we're just trying to spice it up. Throw in the unexpected and enjoy being different—an ’80s blouse that could be straight out of the movie Nine to Five suddenly has a new, upscale flair when paired with your favorite cropped jacket and jeans. My favorite? The perfect little black shift dress from the ’60s: sleeveless, just above the knee, silver beaded neck. Wear it to your next black-tie event and you will turn heads.

The benefit of recycling great clothes and giving them new breath (seriously, do you think they like smelling like a wet basement?) is something you can feel good about. But if you are truly a germ freak and won't consider going to Goodwill, here is the scoop on the best vintage shops around town.

Best Vintage Boutique
Susie Q's Closet
Fremont, 309 N 36th St.; 206.420.4282
Susan Jarvis’ vintage shop stands alone. After owning stores in Spokane and Seaside, Oregon (she’s closed both), Jarvis moved to Seattle and sold her finds at the Fremont Market and Fremont Antique Mall before she set off on her own. Opened in April, Susie Q’s nails the needed market for vintage. The intimate store feels (and smells, unlike others) like a clean, open boutique, without the high-price obstacle. The pieces are obviously hand picked and selected with care—lovely, well-priced garments that make recycling fun. Highlight: designer jean exchange rack.

Other Great Vintage Boutiques Leigh Loves:
Fremont Market
Fremont, on N 34th Street between Evanston Avenue N and Phinney Avenue N;; Sundays only
I love the feel of the Fremont Market, especially in the summer. It reminds me of when I lived in Paris. Over the years I have bought retro furniture, vintage shoes and jewelry that have stayed with me for years. When I lived in Hawaii, I would visit Seattle and head straight to the market for my dose of Seattle’s vintage gem.

Insurrection Vintage Clothing
Greenwood, 8403 1/2 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.782.5752
If you’re in need of amazing vintage cowboy boots (guys’ or gals’) or the perfect fit of old Levi’s, this is your spot. The tiny shop, nestled in the Greenwood neighborhood, has beautiful boots from as early as the &