Tag Archives: amarcord

Is Old Fur the New Fur?

A few weeks ago, after I finished an interview with Jade Harwood, one of the lovely designers behind Wool and the Gang, she pulled on a blonde-colored lush fur coat. I told her I thought it was beautiful. She told me it was her mom’s, and that she didn’t even know what kind it was.

Image from Let’s Get Ripped and Go to the Aquarium (Doesn’t that sound fun?)

Then, last weekend, my friend Indrani wore a chocolate-colored “chinchilla” (she reckons it’s really rabbit) to a dinner party. The moment someone paid her a compliment, she said it was second-hand, from Sidney’s in Williamsburg, since displaced by an overpriced supermarket. It makes her feel gangsta. Come to think of it, Indrani usually listens to NPR, and that night she picked me up bumping Hot 97.

Puffy and Kate Moss photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue, 1999

There’s no getting around it. Wearing fur is fun. It makes us youngsters feel like we’re playing dress up–whether in our mom’s closets or Puffy’s. But it also makes us feel kind of guilty. Fur, after all, comes from animals. (My mom used to tell me her full-length beaver coat, which I named “Buster,” was made of roadkill, the implications of which I never fully understood.) It seems second-hand fur eases that sting.

Faran Krentcil of NYLON asked in the Huffington Post whether her hand-me-down black Mongolian lamb jacket was more ethical than her friend’s “vegan” fast-fashion. I would surmise that it is, and though I’ve seen neither, I’d be willing to bet money that Faran’s jacket is  much better looking, and a hell of a lot warmer.

Ethically, it’s the “it’s already dead,” justification, taken one step further, because the profits are removed from the brand that commissioned the slaughtering and skinning (sorry, it’s the truth) of the animal, so we’re not really supporting fur, per se, but rather…recycling! My mom has yet to send Buster my way, so for now I’m rocking this trend on my feet. I’m honestly not sure if the goats these came from were shorn or skinned, but I know these Lotto boots, which were my final purchase of the last decade at Amarcord in Williamsburg, are from the 1960s.

They are SO much warmer than Uggs, and less embarrassing to leave the house in. Okay, that second point may be debatable, but when it’s too snowy for sneakers, I wear these to the gym with leggings and a Patagonia top, and pretend I’m aprés ski, rather than midday yoga. Also, they’re a consistent hit with men of a certain age, and by a certain age, I mean toddlers. One such little fella was grinning at me on the subway the other day. When his dad asked him what he thought those shoes were made of, the boy gave me a little smile as he considered the question.

“Dinosaur,” he said.

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Retail and Restoration

I went to a class called Restorative Yoga tonight. It was sort of like institutionalized nap-time, except the teacher kept waking us up to change positions. It left me sort of restored, but not as much my walk across downtown on my way home–stopping in a few of my favorite spots that, incidentally, specialize in restoration.

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My first stop was Amarcord, possibly my favorite place for vintage clothes in New York. Their original location in the East Village provided one of my all-time answers to my eternal question, of what to wear: this cream-colored cotton top–sort of tent-shaped, with fluttery sleeves and a crocheted neckline. That, is what to wear.

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I have no idea how long this blouse was around before it belonged to me, but it’s been around the world on my back over the last five years.

sart.crochet with jess

2005 in the East Village, I think.

I can’t remember now how much I paid for it, but, if you calculate the cost by dividing how many times I’ve worn it, we’re talking fractions of a penny per wear. (I can’t remember who taught me this trick but I like it.) The same trick would apply to these boots, also from Amarcord, three winters ago.

Tonight I tried on a few beautiful things at Amarcord’s fancy Lafayette Street locale, but this suede butterscotch coat was the best-in-show. (My apologies for the blurriness, this was spontaneous photojournalism, via iphone.)

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I deeply sighed when I pulled this off the rack. At yoga they say you’re supposed to let thoughts of the past leave your mind, but this brought back memories of a vintage belted chocolate suede coat with a fur collar and cuffs I bought in college. It came from one of the giant Ventura, California thrift stores, where prices rarely exceed $20. At the time it reminded me of Penny Lane from Almost Famous. I was going through a bit of groupie phase myself, which may explain some of the abuse that jacket endured. By the time I finally donated it, it was torn, burned (though it had a burn or two when I bought it), and shedding fur.

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(Some people sit on stools reading magazines in the bookstore. I bond with clothing in dressing rooms.)

The one I tried tonight was made in Italy–like the vast majority of Amarcord’s inventory, and in mint condition. It also cost a solid ten times what its counterpart did at the Retarded Children’s Thrift Store in Ventura. (Yes, that’s really what it’s called.) So, I snapped this moment to remember it by, and went on my merry way. It fit perfectly, by the way. I walked away. Breathe deeply and let thoughts of the past leave your mind.

I headed east into Nolita and hung a left on Mulberry Street. I passed the Young Designers’ Market, which I sometimes enjoy, but this lovely November evening, I was in no mood for weaving between the tables in gymnasium lighting.

Instead, I continued on to Sweet Tater, a perfect little den of vintage high-waisted jeans, cognac colored platforms, and original creations, like this charcoal woolen smock-y number. If you saw me last winter, there’s about a 50% chance this is what I had on.

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I was anticipating a window at Sweet Tater with hay-bales, pumpkins, and perfect plaid shirts, but from down the street it looked dark. Did they close at 7:00? And then, I saw this:

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Their neighbor, walking out the door with a chihuahua, said they had been gone for six months (Was there something I could have done? One more smock?), but he thought perhaps they were opening another store. I’ll extend my antennae for that and visualize. Autumn at Sweet Tater was a beautiful thing, and I always liked how one of the owners put a belt around my waist when I tried on floppy tops. I’ll just have to keep re-soling and re-heeling my favorite boots, also from the magical shop, until they (fingers crossed) re-open.

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By then it was nearing 8:00, and I ventured further east, toward the subway stop at Essex and Delancey, resigning myself to window shopping along the way, but then…

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The girls at Daha, on Orchard Street, were still there, eating leftover Halloween candy in the window. I thought I was done trying things on, until I saw these bronze heels.

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They may not look like much here, but believe me when I tell you I’ve been searching for them–things always turn up when you’re not looking. I have a wedding to go to in St. Louis in two weeks, and the dress I’ve been saving for it (for three years–more on that later) begs for shoes just this height and color. And, as the shopkeeper noted, they’ll be great with jeans for going out. (Presuming, of course, that I do go out, rather than spending my Saturday evenings cataloguing my closet, window-shopping, and writing, in which case my Converse, pictured in the background, will probably suffice.) I tried them on:

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I like going out. Sold, for $60. Look what I found in the display case when I went to pay:

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Totally incredible, and not my size. (Exhale.) Just think how great they would have looked with that butterscotch coat I left behind at Amarcord.

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