We hear Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Coco Chanel considered style icons a lot, but Angelica Huston, not so much. I remember watching her in Witches and boy, could she play a part. That movie scared me more than Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park had me lying in bed, motionless and breathless because I thought the dinosaurs would notice me if I moved (true story). Witches didn’t scare me with its plot, but its character, Angelica, who could move an audience. I’ve only recently learned about her story – the New York Times wrote a great article on her a month or so ago. For someone to spit out Angelica as their number one style icon, well, it gets my attention. Leslie, the owner of Shop Juju, did just this, and when I read that answer, I knew she had a knack for what she does.
I am a hunter. I started rummaging through the attic as a child and honed in on my digging techniques. I really think it’s an innate thing – you are kind of predisposed to it, and either have it or you don’t. From the attic, I hit the streets, and I began haunting thrift shops. At age twelve, you don’t have a ton of loot so you make do with $5. I can stretch a buck, let me tell you. Then I was introduced to estate sales by my mom. I bought my first vintage dress at 15 years-old, and I remember that I brought it home and hand washed it. Then I altered it to fit me and that was the first time I sat down to a sewing machine. I am not a sewer by any means imaginable, I don’t have the patience to stitch a straight line, but I use it for what I need. I still have the dress, and it has danced many steps! I got sidetracked with fashion because I thought I had to be a designer and as previously stated, I don’t have the patience. So I dove into crafting my talent on the piano. I practiced for hours and hours and I went to music school. I moved to San Francisco to be in a punk band, sort of. See, I knew I wasn’t really talented in music, but I believed that if it was your passion, it came naturally. I fought for the music inside me, but fashion was my calling. People knew me by how I dressed. After a very lucid dream of a warehouse, a cart, and racks of vintage clothing at my disposal, I decided to move home and get my degree in Fashion Merchandising at Mercyhurst University. My vintage hoarding doubled and then tripled. I had to do something. My boyfriend was really supportive, “You are talented. Just give it a try.” So after years of dragging my feet, I took a small jump and opened my little shop on Etsy. Now I can’t get enough. I have made so many wonderful relationships. I have felt true accomplishment with each sale and connection to my clients. I do it all in my shop – photograph, measure, list, curate, ship, communicate, and I love it. Shop Juju’s is named after my tortoiseshell cat, juju. She is my everything. I promised her the day I adopted her that I would give her the best life. She is very instrumental in the business. She watches me all day, beaming and glowing.
I find things everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Get your name out there, tell people you are looking, ask questions like, “Can I look in your closet?” Leave no stone unturned. Garage sales, estate sales, church sales, sales at schools, free things on the side of the road, thrift shops, people who just want to give you stuff, consignment stores, private dealers, vintage stores. And the blessed, very rare occasion when you get a phone call from a lady that has an attic full of bliss. I am still waiting on that call.
Very simple – don’t go for the whole decade. Mix and match vintage and modern pieces. A 60’s cocktail dress is current because its silhouette is classic. Designers send their interns out to thrift shops to scoop up vintage duds for inspiration. So pair that dress with a pair of stilettos from Zara. Look through magazines and emulate the editorial. Be aware of what is in vogue around you. The ultimate beauty of vintage, beyond the obvious gorgeousness of the garments, is that you can look like you spent $1500 when you only spent $15. Learn how to nurture the piece, how to wash it, mend it. I am a firm believer in hand washing. My bath tub seconds as my laundry room. Use mild detergents to clean your beloved pieces. Store your vintage furs in a cedar closet or trunk. Just open your eyes. Find a couture piece in your favorite fashion magazine, tear out the picture, and then hunt for it at a thrift shop, garage sale, or estate sale.
There are three levels I see here and I will address all three. The first is a seasoned actress turned woman before our eyes. We watched her grow and she has always had impeccable style and grace. That woman is Angelica Houston. There is a quiet storm within her that I relate to, like a summer storm that lulls you to sleep. Her 70’s style inspires me, and I often find myself getting lost in the strength she gives off in pictures taken of her. Now a woman, there are journeys that show in her face and I am deeply moved by that wisdom. The second are two modern day mavens who wear a lot of vintage, the Olsen twins. They truly have a knack for mixing vintage and contemporary pieces and it works. They always ‘arrive’ on the red carpet and I love their throw backs to the 20s and 30s. Very Erte! It makes their look current, fresh and personal. When you mix vintage, it sort of ups the ante on your outfit. You are wearing a quality piece that has withstood the test of time and the elegance shows. Lastly, a truly vintage celebrity that I favor is Louise Brooks 20s/30s actress and style guru. Gorgeous, timeless, minimal sophistication… she had such an intensely feminine look. Frankly, any actress of that time. Exoticism was so completely embraced it made garments so dreamy, fantastical and whimsy. Women could be whoever they wanted. Oh let’s just be serious, I am obsessed with Sarah Jessica Parker and she is an icon standing on two feet. As I live and breathe.
I wanted to be a teacher or a Marine Biologist – I was fascinated by the underwater world. I felt a connection there, and for a long time, I was convinced I was a mermaid, Splash was my favorite movie. I loved Barbie’s, though, and I think that was the ultimate pull. I loved living in a world of make believe made up of pink tulle, sparkly clothes and high heels… you know all the things that Barbie was made of. I played the piano for a long time, and I thought I was going to be a singer / songwriter by 30. Now that I am lurking in my 30’s and seeing reality up close, I am happy to be nourished by what inspires me. I no longer see that the grass is greener on the other side because I have already done the back and forth thing. I am settled upon knowing that where I am is where I am going. I am nestled in the fact that my future is within me and up to me. It is actually quite liberating to know that it lies within you.
Now that I am a big girl, I look forward to zoning in on my little shop, helping it to blossom and grow, and see what it presents to me next. I would ultimately love to open my own store (brick and mortar). I want to cultivate a piece of me there and teach what I know. So as longwinded as that is, I guess I still want to be a teacher, a teacher of pretty things.
Artwork, skateboards, skulls, faeries, and a sunburst retro mirror. Ninety five percent of the artwork in our home is created by friends and family. When I attended Berklee College of Music, I had a friend who went to MassArt. We met while working for Anthropologie. She made me a print from a lithograph she was working on. A naked woman – there is a lot of heart there and I have it hanging in the living room. It reminds me of living in Boston. I also have a cattle skull my boyfriend, Jim, got on Craigslist for me. The guy said, “Your girlfriend is either really cool or really weird.” Jim replied with, “She’s both.” A bear skull I scored while running a thrift shop, a portrait of my cats painted by my brother, a painting of a skeleton from New Orleans, which was a gift for dog watching my friend’s Burmese Mountain Dog, Tess. The skateboards are Jim’s, and he has a pretty massive collection. My sister is a master crocheter and beader – I suppose she is a weaver. She does mixed media of beads and bolts and crocheted items, and frames them. I have loads of her work all over my house. Last to mention is a print from Pittsburgh’s Monkey Museum. Heather lived behind me when I lived in Mt. Washington, I met her through a friend and purchased a print of Jim and I. I gave it to him for Valentine’s Day about 8 years ago.
David Bowie, Iris Apfel, Tori Amos, Phyllis Curott, Chelsea Handler, my friend Sarah, Jim, David Byrne, my parents and siblings, Jim Gaffigan, David Grohl (it seems I like famous guys named David), my neices and nephews, oh, and Sarah Jessica Parker. I am just getting started though… dead or alive? Ok dead – Audrey Hepburn, Peter Sellers, Bruce Lee and who am I kidding, Brandon Lee too, Keith Moon, I guess Janis could come, oh and Marilyn, she could teach me a thing or two, and I bet she would bring a fabulous dish. Those Gemini’s are always surprising us. And then I would serve Indian Navrattan Korma with garlic naan and champagne cocktails.