Dress to Express

Folks who go retro say it’s all about steppin’ out in style, self-assertion and hunting for clothes
Dress to Express
Kathryn and Andrew Danish are attracted by the unique and beautiful designs of vintage fashion.
Dress to Express
Inside the Danish Oakland MCM home.
Dress to Express

When it's time for a juicy steak at San Jose's the Burger Pit, Sunnyvale Eichler owner John Kunkel dresses for the occasion—cowboy style. "I look like Roy Rogers," he says, "the Acme cowboy boots and my Stetson hat. When I go get a steak, I want to look like that."

"Sometimes," his wife Vanessa says, "I feel I just want to get something to eat."

She's got a different view, though, when Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend rolls around in the spring. "We go strictly vintage when we go to Viva," Vanessa says of the clothes she and John wear. About hers, she says, "The louder and crazier, the better."

"When you go to Viva Las Vegas," says Renee Underwood, a friend of John and Vanessa's and a fellow Eichler owner, "girls plan their outfits like six months out, seriously—and talk about it on our Facebook page, and find the best over-the-top, super-sexy, super-sparkly thing to wear. For the big pool party, you have to find an amazing over-the-top swimsuit to wear."

And it's not just events in Vegas that have vintage fashion fans rifling through their over-stuffed closets. There are tiki bars like Trader Vic's in Emeryville, car shows like the recent Road Zombies barbecue in Santa Clara, and house parties galore.

Then there's every day.

"Some people like vintage and just wear it occasionally for special events like going out," Renee says. "And there are people who adopt the whole lifestyle—the house, the clothes the music—and they tend to dress vintage most of the time."

She and her husband, Karl Underwood, fit, more or less, into category two. And it surprises her that more of their neighbors in Concord's Rancho del Diablo Eichler tract don't drape themselves in classic Shaheen Hawaiian designs daily.