Dress to Express - Page 3

Folks who go retro say it’s all about steppin’ out in style, self-assertion and hunting for clothes
Dress to Express
Decked out 'cowboy style,' John has steak on his mind.
Dress to Express

Celeste Martellacci, who lives in a stylish 1950s ranch home in a Pleasant Hill filled with tiki paraphernalia, a rock wall, and atomic designs, says of wearing vintage: "You just feel like you're expressing yourself. Vintage clothes are my passion. They're beautifully made and beautifully designed. Wearing them makes me feel good."

 "It's an extension of our love of the '60s," Yvette Claire says of the Mod fashions she and her husband David Nicholson sport. "It's what people are going to see first when they see you. It makes you stand out."

"It's the first impression," Nicholson adds.

"Without saying a word," Yvette says, "you're saying, 'I love the 1960s. It's what I'm into.'"

Much more than collecting Eames chairs or lava lamps, retro fashion is social. You don't need to wait for Viva Las Vegas either. Vanessa and John Kunkel, who run a termite-exterminating firm in their other life, often throw theme parties in their Eichler that work best if people dress the part.

"Most of our friends love vintage clothes, so it works out," Vanessa says. Like many retro folks, she buys not for a particular occasion, or for the season. "With vintage you have to buy it when you see it," she says. New pieces are added to her 'arsenal' for use as needed.

"Oh, I just got invited to a theme party," she'll wonder. "What do I have in my arsenal to put on?"

'Baby Doe' von Stroheim, who with her husband Otto von Stroheim, is a tiki bigwig, producing the annual Tiki Oasis gathering, suggests what a social glue vintage fashion can become.

"My friends and I, we go on jags," Doe says. "A few years ago we got into sun-block hats," she says, meaning straw hats with sunglasses in the brim. "We all went on a quest to buy as many sunglass hats as we could. People saw us wearing them at Tiki Oasis, and now everybody wants sunglass hats.

"We've kind of moved on from that to hats with a lot of raffia on them, very brightly colored with seashells or beads."

Andrew Danish, a graphic designer who became a Palm Springs celebrity when the book he co-authored with Alan Hess, Palm Springs Weekend, brought early attention to the city's modernist treasures in 2001, says it was the parties that really got him into wearing the fashion.

"The people you meet at mid-century events, they all seem to be part of this retro community, and it just seemed more appropriate to dress up when I went to these events—and there are so many now it's become ubiquitous."