Love, Live and Dress the Era

From rockabilly to Mad Men to disco—cool mid-century fashion expo in S.F. March 17-18

After 30 years of collecting only the coolest of the cool vintage fashion, Kristi and Robert Alvarez had thought they'd seen it all. But they had not—not till the return of the disco shirt. Looking for one? Then consider visiting the Vintage Fashion Expo March 17 and 18.

The expo will feature 45 to 50 dealers, they say. It takes place at San Francisco's Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. This is the expo's 30th year. The promoters also run these shows in Southern California.

For the true vintage fashionistas, collecting cool old clothing is not a hobby, not even a way of life. It is life itself.

"The people who wear vintage fashion are unique individuals," says Kristi. She and her husband function as full-time vintage fashion dealers. "They don't go with mainstream," she says of vintage fashion fans. "Their personalities don't allow it. They love the era, and they go out and live it."

"This is something we love," Kristi says, "and if you want the best, and if you want the most in one building, the vintage fashion show is the place to be."

There are many eras and genres within the vintage fashion scene. In the Bay Area, many buyers come from the car club scene.

"One really busy scene now is the rockabilly scene," Robert says. "These are young kids who love the shirts, love the blue jeans, the jackets and the music. They love the whole era."

"It's a fun group," Kristi adds. "It's fun to see young kids who love the clothes that we used to wear."

Then there's the buttoned-down look.

"Mad Men made a big difference. It really boosted business," Robert says of the TV show about ad-agency execs of the JFK era that debuted in 2007. "People would come to our shows and they were having 'Mad Men' parties."

"Hipsters are another group," Kristi says. They like to mix it up—with the skinny jeans, the 1960s jacket, the skintight look. What's also coming back from the 1970s are the jersey disco shirts, that jersey-stretchy type of material."

"Picture the men walking around with their shirts unbuttoned down to the navel and with medallions down their chest," Robert says. "People are wearing those shirts now, but they're not opening them to the navel."

Who says humankind is not progressing?

"I never thought those would come back in style," Kristi says. "But young people are wearing them."

Now, you can too. For more info, visit the Vintage Fashion Expo's website.

Article updated Feb 17 with new dates for 2018.