Anyone who knows me knows about my obsession with all things vintage. From home décor to costume jewelry, I covet it all, but these trinkets and treasures must share the cramped corners of my heart with an unmatched adoration for the clothing fashions of mid-century America.
The basis for my fascination most likely comes from the influence of one of my favorite style icons of this time, Lucile Ball. When I was growing up I would watch re-runs of the I Love Lucy show just about every day. I can remember admiring Ball’s feminine fashion. Whether she was donning a simple house dress, or an elegant gown made complete by a netted hat and lacey gloves, the woman’s wardrobe was sheer class.
To this day I pull inspiration from Ball’s influence when I am shopping to fill my own closet.
Unfortunately while attempting to do this over the years I have found two issues that have continually complicated my quest to recreate my style icon’s image.
The first problem I have encountered is finding pieces of clothing from this era. It’s no surprise that since these fashions have been outdated for over half a century, I won’t be shopping for them at the mall anytime soon.
When I gripe about this hassle I’m often met with the common antidote, “just go online.”
Been there; done that.
There are multiple issues I’ve found with buying vintage clothing online. First off, the sizes of these pieces aren’t the same as today’s standard sizes, and many of these items are missing their original tags, forcing sellers and buyers to use a tape measure to convey a size, which can result in inaccurate measurements and ill-fitting clothes.
Secondly, I’ve found that all too often sellers will fail to mention notable flaws these garments possess.
Now, for all you vintage fashion divas out there who understand the plight I have just described, allow me to introduce you to your, our savior, Alana Felton, the owner and designer behind the vintage-inspired custom clothing company, Retro Shreds.
Ms. Felton could be called a local style-icon, as she can often be found about town wearing her own signature designs, but you might best recognize this tattooed little lady as the manager of the Peekskill Coffee House, where her dresses are currently displayed along the walls of the establishment.
Felton’s company, Retro Shreds, gives women seeking classic fashion a new hope when it comes to clothes shopping. Customers can choose from seven creatively named dress styles, a variety of standard or one-of-a-kind fabrics, and various embellishments. Each dress is then custom built to the customer’s specifications, and all sizes and tastes are accommodated. Felton thus saves the day by removing the hassles and guesswork described earlier, while helping modern girls acquire a vintage look.
“The idea is that every girl is getting a dress that no one else in the world will ever have, that she essentially designed herself,” said Felton. “And then, it's custom built to fit her perfectly.”
A Peekskill resident for the past five years, the twenty-six year-old seamstress describes herself as, “more of a music nerd than a fashionista.”
“[I’m] just a punk girl with a decent sewing machine, and a fondness for novelty,” said Felton.
Throughout the years behind her sewing machine Felton has watched her own style of design evolve.
“I didn't start with sewing vintage styles,” said the designer. “When I was in high school, I was listening to punk rock. I'd re-imagine t-shirts. I'd re-hem dresses I bought at thrift stores... I'd cut holes in everything and sew patches on everything else. Punk turned into psychobilly. Psychobilly turned into rockabilly. And then, I turned to rockabilly fashion. Plaid turned into polka dots and my skirt hems dropped. Everything was prim and proper and free of holes. Then, I started listening to swing. I became interested in 40’s fashion.”
Felton who also designs industrial-inspired “punkier” garments for herself says that it’s the 1950’s fashions that seem to get the best reception from the public.
“So, I guess I'm stuck with this era,” said Felton. “But, that's not to say I'm disappointed. There's a novelty to the 50’s that's practically unrivaled.”
Felton’s designs will adorn the walls of the Peekskill Coffee House until July 31, or you can see them at The Coop, located at 107 South Division St in Peekskill, and online. To join the Retro Shreds mailing list, ask a question, or make a purchase, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.