Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/7/2011 (3681 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Imagine all the beautiful things of the past, lovingly set on shelves and hung on racks: pretty peasant blouses and chunky resin rings.
And imagine that all this is coming down the road to a festival or fair near you.
They call it Oh So Lovely, and isn't it just that: this summer, Winnipeg friends Erin Thiessen and Stefanie Hiebert are rolling their button-cute vintage trailer around Manitoba. But this is no mere road-tripping. The trailer is actually a mobile vintage shop, and these ladies are on a mission: to make everything old become new again.
Hey, that's one way to clear out the exuberant polyester dresses, aprons and other sorts of wonderful things they'd collected from years of diligent thrifting. Despite "very patient" husbands, the pair says with a laugh, once they started dedicating whole bedrooms to rows of retro lamps and delicate old dresses, they knew it was time to take their passion pro.
"Our houses started getting a little out of hand," says Thiessen, 26, of the duo's vintage obsession. "We started really looking into trailers, and we thought, 'Why not turn it into a vintage shop?' We had so much stuff, why not get it out there to people?"
And the people are flocking to Oh So Lovely. The mobile shop made its debut at a fair in Niverville; on Canada Day, Thiessen and 24-year-old Hiebert parked it at the Osborne Village Street Festival, just a block from where they first met while working at eclectic Village boutique ParaMix.
It took no time at all for crowds to flock to the trailer's cheery curves and racks of exuberant floral dresses -- though not everyone knew what to make of it, at first. "We knew people would like it because it's colourful and inviting," Thiessen says. "But some didn't understand at first that you could go inside (the trailer)! They thought it was just a giant prop."
The trailer, though, is the heart of Oh So Lovely, the perfect display case for all the Pyrex bowls and 1950s and '60s-era fashions that Thiessen and Hiebert gravitate towards. And for Olive -- that's the trailer's name -- the mobile shop also has a new lease on life.
When Thiessen and Hiebert picked up the 3.3-metre, $1,500 trailer last year in Minneapolis, it was in a sorry state, slapped with crumbling layers of drab brown paint. On the inside, there was a sad little bed and tired wood paneling. It was decidedly unlovely. "It even looks better in photos than it was," Thiessen says, wrinkling her nose. "You don't have the smell."
That smell: rotten wood and water damage, earned through decades of misuse and decay. Once the trailer was parked back in Winnipeg, the new owners stripped it bare. Bye-bye, filthy carpets. Sayonara, peeling paint. It took a month of hard work to transform the trailer into the vintage shop that Thiessen and Hiebert dreamed about.
Now, the trailer shines, orange and white and bright all over. A step into Olive is a step back in time. Although the trailer only holds a cosy 60 square feet, every inch gleams pristine and clean. No more depressing wood panelling here -- now, jaunty yellow gingham curtains offset bold turquoise walls.
All of it, of course, is designed to ensconce customers in a "whole little '50s bubble," Thiessen says, to complement the retro esthetic that Thiessen and Hiebert hold so dear. On most days, the pair themselves look as if they've walked straight off the set of Mad Men, or heck, out of a time capsule. Vintage isn't just fashion for them. It's a lifestyle.
And it's one they think Winnipeg is ready to embrace. Soon they'll be setting up shop at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival -- look for Olive parked near the corner of Albert Street and Bannatyne Avenue -- and hope to book more gigs. They run a blog, ohsolovelyvintage.blogspot.com, which catalogues their vintage finds and keeps fans up-to-date on Olive's adventures.
The numbers of fans keep growing. Already, Oh So Lovely has been featured in an issue of hip Bust magazine, and attracted like-minded fans from across the United States. And as the allure of vintage gets stronger, the future looks bright indeed for Olive and the ladies at her helm.
"It's the draw of a simpler time, when people took the time to think of unique items," said Hiebert, smoothing her flirty yellow dress. "People would make matching stuff. They appreciated the little details. People don't take time for those things anymore."
Thiessen and Hiebert both have bursting collections of the retro plates and bowls, like this set decorated with little roosters. It's hard to find Pyrex bowls in good shape, but worth the payoff. "It brightens every kitchen," Hiebert said. "With all the different colours and prints, it's fun to mix and match."
Aprons -- once tossed aside as the homemaking ideal of the '60s gave way to a more mobile modern life -- are making a big comeback. "Practical and adorable," Thiessen said. Oh So Lovely sells stacks of them.
What would a retro-themed party be without a fondue set? Thiessen and Hiebert cherish this example from the late '60s, done up in a classic avocado green.
"Everything sounds better on a crackly old radio," Hiebert declared. This '50s-era Airline transistor radio still works perfectly; the cheerful aqua colour is just a bonus.
The ultimate in vintage attire. Accept no imitations: there's loads of floral out there, but the best vintage prints can be hard to find. "It's just so happy," Thiessen said. "Why wear a plain dress, when you can be the life of the party?"
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.