MANKATO – When Sarah Wooding and her husband Jameson Sweiger started acquiring vintage clothes a decade ago, they didn’t expect their collection to become a career, with buyers from countries like Japan visiting 20 times a year in their Mankato shop to meet. growing demand for American vintage clothing.
“Japanese people appreciate American vintage culture the most,” Sweiger said. “It’s mind-blowing that they have a better archive of American vintage clothing than Americans.”
The couple’s collection of 40 bins and racks hanging in their Old Town location has everything from psychedelic 1960s dresses and 1980s sportswear to military clothing and World War II sports memorabilia, all sourced from garage and estate sales and thrift stores.
Like many others in the vintage clothing business, both Wooding and Sweiger were drawn to the subcultures of particular eras. Sweiger, who also sells vintage records, began collecting T-shirts of his favorite punk rock bands when he was in high school, such as ’90s Minneapolis bands Code 13 and Dillinger Four.
Wooding remembers picking up used clothes from the 60s and 70s on trips to the thrift store as a teenager in Memphis, Tennessee.
“That’s where I started collecting and wearing – I’ve always been into bell bottoms and anything mod or psychedelic,” she said. “I had big, high-waisted, wide-leg polyester pants and tried to wear them three times a week to school.”
Their wholesale vintage clothing business has become a full-time job for the two of them over the past six years, largely thanks to Instagram, under the names scatter.brain.vintage and elseware.vintage, which gave them a client. national and global. based. The two also sell their vintage clothes at Time Bomb Vintage, a Minneapolis retro store that sells a variety of antique items.
“There are many different subgenres for vintage crowds,” Sweiger said. “If you say ‘vintage’ to a person, it might be Chicago Bulls t-shirts from the 90s. For me, it might be a military item from the 1940s. We also found items from the 1800s Many sellers have different niches.
Julie Wulfemeyer, from Mankato, said her interest in collecting and later selling vintage clothing also dates back to her high school days in the 1990s, when a fascination with the 1970s disco era was experiencing a resurgence in popularity. .
“That ’70s Show”, about teenagers growing up in Wisconsin in the 1970s, was one of the most popular television programs at the time.
“I bought a lot of corduroy bottoms, pointed shirts and jackets at the thrift store,” Wulfemeyer said. “I had a tight budget for a high school student.”
While in college, a neighbor who lived next door to the house she grew up in donated a large amount of vintage clothing to Wulfemeyer.
“I had this huge mountain of her – which I wore most of – but then I had this excess that I had to sell,” Wulfemeyer said. “In graduate school, I was completely broke, so this turned out to be a perfect opportunity.”
When she was on sabbatical from teaching at Minnesota State University a year and a half ago, another family friend had a large stash of ’70s clothing to donate — provided she take it all. She continues to sell these clothes on Etsy.
Wulfemeyer said the popularity of clothing from this era has resurfaced several times over the past 30 years. She’s since turned to ’50s and ’60s clothing, which has garnered renewed interest with shows based on that era like “Mad Men” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
“Instead of just catching a replay, you can watch ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ cover to cover, you can watch ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ cover to cover,” she said. “As our television choices from different eras are kind of a niche, it makes sense that you take inspiration for clothing from whatever you watch.”
For Natalie Pierson, owner of Vagabond Village, a Mankato store that sells a plethora of vintage clothing separated by decade, style and color, each era is fascinating and distinctive.
“Every year it’s interesting to see how the eras appear in a different way,” Pierson said. “No matter how long I hold my stuff, it comes to the surface because people want it.”
Her favorite aspects of wearing vintage clothing include the stories that come to the surface in conversations with customers.
“People will walk in and see something their grandmother was wearing,” Pierson said. “Then I can hear the backstory of what it meant to them, and then I can tell them how I found it. I love that mix of stories.
Wooding thinks there are a variety of reasons people are drawn to vintage clothing, but the one that stands out the most for her is the desire for individuality. She suspects the pandemic has heightened that interest.
“People got stuck at home and became more creative and expressive,” Wooding said. “They try new things and mix and match eras, trying to be different.”
Sweiger said young people are discovering that they can buy vintage clothing that is more affordable, more unique, environmentally friendly and often made of higher quality fabric, unlike the mass-produced clothing found in stores. on a large surface.
“Young people are really getting into it,” he said. “So maybe they used to buy their back to school clothes at the mall – now they find all these little independent stores.”
Sweiger and Wooding hope people with a closet full of old clothes will think twice before throwing anything away and calling them at 507-351-3722. They are often willing to buy these clothes in bulk.
“Call us before you throw away your clothes,” Wooding said.