San Diego may not be considered one of the fashion capitals of the world. Unless you consider flip-flops and cargo shorts high-fashion, which no one does. Not even if your flip-flops cost $500 and your cargo shorts are made from the skin of a Bengal tiger. So it's a pretty big deal when an award-winning vintage shop that's supplied inspiration pieces for the likes of John Galliano, Missoni, Stella McCartney and Prada and has garnered major kudos from British Vogue decides to leave London for our comparatively smaller town. (Prada used a skirt purchased at the London shop for $200 to create a design they later sold for triple that amount.)
The Girl Can't Help It opened this past weekend at 3806 Grim Ave. in North Park. I stopped into the shop while they were still setting up and talked to owners Sparkle Moore and Jasja Boelhouwer. The biggest question was a simple one. Why?
"We were sick and tired of cold weather," says Boelhouwer, who joined forces with Moore in 1994 to sell the coolest vintage goods they could get their hands on. "We looked everywhere and we just kept coming back to San Diego. The weather here is just the best."
Point, San Diego.
The shop offers vintage pieces from the '30s through the '60s, though they specialize in '40s and '50s Hollywood glamour. I spotted gorgeous dresses suited for a Bond babe, hand-painted Mexican skirts, one- and two-piece swimsuits in cute prints and fuller cuts, men's ties, dress shirts and jackets. There are also tons of great accessories, like scarves and handkerchiefs (some of my favorite things to buy vintage), gloves, purses as well as a section devoted to housewares and decor from the past.
Moore got in the vintage game in 1980 in New York City. She says she and Boelhouwer are the perfect ying and yang for their business.
"I always say Jasja and I come from different angles of vintage fashion," she explains. "I come from the fashion angle and Yasha comes from the history angle and we both come from the music angle. We both love the glamour, the music, the B movies, the whole genre of that Hollywood glamour image. It's just what we've always collected and worn."
"I think it's also that we haven't got much interest in popular culture and popular clothes," adds Boelhouwer.
Shopping vintage ain't cheap. Boelhouwer and Moore admit their goods are a bit on the high-end side. I saw skirts and dresses priced above $100. However, they feel it's worth it.
"It's going to be very rare to find somebody who's wearing the exact same outfit as you have," assures Boelhouwer. "Some people even think vintage clothes are too expensive, but you think, 'Yeah but if you're really into it, you'll be wearing it this year and you'll still be wearing it in 10 years time.' It's an investment and you really get value for your money. It's better to buy something that's already out of fashion because it can only come back in."
Moore also feels the quality and craftsmanship of vintage fashion makes the price worth it. She does have a point. Some of the vintage pieces I own are 50 years old and still look great, while the shirt I bought at Forever 21 last week looks like crap after a single wash.
While they recommend that buyers come in to try on clothes, Moore and Boelhouwer also sell online on Etsy. Fit can be an issue since modern body shapes are much different than they were back in 1955. (Thanks a lot, McDonald's and low-rise jeans). Moore and Boelhouwer offer help with size questions and have tips on squeezing into a vintage dress. For instance, you have to "hike up your boobs" in an older dress because of the darts. So your sloppy Gap bras aren't going to cut it. Good to know.
Know of some cool boutique? Email your Urban Scout blogger Alex Zaragoza at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her making dumb jokes on Twitter.