Monday, April 22, 2013

3.5 Questions with Annamarie von Firley of reVamp Vintage

I (Lara) first spotted Annamarie von Firley at an Art Deco Society of Los Angeles event and immediately thought she was one of the coolest people I had ever seen. With her sleek bob and groovy vintage dresses, she is hard to miss!

I later met her when I visited her fabulous store in Downtown Los Angeles, reVamp Vintage (which sells their own ready-to-wear vintage inspired line and also makes custom clothing), to see about having a copy of a Madeleine Vionnet dress from the 1930s made.

Since she has been running a successful fashion business for over a decade, I thought she would be a great person to share everything from how she got started with vintage clothing to why knowing your fiber content (in clothing, not your breakfast cereal) is!

1. How did the vintage clothing love affair begin and then turn into a business?

Annamarie: I started collecting in the late eighties, and I did not know what I was doing at the time. I would go to the Salvation Army and purchase 1950s evening gowns for $20 and wear them to high school. Eventually, I moved to San Francisco and met like-minded people who knew way more than I did about everything historic, and I went on a self-education historic binge for the next 20 years. 

Before then, I had no words for my interest in period garments, just a deep heartfelt response to the silhouettes.  Now, I can talk at length as to the reason why I like what I like—instead of operating on a purely visceral reaction to a silhouette.

As for how the business started, a friend of mine and I were at a swing dancing event on the USS Jeremiah O'Brien in Alameda. We were lamenting how poorly everyone was dressed, and she suggested that we start a company that did vintage inspired clothing. I said no. At the time, I was working for a startup company and saw that my boss never got paid.  I needed a steady income. 

Shortly thereafter the company I worked for was sold and moved to the Midwest.  I was between jobs and able to pursue the vintage inspired clothing idea…and 15 years later here I am.  Incidentally, while my friend and I were business partners in the beginning, the partnership lasted only one year.  However, the friendship continues to this day.

2. What's your #1 tip for someone who wants to become a vintage-purveying rock star?

Annamarie: I like to get a lot of "bang for the buck" for my time, so I prefer to go to Vintage Expos where there are a lot of vintage vendors all in one location.  As a mother of a four-year-old child and a business owner, I don't have a lot of free time.  I shop three times a year in a two-to-three hour window.  I carry a tape measure and measure everything before I bother to take it to the dressing room, which saves time trying on things that are too big or small.  

I do not purchase anything that is not in close to perfect condition, because while I have the ability to repair or alter a garment and access to the right machines, I do not have the time to do it.  So I have learned not to bother with anything I have to mess with. In the end, finding the best things takes time and patience.  It also might pay off to make nice with the octogenarians in your life in the hopes that they pass on their goodies to you before they end up at the Goodwill or in the dumpster.

And keep in mind that there is a finite supply of vintage.  Every day there is less and less of it. Also, the fabrics that the garments are made of have a shelf life, too.  Therefore anything made before the 1930s is in a delicate condition even if it has never been worn.  This being said, if you like Mid-Century clothing you are in luck.  You still can find it, and its shelf life is 20 years longer than its forebears. 

3. What's the one thing that anyone wanting a career in vintage clothing should NEVER, under any circumstances, EVER do?

Annamarie: Nothing will really squash a career in vintage clothing, but you really need to know your decades. I have been shocked to discover vintage stores and vendors with wildly misidentified decades on their clothing. One person marked a 50s wedding dress as Edwardian, which was a style from the early 1900s! This didn't kill their business, but I no longer thought they knew what they were doing.

Also, know your fiber content. Don't label rayon as a silk, or polyester as a rayon. Your fiber content can be one of the keys to dating a garment. For instance, there was no polyester in the 1930s. 

You can quickly lose respect from those who know about these things when you show that you can't tell the 1970s from the 1930s, or cotton from polyester.

3.5 How would you finish the following sentence? “Old Hollywood is ______.”

Annamarie: Old Hollywood is a glamorous apparition that some of us reach out to as a respite from the distinctly unglamorous aspects of modern day life, dissolving like a celluloid dream as it represents a period of time that never has and never will exist. But we can still dream!

Contact Info:
reVamp Vintage
834 S Broadway #1200 
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 488-3387
Appointments are recommended.

For more vintage fun, check out the reVamp 1930s Hair Styling App!
Ann don’t miss reVamp’s 1950s Vintage Hair and Makeup Workshop on Sunday, May 19th, from 10a-2p. More info is at

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cinematic History Meets the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Almost any mother of energetic tykes can tell you that there are two essentials (beyond continuous snacks!) for making eventful day trips go off without a hitch—for both mom and child—and that is: 1) a lot of space to move (jump, skip, roll, tumble) around and 2) visual and/or mental stimulation of some sort. Add an Old Hollywood inspirational element, like a film from the 1920s, to the event mix, and you have yourself a guaranteed rewarding (and educational) adventure.

Meet LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art); it offers all three ingredients for a worthwhile parent-and-child day trip. Lara and I (Cori) know this because, well, we successfully blazed through a big chunk of the museum with three children ages ten and younger, and came out the other end with smiles, filled tummies, books in hand, some education on Old Hollywood film, and physically tired youths. And, we all felt a bit more inspired to embrace more creativity, wonder, and glitz in our everyday life.

In 1961, LACMA ( began showcasing its art collection, special exhibitions, and educational programs to the public, and four years later the museum debuted in the Wilshire Boulevard location. Now, 50 years later, LACMA has become, per their website, the “largest art museum in the western United States” boasting 100,000 objects from ancient times up through modern-day and attracting almost a million visitors a year.  

We hope this clock holds up!
What we are especially excited to share with you is that the museum continually showcases independent films—some of which are the classics you have longed to see. For example, we found out that on Thursday, April 18th at 7:30 PM in the Bing Theater, they are showing the famous silent and black-and-white film (1923), SAFETY LAST!, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the movie.

Safety Last!, considered one of the great film comedies, stars Harold Lloyd as a man who, smitten with a woman back home, tries to “make good” in the city and send for his beloved once he earns funds working at the counter of a department store located in Los Angeles. Film goers will experience Lloyd’s mishaps and might even find themselves holding their breath as they watch him dangle precariously off the side of a downtown skyscraper while he holds a hopefully sturdy clock.

After the film, the audience will receive a special treat: Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter (Suzanne Lloyd) will be there to share her insight. Visit for ticket information.

If you have older children, this film might be a fun and educational way to introduce them to a piece of cinematic history, as well as what Los Angeles looked like in the 1920s. As a side note, I recently showed my sons the Charlie Chaplin movies and was pleasantly surprised that they were completed engaged with watching them.

In the spirit of children, while there are a ton of other splendid facts we could give you about this inspirational (and oh-so-colorful) museum, we thought we’d give you instead some informational yummies about key insights, tips and observations we—as mothers of young boys—think might be useful.
1.   This fact may seem mundane, but if you are a busy parent with a busy schedule, this type of knowledge is particularly helpful. LACMA is open every day except Wednesdays and also closes at 5 pm during the week days. If you are a stay-at-home parent and want to bring small kids when the museum is not very busy, we recommend visiting at 11 am on a weekday. 
2.  To save money, strongly consider purchasing a membership. If you buy the Active Membership plan, for example, it is $90 (which is tax deductible!), and it gives unlimited FREE general admission for two people and ALL children 17 and under for the entire year! You also receive special discounts, priority access, invitations, etc. It most certainly is a bargain, especially since the museum is always adding exhibits and special programs throughout the year. Visit for more membership details.
Dining at the LACMA entrance!
3.  Come hungry. There are plenty of places to dine or grab a snack in and around the museum. We enjoyed a flatbread dish at the museum’s Stark Bar (a bit pricey, but worth it) and then later grabbed delicious milk sorbets for the kids at the cute on-site C+M (Coffee and Milk) coffeehouse. If you enticed the entire family to join you, opt for the LACMA CafĂ©’, which offers indoor/outdoor dining and a wide range of hot and cold food options that will appeal to even the pickiest of children.
4. Check the museum’s latest exhibit list ( before you go because sometimes there are exhibits specifically enjoyable for children (or for those who see themselves as kids at heart). One ongoing exhibit that we (and our sons) especially loved was the Metropolis II, which consisted of a kinetic sculpture infused with roadways, a freeway, and train tracks. Watch a thousand miniature cars zoom around the sculpture. Typically, the idea of seeing a train can inspire anticipated bliss from a young child—at least it did with Lara’s son!  

Metropolis II! It's hard to steer one's eyes away from it!
5. Take advantage of LACMA’s kid-oriented, free-with-admission programs, such as: “Story Time in the Boone Children’s Library,” “Andell Family Sundays—Make it Green” (creating objects from recycled materials, for example), and “Free Family Tours.”
6. For you book lovers, you will find yourself perusing the bookstore. Lara bought a couple of books she loved and even was so thoughtful to buy Cori’s children artistic colored pencils. The LACMA Store, located near Bing Theater, was creatively remodeled last year and offers everything from books and jewelry to unique LA-based designs and gifts.
7.  If your children just adore the outdoors, make sure to take them to the fountains around the museum. They’re beautiful and peaceful, and sometimes, after all that walking around, it is nice to sit, relax and…breathe.

Although we all know that art should be studied and appreciated, let’s be honest: Many children will not admire it as much as we would hope. In fact, my own children were most focused on pointing out abstract art objects they found especially confusing or commenting that they did not find value in pottery pieces. And, I found myself saying “Don’t touch that” a bit too frequently.

But, in a day when many kids are glued to computer screens or video game units, I find it wildly refreshing that I can put them in an artistic environment that inspires curiosity and questions. I love watching them stroll (well, actually run) through the museum’s wide hallways and gallery rooms and breathe in color, creativity and inspiration. This is much safer than dangling from a skyscraper clock.


Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 323 857-6000