Entering the Pretty Penny boutique one’s rewind button whirs as one stands amongst fashions seen in classic movies. At this Rockridge boutique, each and every item is hand picked by a staff of people who truly appreciate and share a love for vintage fashion.
Love for vintage and classic items I inherited at an early age from my grandmother. She was a gifted seamstress who loved creating clothing for the family as well as herself. It was her passion and now it is mine.
As a child, my introduction to fashion came from watching reruns of Donna Reed on “Father Knows Best” and Lucille Ball on the “I Love Lucy” show. The clothing these women wore was immaculate. The fabric created a graceful feminine silhouette. The men wore hats, pressed slacks, and shiny shoes.
A different standard of dress reigned back then. People, it seems, consistently took more pride in appearance than they generally do today. Perhaps they lived with a feeling of power and beauty that one experiences when one slips into a classic article of clothing that fits well, and feels like it was made just for you.
Those days of stockings and hats are long gone. Nevertheless, just like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, or Bette Davis one can change one’s outlook and transform one’s mood by breathing new life into his or her wardrobe with the timeless fashions of yesteryear.
The owner of Pretty Penny, Sarah Dunbar, says she has always been a collector of beautiful things. She began by hosting private fashion shows in her home in Oakland.
After a few years of successful home shows she decided to open a full-fledged vintage clothing shop.
With the help of her husband, Nick St. Mary, Sarah created Pretty Penny from nothing. They created fixtures from pipes and odds and ends purchased at a local hardware store. The love put into the retail space and the time taken to choose every single piece sold here is unique.
Every piece has a history that Sarah and her staff are anxious to share.
Further, Sarah does more than find vintage clothes, shoes, and accessories. She makes it her goal to share her knowledge, experience, and love for fashion with the community. She also supports and promotes local artists and designers in her store.
The Pretty Penny storefront is often dedicated to local artists. Currently, nineteen-year-old dressmaker Helena Frances, jewelry designer Alana Douvros, and local handbag maker King Bag Company are being featured.
Dressmaker Helena Frances creates unique classic fashions created from recycled and vintage fabrics. She also creates custom tailored clothing for clients.
Jewelry designer Alana Douvros creates a line of jewelry that might make some people squeamish. Sarah was wearing a pair of earrings that caught my attention. While photographing these delicate earrings I noticed something even more unique about them. They were thin gold hoops with a crescent shaped fine ivory sleeve covering the bottom half. On closer examination, I couldn’t believe it. The forms looked like little bones.
They were in fact snake bones. Combined with the fine gold hoops each bone creates a delicately beautiful effect.
Among the most unique handbags I have seen, the handcrafted bags at Pretty Penny might be a vintage shopper’s dream. Sleek and stylish with a 1950’s feel, each is crafted from classic car upholstery.
Like many other stores in the area, Pretty Penny buys, sells and trades vintage clothing, but what sets it apart is the personal connection and the stories that go along with each unique article.
Sarah does more than welcome local artists into her store. She shares each artist’s story with the community in which they live and work. Thus, she allows the artists to thrive.
Leaving Pretty Penny one is reminded of all the local artists that do not get the support or recognition he or she needs to continue a craft. Next time you head out, take a break from the clone stores that consume your retail routine. Your Pretty Penny shop is out there. Find it.
Pretty Penny is located at 5488 College Avenue, Oakland, California 94618. Their telephone number is: 510-594-9219. They can be found on the web at: www.prettypennyclothing.com.
Sarah and her husband Nick St. Mary also own the beautifully eccentric Watermelon Sugar Salon in San Francisco. You can learn more about Watermelon Sugar Salon, their Ocean Silk Technology or make an appointment on their website: www.watermelonsugarsf.com/
The jewelry designer mentioned in the article is Alana Douvros. She can be found online at:
If you would like to see the work of dressmaker Helena Frances or perhaps have a dress made just for you, you can find her on facebook at: www.facebook.com/hfrances
King Bag Company takes classic Buick, Packard, Cadillac, Ford and Chevy, seat covers and gives them a second chance through rebirth as a well-crafted, one-of-a-kind bags. You can find King Bag Company at: www.kingbagcompany.com
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