A Relevant Practice: Talking Vintage with The Sometimes Store, SisterMan, and The Gaudy God
As many of you know, I’m a grad student. I spend the majority of my time on a university campus, running around with my nose in a book or debating about the definition of discourse with people who, for the most part, don’t give a fig about clothes. One of the most exciting things about being a fashion/style blogger is getting to meet people I might never meet in my normal nerdy student life. Case in point: the lovely ladies of The Sometimes Store, a Chicago-based vintage re-sale store where none of the merchandise “smells like pee.” A couple weekends ago I headed north to their storefront and talked to owners Alysse Dalessandro and Kirsten Kilponen about what it’s like to sell vintage in Chicago and how they decided to market themselves as non-urine scented.
The Sometimes Store officially opened on September 5th of 2009. Alysse, Kirsten, and Christine Bejasa, who recently relocated to New York City, transitioned from magazine interns to business women via an already mythologized event. When Christine’s broke up with her boyfriend, the three set up shop in his old bedroom in Christine’s apartment. Since then, The Sometimes Store (so named for its ephemeral nature) has relocated and changed forms, but has maintained its commitment to well-priced vintage clothing with an edge. When I asked why they kept their prices so low, Kirsten responded, “We don’t want to insult people’s intelligence.” With inventory from their moms’ closets and “secret treasure dealers,” TSS has become known for its quality merchandise and, of course, its owners’ sense of humor.
That sense of humor translates well to their relationships with Matt kasin of The Gaudy God and Benjamin Bradshaw of SisterMan, both partners with The Sometimes Store in the upcoming Maximalism fashion show. My interview with Alysse and Kirsten coincided with a prep session for the show, during which I was lucky enough to get to quiz Ben and Matt about their own perspectives on fashion and business in Chicago.
What emerged from the hilarious, stream-of-counsciousness conversation with these purveyors of fearless fashion is a that they each feel an intense affection for one another and for the Chicago vintage/thrift scene. Unlike other cites where they’ve lived or visited, in which Alysse suggests vintage store owners “talk smack” and are fiercely competitive, those in Chicago are “cooperative and really draw inspiration from each other, but without copying.” Kirsten agreed, saying that TSS’s philosophy was not to make enemies and “to put friends first and business second.” Well-known vintage store Koko Rokoko serves as an icon for each of the store owners, who seem to know one another as friends as well as colleagues. Their matching mint nail polish and impromptu dance parties to their “theme songs” indeed indicate a sense of themselves that’s much more about the joy of fashion than the narrow principles of business.
Their affection and cooperation have fueled a number of joint projects, including the upcoming Maximalism show. The three stores have selected pieces from their inventory that fit the tag line “outrageously subtle.” With 24 looks in combinations of nude and black and modeled by local Chicagoans, the show will offer a glimpse at not only the curating abilities of Alysse, Kirsten, Matt, and Ben, but also their talents for styling and cohesive presentation. ”The show works because we all have a common thread, a common soul,” Ben said. From sheer black bodysuits to slick jumpers, the Maximalism looks will be a merging of the styles of each store, whether it be Sisterman’s “party gear for ladies of all genders” or Matt’s love for his mom and the movie “Heathers”.
Ultimately, each of the stores and their owners seem to indicate something about the vintage/thrift movement in Chicago and the growing community of people interested in alternatives to mainstream fashion and retail. As Ben said, each of the stores are about making buying and loving vintage “a relevant practice,” something that becomes a part of everyday life. When I left The Sometimes Store after a few hours of talking, laughing, and shopping, I realized how relatable and valuable that mission is. It makes perfect sense for people of a generation in which style, culture, and commerce exist in spheres different from and far beyond those of the past, even the near past of our parents, whose clothes we now wear with ironic pride.
If you’re interested in learning more about any of these stores or the Maximalism show (or the sale and party that follow!!), visit The Sometimes Store, The Gaudy God, or SisterMan online or in person. But for real, go in person- they’re hilarious!!