By Maribeth Keane and Brad Quinn
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In this interview, Kim Casamassima discusses the rockabilly fashions of the 1950s and explains how the vintage rockabilly look has been revived and adapted over the years. She also discusses the stylistic clichés and misperception that often stand in the way of an accurate understanding of the decade, a time when even tough guys wore penny loafers and pompadours were the exception rather than the rule. Read her vintage-clothing blog, The Girl Can’t Help It.
Jayne Mansfield is buried in my hometown. You could drive past the cemetery and see her heart-shaped headstone from the road. We had our own historical society, a tiny little museum, if you can even call it that. I remember going on a class trip there once. Some of her things were displayed, like long sequined cocktail dresses and some of her little personal effects. That stayed with me into my adult years: “Wow, as cheesy as my little hick town is, Jayne Mansfield is buried there.”
I think the first classic 1950s movie I saw—I was maybe 17—was “Where the Boys Are.” I loved the campiness and the clothes. It struck me like, “Oh God, I love those dresses.” It was a relatively short hop from wearing them to eventually selling them.
About three years ago I quit my “real job” in retail and started selling online fulltime. When you first start out, you assume the thrift stores are going to be a goldmine for vintage, but you end up buying things that don’t sell. So you move on. I’m at the point now where I place newspaper ads to buy vintage. I go to church rummage sales, hand out business cards and say, “This is what I love. Give me a call.”
In fact, I’m going on a vintage-clothes buying call this week. A woman said she had a cedar chest full of her grandmother’s clothes. That’s how I do business now, but you never know what you’re going to find when somebody claims to have old clothes. It could mean bad polyester from the ’70s, or really great stuff.