From the Sewing Table, Historical Fashion
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An Interview with Vintage Shop Owner Christina McAlpine of PrettyBluEyes Vintage

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A few months ago, as I was scouring the internet for vintage clothes, I delightfully stumbled upon PrettyBluEyesVintage run by the very sweet and talented Christina McAlpine.  I spent some time browsing through her shop and admired the lovely photographs of all the items she had for sell.  Well, after a few weeks, I wanted to learn more about her and went ahead and reached out with the hopes of being able to interview her.  Well, she delightfully said yes, and I couldn’t be happier.  

After your read the thoughtful answers to the interview questions, you can feel the passion Christina has to reintroduce these vintage pieces into one’s everyday wardrobe.  Christina’s energy and drive are palpable in all parts of her business, and she shares some absolutely golden truths about running and owning your own business! 

So get ready to meet and learn more about this fascinating and inspiring woman!

What led you to the world of selling vintage fashion?

PrettyBluEyesVintage was born from my personal love for vintage, a desire to share that love, and to bring new life to these forgotten pieces. My personal love story with vintage clothing started years ago while I was pursuing theatre at school. When I wasn’t acting in a show, I would jump at the chance to do the costumes. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the thrift and vintage shops in the area, and bit-by-bit, I started acquiring my own vintage stock with the dream that maybe one day I could open my very vintage store.

A few years ago I felt artistically restless and needed something more fulfilling than my current 9-5 job. I began to look at the vintage items I had collected and realized these beautiful pieces were just sitting in storage and that I could not keep all these amazing items hidden away. These items needed to be worn! We live in a society where we are encouraged to throw out old and unwanted belongings. This causes many of us to forget about the beauty of the past and what it can offer today. Fashion is cyclical, so many of the trends today are found in vintage styles. Vintage items and clothing are often timeless because of this. I opened PrettyBluEyesVintage for the lover, the beautiful, the creative soul, the head turner, and that timeless beauty lives within us all.

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The absolutely stunning Christina herself!

Your online shop, PrettyBluEyes Vintage, features a variety of vintage clothes.  Can you share with us the process you go through in finding the perfect items to sell?

Well, I love to visit local stores and markets, especially when I’m traveling, to search for diamonds in the rough and enjoy restoring and bringing life back in to pieces people might overlook. I am continuously on the lookout for vintage and am a hopeless romantic about it too. I do not have it down to an exact science quite yet, but whenever I do find an item that triggers an initial emotional response or connection I know I have found something worth looking at.

When looking at an item for the shop I look for items that are of sound quality, a wearable size, & unique design. I also think about the Who, What, Where, When, and Now. I like to daydream about who originally owned the item and it what they bought it for. Where could a modern woman wear it now? Can this amazing item blend into a modern wardrobe or is it a piece that can stand-alone and make a statement.

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All parts of the fashion wardrobe are included in Christina’s shop…

The photographs you feature on your shop are wonderfully vibrant and full of personality.  How do you plan and organize for a photo shoot?  Do you have any tips for photographing clothing?

I struggled at first when I took photos on my own and did lots of experimenting. I’ve learned that lighting is key in portraying your product. Good lighting is vital to the mood you want to create with your photos. I must give kudos to my photographer, Charles, at Chedma Photography. He helped me capture the beauty of the models, the clothing, and an overall bright and happy feeling that I want my customers to enjoy while shopping.

Each shoot requires a significant amount of planning and scheduling revolving around what items we shoot can and who is available to model. I prefer to approach the whole photo shoot process much like I would do a fitting and opening for theater. I like to make a ton of lists, label everything, and create an inspirational lookbook of images that captures the essence of what I’m trying to assemble.

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A behind the scenes look at a photo shoot.

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And the finished product!

What is your favorite fashion decade and do you have a particular fashion icon from that period you admire most?

There is something I love about each time period, so it is hard to pick just one, but if I had to choose I think it would be between the early 1950’s and early 60’s. I am in love with the dreamy shapes, flattering structures, timeless design and fabric. The classic pin up look is not only fun but also can empower any woman!

As for a fashion icon I’ve always admired the classic beauty of Rita Hayworth. She is a perfect example of a woman who is both adorable and sexy. For example, Hayworth knew how to wear an evening gown but also look amazing in a pair of cute shorts and a top. To me she’s a true pin-up beauty that always pulled off a casual but elegant style that I admire and strive for.

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A rack full of Christina’s beautiful finds….

Do you have any advice to keep in mind when purchasing a vintage clothing item?

Vintage clothing can be a good investment! These wonderful items are pre-loved but are often made better than the clothing we find in stores today. You’re not only buying something unique, but your also helping to fight the continued growth and waste of clothing, which in turn helps our environment.

My biggest advice is to not focus on the size so much, they do not matter as much as you think they do. Vintage sizes are incredibly different than the modern clothing we wear today and items could have been tailored for the previous owner. That’s why it is so important to use your measurements to find an item that will work best for you. I recommend taking your measurements or you bust, waist, hips, underarm to where your natural waist is, and across the shoulders. Comparing your body measurements to the measurements of a garment that you feel fits can help give you a good reference and perspective in making a decision about the right item.

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Love this adorable bathing suit romper?  Click here to purchase before it sells out!

What are the biggest challenges of owning and running your own business?

Honestly, it does not feel like I’m running my own business because I enjoy what I’m doing and it is a truly rewarding experience. That being said, photography and marketing have been steep learning curves. Being the sole curator and marketing person is something I’ve never done. Getting the perfect image out for the shop and then getting the shop found in the massive world of the Internet is always a work in-progress. I do a lot of research and really appreciate that Etsy has plenty of articles and forums that offer helpful suggestions, advice and support.

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Plenty of period appropriate props add style and historical feeling to each of Christina’s photos!

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone thinking about opening up their own online business?

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “ The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” There is truth that you can do anything you want in life if you put your mind to it. Running and owning a business can be daunting, as it requires a lot of self-motivation and passion. That being said, my thought is that if you never try you will never know what it could be.

My advice is that if you’re thinking about opening your own shop online but are still unsure, try starting small or part time. The more love you put into it the more it can bloom. Be transparent about your policies and turn around times. Be upbeat and respond quickly to questions. I think it is also very important to remember your support system, whether that is at home or online! I’m so very thankful for all my talented friends and my supportive family, who have helped me accomplish so much. It’s such a great feeling to own a shop and create something I’m proud of.

 

I don’t know about all of you, but the answer to the last question certainly hits home!!

 Thank you again Christina for taking time out of your busy schedule at PrettyBluEyes Vintage to share your story with all of us!  

Have a wonderful Easter everyone!

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