Vintage Fashion Expo to showcase one of a kind clothing this weekend

Lis Normoyle, vice president of the expo, grabs inspiration and visually riveting vintage pieces from local bay area vintage fairs. Normoyle emphasizes that pieces at the expo are one of a kind, and that's the main reason people come to the event. Photo by Virginia Tieman.

Combining garb ranging from ball gowns, theater costumes, cowboy boots and everything in between, dealers are delivering eye-catching displays for customer attraction at the Vintage Fashion Expo.

The Concourse Exhibition Center will host the 24th annual expo this Saturday and Sunday as consumers come to experience fashion from the past to the present. Up to 85 dealers, designers and local store owners will partake in this innovative exhibition. SF State students can attend for free with a student ID.

Vintage Fashion Expo

When: Sept. 22 at 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Sept. 23: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Where: Concourse Exhibition Center

Cost: Free with SF State student ID

$10, regular admission

The expo is known for its wide range of authentic clothes from the late 1800s to the 1980s. Different dealers carry a diverse collection of pieces that are unique, and almost all garments and apparel are American made.

“We have all eras and since our pieces are one of a kind, everything is in good condition and well taken care of,” said the expo’s vice president Lis Normoyle. “We seek people with really good merchandise because we don’t want any junk in our show.”

Normoyle explained that dealers and retailers of the best stores prepare for the expo with their most prized items.

Barbara Schrager, dealer at Discover Yesterday, has a plethora of victorian pieces from the 1700s to the 1950s and has been with the expo for 10 years. She said the expo is a great way for fashionistas to reinvent old trends — especially for newcomers to the fashion world.

“The vintage clothes are new to younger people and many of them appreciate it,” Schrager said. “I believe in style, quality and value and that’s something I found a way to branch out, which VFE made me able to do that.”

Every year, the Vintage Fashion Expo operates five shows: three in Santa Monica and two in San Francisco. Shoppers around the globe have made the Vintage Fashion Expo a stop to find items that are not available anywhere else. In the past exhibition, fashion designers, clothes horses, fashion editors and celebrities like Dita Von Teese have made appearances. Vogue’s International Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles, has also made a walk in at the expo.

Marta Koehne, store owner of Hot Couture in Santa Rosa, Calif., has been with the fashion expo for 18 years and said she has a rule with her vintage collection.

“They have to be at least 35 years old and be in very good condition, which can still apply to current fashion,” she said. “Getting my exposure in the Bay Area to the clientele was a smart move, and they come to Santa Rosa to make a stop at my store because of VFE.”

Normoyle called the expo a “spontaneous show and tell” because of all of the outlandish outfits that customers come up with.

“People go nuts with their iPhones at the show because we have customers who come out with hot costumes and model for other buyers,” she said. “It’s like a fashion show for us.”

Normoyle explained what fashion has in store for the fall and for future shoppers.

“People are looking for fall fashion based on what they see in the magazine. They’re showing a lot of leather and tweed and so do we,” she said. “Our stuff is not mass produced in a sweat shop like other retailers.”

The expo encourages students and young adults to attend to learn about the history of fashion to enhance their consumer experience.

“The next generation is not going to learn anything if my age group doesn’t pass the knowledge of textiles and other things to the younger adults,” Koehne said. “They need to know the fabric making, the social history of detail and clothing construction. We need to train the next generation.”

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  • Hi Liz! What a great post! Hope the show is your most successful yet! Lots of love to you both