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Robin Woods tries on a hat at Connie’s Vintage Trunk this past March. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local 

ROBIN WOODS

Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Got something you think should be in Robin’s Nest? Write to us at:  culture@montclairlocal.news.

 

NOTE: I visited with Dan Schulz at Connie’s Vintage Trunk on March 11, 2020, for an interview and look/see. We were not wearing masks at that time, since it was early into the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were still able to just walk into his shop to find vintage treasures.

 

We’ve had a lot of time on our hands for the past few months, and some have followed the KonMari method of simplifying and organizing their homes, created by Marie Kondo and described in her book, “The Life-Changing Method of Tidying Up.” 

Not for me, as I’m a firm believer in keeping most of what I own, since I never know when the vintage sequined butterfly sleeve top in my closet will find an occasion to be seen again.

Prior to the mandatory closing of all non-essential businesses, I played dress-up, one of my favorite pastimes, with Connie’s Vintage Trunk owner Dan Schulz while getting a tutorial in fashion trends from the 1950s on.  

The shop is a tribute to Dan’s late mother, whose name was Connie Trunk. “Mother was the quintessential 1950s woman who liked to dress up. I help women feel great about themselves, and make them have a smile on their faces. Fashion trends come and go, but good-quality clothing in superior materials can last for many decades,” Dan said.

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Robin Woods strikes a regal pose. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

HISTORY OF FASHION

 Dan told me about how clothing has changed throughout the years, starting with the 1920s. He called that period the Flapper Era, with unreconstructed potato sack-like dresses without delineated waist lines, “unflattering to all,” until the 1930s, the art deco, old Hollywood glamour years. 

I could see myself wearing the Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet dresses from the racks of clothing at the front of the shop, although I’m too short to carry them off without extensive tailoring. Fashion has a way of repeating itself over time, and Coco Chanel is credited with being the queen of the Little Black Dress, a timeless choice now and in the future.

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The 1940s bring to mind Katharine Hepburn in slacks, a masculine and shocking choice for that time in history. This era resonates with me, as I still haven’t figured out how to sit in a dress without looking like a truck driver trying not to cross his legs. 

The 1950s were fully feminine, lacy, frilly and cocktail-sipping focused. Think “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show,” with women in pretty dresses covered by aprons while wearing high heels and strings of pearls. I see your eyes glazing over, young ones without points of reference. Google the shows and see what I’m talking about.

You might still have photos of yourself as flower children from the 1960s Vietnam and psychedelic era, in shift and maxi dresses, looking and feeling groovy. These fashions lasted into the 1970s.

How often have you grimaced over your choice of a prom or wedding dress from the 1980s and those pouffy shoulders and big-hair looks?  Dan made me laugh when I asked him to talk about the 1990s, and his response was, “Nothing to say about those years.”

Connie’s Vintage Trunk is also a resource for Dan’s theatrical clientele in the tri-state area, especially for NYC off- and on-Broadway shows. Small theater companies nationwide also look to him to supply their productions with vintage clothing. 

For now, he has to wait until theaters and television shows are back in production again, and has been working on redesigning his shop in compliance with the new rules regarding how customers can come inside to shop safely. Dan categorizes some of his theatrical clients as “99.9 percent ultra-cool and narcissistic.”  

He opened his shop on Sept. 15, 2017, in Montclair, after living here since 2007. 

He’s a vendor at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Sale three times a year, which he hopes will be up and running again by year’s end. He brings racks of his clothing inventory to sell.  

Robin Woods visits Dan Schulz, owner of Connie’s Vintage Trunk. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Connie’s Vintage Trunk reopened on June 22, and Dan redesigned his shop’s layout and displays. Only two customers at a time can enter, and they must wear masks. Right inside the front door, Dan has a table with hand sanitizer and masks, if you forget to bring one of your own. If you need to try on anything, you are allowed to take three items or fewer into the fitting room. Unpurchased items are taken off display, and Dan steams and sanitizes them before putting them back into stock after a two-day resting period.

During the time span of the shop’s temporary closure, Dan sewed washable cotton masks in many patterns and colors, and put them up for sale on Etsy.com, @conniesvintage trunk. He ended up selling more than 900 masks to customers all over the U.S., which allowed him to pay for his health insurance and have a little spending money, too.

Everything old is new again. Yes, the 1960s vintage feathered pillbox hat I tried on for my photo op at the shop is now a part of my own eclectic collection, a wearable occasion to be determined. It’s one of a kind, and goes well with my hair and eyes.

In this column:

  • Connie’s Vintage Trunk
    220 Bloomfield Ave.
    973-747-7517
    At Etsy.com, @conniesvintage trunk
    Instagram.com: conniesvintage