Out with the new, in with the old: A guide to vintage shops in Champaign
Published: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 4:56pm
Vintage is a staple of modern-day fashion. Mixing the old with the new has become every fashionista's habit because it's a way to look unique, creating a style impossible to copy. Believe it or not, Champaign-Urbana is no stranger to the very vogue vintage fashion. Earlier this winter I walked around downtown Champaign, reviewing various vintage stores and talking to the people working inside.
Dandelion: Vintage & Used Clothing
• Address: 9 Taylor St., Champaign
• Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon-Sat; noon-5 p.m. Sun
Dandelion's storefront, close to Radio Maria in downtown Champaign. Gargoyle photo by Sindha Agha (click to enlarge)
As I open the bright yellow door to Dandelion, downtown Champaign's second eldest vintage store, I hurry inside to escape the cold. Immediately I am greeted by the scents of incense and must. Playing in the background is the song "Do You Realize" by The Flaming Lips.
The inside of Dandelion reminds me of a child's crayon box. Clothing from a handful of decades covers the walls, leaving barely an inch of free space, a sight that is most likely overwhelming to a first-time vintage shopper. To me, this is the sign of a good vintage store. One thing is obvious: There isn’t a speck of drab in Dandelion.
I walk around the store, my eyes jumping from brightly colored wigs to cowboy boots to eccentric prom dresses. Behind the counter smiling calmly is Sara Hudson, the owner of the shop. This year Dandelion will celebrate its "sweet 16," as Hudson puts it.
Although Dandelion is one of many vintage stores in town, Hudson believes that the store has something to offer that the others don't.
"We are a little pickier," she explains. "We have less stuff in the store. For the stuff that we do carry we try to make sure it's current to the trends."
What exactly are the current trends? Hudson claims to have noticed that styles of the later '80s and early '90s have caught the attention of vintage aficionados. Sure enough, I noticed a rack with several Sandy-Olsson-esque leather jackets.
Vintage is one of Hudson's passions because she is always looking to mix the old with the new to create a completely individual look.
"I don't mind people shopping at the mall. … Go ahead and shop at the mall, but don't shop only at the mall," she advises. "Try to mix some vintage with new so you don't look just like everyone else."
Looking around Hudson's shop I can't help but admire the bold accessories and retro pieces, not to mention the multitude of costume makings. Dandelion is obviously the place to go for daring dressers.
• Address: 9 E. University Ave., Champaign
• Hours: noon-4 p.m. Tue, Wed, Sun; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thu-Sat
The word "cool" is possibly the most accurate description of the Furniture Lounge. Stepping inside the shop I have a Dorothy moment, soon enough realizing that I am, somehow, still in Champaign.
"Unlovable" by The Smiths plays throughout the store as I step inside, establishing a good first impression.
I look around to see lanterns hanging from the ceiling; couches and tables, incredibly hip mid-century pieces, all over the first floor; and a series of abstract paintings mounted on the wall. I haven’t even followed the staircase to see the vintage clothing, the purpose of this visit, and Furniture Lounge has already won my approval.
After chatting with the cashier for a few minutes, the song changes to "William, It Was Really Nothing," and I traipse down the staircase, soon in company with racks upon racks of vintage clothing.
I am pleased to discover that, overall, Furniture Lounge's clothing is on par with Dandelion's. The layout of their clothing section is very different, and it appears that they have less merchandise than Dandelion does (particularly as far as shoes go), but the selection is just as eclectic.
As I wander around the lower level, I stumble across a small room, lit with a red light, filled with boxes of records. I thumb through them for a minute before fellow junior Katie Buzard runs in, excited to have found a yellow mod dress.
After admiring the '80s graphic T's and excellent selection of shoes, I make my way back upstairs to chat with the cashier and learn more about Furniture Lounge, which is in its seventh year. I ask him what's unique about Furniture Lounge in comparison to the other vintage stores around town.
"We tend to have lower prices on our clothing and furniture, and we tend to have a high turnover because we are compulsive shoppers and we're constantly buying," he explains. "We've got a mix of stuff all the way from 1940s to 1990s."
It turns out that Furniture Lounge, like Dandelion, tries to follow trends.
"The whole '80s thing has thrown us for a loop because we have been starting to fill the store with more '80s stuff than we did six or seven years ago," he explains. "It's a fun venture for us to get into the '80s and '90s."
While Furniture Lounge makes for a great place to find vintage clothing, it is probably the best place in town for finding high-end mid-century furniture.
Le Shoppe's promotional logo. Sindha Agha wasn't permitted to take photos inside the store. (click to enlarge)
The inside of Le Shoppe is quiet and somewhat gloomy.
The dim lighting doesn’t help the fact that, despite the decent items on display outside in front of the shop, the merchandise inside is dismal.
Along with that, its air is heavy with the smells of dust and mothballs.
Unlike Dandelion and Furniture Lounge, Le Shoppe organizes its clothing by decade. This is, in theory, a helpful organization, but as I look around Le Shoppe nothing catches my eye. A frumpy sweater hangs from the wall, and I struggle to comprehend why this piece of clothing was chosen for display.
I look through a few racks of clothing, disappointed at the dull selection. The woman behind the counter is taking an important call and therefore unable to answer any questions, but she lets me know that she doesn’t want me to take any pictures.
After several minutes of walking around the store I leave, unimpressed.
If you want to check out what Le Shoppe, now its 19th year, has to offer before deciding to make the trip yourself, visit its online store.