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Vintage Pittsburgh at the Heinz History Center

on Thu, 04/10/2014 - 00:00

Vintage Pittsburgh
“Everything old is new again,” composer Peter Allen sang in the 1979 film version of All That Jazz, and since the early 1990s that has been especially true of vintage clothing, furnishings and collectibles. Actresses like Julia Roberts and Renee Zellweger often appeared in public wearing vintage garments during the decade, while the reemergence of both rockabilly and swing as fashionable music genres—as well as the AMC drama Mad Men—likewise added to the popularity of nostalgic paraphernalia.

The World Wide Web, meanwhile, is now dotted with a variety of online vintage clothing stores, eBay offers a steady stream of auctions on every type of vintage ware, and Etsy has become the “go-to” site for connoisseurs of by-gone eras. Despite such virtual shopping malls, however, nothing beats the thrill of walking into a brick-and-mortar store and finding something unexpected on the shelf or rack, and it was in this spirit of discovery that Vintage Pittsburgh was launched.

“Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer was established in 2012 to offer the city of Pittsburgh a vintage event like none other found locally, joining cities like Chicago and New York in hosting a one-of-a-kind vintage vendor fair focused on atmosphere, quality wares, variety, community and accessibility to collectors of all ages and budgets,” the organizers behind Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer explain. While the inaugural edition of the event was held at the New Hazlett Theater, Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer teamed with the Senator John Heinz History Center in 2013 for a vintage fair that coincided with the museum’s 1968: The Year That Rocked America exhibit, and has been an annual feature at the History Center ever since.

“During the History Center’s 1968: The Year That Rocked America exhibit, the retro clothing and housewares featured in the exhibit really resonated with visitors,” Sarah Rooney, community programs manager at the Heinz History Center, further elaborated in April 2014. “These were objects they had growing up or saw in their grandparents’ house. With the popularity of vintage items and that specific connection to the exhibit, we wanted to develop a public program showcasing how ‘what’s old is new again,’ and the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer’s vendor fair was a perfect fit.”

Bess Dunlevy, Jason Sumney and Michael Lutz serve as the directors of Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer, while Rachel Eleleth is the organization’s creative consultant. “We admire shows like Vintage Garage Chicago Flea and Judy’s Vintage Fair in the UK,” they explain of the inspiration behind Vintage Pittsburgh. “Our event is unique to Pittsburgh in that we focus on local and regional sellers. Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer falls somewhere between an outdoor flea market feel and an exclusive antiques fair. The atmosphere is approachable and fun, and our vendors offer affordable, genuine vintage wares, not upcycled, re-worked or craft pieces. This is a curated event—each vendor is asked to apply at the onset of planning in January. We have thirty tables of vendors, some of whom have brick-and-mortar shops here in Pittsburgh, and others sell online.”

In 2014, both Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer and the Heinz History Center raised the stakes and organized an even bigger event than the year before. A bar was available from 10am to Noon, for instance, offering morning cocktails for visitors to enjoy while they shop.

In addition to such vintage clothing merchants as Daffodil Vintage, Epitome Clothier, Kicky Feet Vintage and Vintage by Kristy, Vintage Pittsburgh also featured Retro on 8th—which specializes in mid-century furniture and collectibles—Denny’s Vintage Market’s collection of “Modern, Rustic and Just Plain Cool Treasures,” the East End Book Exchange and Mindcure Records, which specializes in old-school vinyl records, amongst its vendors.

Live music acts included jazz guitarist Dan Baker and ukulele player Jody Perigo on the first floor of the History Center, while five different DJs spun tunes throughout the day in the main vendor room itself.

“As with many of the public programs we host at the Heinz History Center, Vintage Pittsburgh illustrates how connecting with our region’s rich past can make for a brighter future,” Sarah Rooney of the History Center said. “We love partnering with the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer on this event to provide a forum for innovative small businesses in Western Pennsylvania. And quite frankly, it’s one of the most fun events we do all year!”

For Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer directors Bess Dunlevy, Jason Sumney and Michael Lutz, the feeling is mutual. “Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer is about bringing the community together to share in a day of conversation and collecting, sharing an appreciation for history, old objects, fashion and culture,” the trio explain. “The partnership with this institution in Pittsburgh’s Strip District has been wonderful and we’re thrilled to have been asked again this year to organize another event along with the staff at the History Center.”

“Don’t throw the past away, you might need it some rainy day,” Peter Allen sang in All That Jazz. “Dreams can come true again, when everything old is new again.” And thanks to Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer and the Heinz History Center, that day arrives every year in the Steel City during Vintage Pittsburgh.

Anthony Letizia

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