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Shopping for Classic Hollywood Memorabilia

The Walk of Fame near El Capitan Theatre.

Photo: Katie Shapiro

Take Two: Wardrobe Department

A single Bettie Page shirtwaist hardly constitutes a new Hollywood wardrobe. So I go to It’s a Wrap, a consignment store with an only-in-L.A. conceit: the clothes have actually been worn on, or at least purchased for, a set. Each tag bears a code that refers to the item’s former life (UIA for Up in the Air, for example). “It’s kind of awesome!” says the saleswoman, showing off a faux-garnet bangle bracelet that once graced someone’s arm on The Starter Wife. As at any vintage venue, you’ve got to dig for treasures: a rack of beaded dresses commissioned by Howie Mandel’s Deal or No Deal are a ridiculously inviting $10 each; $240 gets you an olive green gabardine suit with crystal detailing at the waist once sported by a diva on All My Children.

Of course in L.A., as everywhere else, there is vintage and then there is vintage. If It’s a Wrap represents the total democratization of Hollywood fashion, Decades Inc. is the opposite: a place where celebrities buy or borrow high-end vintage gowns for red-carpet galas.

“If you don’t like it, somebody from the Sex and the City cast wants to wear it!” Cameron Silver, the proprietor, is saying into the phone as I enter. When he hangs up he explains that he was talking to a far-flung customer who is being sent a Jean Patou by Christian Lacroix bubble dress; if she passes on it, Kristin Davis has first dibs. “Kristin’s a good friend. She wears a lot of vintage from us,” Silver tells me. “She wore Balmain couture from the sixties to the White House correspondents’ dinner—a real Jackie Kennedy feeling!”

Silver, who is wearing pale pleated trousers and looks a bit like a 1940’s Hollywood player himself, tells me that it all started several years ago when early clients like Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger wanted something unique for premieres. “They all referenced another star in an effort to solidify a modern iconic style,” Silver explains, by which he means that when, say, Marisa Tomei selected a black-and-pink Traina-Norell, she was echoing Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. That said, celebrities, like the rest of us, mostly just want to look gorgeous: “They’ll get the reference but it’s not really the selling point.”

There’s nothing to prevent me—or anyone else—from buying the very same vintage gowns these stars wear, and as I sit on a python-covered pouf atop a 1940’s monkey-fur rug it’s easy to convince myself that I really need a flower-strewn, Mia Farrow–worthy Ossie Clark frock from the 1970’s. (Actually, maybe I do.)


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