By Judy Carmack Bross
Models in upscale vintage through the decades All Photos by Jessica Tampas
Twelve models who floated the runway in the be-columned private ballroom that has seen the chicest through the ages, showed recently why so many celebrities and climate-conscious citizens are choosing vintage. Presented by Melissa Carter, creator of Kameo in Winnetka, the multiple decade fashion show celebrated the beauty of circular fashion. “I restyle and upcycle pieces and grant them a second life as a modern luxury experience,” Carter told us.
Carter, who grew up in Highland Park, became a model and retailer in New York before returning to Chicago during the pandemic, “loving my Midwest support system.” In addition to running Kameo, Carter is a mentor at Highland Park High School, lectures at area colleges, hosts red carpet events during Chicago Fashion Week and guests on podcasts. She established the Carter Projekt, LLC, a retail-consulting brand focusing on innovating retail for small businesses.
“I have always been inspired by the journey of fashion and style from both the past and present. Kameo Vintage originated with a love of story-selling, I am able to share the journey of each recycled garment both collected and sold. You are wearing something that has its own legend, is significantly better made, and with the added benefit that you won’t see someone in your same outfit anywhere you go.”
“I like to educate my supporters on the power of sustainability by blurring the lines of style ensuring my clients are socially aware of the impact that excess has on the environment. I have innovated a modern-luxury approach to sourcing – specializing in closet archiving and personal styling,” Carter said.
Anne Merriman: “Wearing this 1960’s outfit makes me think of Bes Ben hats. Both my grandmothers, who always lived in the area, were big wearers of the Bes Ben hats, and my mother’s mother would take her girls downtown to the store. Apparently, there was also an annual sale where people lined up way ahead of time and my mother remembers going to that- where it was mayhem!”
Jessica LaGrange: “It’s always fun to connect to new women, who knew it would be over vintage clothes!”
Robin Parsons, the effervescent chair of the show, told us:
“I had met Melissa at a pop up store at Space 519 about five years ago and she was a dynamic force in the short time I spent with her. When it came time to host a fashion show, I thought it would be a good idea to switch from what we have done in the past and try looking at beautiful clothes through a new lens. I have been lucky enough to inherit clothes from my mother which always gives me such joy to wear, I knew that there might be a universal appeal – also, so many celebrities were wearing vintage at high profile events that the idea to reexamine vintage and what’s in one’s closet seemed like a good idea!
“People approached me after Melissa’s presentation and said they would be looking at their closet in a whole new way after learning more about where donated clothes end up – so I think just being aware of the sustainability of clothes might make a difference in the future.
“It was lovely to see folks who attended the show who wore vintage pieces – those who had held on to something they instinctively knew its value, either because it belonged to someone close to them, or the handiwork was superior, or it told a story.”
According to the always-fashionable Classic Chicago columnist Katherine Harvey: “Safe, boring clothes will always be safe and boring. Good fashion is timeless and even extreme fashion, if it is good, will always have a place, especially today.
“The day of the fashion show I wore a 1990’s Yoji Yamamoto flowing white silk over shirt with a black ink brush drawing of a red headed koi on the back. The long black silk skirt, also Yoji, has a stiff peplum-like piece inside to make the skirt stand away from the hips. My shoes were Y3 ballerinas from a newer Yoji sport line.
Jeannie Miles recalled a favorite book: Flight of Passage, by Rinker Buck. “The book is about when he, at age fifteen, and his brother, Kernahan, at age seventeen, flew across the country in 1966 in a single engine plane, wearing 1966 Ray-Ban sunglasses. He wrote that ‘they were top of the line, the Aviator special model with the best smoked glass and pearl white sweatband.’ Since they only came in adult sizes he noted that they looked like Rocky Raccoon but their father knew how to crimp back the holders. Where are these vintage 1966 Ray Ban’s that their father gave them now? It is a reminder that every vintage piece tells a story!”
Elizabeth Luttig is among the models celebrating vintage:
“What I would say about vintage is that it is a win-win – one can help the environment by giving an item a second home where another person has the opportunity to enjoy it. With high-end vintage, often the materials are better quality than what can be purchased today. It is also interesting that styles come in and out of fashion and of course there are some styles and items that are iconic and timeless. At the Oscar’s over the last several years, a number of actresses have worn stunning vintage dresses. Visit: https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/gallery/vintage-oscar-dresses
“This industry calls the pieces “preloved.” What an apt description. Why should items be called ‘used’ when in fact they were just ‘loved’ by one owner and can be just as “loved” by another. Honestly, I consider it a gift that people keep special pieces and are willing to sell them.”
Heidi Suprenant channeled Carole Lombard in her outfit from the 1930’s. She told us:
“Wearing a vintage dress in the fashion show really made me consider looking into wearing vintage more often! Why not wear a floral 70’s skirt with a more modern top and maybe vintage earrings? Or a vintage bag always makes a statement. I’m going to focus more now on core pieces that will never go out of style and just sprinkle my wardrobe with microtrend pieces. Wearing more vintage is just another way to reduce and reuse, but way more fun than taking out the recycling bins!”
Long-time Burning Man attendee Susan Faurot told us:
“I have looked at my closet differently since meeting Melissa. Melissa encouraged me to wear the brightly printed Doc Martens beyond Burning Man. Usually I select things to wear that don’t stand out. Melissa challenged me to step outside that “safety zone.” I’ve worn them twice this season, and of course in the fashion show.”
“Vintage pieces are so timeless!” DeDe Keller told us. “They can readily be mixed and matched with more current pieces … a vintage dress with ‘of the moment’ shoes or sandals, a vintage top with jeans and more! Everything old really is new …”
Carter shared that buttons were an early fascination that drew her to vintage. “I remember my mother sewing on buttons which can totally change a look if you change them, or even mix. You can buy little packs of beautiful buttons. Many buttons are signed and are actually little works of art.”
“We hear a lot about slow fashion today, and that involves taking care of your pieces, mending and replacing buttons. When putting together a look it is great to blend decades. Often you will find though that what decade you choose can be dependent on body type. Of course, sizing was different through the decades and you just have to try things on.”
All photos by Jessica Tampas