Opening The Vault
January 29, 2017
Soumi Barua & Jane Hong
We are always told fashion repeats itself. With Forever 21 mannequins adorning chokers reminiscent of the 90s and the front covers of Vogue styling velvety slip dresses, this adage continues to prove true into 2017. Yet, although recreations of these old trends are popular and easily accessible, they are simply not original. Where can we find pieces to authentically embrace these old trends? A store like The Vault on Providence’s very own Westminster street has all the answers.
The Vault is a vintage store selling unique apparel and accessories mainly from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, although you can also find some ball gowns from the 1930s! While its sheer size of 3,000 square feet is impressive, that is not the main selling point of this vintage boutique. It sells items from ten different vendors, completely varying in style. Each vendor regularly comes into the store to help manage the boutique and aid customers in the vintage shopping experience. You can find floral collared blouses in the middle aisle, a barrage of fur coats at the far corner, and even “grungy” band tees in the back. Normally, vintage designer items, such as a Prada backpack from the 80s, demand deeper pockets. Luckily for most college students, the majority of the store has a nice affordable collection of clothes, like a pair of vintage Levi’s starting at $30, which can compares to Urban Outfitters’ so-called “vintage” Levi’s retailing for $60 to $100!
In an interview with the store’s manager, Ruth Meteer, we were surprised to learn that she did not intend on creating a store like The Vault at first. She simply “started collecting so much clothing” during her high school days for her online business on e-commerce sites like EBay. After finishing school, she realized that she had a wide network of friends who also sold vintage clothing online. Meteer, along with her friends, decided to collaborate and combine their businesses into a physical store in October of 2014. The space itself is divided into ten sections, each owned by one of the ten main vendors of the store to showcase and sell their apparel. Ruth’s collection, Gypsy, can be seen below.
She explained The Vault stands out from other stores in Providence because it works like an “incubator” for different tastes and trends. Thus, it caters from “hippy college students to even young professionals.” There is something here for everyone. In merely the span of half an hour, we saw skaters with ripped overalls in beanies to an elderly female longtime with a pinafore skirt, who only wears clothes from the 70s, enter the store. Although the store is only two years old, the quality and genuine style of each vendor has greatly contributed to the success of this store.
However, we also realized how overwhelming it can be for the average shopper to walk into such a complicated store without knowing much about vintage apparel and trends. She suggested asking the sales associates for advice and recommendations on suitable clothing choices. She also recommended trying on clothing regardless of the listed sizes, since sizing is relative to each era or decade and does not always correspond with 21st century standards. You may want to prepare yourself for a lot of trial and error in the fitting room, but once you find a piece, you are almost always guaranteed a one-of-a-kind.
The Vault is perfect for shoppers who like the vibe of Urban Outfitters (UO) but want the originality of true vintage clothing at more reasonable prices. When talking with Meteer, we learned that a few national retail stores (including UO, Check it out our piece on that here) send scouts to her store to pick out vintage items to use in future collections. For example, Ruth mentioned that after a national retailer scouts from New York picked up a yellow sweater from The Vault, he saw the exact same sweater design on racks at the store in Providence Place Mall the following year. Meteer explained that she enjoys that the scouts’ choices let her preview what will be the hottest trends in stores the next season. Shopping at The Vault means you are already ahead of next year’s trends!
When modern retailers pick up clothes from the 70s at The Vault for their 90s-inspired collections, it is clear that fashion truly recycles. The off-the shoulder 70s dresses that Meteer wore in the 90s are some of the most popular items at the store. Ruth feels that 70s style will continue to hold strong in the next year. In addition to the off-the-shoulder dresses that “went off this summer,” she believes that corduroys, thick-sole shoes (like hiking boots), and mini-backpacks will continue to be popular in 2017.
So why is the store even named, The Vault? Metter said that she and her team of sellers “wanted to capture the fact that [the store] was a big space for unique finds. We didn’t want [the name of the store] to be too ‘antiquey’ in case we wanted to open up the store to other online businesses.”
If you are on the lookout for unique vintage clothing that none of your peers own, The Vault should be on your next on your list of places to shop.