The official acquisition of the shirts, plus, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

March 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

The big news this week is… drumroll, please… I bought the shirts!  Dan rented us a generic midsized sedan and drove us down to Philadelphia.  I spent approximately 6 hours on Sunday digging through 5 giant bins of western shirts in order to choose 200 of the best.  Here were my criteria in descending order of preference:

  • Anything extra-large or larger (I had to adjust this criteria because there were just too many extra-larges.  So I narrowed it down to XXL and larger, and even then I had to leave some behind.  There was a huge selection of white XXL’s, but I was trying to avoid light colors, so I had to make some tough choices)
  • Anything small or smaller (these were much more difficult to come by)
  • Anything embroidered or two-toned (once I started digging, I adjusted this criteria to include single-toned, but with piping)
  • Any prints
  • Dark colors
  • Gingham or checked
  • All of the above with no rips or stains (My original plan was to inspect each shirt to thoroughly to weed these out, but in actuality there was no time to inspect each shirt carefully.  It was: reach into the bin, pull out a shirt, look at the label, look at the yoke, keep or discard.  Repeat.)

The best laid plans, of course, sometimes get thrown out the window.  Imagine a freezing cold, very dusty warehouse with narrow aisles, boxes everywhere and bin after bin of clothing.  They had “cracked open a bale” in anticipation of my private appointment.  Not sure what that means exactly – I had hoped to actually see the “bale” because I’m curious what it looks like.  Is it square?  I pictured it like what happens to a car when it gets smashed up into a little tiny metal box at the car wreckers lot.  But alas the shirts were already dispersed into bins: longsleeve (2 bins), shortsleeves, winter, and denim.  I dug to the bottom of every bin but the shortsleeve.  There were so incredibly many of the shortsleeves that I just picked a few dark ones off the top, and left the rest.  I hadn’t planned on buying any shortsleeves anyhow, but I thought I’d get a few at least as an experiment.  I hadn’t planned on buying any denims either, but as I started to dig I saw a couple unique ones.  But the payoff was fairly low – two or three unique denims in a box filled to capacity with the exact same Wrangler denim shirt over and over.  Guess that was a popular one.  It was this one.  I see the same shirt on Ebay that sold for $17.  Maybe I should have picked up a couple.  Next time, I guess.  I figured if there were so many of them, how rare could they be?  But I guess it would be a good idea to have the same one of something in a bunch of different sizes.  Maybe next time.  I also bypassed most of the winter westerns.  I was tempted to get a couple just to send to my dad because I know he likes those quilted warm shirts he can wear out in the barn, but most of them looked to be just 80’s and 90’s flannel, nothing really interesting.  There were some tough-looking jacket type shirts I was tempted by.  Maybe next time!

So after my first pass through all the bins, I came up with 268 shirts.  I’d only brought enough money with me for 200 (Dan keeps telling me: “stick with the plan.”  I agree, winging it makes me uncomfortable!)  So I painstakingly whittled the collection down.  I didn’t put back any embroidered or two-toned.  But I did 86 numerous light-colored XL’s.  And I put back anything that was modern, even if it fit the “dark-colored” or print criteria.  And it was getting on to be 3:00 in the afternoon and there I was still sorting and counting, weeding out a shirt here, and a shirt there.  Choosing the last six or seven was almost physically painful for me, I couldn’t bear to leave even one of these beauties behind!  But the clock was ticking, so I eventually made the hard choices and got it down to 200.  Here’s what I ended up with:

  • 35 embroidered or two-toned
  • 23 print and gigham
  • 27 smalls or smaller
  • 44 XXL’s or larger
  • 8 short-sleeved
  • the rest just because I liked them

Some of the more memorable ones I had to weed out included one with eagles and flags printed on it (it was joyously hideous!) and a bright yellow one made out of some sort of nylon mesh.  I eventually handed over my money, and we bagged up 7 garbage bags of shirts.  Dan stuffed them all in the trunk, and we drove back to NYC.

I ceremoniously presented them all to Mrs. West Side Laundry, who proceeded to negotiated hard on what I thought were previously-agreed-upon prices.  Jack Donneghy would have nothing on Mrs. West Side Laundry.  The shirts will sojourn there at least a week for some thorough rehab while I gather up the ransom money.  Can’t wait to see you again, Shirts!  I miss them.  I’ve been dreaming about them.  As I bid them farewell at the laundry, I happened to notice one of the shirts had red, white and blue snaps on the cuffs.  I especially can’t wait to see that guy.

While in Philadelphia we also stopped by Avalon’s show, which was coincidentally enough held at a vintage clothing store called Sweet Jane Vintage.

In addition to Avalon’s artwork, which got a nice write-up in a Philly blog, they sell an odd selection of 80’s clothing, such as LL Bean member’s only-style windbreakers and fake satin camisoles.  The store was chock full of young hipsters.  Does this mean hipsters consider 80’s clothing vintage?  Makes sense, the 80’s are now officially more than 20 years old.  But it freaks me out to think that what I wore in high school is now vintage.

We were moved to buy one of Avalon’s illustrations:

Congratulations, Avalon, on a successful opening.

In other news…

Welcome to the newest member of the Von Behren family!

Shall I name him Frank?  (Short for ‘enstein?)  Well, as those of you who correctly guessed the answer to the “What’s in the ONLYMANNEQUINS.COM box” already know, the mannequin  arrived!  Disappointingly, Lebowski wasn’t nearly as interested in him as I thought he would be.

But he dutifully sniffed him, retired to the safety of Dan’s chair to observe him at a distance, then ignored him entirely.

Mr. Frank E. Mannequin wasn’t too hard to assemble – his arms hang off of these metal hook-thingies, and his hands screw on, although somewhat precariously.  I hope one doesn’t go flying.  Dan helped me wield the accompanying allen wrench to screw the pole into the base, then there’s a little wing-nut thingy that attaches the pole, um, in his abdomen.  I guess right where his stomach would be if he were a real man.  (I am becoming strangely obsessed with his anatomy, or lack thereof!)  And on that note, those are pecs, Paul, not breasts!  He works out a lot, you see.  At the gym.  With all the other ripped mannequins.

Anyhoo, I think he’s perfect and he’s like a new plastic headless eerily pale friend just hanging out in our apartment.  He’s part of the family now!

Seeing as he was so scantily clad, I tested out one of the sample shirts on him.

I think he’s going to work out great!  Then it was up on the shelf with Frank.  It’s weird, from my vantage point here at the desk in the Vintrowear Operations Center, I can see right up his, you know, abdomen.

Too bright!  Too bright!

And the countdown’s on…

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Exactly one week and one day until we head to Philadelphia to pick up the shirts.  It’s similar to the feeling of the week before my birthday or the week before Christmas, only slightly more anxiety-inducing.


1 a positive form of stress.
2 a balance between selfishness and altruism through which an individual develops the drive and energy to care for others.


Etymology: ME, distressen, to cause sorrow
an emotional or physical state of pain, sorrow, misery, suffering, or discomfort.

Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.

I think I’m safely in the eustress realm.  However, could tip one way or the other at this point, depending on whether or not I make it to the post office this weekend.  Trying to mail a giant box of genealogy documents to my mother to store in her attic.  The box is, of course, lined with acid-free paper.  The acid-free paper is from a batch I bought to print out DAR applications.  Cleaning out the home office is like an archeological dig through my former hobbies.  Dan built me a shelf to hang the shirts on.  I have a nice husband.

Two New Yorkers in the City of Brotherly Love on the Hunt for Western Shirts

January 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

Dan and I just got back from our successful road trip to Philadelphia to visit Sazz Vintage Wholesale.  We were doing reconnaissance in preparation for my initial purchase of vintage cowboy shirts to open my online store, Vintrowear, debuting this spring at Internets everywhere.  As advertised, Sazz’s warehouse, which goes by the name Bulk Vintage, has an amazing selection of western shirts from the 70’s, and 80’s.

There were shirts of all stripes, including, well, stripes.  And also plaids, solids, flower prints, metallic thread pinstriped, and Navajo.  And of course there was a small selection of embroidered and two-toned.  Every brand I’d heard of (H Bar C, Rockmount, Ely Cattleman, Roper, Panhandle Slim) and many I hadn’t (Gold Collection by Karman, Ruddock, Youngblood.)  I got to dig through approximately 350 western shirts!  It ranks up there as one of the greatest days of my life.  I didn’t even get a chance to go through the boxes of short-sleeve westerns, denim westerns, and winter westerns.  I think I’d need to schedule at least one more day to get to all of those.  I did sift through an entire box of 1950’s and 1960’s shirts, which included some incredible gems such as these two bad-ass fringed shirts:

The fringes were a little raggedy, but otherwise looked in good shape.  I couldn’t quite read the tag on the black one, but I think it said “Squires of California.”  The yellow/mustard shirt didn’t have a tag so it might be handmade.  I think I will consider these specimens in the “collector’s item” category.  I’m hoping to sell my shirts to hipsters in Williamsburg and indie rockers.  I can’t see any indie rockers I know in either of these, but they were unique nonetheless.  In that same box I also stumbled across these two, which I thought were pretty stunning.  I especially love this H Bar C because of the cowboy boots embroidered on the cuffs and the arrow slit pockets:

This one also looked interesting (“Trail Ridge Westerns”), although it had a stain on the shoulder and the embroidery didn’t have as much to say:

I was all set to buy them until I learned that while the shirts in the Western boxes were $8.50 each, these babies were in the $18-25 range because of their age and rarity.  Too rich for my blood, so I settled for some “fancy” westerns from the 70’s and 80’s bins.  They’re currently bagged up to go to the cleaners, so I will treat you to them in the coming weeks once they’re shined up.

But never fear, I wouldn’t leave you shirtless.  Here are the ones I didn’t buy.  And they are awesome, so just wait til you see the ones that made the cut.

Afterwards we met up with our dear friend (and daughter of dear friends) illustrator Avalon Clare.

Now I don’t know why I didn’t put it together that Avalon is also a western enthusiast, since I’ve known her since she was knee-high to a grasshopper and she’s always been horse-crazy.  Avalon just happens to be reading a book that’s on my Paperbackswap list, How the West Was Worn.  I can’t wait to read it!  And coincidentally enough she showed up at brunch wearing an awesome western shirt, a flannel print she said she got at Target, complete with snap buttons.  Go figure!

Thanks, Avalon, for modeling, and for showing us around Philadelphia since we managed to get hopelessly lost in Sazz Vintage’s somewhat suspect neighborhood.

Note to any future travelers to the Sazz warehouse.  No heat!  If you go in the winter, wear a coat.  But the owner and employees  were super-nice and I learned more in one afternoon about the vintage clothing biz than I have in months of research.

On our way out of town we stopped off at the Barnes Collection.

It was a weekend tailor-made for superlatives, because I have never seen so many naked lady paintings in one mansion!  (In all the mansions I’ve been in!)  Seriously, there were over a hundred Renoirs.  So when we passed by a Van Gogh or Degas, it was even more amazing.  They were strangely cult-like there and seem to have all drunk the Barnes cool-aid.  If you go, be sure not to pack your purse with your collection of $100 bills and priceless jewels, because they won’t let you bring your purse inside.  You have to lock it up in a locker downstairs.  For a New Yorker used to having her purse surgically attached to her body, this felt strange.  But the collection was amazing to see, and definitely worth the experience.  Apparently there’s a really great documentary out about the controversy surrounding the collection.

Glad to back safe and sound in snowy New York, although it was just as snowy in Philly.  The Big L seemed happy to see us.

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