Dallas’s gala-studded social calendar means it has become something of an epicentre of red-carpet dressing. And thanks to an endless cycle of philanthropic events and benefit dinners, its second-hand stores have garnered a reputation for selling some of the finest vintage clothing in the world.
The spacious Vintage Martini offers original pieces from the Victorian era up to so-called “new vintage” – designer collections from recent years. Here co-owner Ken Weber displays his wares with the thoughtfulness of a Bond Street boutique. Cocktailwear from every decade – a 1920s black velvet and rhinestone dress ($895), a 1950s Christian Dior red silk gown with decorative buttons ($745) – is interspersed with shelves of exquisite vintage jewellery (Robert Sorrell emerald demi-parure, $1,400) and accessories (I spied a 1960s Judith Leiber brushed-gold minaudière, containing its original mirror and comb, for $1,198).
Weber has a degree in costume design and his eye for detail was honed over many years working in film and television. Magical discoveries with a Hollywood connection include a suit worn by George Peppard (green woollen three-piece, $1,195) and a white linen skirt (now sold) appliquéd with grapes and labelled “Grace Kelly” on the inside. “I started researching the provenance,” says Weber. “The majority of her outfits are documented and this skirt was part of a dress she wore in her 1956 film The Swan, with Alec Guinness.”
For Weber, the hunt is often more exciting than the treasure and occasionally he comes across an entire collection. “I got a call from someone in Michigan whose ancestors owned a furniture company and travelled the world in the 1910s,” he tells me. “The wife had packed around 30 years of her wardrobe into Louis Vuitton steamer trunks and put them in the furniture factory’s attic. When the factory closed, the trunks were shipped to the owner’s descendants, who got in touch with us.”
The cache gleaned ballgowns (from $1,200) made between 1908 and 1914, 1920s French lace flapper dresses (from $195) and shoes (from $100) still in their Saks Fifth Avenue boxes, many of which have been sold to television show Boardwalk Empire. To find pieces from the earlier decades of the 20th century – especially ones in mint condition – is rare, yet Vintage Martini also boasts a 1920 fringed purple velvet coat ($3,895) by French couturier Maison Doucet.
So extraordinary and stylish is Weber’s collection that designers including Christian Lacroix and Vera Wang have bought “inspiration pieces” from Vintage Martini. But what sets this boutique apart is Weber’s warmth and understanding of how women want to dress. He suggests ways of weaving old pieces into a modern wardrobe – an original 1920s metallic brocade wrap ($698) would work well with jeans, say – and seeks out vintage finds from coveted contemporary designers (Alexander McQueen floor-length raspberry silk evening gown, $2,895), allowing customers to cultivate an eclectic wardrobe that captures the imagination.