Now that life is starting to settle down a bit, it’s time to get back to one of my favorite blog features: where I turn the spotlight on my trusted and true, go-to vintage stores. And since I have a bit of a Go Big or Go Home kind of mentality, I decided to go with one of the very best there is…
Meet Amanda from Butch Wax Vintage, which specializes in vintage from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. If you haven’t seen her on Instagram or visited her Etsy shop, be prepared to gasp and swoon and scramble for your Visa card. There are vintage stores that have some jaw dropping pieces now and again. But, I swear Amanda has magical powers, because every piece she sells is impeccable and heart stoppingly beautiful…
I first met Amanda when I was living in San Diego. She was working at a local vintage shop I often frequented called Wear it Again Sam (who has since closed the brick and mortar and moved exclusively online). At the time, I mostly knew her as the “Girl with the Awesome Flaming Red Hair.”
The irony is, I didn’t actually acquire my first Butch Wax Vintage piece or get to know Amanda better until I had moved halfway around the world. But, since that first magical dress, bespeckled with hand-sewn sequined strawberries, I was hooked. And on every subsequent visit back to San Diego to visit Mr. Dressed’s family, I would make a point to message Amanda. She would let me into her lovely home for a personalized shopping appointment and I would try on vintage dresses till my hearts content. And more often than not, I would find about 12 dresses I wanted (and usually, I didn’t take all 12 home. Usually…).
Nowadays, Amanda sells primarily through her Instagram (and those dresses go quick!). But, thanks to her amazing customer service and International shipping options, no matter where I lived, I was never more than a quick message away from my next Butch Wax Vintage stunner…
O ver the miles and years, I have added more and more treasured pieces from Butch Wax Vintage to my ever-expanding wardrobe – and they are always immediate favorites. And even though I can’t take them all home, I visit her Instagram regularly to swoon. Because not only does Amanda curate one of the most amazing vintage shops around, but she’s also the model, the photographer, and the graphic designer. Talk about quadruple threat…
Given her awesomeness, I thought it only fitting that I give you the chance to get to know her better and get some insight into her fabulous shop. Amanda kindly indulged me in my endless questions about her life as a vintage seller and some of her secrets behind her perfect crinolines and sourcing her stunning stock!
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Amanda: I’m Amanda! I’m a 36 year old San Diego native. I’ve been collecting vintage since I was 13 years old, when I first discovered the magic of thrift stores. My first job was in a vintage boutique here in downtown SD called Shake Rag. I worked the first half of my 20s as a makeup artistfor Dior, NARS, and Guerlain, but I eventually returned to vintage, working for SD’s finest upscale vintage boutique called Wear It Again Sam. I worked here for 7 years before starting Butch Wax Vintage in May of 2010.
Q: I remember seeing you in various brick and mortar shops when I lived in San Diego. What made you decide to branch out on your own and start Butch Wax Vintage?
Amanda: When I was working for Wear It Again Sam, I was not only working in the shop, I was also doing all of their online sales (Etsy, Ebay, website), as well as being their store model and graphic designer. Wear It Again Sam had been an actual brick and mortar shop ever since the 1970s, which is extremely rare for a vintage boutique. Even though we had our regular clientele, when the owner saw how profitable online sales were, she decided to close the store and just go purely online to avoid paying overhead. She kept me as her sole employee, still doing all of the online business for her, but from my home. During this time, I also began to list personal items from my own vintage collection on my own personal Etsy page. I was just wanting to clear my closet a bit. I used myself as my own model because people were already familiar with my face online from WIAS. Anyhow, long story short, my Etsy took off and I no longer had time to work for WIAS. I eventually had to quit and pursue my business. It was a huge leap at first and of course my boss was sad, but also very understanding, and I’m happy to say we are still very good friends to this day.
Q: I notice you sell both on Etsy and directly through Instagram – can you tell us bit about the general process and how to buy one of your pieces if we spot one we love on IG?
Amanda: My business first started out purely on Etsy. Then I added my actual website, butchwaxvintage.com. But surprisingly, these days I do most of my business on Instagram. When I used to have photo-shooting days for Etsy, I began to take a few preview shots of items and preview them on Instagram. Keep in mind, to list one item on Etsy, it involved shooting the shots (usually around 20 per item), narrowing them down to 5 images, formatting those images on Photoshop, and then writing lengthy descriptions. I am a stickler about detail, so my item descriptions were aways super thorough and important to me. To list a good 10 items it would easily take me all day. Anyhow, with these simple preview IG shots, eventually things were getting so much interest and selling right away on IG, that I had no need to put items on Etsy. The process was sped up so much faster. There were no more days spent sitting behind a computer, editing and writing descriptions. That’s pretty much how it started. These days, each week I will shoot preview shots for IG, giving a short description with 3 photos and info for each item, and if somebody is interested they will DM (direct message) me. I take payment either through Paypal or Square, whichever the client prefers, and that’s how it’s done. I still give the same attentive customer service that I was known for on Etsy, but now probably even more so. These days when I shoot photos for IG, my days are spent answering questions via DMing, but I actually enjoy it a lot. And it’s amazing the clientele I now have because of IG. Celebrities, my clients from day 1, new clients, I’m so thankful for them all.
Q: True vintage is getting harder and harder to source. I’m sure you get asked this all the time (and probably can’t give away any trade secrets), but HOW do you find so many amazing pieces?
Amanda: Simply put: I’m always looking. Traveling is a huge passion of mine, and seriously everywhere I go, I look for vintage. I can’t help it! I love what I do! I am also THAT girl who will drive by myself at the crack of dawn to get to a vintage show in another far away city by 9am. I am a vintage huntress in all meanings of the word. My peers have described me as a “machine,” haha. It gives me a crazy high to get amazing pieces for my clients. I will look anywhere: thrift stores, vintage stores, estate sales, vintage shows, you name it. I look literally EVERYWHERE. I sometimes literally will get this nagging feeling in my brain, telling me that I have to go somewhere, and there I usually find an amazing piece. It’s like this weird 6th sense. The “sixth vintage sense.” Haha!
Q: You model all of the pieces for the shop flawlessly – have you ever done any professional modeling? How do you manage such perfect fit on garments in a range of sizes?
Amanda: Thank you! Oh lord, well, not a lot of people know this, but back in the early 2000’s I was part of the pinup revival here in southern California. There literally were only a handful of us back then, it was just beginning of the now pinup craze. I just kind of fell into it. I owe a lot of my success to the photographer David Perry who took a liking to my look. I’ve done random things over the years off and on; I was the face of the Las Vegas Beauty Bar on billboards / in magazines when I had my huge red hair, I was also on posters for the Las Vegas tourism authority when I had my long black hair with bettie bangs. A certain image of me that David Perry shot in front of The Doll Hut bar in Orange County has been used literally hundreds of times all around the world, because it’s such an iconic “rockabilly” style shot. I’m always seeing it on new things; flyers, album covers, artwork, etc. I’ve been a mermaid on a beer bottle (Star Island Single)- they found me by coming into Wear It Again Sam, they were here for a beer convention from the east coast! And of course, my boss at WIAS insisted I be the model for the store. It’s funny though, I actually really do not like trying clothes on, and that’s a huge part of my job. However, every time I’ve tried to put my clothes on a mannequin, people always question why. They don’t like it! Haha! So I keep using myself as my model, it’s what works best for my business. People like seeing the clothes on a body, and I try to present them in a classic midcentury way that’s styled after the couture fashion shots of the 1950s. I take a ton of inspiration from old editorial shots for Dior, Balenciaga, Fath, etc. I try to pose my body in ways that those models did, to showcase the clothes in that fashion. It really was an art form, and I like to try and preserve that.
Q: Your shop covers range of time periods, but do you have a favorite personal era? What is your personal style aesthetic?
Amanda: Personally, the 1940s is my favorite era. I love the drama, the draping, the huge shoulders, the long statuesque gowns… I LOVE a strong shoulder and super wasp waist. I prefer to wear 1940s when I have to get really dressed up. I love to pile on the glamour and I usually like it with a dark vampy edge. I have a RIDICULOUS collection of 1940s gowns, they’re my guilty pleasure. For everyday life, I usually stick to 1950s sundresses, skirts, blouses, etc. They’re easier to wear to just run around in, do errands, etc. For my 1950s aesthetic, I prefer to channel Kim Novak, mixed with new look Christian Dior, mixed with Vampira, mixed with Jean Seberg. Because of my short hair, I love to play on tomboy looks as well. Also, I’m a fan of mixing eras. I don’t stick to just one aesthetic. I take inspiration from all eras… I love a good 1980s Thierry Mugler fierce suit, I love sex kitten Russ Meyer 1970s style to babydoll mod 1960s stuff, I looooove 1930s beach pajamas, I love 1930s silk velvet gowns, I love gaudy 1990s Chanel jewelry. I take inspiration from all eras. I’m a vintage chameleon.
Q: A key to wearing vintage is always in the undergarments – can you tell us a bit about your favorite crinolines and where you buy them? What do you find to be the ideal fullness and length?
Amanda: I get asked about my crinolines more than anything! I loooove a huge dramatic skirt, and I think it’s one of the silhouettes that Butch Wax Vintage is best known for. I happened to come across a homemade crinoline company on Etsy a few years back, Handmade Petticoats – they’re made in the UK. The owner, Maria, also raises sheep! They have been the only crinolines I have found that are both lightweight, soft, and give me the shape that I desire. I usually recommend the 6 layer, 27 inch length. It goes the best under authentic 1950s lengths that have not been shortened. They’re very well made and each one really is handmade. They’re also incredibly reasonable in price. Check them out here.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece in the shop right now?
Amanda: Because most of my killer vintage pieces are sold on Instagram these days, probably my most favorite piece in my Etsy shop right now is my “fly circle skirt” that is actually a Butch Wax Vintage Original design. I am starting to do specialty small release capsule collections of items that I design myself, that are based upon authentic 1950s patterns. The fabrics are even designed by me. This specific skirt is based upon a 1950s circle skirt from my private collection, and the fabric was designed by me based upon an illustration from a vintage childrens book. Each piece is made custom for the client, here in San Diego. I hope to be making more high-end vintage-inspired pieces in the future… I have many ideas… For now, here is the skirt:
Q: As a vintage collector, I can’t imagine being able to let so many beautiful pieces go! Have you ever sold a piece and later regretted it?
Amanda: Of course! Most recently, I sold a spectacular 1940s fully hand-sequined sapphire blue cocktail dress that was an exact replica of a 1930s Chanel couture piece. We’re talking a dead-ringer. I sold it instantly, and of course I regretted it a bit. But, it went to shoe designer Charlotte Olympia’s mother, so that made me super happy. In all honesty, I never truly regret selling anything because the joy that I get from being able to match an item with its perfect home is priceless. That’s why I do what I do. Usually if I need to keep something, I will know right away. I just get a certain feeling with it. And it’s usually not the most spectacular item, it’s usually just something that fits my body perfectly.
Q: Do you have any tips for women who are just starting to buy vintage online and are unsure of where to start?
Amanda: My best advice to women who are just starting to buy vintage is: QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. Save for that special piece. Perhaps create a “rainy day” vintage fund for those special pieces in they come along. “Nothing haunts us like the vintage we didn’t buy.” 🙂 Don’t go crazy buying up every rose print or floral that you see, haha. I see so many women get bit by the vintage bug, and they just go nuts competing with one another, only to eventually burn out. Fads come and go, stick to timeless pieces that will forever be in style. Do your research, find out what sellers are legit and have good track records. Stick to natural fabrics or fabrics that are durable / breathable. Do your research on how to launder / take care of specific fabrics to preserve them correctly. Find out what silhouettes work for your body type. Find your TRUE measurements: bust, natural waist, hips. Don’t buy a 1940s/50s dress that’s shorter than 42 inches in total length (for me, 44 at least). I’m a stickler about vintage lengths, haha. Invest in a black cotton circle skirt, a black pencil skirt. Most importantly, buy what makes you feel good. Wear what makes you feel good. That’s what’s the most important.
Isn’t she just amazing? I love that she’s 100% one woman show – from the curation, to the photography, to the modeling. And I absolutely concur with everything she said – it is so worth saving your pennies for that one special piece, the one that makes you feel amazing. And your personal amazing could be a 1950’s ballgown, a sequined wiggle dress, hot little cigarette pants, or vintage dungarees. Whatever they are, the moment you slip them on and that zipper closes with just the right snugness, you know. And you’re a goner… I have been a goner in Amanda’s shop on more than one occasion. Here are some of the beauties I’ve taken home over the years…
And there are a few BWV acquisitions that haven’t made it to the blog yet, but are definitely coming soon to an outfit post near you….clearly I have a thing for floral border prints. Maybe just a little…
Given how much I adore each and every dress I’ve ever bought from Amanda, I took some time to pore over the offerings currently for sale at Butch Wax Vintage (and tried to resist buying everything). Here are a few favorites currently for sale in her Etsy shop (ranging from sizes XS to XL) – but I have a feeling they won’t be for sale for long! Links to each below…
If your head isn’t spinning from all of the pretty, you must have super human strength. I can’t help but scroll through Amanda’s Instagram when I’m having a bad day, just to find solace in the acres of stunning vintage she always has on offer. I unfortunately can’t take all of it home, but I can indulge in a bit of window shopping.
To help YOU indulge in one of Butch Wax Vintage’s unparalleled pieces, Amanda has offered a coupon code to her Etsy shop, exclusive to my readers! Use code IAMSPECIAL to get 15% off between now and 11 July. I can almost feel my wallet start to quiver with excitement…
I also hope you stop by and visit Butch Wax Vintage on Etsy, as well as her social media pages on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram – and give her a follow! I will warn you though – you will want EVERYTHING.
I want to mention that any shop I feature I have personally shopped in and love – I was given no personal incentive for this post. I chose to feature Butch Wax Vintage because I adore this shop and trust Amanda to source amazing vintage pieces, always accurately describe and measure her garments, and provide exceptional customer service. I think it’s important to create a network of sellers that you know you can trust – and support small businesses along the way! If you want to see my last Spotlight On feature, check it out here.