It’s one of the best times on the blog again, where I’m turning the Spotlight On a favorite vintage store! Given my penchant for mid-century garments, it’s no surprise I’ve stacked up quite the collection. But in doing so, I’ve also stacked up quite a few amazing lovely sellers-turned-friends along the way.
Welcome to the vintage fantasy playground that is Jumblelaya Vintage, owned and run by the incredible Jennifer Fleck. Jen (and her shop) currently live in Washington state, along with her beau Allan, two children, and adorable chihuahua pup. I actually discovered Jumblelaya through Facebook back in 2013, where my heart nearly stopped dead in its tracks at the sight of the most breathtaking Emma Domb I had ever clapped eyes on. I remember furiously typing out a private message about this dress on Facebook. Then when I didn’t hear back in, oh about two minutes, typing another frantic message on Etsy, desperate to scoop her up before someone else did. Thankfully, this green eyed beauty, with a bustline of dreams, constructed out of white petals and velvet leaves, made her way across the ocean and into my arms. And my love affair with Jumblelaya was born…
And it didn’t stop there – since my first purchase, I find myself visiting Jumblelaya almost daily and swooning over the bevy of beauties that always line her shop. Her shop focuses on pieces from 1930’s-1950’s, and many a dress has made it’s way into my wardrobe. Over the years I’ve gotten to know Jen really well, as we laughed, we cried, we swooned over vintage.
It’s always incredible to me how vintage brings people together. How fortunate I always feel when I meet another kindred spirit, who understands me in a way that not many people in my life do. I am forever grateful to have ‘met’ Jen in cyber space, and can’t wait for the day when we actually meet in person and go on a vintage buying rampage…
Since I have loved getting to know Jen over the last few years, I wanted to give you the chance to get to know her better and get some insight into her fabulous shop. Jen kindly indulged me in all of my questions about her life as a vintage seller and some of her secrets behind sourcing her stunning stock!
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, about your shop, and your reason for starting as a vintage seller?
Jennifer: “Well, I go by at least three names: Jennifer to strangers, Jenni to my family, and Jen to friends. I live in WA State in a 1918 Dutch Colonial we’ve named Amity that sits on a historic street in Vancouver called Doctors’ Row by locals. The lore is that this street was where doctors from the area’s first hospital chose to build their homes, so it has a whimsical mix of early-last-century architectural styles and great older trees and plantings. (My house was actually built by the founder of the local newspaper, a fact I love since I have a bit of a literary streak myself.) I’m also just across the Columbia River from Portland, OR, so I can get my weekly doses of hip urban life and shopping, but retreat to more of a quiet, friendly, laid-back Main Street America feel at home. This lifestyle mix really works for me at this time in my life while trying to balance raising my two kids, being a partner to my husband Allan, all the while focusing on my work/passion, which is of course vintage. I work both from my home and from a studio about a mile away housed in a brick nunnery built in 1873 (supposedly the bell tower is haunted by Mother Joseph!). This space is where I do all my photography and meet with local clients.”
“To give you some background, I started my online shop on eBay in 1997, way back when I lived in California, my birth place. (This makes Jumblelaya one of the oldest online vintage shops still in existence, and we’ve kept the same name and focus all these years!). I was in college at the time and supporting myself in an eclectic manner, taking jobs tutoring English plus stocking a triple antique booth I shared with my sister. We sold mainly rustic farmhouse antiques and California pottery drawn from many, many, many early dawns spent trawling yard sales and estate sales. (I’m strictly not a morning person and neither is she, but the passion to hunt can overcome our love of taking mornings slow.) I used my eBay account at first both to buy for my antique booth and to sell small, easily shipped items that would fetch a higher price before a worldwide audience of bidders. I remember the heady rush of watching, say, a figural pottery pie bird that I’d found in junk shop for $8 climb to an impressive $600+. It’s not all about the money, but as the proverbial starving college student, this bought a lot of coffee and ramen. I began trying my hand at selling vintage clothing since I had both a personal closet full of it and also found it didn’t move very quickly in our antique booth. My first piece of vintage fashion sold was a 1960s silk Pucci blouse with a truly iconic print in pinks and greens. I’d snagged it at a thrift for $2, wore it for a number of years, always taking care to clean it carefully, and it sold at auction for much more than I was expecting. This event definitely opened my eyes to both the value of vintage fashion and the possibility of changing my focus to it.”
“Going even deeper into my history, my big sister Cynthia can actually be thanked as one of my first big guiding influences: she had a flair for weaving antiques and vintage into her home and lifestyle, and I started tagging along with her to thrift stores and flea markets when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I have photos of me dressed as Cyndi Lauper from roughly that same time period — adorable but awkward. I still remember thrifting each item: a 1950s glittery tilt hat with a tattered veil, a neck full of glittering costume jewelry, a 1970s vest, little vintage fishnet gloves, a 1960s poison green Mod vinyl belt slung over a disco era jersey print skirt, and my mom’s early 1960s catseye sunglasses to top it all off. And, of course, the requisite teased-to-hell-and-back orange-red hair that came from a spray can! I attended a strict Catholic school and wore a uniform daily, so hunting vintage gave me a sartorial outlet for weekends and holidays.”
Q: I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but HOW do you find so many amazing pieces!
Jennifer: “I do indeed answer this question from time to time. 😉 Sadly, the thrifts that once were my mainstay for great vintage have become pretty thin in that department nowadays, though still fun to dig through. You have to remember that I started buying vintage in the 1980s as a kid, so picture racks stuffed with lots of items that were 20 years old and older. That meant loads of 1960s was available, but 1940s and 1950s pieces were also easily found. I still remember finding a 1950s Alfred Shaheen halter dress hanging next to its matching men’s shirt, probably worn once on a couple’s honeymoon in the late 1950s and carefully stored away. Nowadays I find that being able to travel widely nets me the bulk of my stock. It takes hours and hours of looking through stuff that doesn’t interest me aesthetically to pull maybe one garment that does. I’ve gone as far as the flea markets of Paris and Brussels to source, but I also do a lot of buying here on the West Coast and during my yearly trips to Texas where my sister lives. Also, luckily, my husband Allan has a great eye for exquisitely feminine vintage pieces, and his job includes plenty of travel…he packs lightly, one suitcase inside another, and then brings home a couple suitcases full of goodies for me.
And probably just my stubborn longevity in the trade has led me to make some long-lasting and treasured connections, so despite adhering strictly to my particular very focused aesthetic I’ve got a steady stream of incoming stock and a deep backstock.”
Q: Your shop covers range of time periods, but you obviously have a passion for the 1950’s – What do you love about that era?
Jennifer: “My personal style has evolved away from dressing daily in my favorite era; I’m a little older now and have had some chronic medical issues and major surgeries I’ve dealt with and that I’m pretty open about. So what’s working for me right now is to let my inner boho-1970s child out to play…soft, flowy Indian cotton tops and well-worn Levi jeans with boots are my jam. But I will never stop loving the beautiful, structural look of a perfectly tailored 1950s dress. I love the whimsy of the details — a crisply-winged cuff, the inward curve of a well-nipped waistline, a jeweled neckline or a row of tiny brass buttons shaped like hearts that are there for no other reason than to be pretty. And of course, the beautiful full, Dior-inspired skirts that open around one’s hips like flowers and feel so free and easy to wear! And the fabrics…I could go on and on rhapsodizing about novelty prints, polished cottons, embroidered chiffons, rustling silks. My shop gives a pretty good visual representation of my tastes, though, as I try to keep it full yet constantly edited.”
Q: Do you have a favorite piece in the shop right now?
Jennifer: “It’s hard to pick a favorite since they are all gathered with care, and each piece has something about it that I found special. These two have details that really pluck my heartstrings. The caged shoulders and sophisticated yet charming print on this one:”
and the Brigette Bardot-style kittenish innocence and whimsical print of this sundress here:
(Kara chiming in here: This veggie print dress is my absolute favorite in the shop. If she were one inch longer in the waist you’d better believe she’d be mine!)
Q. Has there ever been a piece you’ve sold and later regretted letting it go?
Jennifer: “Honestly, I’ve thought about this a bit and I have to say no. I’m pretty philosophical about the beauty of letting material objects go (I think every vintage dealer has to get to this point or face drowning in a sea of vintage). Even when I’ve pulled special things from my own wardrobe, it has been with a sense of adventure and optimism. After all, the dress (because they usually are dresses!) is about to embark on a new adventure with someone else who will adore it as I did and as the woman before me did. And I love that about what I do.”
Q: In addition to being a vintage seller, you’re also a vintage buyer (and wearer!) Do you have any tips for women who are just starting to buy vintage online?
Jennifer: “I would say don’t feel intimidated. Or afraid to mix vintage pieces in with your more modern wardrobe. A good starting point is to treat yourself to a visually striking vintage coat, 1970s or earlier. It’s something you can get daily use out of, it’s bound to last you a lifetime with care, and it’s also made so much better than anything you could find nowadays at this same price point. You’ll find strangers on the street will stop you to compliment your coat’s beautifully woven fabric or its flattering cut. And most vintage coats can be dry cleaned, so care is pretty simple, though I do recommend a garment bag to protect against moths and dust (I like the vintage cotton ones in rose prints and source these mainly from eBay, and you can put some cedar blocks inside them and dried lavender sachets for good measure).
If this first piece hooks you, then try adding in printed skirts that you can pull colors from to match to your modern shoes or tights, a sweet little cardigan or orphaned 1960s suit jacket, or a fun cotton 1950s sundress. You don’t have to have a closet full of couture party dresses in order to enjoy vintage every day. (But for those special, very romantic events that come up? I say go vintage!)”
Isn’t Jen just the most amazing person ever?? I honestly love these features – no matter how well I feel I know someone, I do these interviews and understand so much about their history and day to day life.
It will come as no surprise that, in addition to our fab friendship, I’ve amassed quite a collection of pieces from Jumblelaya – ranging from perfect cotton day dresses to stunning one-of-a-kind evening wear. Each one comes imbued with her own sense of magic. As if when she sourced it, Jen knew it was somehow meant for my next adventure…
I also took some time to pore over the offerings currently for sale at Jumblelaya (and tried to resist buying everything). Here are a few favorites currently for sale in the Jumblelaya 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…
I shall wait for you all to wipe off the drool…but how amazing is Jen’s selection of dresses??? It’s always so hard not to buy everything and run away cackling. And I’m only showing a small snapshot of the beauties she has on offer – be sure to head over to Jumblelaya to drool some more.
To make it a bit easier on your wallet, Jen is generously offering a coupon code exclusive to my readers (is that awesome, or what?) Use the code jumble10 to take 10% off any purchase over $30 from the Jumblelaya etsy shop! Run folks, do not walk…
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 Jumblelaya because I adore this shop and trust Jen 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.