Shopping vintage is an adventure that some may find intimidating, but the best shops focus on a specific era or style and offer unique, high quality, and adventurous options for those who love stylish clothes but operate within a tight budget. “A lot of thought and endless searching goes into the best shops and customers reap the benefit of unusual finds that they didn’t have to search too hard for,” says Erica Bentley, the owner of Keepers Vintage, now located both at its original Mount Vernon location and on The Avenue in Hampden. “I am a street style and fashion lover, so I can tell a shop is special when its stocked full of current trends in their original form. That’s a place I will go to again.”
Keepers Vintage recently announced an evolution of its Mount Vernon location. Now known as Keepers Vintage, The Collective, the store houses Keepers Vintage, KSM Candle Co. (formerly known as Knits Soy & Metal) operated by Letta Moore, and the new Maud + Co, owned by Jo-Ann Enwezor, who “will be bringing a whimsical shopping experience complete with a range of gifts meant to bring joy to any special occasion.”
Unlike your grandmother’s musty closet or the Goodwill, Baltimore’s vintage shops offer shoppers highly selective and well-made garments largely based on the expert taste and style of the shop owner whose role is curatorial, selecting the best pieces that stand the test of time.
We included Bentley and Keepers Vintage in our series on Baltimore vintage in Issue 07 of the BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas, and this interview is an opportunity to hear more from Bentley about the ethics of vintage, fast fashion, and her favorite items.
Name: Erica Bentley
Cara Ober: How long have you owned your shop?
Erica Bentley: Six years in business.
Where does the name Keepers Vintage come from?
I had a few attempts at businesses and decided this one was the one I wanted to keep. I also only wanted to sell things my clients have to have, and of course the items I sell are preserved pieces of history and nostalgia—Keepers.
What do you sell the most of? Can you describe a range of the types of clothing you sell?
My top selling items are vintage dresses, coats, and accessories. I sell items that give you a luxe look and designer feel. You will always find color, texture, details, and shine.
Where do you get your clothing, jewelry, and other items?
I’m blessed to have a variety of sources which include estate sales, traveling to find items, and customers selling their vintage to me.
Can you talk about how shopping vintage is both fashionable and political? You are recycling and also taking some sartorial risks in what you wear.
Nothing is new in fashion or history. We repeat cycles in both. Wearing previously worn clothes means that you are not adding to harming the environment, but also since fashion is repeating it’s not as hard as some might think to seek out older pieces that are currently on trend again. Styling and alterations are key to making old items blend into your wardrobe or intentionally wearing items that stand out.
What are your favorite vintage items to buy for yourself? If you have one favorite thing you bought and wear all the time, what is it?
I personally love silk and other great-feeling materials. My most repeated vintage item is a 1940s silk kimono that somehow just goes well with everything.
Can you describe how vintage is different than thrift or consignment? In your mind, how do you recognize a really good vintage store when you find a new one? What sets it apart?
All three are great for different reasons, but a vintage shop is usually the most edited of the three. A true vintage store will specialize in items that are 20 years and older and if it’s curated will focus on a specific era or style. A lot of thought and endless searching goes into that and in a good one, customers reap the benefit of unusual finds that they didn’t have to search too hard for. I look for vintage stores that have lots of fun pieces to add a pop of color, dazzle, or surprise to my basic wardrobe staples (jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts).
Owner: Erica Bentley
229 W. Read Street, 21201 and 805 W. 36th Street, 21211
KeepersVintage.com / IG: @keepersvintage
Photos by Justin Tsucalas for Issue 07 of the BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas