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Material Culture: Milk & Ice Vintage

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For Angie Gavin and Kate Schultz of Milk & Ice Vintage, clothing is a concept centered in cultural anthropology and material culture. Their cavernous Woodberry studio boasts hundreds of clever T-shirts, piles of denim, and the array of Halloween costumes that earned them legions of Instagram fans. However, it is their collection of extremely rare garments from the Victorian and Edwardian eras (1860s-1880s) that has kept the pair’s rapt interest.

Although they are too delicate to wear, these capes, corsets, corset covers, undergarments, and gowns adorn the twenty-five-foot-tall walls of their studio. “There are times when we have owned pieces and felt that they deserved to be in a museum rather than on a body, in order to preserve their integrity,” Gavin and Schultz say. “We don’t make a living selling these, but we love using them as a study in era construction of clothing.” 

Milk & Ice started out as a co-op booth in the now-defunct Hampden Antique Mall in 2012, but then expanded to a storefront on The Avenue hosted with Christian Sturgis from 2013 to 2020. When the pandemic hit, Milk & Ice moved their operations to a private Woodberry studio, previously used to store and process—wash, mend, organize, photograph, research, price, and tag—their growing collection. They decided to close the retail aspect and use their studio as a main hub instead, focusing on selling online, with private appointments to sell on a one-on-one basis. In the fall of 2021, Milk & Ice plans to move their operation to the Northeast Baltimore area where Gavin and Schult both live, with a new storefront on Harford Road in Lauraville. They plan to use the space as a private studio during most weekdays, processing, photographing, buying vintage, and offering private shopping appointments, and then open to the public on weekends.

 

Vintage clothing is always going to be more unique, conscious, and eco-friendly than fast fashion, but it can also be intimidating if you’ve only ever purchased new clothing. While their best-selling items tend to be well-made vintage basics like T-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, sweaters, and jackets which are easily woven into a modern wardrobe, Gavin and Thomas believe that when a garment shows signs of past lives, when it is broken-in rather than crisp, it offers layers of historic narrative and nostalgia, which is comforting.

“The majority of pieces we get from private estates are coming from a direct lineage, and we love that we’re able to get a history with them that tells the original wearer’s story,” they say. “A pair of hickory striped overalls that are stained throughout with rips and tears poking through multiple layers of hand-done mending and repairs tell the story of a young farm worker on the eastern shore of Maryland in the 1930s. At first glance, what reads as a 1940s cream day dress, upon further inspection turns out to be an Edwardian-era wedding gown which was shortened and repurposed during a family’s hardships over the years and handed down throughout a chain of sisters and daughters. All of these stories really make our job an addicting one.”

Shop Milk & Ice online.

This story is from Issue 11: Comfort,

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