Name: Alissa B.
How did you end up in Oregon? I grew up in Colorado and moved to Portland on a whim. I went to school in Colorado at the university where my dad teaches. I felt jaded, so I moved to Portland and met my husband there. We moved to Salem, where he grew up. I started going to school here and it’s my first term back in school.
What drew you to architecture? Obviously I like old things and I have always really liked old buildings especially. I really want to do historic preservation. I really feel there is a certain attention paid to detail that we don’t have anymore with style and design in buildings and clothes. I really admire old building and I’d love to know how architects did it and be able to replicate it.
Alissa pairs an incredible 1940s dress she found at the Goodwill Outlet in Salem with a pair of 1940s heels that she bought at Avalon Vintage in Portland for her wedding. Alissa DIYed the dress by adding the red belt.
How would you describe your personal style? Really eclectic because I do wear a lot of vintage stuff, but I also sometimes don’t. Sometimes I just need to go to work and I’ll wear a pair of jeans and my husband’s shirt.
Why do you like vintage clothes? I just really appreciate the amount of effort and passion people put into the things they made. A lot of things are handmade. Everything is pumped out by factories now, unless you are willing to pay a fortune for it. Just the time that someone spent making this dress I’m wearing and these shoes shows they are made to last because they have been around for several decades. Whereas if I go to Target and buy a shirt now, it is gone in two weeks.
Alissa’s Art Deco wedding ring is from the 1920s. Swoon!
Is there a specific decade of vintage clothes you prefer? I’m interested in anything pre 1950s, though there are later things I like. Specifically, I like the ’30s and ’40s a lot. I really appreciate the aesthetic. It’s feminine, but it’s also practical. Women had just started wearing pants in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s and were working during World War II. So there was this practical aspect to clothing, but there was also very much a femininity that I don’t see as much anymore. There are lots of details too. Lots of colors and patterns. I love novelty prints.
What is the most memorable vintage clothing item you’ve found? My absolute favorite thing I own is a pair of 1920s pajama pants and they have the palazzo style and really huge bells. They’re black satin and they have brocade all over them. For four or five years, I had been dying to find a pair of them that would fit me and were in good condition, so those are my prized possession.
I’m always on the hunt for vintage sleepwear. I don’t sleep in them though. They just hang on the closet door and I wear them out sometime, but I don’t believe in pajamas. Pajamas are everyday if I like them and think they look pretty.
Her earrings were a gift from her dad.
So do you wear your wedding shoes out often or just for special occasions? I wear them almost every day. They are the most comfortable shoes I have and I love them. I figure if I’m going to drop $125 on a pair of shoes, which I don’t usually do, I’m going to wear them. Usually I’m pretty thrifty.
What are your thrifting tips, particularly for vintage clothes? I actually do vintage resale and I started doing it because I go to the Goodwill Outlet a lot and also a lot of estate sales to dig through stuff. People don’t know what they have, especially at the Goodwill Outlet. No one really sorts through it to the extent that they could because they don’t have the resources. There ends up being a lot of really fabulous pieces there. I go five times a week and sell most of it to finance my own hording habit.
Alissa’s beautiful purple corduroy jacket is also from the 1940s.
Do you have your own website? No I don’t do the online thing. I don’t like the dynamic of it. I have a booth in a shop in Salem called Engelberg Antiks.
Do you think there is something special about being able to hold the clothes and touch them? I definitely do. I know from my personal experiences buying online, things don’t always turn out how you think they will. Then you have to return it, which is a hassle for you and the seller. I like the interactive process of pretty much everything. I think you should be able to go out of your house and do something. If you have the time for it, I think you should do that instead of going online.
Do you think you’re old fashioned because of that? I do. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I like interacting with the world I live in. I guess it is old fashioned, but I see a lot of people who are a lot older than I am on their iPhones and ignoring everything else. I’m not sure if it’s more old fashioned or just being technophobic. I have a cell phone, but it’s a flip phone, and I don’t have Internet. I only have a laptop because I go to school, but that’s pretty much the extent of my interaction with technology.
We love this pattern clash! Alissa’s red and black backpack is from Target.
Some people argue that younger people, when they wear vintage clothing, don’t understand the significance of the garments. What do you think about that? I don’t think that you have to understand something fully to appreciate it. Obviously, the more you understand it, the more you can appreciate it, but at the same time, I would rather see things get worn by someone who enjoys it for whatever reason than let them rot. If someone wants to wear something because they think it’s pretty, that’s fine. They don’t need to know the history, but if they do, that’s great. I don’t like to see things go unused.
Can you tell me about your tattoos? I got the three lines because when I was younger, I struggled with O.C.D. and I did things in sets of three. I went to therapy and I took medication and I eventually got to a point where I didn’t have to do that anymore. I got the set of three to remind me not to stress so much about life. I really love insects, so that’s why I have the bee. The daisies are actually for my husband. Our song, I don’t know how it happened, is called “Daisy a Day.” It’s a really corny ’60s semi-country love song, but it’s really sweet. So he has daisies and I have daisies.
Is there anything about bees in particular? Part of the reason I like insects is because a lot of people don’t like insects. Not to be contrary, but I think we are afraid of them for not really a good reason. Like bees, they can sting you, but unless you’re allergic, they’re really harmless. People are really terrified and grossed out by them, but I think they’re beautiful. I wish more people understood that.
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY HANNAH STEINKOPF-FRANK, @HSTEINKOPFFRANK