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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Treasure Hunting

Profile: Jenny Stabile and Carousel Vintage Clothing

 (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo courtesy Jenny Stabile)
(Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo courtesy Jenny Stabile)

Since I started writing my Treasure Hunting column in 2003 (I started the blog in 2004) , I’ve written a lot about my fondness for vintage clothing. I dressed in silk Flapper dresses while in college and was married in a delicate 1900s cotton lawn  summer gown. What most people don’t know is that my first business was a vintage clothing shop. With my husband’s help, I took an empty storefront on the “arty” side of the city and turned it into a space that was equal parts store and artist’s salon.

Surrounded by racks of sheer Edwardian cotton dresses and bouffant tulle prom dresses from the 1950s, my friends and I - most of whom were actors, artists and musicians - spent happy hours talking, laughing and enjoying being young and free.  When my first child came along I closed the store and rented spaces in the more upscale antique malls in town.

So, in addition to a love of all things vintage and shabby, I have a sweet spot for vintage clothing. Which means I have a sweet spot for Carousel Vintage Clothing.  

This week, I decided to feature Jenny Stabile, owner of Carousel, as one of my Treasure Hunting profiles. I enjoyed getting to know her better and think you will, too.

How did you get started collecting/buying/selling vintage clothing?
“I started almost 6 years ago just thrifting for funky finds of any kind and I came across a couple of vintage dresses that just struck me. That’s when the dress-collecting started. I started selling a couple of years later when my bedroom apartment started to resemble a large walk-in closet! I was working full-time at a coffee shop and I thought I might be able to also make a little extra money from my hobby.”

You moved into the former location of Finders Keepers and purchased some of Deena Caruso’s stock and fixtures when she moved. It all happened pretty quickly, didn’t it?

“I opened on August 13th. It took me about a month and a half to negotiate my lease, get my licenses, paint and remodel, price and display merchandise, decorate etc.  All of which I did almost completely on my own! It was really hard but I'm pretty proud of myself! Thankfully I didn't have to take out a loan, I had been building a savings for this.”

Where do you get your love of vintage?
 “I think it’s just always been there! Really, I don’t remember not loving it or being influenced by it somehow. But I think I get a lot of it from my Mom. She was always telling me stories of how her mom dressed in the 50’s and 60’s. And she was always hitting yard sales and thrift stores, bringing home all this great stuff. I always felt like I was missing out on something if she went to a yard sale without me! She actually met the midwife who delivered me at a yard sale so I guess you could say vintage was born in me!”

Where would you like to take your business?
“I would love, down the road, to open a second store. Not necessarily vintage, but a boutique with a mix of some vintage décor along with recycled/repurposed clothing/accessories/décor. I love making something new out of something you wouldn’t expect. Like turning bottles into lamps or something. And I have a background in coffee so maybe throw a little café in there, too.”

What do these vintage garments posses that newer fashions do not?
“Oh my! Everything! There is so much attention and thought put into each detail, every seam. Every part has a purpose.”

Do you have a favorite fashion period?
“I really love the 1950’s and earlier the most. Mostly back through the 1920’s. The quality of the fabric that was used, the quality of workmanship and design just doesn’t exist anymore. You rarely see synthetics used and when you do it’s sometimes hard to tell them from silk or rayon, the quality is so fine.”

What unexpected problems/blessings have you encountered as a new business owner?
“I wouldn’t say problems, but maybe challenges. Probably the most difficult is just educating people about how vintage fits. A lot of vintage fabrics are woven, so there is very little or no give at all. I think we’ve become accustomed to everything having stretch, even formal wear. Not so with vintage. If it looks small, it is. If it looks large it is. Also, women were wearing ‘shapewear’ even under day dresses so the waists tend to be smaller than the rest of the dress. And lastly, clothing was often custom fitted to each woman (just one of the things I love about the past!) So it really is just about finding the right fit and style for you.”

It sounds like you love what you do.
“Having the opportunity to own my own business is a blessing. I feel like everything I’ve done the past few years since I knew I wanted my own shop has led to this. It’s everything I hoped for. Owning Carousel is the happiest and surest about what I’m doing that I’ve ever been. I can’t imagine NOT doing this!”

Carousel Vintage Clothing

110 S Cedar
Spokane, WA, 99204
Tue-Sun 10-6
Mon 12-5

For more info call: 509-838-2877


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Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."