Drawing on a feel for vintage looks

Candid Closet

April 17, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Baltimore illustrator Jonathan Carlson, 29, is one of those people who was born too late. "When I draw people, they're vintage 1940s or '50s people," he says.

Likewise Carlson. "I can't seem to get it out of my system," he says. On any given day, he's dressed in vintage, head to toe. "When it gets warm out I tend to be more '50s. That means scads of Hawaiian and bowling shirts.

"When it's cooler, I'm more '30s or '50s," he says. That means a coat for every temperature, including a beautiful leather jacket from Sears and Roebuck, circa 1945.

Describe your style. I probably dress somewhere in between a young Robert Mitchum and Howard Hughes before he started wearing hospital gowns and Kleenex boxes as shoes.

Where do you shop? All over the place. I try to get as much stuff as I can from Value Village, or the Salvation Army and sometimes Goodwill.

Relate a recent find. I struck a gold mine about two months ago with ties. I won't name the source. I found a box of ties, there must have been 400 ties in this box. I went through it in five minutes and picked out every tie I wanted. It cost a grand total of $5 for about 15 ties.

Do you have any other scavenging trophies? I have a 1950s car coat. It's really big and boxy. It makes me look like Arnold %J Schwarzenegger. I got that at Saks North Avenue, (aka the Goodwill on North Avenue), for next to nothing. That made me happy.

It sounds like you have a knack for finding the right stuff. I can go into a thrift shop with a blindfold on and go in and out very quickly. I can sniff out vintage stuff. I can just feel it without looking at it.

Do you stick to a budget? There's no logic to what I'll spend on things. Some of my best furniture is out of dumpsters or alleys. I've spent over $200 on shoes. But my nicest suit cost $3.50.

Describe the suit. I don't get that many opportunities to wear suits. It's a very nice, early '50s wool gabardine, double breasted suit. It cost $3.50 and $7 to dry clean.

What do you do if you can't find something for your clothing collection? I've started making my own clothes. I made a Rayon shirt with flap pockets in the front. It's a '40s style in a really light peach, almost a cream color. I made my own pattern by combining a couple of shirts I like. It's really drapy. I plan to make a lot more. I have a lot more things in my head.

What's your best shoe find? Several years ago I bought a pair of shoes from old store stock in a store on Federal Hill. They were brown, cap toe, lace-up oxfords with real nice stitching detail. The shoes had probably been in the store for 45 years. They didn't have any more, otherwise I would have cleaned them out.

Do you ever shop in New York? The last time I was up there I traded a bale of clothes I never wear for a leather jacket. I sort of got scalped. The store owner used every scare and intimidation tactic to talk me down.

So you prefer to shop in Baltimore? The clothes are not chained to the racks in Baltimore. And you don't have to have a guard next to you.

How far would you go to be a man of the '30s, '40s and '50s? If I had any vintage underwear, I'd probably wear that, too. Only if it were unworn.

What's the secret of your success? Persistance is the key. And practice.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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