Livin’ La Vida Vintage – Austin Style
Madge recently returned to her old stomping grounds, Dallas Texas, for a visit with family and friends. But first, a quick overnighter was required for some la vida vintage Austin style. After touching down at Dallas Love Field, Madge met up with gal pal Adrienne and after a quick round of bloodies it was back up in the air.
It had been much too long since Madge had last done Austin, home of the University of Texas and capital of the state. Then it was a fairly large college town with an interesting mix of college students, aging hippies and politicians, much more liberal than the rest of red-state Texas. Now, even after exploding in growth to over 1,000,000 souls, Madge was relieved to find Austin still on the quirky side.
After deplaning, we immediately set off for the South Congress district, fondly referred to as SoCo. A once vibrant commercial area in the 1940s – 60s, SoCo, like so many inner-city neighborhoods around the country, had fallen victim to drugs and crime and those hourly motels so handy for politicians, wink wink. After years of homesteading by students, artists and other assorted outliers, what was once seedy is now delightfully funky with scores of fun shops and restaurants in wittily rehabbed buildings. So far it’s still mainly local so get there before the chains discover it.
We checked into our hotel, the San Jose, a new boutique hotel named after the original motel that was on the site. The SJ has a beautiful courtyard with lovely tropical foliage that looks like it has been there forever.
Famished and thirsty, we immediately set out for some nosh and libations and found a wonderful oyster bar, Perla just down the street. After a wonderful lunch of oysters, calamari and ahem, beverages, it was time to shop.
First up was the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop. de Paul thrift shops are all over the country so check one out near you. Chances are you will find some treasures and do some good at the same time. de Paul is officially the patron saint of charity, but Madge considers him the patron saint of bargain shoppers.
The shop, in a wonderful old storefront building, was long and narrow, stuffed with goods, but was surprisingly organized, neat and tidy. We wandered through the clothes and kid supplies to the back of the store and up the creaky stairs.
Before us lay Madge’s favorite haunt, the furniture and home goods area. Of course traveling by air puts a dent in how much furniture one can purchase from a thrift store sans white glove shipping but it’s always fun to scope out all the treasures that are looking for good homes.
Madge lingered over this wall plaque but in the end she figured Mr. Madge might not find it too humorous. There was also a wonderful assortment of record albums and Madge couldn’t resist going home with this gem from the 60s – Moscow After Dark. The title belies the content, not romantic ballads or Russian Tin Pan Alley, but songs of work and toil. Oh, those kooky Soviets.
Back down the stairs we took a closer look at the clothing area and found a huge section of cool used t-shirts. Of course since Austin’s a college town the shop was loaded with old concert t-shirts, some artists well known, others very obscure.
And who in the heck dumped all those Abercrombie and Fitch Ts? It was all Madge could do to not stuff her suitcase full except for the A & Fs of course. My score? A Michael Bolton right out of the 80s just my size. Psst, the Depp is still there.
On our way out Madge and pal Adrienne lingered lovingly over an amazing case of vintage cowboy boots but alas none were our size.
Next up was a hat shop out of San Francisco – Goorin Brothers.
They had a wonderful selection of every-day hats for men and women and even a few fascinators. We had a high time trying on almost everything in the shop.
Eventually Madge found a marvelous gray fedora, which, after they steamed it, was a perfect fit. Adrienne found a great hat as well. Not many women can pull off a porkpie but she rocked it. Madge highly recommends the shop for a wide selection and the fab staff.
All in all we walked and shopped five blocks, a perfect shopping day in Madge’s book. We collapsed back at the San Jose and later polished off a bottle of Malbec on our terrace (see SJ photo above) then had a heavenly Italian dinner at Botticelli’s.
The next morning, before our flight back to Big D, we rode the city bus to UT for time travel through the Futurama exhibit on Norman Bel Geddes at the Ransom Center Museum. Bel Geddes was an influential mid-century industrial designer who worked on everything from theater sets and streamlined cars to yachts and radios. He is probably most famous for the design of General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worlds Fair.
Madge didn’t realize until this exhibit that he also designed costume jewelry for Trifari and Rice-Weiner. For those more well versed in pop culture rather than industrial design, Bel Geddes is also the father of Barbara, Ellie of Dallas fame.
Unfortunately the powers-that-be at UT would not let Madge take any photos. They were much more eagle-eyed than the New York Metropolitan Museum had been. The best we could do is this parting shot of us in a mockup of his 1931 Motorcar #8!
Well as usual, we really packed it in and had a ball on this quickie trip. Thanks Austin. I won’t wait so long next time!