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A visit to Ashley Carruthers’ downtown Richmond vintage store Rosewood Clothing Co. is like an appointment with a personal shopper: Walk in and start looking around, and within minutes she’ll have pulled something from the rack perfectly suited to you. This uncanny ability comes from years of honing her aesthetic while shopping for herself and others, a passion that eventually turned into a business.
“I have always liked to dress myself up,” says the shop owner, who has had an eye for vintage wear since she was a kid. “It went from wanting to wear the right stuff to people asking me, ‘Can you find this, can you get this for me?’ One day, a friend of mine got into my closet and said, ‘Oh, you have so much shit. I have a lot of shit too; we should sell our shit on Etsy and make some money.’”
These days Carruthers sells her vintage picks alongside new items from a brick-and-mortar space on Broad Street, where she uses her keen eye for fit and style to counsel Richmond’s most stylish citizens.
“It has been such a treat to dress all the wonderful women of all shapes and sizes who come upon the store and are willing to let me help them out,” she says. “One of my favorite things to do is size people, and help them find things that they’re gonna wear and just love until they’re destroyed.”
After a lifetime of shopping, Carruthers has certainly collected a trick or two — here are her tips for getting the most out of your vintage shopping trip, from what styles of denim to look for to how to spot the highest-quality finds in a hurry.
For short people: “Being a shorter person, I find that anything mini is a good way to go. It tends to make the legs look longer and balances out proportions. [Being shorter] can be a blessing, turning oversized shirts/tunics into dresses. I've also found that an ankle cut or culotte is very flattering and you can actually see the cute shoes you're wearing.
“As far as denim goes for shorties, there are a lot of options: It's really easy to pull off the relaxed, boyfriend cut with a distressed tee (a personal favorite), or a high waist with a fringed ankle cut or cuffed leg. A wider/flared leg is great for elongating the frame. I would perhaps veer away from a super bell bottom though, as it tends to throw off proportions.”
For curvier women: “Any lady with curves can rock a button-down blouse: left unbuttoned halfway, tied at the waist, or a sloppy tuck with some fly-ass Levis. It has been my experience that a woman with curves is easier to fit into vintage denim than most. Lee's or Chic's are a great place to start, as they are the typical ‘mom’ jean: small waist, space for the hips and booty, and a tapered leg. And you can take those suckers to a trusted tailor and have them fitted. You'll be much happier and they'll last longer than a newer pair, which tend to be a spandex blend.
“As far as dressing up, anything that can create a waist is very flattering. Wrap dresses are a favorite, or sweet relaxed maxis that have the attached back ties for adjusting the middle. One of the rules I find it helpful to stick by — and this also goes for shorties too — is the either one or the other. By that I mean if you wear relaxed bottoms, a fitted top goes very nicely. Fitted bottoms I love to pair with a chunky sweater (the season is just around the corner!), a longer tunic top, or a sloppy tuck.”
For tall ladies: “I have a knack for picking very tall BFFs (perhaps because they can reach stuff), so I hear their woes all the time. There's something about a laid-back, linen market dress or muumuu on a tall frame that can look so elegant, whether dressed up or down. I love putting a tall gal in an oversized denim jacket or cotton duster paired with a fitted dress (also a good look for curves, when layered right).
“Another great look for tall frames is anything high-waisted with a cropped blouse. A fitted, denim pencil skirt or relaxed bottoms with a knotted T-shirt is one of my go-tos. Tall friends have a sort of free range on denim (no fair). At this point, it's a matter of personal preference, but they can pull off that thrashed, old pair of dad jeans really well.”
For bigger sizes: “I think a bigger woman is often like ‘You don’t have my size.’ But anything that has a belt, like a trench, will be really flattering. It’s just a matter of trying it on. I’m also a big fan of anything that’s a button-down; you can button just the middle two buttons and tie it at the waist. An oversized men’s shirt or something silk that’s really billowy — that would be great. As long as you can create a waist, they’re really flattering.”
ON SPOTTING HIGH-QUALITY ITEMS
“When I’m in a rush, I do this thing where I have certain colors in mind… I’ll beeline for that and run my finger along the rack and if I feel something good I’ll stop. You have to touch them. There’s a huge difference between a rayon and a polyester and a silk. Even though rayon is a synthetic, it has this flowy, beautiful feel to it and it’s breathable, whereas polyester just sucks ass and is hot.
“Also, if you don’t have time to try something on, you can take the waistline of anything and wrap it around your neck. If it touches it should fit around your waist.”
“With shoes, I’m bending things… if they’re dry rotted, they’ll crack immediately on the bottom. Also, the ‘talking shoe’ is something you discover later — when the mouth and the sole are flapping together.
“As far as brands are concerned, there are so many great vintage brands out there that made quality products. When it comes to dressing a certain shape, I feel it's not a matter of keeping an eye out for a certain type, but sticking with what makes you feel comfortable.”
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
“Try things on! Treat it like a party, it can be exhausting and stupid, but…it’s also whatever you like, whatever you want to wear. At the end of the day, it's all about personal preference. Just wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. Don’t force yourself; buy what you need. And this might be stupid to say as a shop owner, but I really despise impulse purchases. If someone’s on the fence I’m never like, “Just buy it, you should buy it.” No. Just wait…put it down, think about it. My phone is listed; just call me and I’ll hold it. And if it’s gone, it wasn’t meant to be.”
16 West Broad St, Richmond, VA
Monday through Friday: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.