Inside the Remarkable Coat Closet of a Vintage Clothing Retailer

Fashion

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAWRENCE CORTEZ

A lifelong love affair with vintage clothing led to Dana Richardson-Blewett’s obsession with old-fashioned outerwear.

Dana Richardson-Blewett doesn’t know how many vintage coats she has in her collection. “I stopped counting once I reached 108,” she laughs from her home in Toronto. “I just can’t tell anymore because there are way too many.” And indeed there are.

As the owner of two businesses that sell and rent vintage clothing (Victory Girl Vintage and Victory Girl Collections), Richardson-Blewett has accumulated her own personal reservoir of retro outerwear, which would rival the archives of MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures combined. Her closet is like a perfectly preserved fashion time capsule, transporting those lucky enough to step inside it into a world where long fur stoles from the 1930s and ’40s intermingle with psychedelic patterns from the ’60s and ’70s and where leather trenches and wool capes conjure images from American Hustle and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And this isn’t even a quarter of her hoard.

Coats are a crazy thing to collect because they take up a lot of room,” says Richardson-Blewett, lamenting her lack of storage space. As a result, she’s been forced to split her stockpile between her basement, her front hall closet and her parents’ house. (They don’t seem to mind.) It’s actually her family that’s to blame for her love of vintage. Her mother bought consigned clothing for Richardson-Blewett before she was even born. Her stepmother was a fashion professor at Brescia University College in London, Ont. And in the ’40s, her grandmother chose to forgo food for a month so she could afford a full-length mink masterpiece (although Richardson-Blewett believes this is probably an exaggeration).

Fittingly, one of the first pieces in Richardson-Blewett’s collection was a gift from her grandmother: a shorter version of the aforementioned furry finery. Another early addition was a blue leather jacket from the ’60s, a purchase inspired by her fascination with Twiggy and Mary Quant. However, Richardson-Blewett shares that her style has evolved since her teen years. “Now, it’s a mash-up of decades,” she begins. “After those early years, I wore a lot from the ’30s and ’40s, but now I’m really into the ’70s. It’s not about having one fashion icon but more of an overall vibe,” which she describes as feminine, eclectic and classic.

But with such a fascination with all vintage fashion, why collect coats? Well, for starters, Richardson-Blewett says that they’re easy to buy because “the fit doesn’t have to be perfect” and “there are always so many beautiful new ones to be discovered.” She also adds that older outerwear can work effortlessly with modern outfits. “When customers come into my store and say they want to get into vintage but don’t know where to start, I always tell them to buy a coat,” she explains. In fact, one of Richardson-Blewett’s favourite feelings is walking down the street in a statement ensemble and watching the reactions from passersby. A few strangers have even run after her, desperate to know where she had found a particular piece. She smiles at the thought of this and says, “I feel like a million bucks when I wear the right coat.”

And therein lies the truth about Richardson-Blewett’s jumble of retro jackets: It’s fuelled by pure, unabashed joy. She loves imagining the earlier life of a well-worn trench and delights in rummaging through the pockets of a repurposed peacoat, eager to find a souvenir from a previous owner. And, most importantly, Richardson-Blewett feels like the best version of herself while wearing them. “There’s something very powerful about sporting a beautiful vintage coat. I know I’m not going to blend into the crowd, and I like that.”

See some of Richardson-Blewett’s spectacular collection in the gallery below.

This article first appeared in FASHION‘s October issue. Find out more here

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