>> I was wondering around Oxford (UK) one day and came across this somewhat run-down-looking shop. It had a little bit of graffiti here, a little bit of cracked wood there... But the thing that really caught my attention was its window. "What a great place to play dress up," quoth I (I am a 5-year-old at heart). "And look at those purses in the window." Instantly intrigued by this rarity of a shop, I tried the door. No luck, it's 1:30 pm, and all is not well -- why is this Unicorn shop not open? We walked next door to the sandwich shop I call Herpes (actually Heroes, someone just tampered with the sign), and asked whether the shop was still open. "Why yes," quoth she. "The woman just opens it whenever she feels like."
I must have checked back 4 or 5 times before the elusive Unicorn was finally open. That fateful day was a rainy day, and 3 guys were standing outside with umbrellas while their girlfriends packed themselves into the tiny open space, crawling over each other to get to the goods. It's not that the shop was small, it's that there were so many piles of clothing everywhere. Piles as tall as I am. It was amazing, it was like digging for gold -- you never know what you're going to pull up. And you couldn't even get to the back half of the store, because there was this huge wall of clothing cutting you off from it. The little gray-haired woman who ran the store kind of reminded me of Miss Havisham, sans the rotting wedding dress. She had that musty smell about her, and it permeated the entire shop, as if she hadn't left the place in ages, and just sat in there at night, watching over her collection in a place that never sees light (when I went in, the store was dark -- there were no lights). She had kind of a creepy yellowed-teeth smile, and her hair looked like the cotton batting you would stuff your teddy bear with. She just climbed all over her clothes to get where she needed with Smeagol-like dexterity, and she had that same mischievious twinkle in her eye.
Maybe it's because she knew she was cheated me out of some good money. Yes, that's right, I found a couple of wonderful pieces. The first being a Victorian-inspired velvet jacket (love velvet jackets) with shoulder pads (so '80s, I know, but it actually looks quite regal with the jacket's cut). It has satin ribbon lining, which gives it this high-collared look at the neck. Gorgeous, and perfect for the fall, with the velvet and the Victorian both being all over the runway. Miss Havisham (the Unicorn woman) told me that it was designed by Laura Phillips, a well-respected seamstress in England. I was skeptic, as I should have been -- I came home later and googled it, and nothing came up. But that was supposed to explain why the jacket was ₤29 -- it was a "coveted piece." Uh huh. But I justified it to myself -- never in the States have a found such a great vintage store. Plus, I loved the jacket, and when was the next time this store was going to be open, anyway?
Same for the second piece -- it's this great paisley '70s bohemian-looking shrug. I saw it and thought, "I'll never ever come across a piece like that again." It was a basilisk, that shrug -- it froze me in my steps -- that's how taken I was. Plus, I like the kimono-inspired bell sleeves. So again, Miss Havisham had me -- this time for a mere ₤24. Ah well, such is life. These are the best kind of souvenirs anyway -- the ones that actually mean something to me personally. They're better than a plastic Union Jack flag or a cheap Eiffel Tower replica any day. As much as I feel like Miss Havisham takes advantage of me, I do hope to visit her again at least once before I leave. But we'll have to see what happens -- I kind of feel like that store is the Atlantis of vintage.
P.S. I'll be away for a bit starting today, so you won't hear from me for a while. But hopefully I'll have some good stories when I get back.