It's not every day a shop owner can greet burlesque start Dita von Teese like a friend and then watch her model a rare, vintage dress.
But that's not out of the ordinary for Doris Raymond. Owner of The Way We Wore on La Brea, the fashion maven made a name for herself by finding unique pieces for movies like Titanic and shows like Boardwalk Empire while helping celebrities like Von Teese and Adele dress their vintage best.
The Smithsonian Channel's series L.A. Frock Stars, premiering tonight at 7 p.m., lets viewers in on some of Raymond's secrets for finding gorgeously antique pieces, following her and a fashion-forward team on adventures like stumbling upon a rare Christian Dior jacket from the 1940s.
The Way We Wore, which has been open for 32 years, began with Raymond's experience in flea markets and her love for precious items. In the first episode, she makes one thing very clear — “vintage clothing is not thrift shop clothing.” She defines vintage as “at least one generation old.” As Store Manager Sarah Bergman says, the items Raymond sells in her boutique come with “real and significant cultural and historical value.”
But what if you're not an expert in vintage or era-specific history? No worries — the show keeps you educated with cleverly-designed asides about everything from the purpose of an underpinning — an early version of the corset — and quick facts about legendary designers like Pauline Trigère.
L.A. Frock Stars actually could've aired some time ago but Raymond wanted to make sure the show focused more on her true vintage passion, not TV drama.
“The problem was I didn't want to be in a reality show that was scripted or one that I would be embarrassed to be in,” says Raymond, laughing. “So for the last six or seven years I've pretty much declined projects that have been presented to me for one reason or another… I wanted to raise the bar. I wanted it to be fun but educational and no personal information because the stars of the show are the clothing. It's not about me; it's about the process of keeping this business alive.”
The Way We Wore sells pieces that cost up to $50,000. Part of maintaining the business means scouting out distinctive pieces that stay true to their era. In the first episode, Raymond visits the Vintage Fashion Expo in Santa Monica and at one point leaves behind a 1930s Chanel piece because of one small but important detail — the piece included zippers, something the original design didn't.
“I respect and honor people who are treasure hunters,” says Raymond. “There are different levels. There are stores that carry everything they find in estates… but there are half a dozen stores in LA that really curate what they put in their store. That also means repairs and dry cleaning.”
L.A. Frock Stars is a testament to L.A.'s growing vintage scene. This past weekend, Raymond celebrated the upcoming series premiere at LACMA, drawing a number of fashionable Angelenos. Don't be surprised if you see more and more vintage on the city streets.
“With the amount of vintage clothing all over L.A. and in the Valley you can really pick and choose and be very discerning,” she says. “For newbies — for people just getting interested and excited about vintage — it's a great place to be because you can ask a lot of questions.”
L.A. Frock Stars definitely answers some of those. Like why does Von Teese always look so darn good? Simple — she knows her treasure hunters.