Vintage Vault

The strange tale of a fashion treasure trove that came from Hollywood.

By Eden Dawn September 21, 2012

Image: Mei Ratz

 As related by Christine Power (pictured above), owner of the online boutique Coral Vintage, to Portland Monthly’s Eden Dawn

Six months after I started my business, I came across a Craigslist post advertising clothing and accessories from the early 1900s to the 1970s. The ad said any buyer must take all or nothing at all. When I called, the woman explained that the collection had belonged to her late uncle, who had worked in Hollywood for years.

The next day, my husband and I drove to a town outside of Rainier. As we pulled into the driveway, a woman walked out her front door to greet us with two tiny monkeys in her arms. She led us inside, where we saw several other monkeys. She informed us that she breeds and trains monkeys, sloths, and other exotic animals.

Then she opened a door into a three-car garage, asking, ‘Are you ready?’

We found a sea of dresses: rack after rack of vintage cocktail and party dresses, tailored wool suits, coats, lingerie, costumes, wedding gowns, swimming suits ... Large containers were filled with vintage eyeglasses, jewelry, and hats. I noticed labels like Chanel, Lilli Ann, Emma Domb, and more. I also realized that many of these dresses were like new: unwashed, pressed, and preserved for decades. We estimated the total collection to be at least 6,000 pieces.

As she waited, the woman had a tiny monkey perched on top of her head. When we nervously made an offer, she opened her mouth to answer. The monkey jumped into her mouth, chasing the cake she’d been eating. She pulled the monkey out of her mouth and rejected our figure.

Eventually, we reached an agreement, and she told us if we could get her cash and haul away the collection—all of it—within 48 hours, she’d sell. Amazingly, we found storage space the very next day, rented a U-Haul, and scraped together the cash.

A year and a half later, I’m in love with the quality and creativity of these vintage textiles, and I hope we’re doing the original collector—whoever he was—proud.”

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