Houtte Couture

Raise your hand if you were ever embarrassed that your mother shopped at Goodwill and garage sales for your back-to-school clothes. Now go call your mother and thank her for teaching you the strategy for finding vintage and designer duds at bargain prices. “The real secret is that you have to have time, you have to be determined to hit the thrift stores and garage sales, and not be afraid to jump in there and start digging,” says Alison Houtte, owner of the Brooklyn vintage boutique Hooti Couture and coauthor (with her sister Melissa Houtte) of Alligators, Old Mink, & New Money: One Woman’s Adventures in Vintage Clothing, a delicious memoir of a former fashion model and vintage clothing fiend. The book is a quick read for anyone who loves clothes -- but who doesn’t love clothes? -- and is chock full of tales of the Houttes’ humble Homestead roots, Alison’s launch into modeling, and adventures in the vintage industry.

“I was raised in Homestead and there’s nothing fancy in Homestead,” laughs Houtte. But she learned to find deeply discounted, fabulous pieces from her mother, who caught the fashion bug from her mother. “We went to the flea market and could find jeans for just a quarter.”

Houtte, whose enthusiasm couldn’t even be squashed by a nasty flu bug, was full of advice on what to look for when you hit the streets. “Rare finds are Pucci, Dior, and Chanel, but there’s a lot of Pendleton out there,” says Houtte of the treasures to be found on thrift store racks. “Vintage Sears and K-Mart from the Fifties and Sixties are hysterical, and Seventies K-Mart is fabulous. Labels are wonderful, but it doesn’t have to be a label -- it can be a homemade dress.” So, what’s hot now? “For spring it’s definitely the peasant dress, and they’re not that easy to find. Now vintage has gone mainstream.”
Fri., Jan. 6, 8 p.m.


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