Allow me to introduce myself. I do what I love for a living and I am passionate about many things. I own and operate a brick and mortar shop called AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium. It is located here in the town I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon in the “fifth quadrant” “NoPo” or what I simply call North Portland. I enjoy the yesteryears of Portland, especially the fashion. It hasn’t always been as casual as our current reputation would lead one to believe.
The gift of style is genetic. My Grandfather owned and operated the eponymous Ray Bolger Clothier’s from 1938 through 1978. It was a family affair where my Grandmother, Mary Emeline and eventually my Uncle Bill and Mother, Mary Lynn worked. He did business in many different locations in the greater Portland area. The Multnomah Hotel, in the Zell Brother’s building (915 SW Yamhill) even on Broadway where he was neighbors with John Helmer Haberdasher, who is still in existence today.
I began my love affair with vintage costume jewelry at the age of four when my Grandmother gave me an enormous box of her jewelry for me to play with. My Mother went into the antique business when I was 11 and it was then that I began pricing, selling and assisting at estate sales. At age 22 I officially went to work with my Mother at Store II Inc. located on Killingsworth and Michigan. We worked together there for 6 years until I opened my own shop in 2004.
My Grandmother (who we called Nani) was a seamstress and often made her own clothing and even some of mine. My Mother is more of a gluer that a sewer, so evidently it skips a generation. When I was little, Nani would sew a dress for me and my Barbie while my Great Aunt Lorabelle would knit us both matching sweaters and we would be carted off to Sears to have our photo taken.
These women taught me the basics of sewing and knitting beginning at age 6. It wasn’t until I was I turned 20 that I developed a taste for dressmaking. I acquired a 1954 Singer sewing machine in a table, a store bought pattern and some red floral cotton fabric. A friend showed me how to lay out a pattern and I followed the instructions for assembly. I honed my craft over several years. Each Christmas I would throw a party and make several of my friends glamorous gowns if they were willing to purchase a pattern and fabric. This saved me the expense of buying supplies myself but gave me plenty of practice working with boning, vast amounts of yardage and other formal sewing elements and techniques.
Eventually I began making wedding dresses and other custom ordered pieces in my own home and brought the talent with me to AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium. The ability to sew has helped me to save many a dress that was well past it’s prime when we first crossed paths.
Currently AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium is open to the Portland public on Saturdays and Sundays. Here I consult brides on a wide variety of things including accessories, hairstyling and more. While I sell many a vintage gown and custom make vintage reproductions my favorite task continues to be teaming up with a bride to make a family gown fit both their body and design aesthetic.