Buying vintage is already something pretty much everyone can feel good about. It’s sustainable, aesthetically interesting, and a way to avoid dropping money at giant chains. But pristine, locally-sourced vintage from a vendor who actively works to give back to the community? Well, it’s essentially a perfect storm of good excuses to spend money and regret nothing.
Hence, the unusually loyal word of mouth that’s been slowly building around Miss Master’s Closet since it opened up in August 2011 on a busy stretch of Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Owner Jessica Master’s commitment and attention to detail are palpable.
“The whole point is to share my love of vintage,” explained Master in her store last week, wearing a black shift dress she had hand-studded with swarovski crystals to seal up holes left by moths, the kind of fix she terms a “creative repair.” Each piece in the store is labeled with a hand-written tag with notes on its era, provenance, care instructions, and often details of repairs Master has done by hand. “I do tons of repairs, almost everything needs a little love somewhere,” she noted, adding, “You’re not going to find flaws on these pieces, really.” This is no small thing in the world of New York vintage, where demand tends to outweigh worthy supply.
But Master is clearly in it for the long-haul, with a lifelong interest in vintage (jump-started by an attempt to find a pair of bell bottoms as a 60’s-obsessed child), and a decade of experience in other stores (and at the Brooklyn Flea) before she launched her own. “I’ve worked at so many vintage companies over the years, so in a way, I learned from other people’s mistakes,” she said. “I really wanted to have an amazing product for a great price, and really anything to further people getting comfortable with wearing vintage, appreciating it and even learning about it.”
The store is also establishing itself as an important hub in the community, where Master herself lives. She hires locally, sources her clothes almost exclusively from charity-affiliated stores, hosts local designers, and currently has plans to use the store’s walls as a venue for artists to show their work without commission.
Amid all the work, she’s also a loyal customer herself — the store is, technically, an extension of Master’s own closet — with a self-imposed rule that if she takes home a piece from the store, she has to replace it with something from her own wardrobe. “The longer I work on a piece, the more attached I become to it,” she explained. “It’s actually cleansing and feels good to let things go, especially when it’s going to someone who will take care of and treasure it.”
1070 Bedford Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.