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How Sweet It Was showcases vintage lingerie

A+blue+peignoir+on+display+at+the+How+Sweet+It+Was+Vintage+shop+on+March+29.+Vintage+lounge+wear%26nbsp%3Band+lingerie+will+be+available+at+the+shop+for+its+Kittys+Specialty+Shop+Art+Party.
Monique Irish

A blue peignoir on display at the How Sweet It Was Vintage shop on March 29. Vintage lounge wear and lingerie will be available at the shop for its “Kitty’s Specialty Shop” Art Party.

Inside one of Tucson’s most popular vintage shops sits a Seventeen Magazine, circa 1969. On the open page is a woman dangling from what looks like a spaceship. Her wavy hair and flirty, blue peignoir seem to billow slightly in zero gravity. Above her the page reads, “Damsel in Undress.”

The same lacy, blue nightgown hangs on a mannequin in the front gallery of How Sweet It Was Vintage on 424 E. Sixth St. The piece is just one of many recently liberated from boxes that sat in a Tucson home for over 40 years.

The collection of lingerie is a portion of the remaining inventory of Kitty’s Specialty Shop, a Brooklyn lingerie store open from the ‘60s to early ‘70s. This rare find was the ultimate score for How Sweet It Was owner Crissy Burgstaler. 

“This has been by far the most comprehensive and complete collection of one specific segment in time of this one thing,” Burgstaler said. “We knew we had to do something; it was just too special to just piece out or put online.”

According to Burgstaler, the owner of Kitty’s moved to Tucson in 1973, bringing the garments from her specialty shop. As she aged, her family moved her out of town into assisted living. Her neighbor decided to buy her house, but there was one stipulation: She had to deal with the contents inside herself. The home was full of things left behind, from floor to ceiling.

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It was only when the woman’s niece opened a box and found what looked like vintage contents that Burgstaler was invited to come look.

“Honestly, the first couple of boxes I looked through were kind of weird,” Burgstaler said. “There were a lot of pantyhose where the elastic was shot and I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is really our thing,’ but it just got more exciting the more I dug. The woman I dealt with was so over the moon to know that it was going to a good place and was actually cool stuff. It was just a beautiful experience all around.”

For the entire month of April, How Sweet It Was will channel Kitty’s in their front gallery, presenting the collection to Tucson vintage lovers for the first time. Everything from sexy ‘70s slips, novelty pajamas, babydolls with matching bloomers to bundles of cotton panties will fill up over two racks in the shop.

“I seriously bought like 2,000 panties,” Burgstaler said. “Some of my friends already got some and were like, ‘Oh my god, this underwear is the best; I threw out all my other panties.’”

The collection will debut with a special party and reception at the shop on Saturday, April 1. From 7-10 p.m., shoppers can get first dibs on the loungewear and pajamas. DJs Alix Fallows and Alice Wilsey will spin a lady-focused set of late ‘60s and modern tunes all evening.

The event is part of the store’s monthly art parties, which take place every first Saturday of the month as part of the First Saturday Art Walk on Sixth Street. Though the April party is dedicated to vintage lingerie, there will still be artwork on display.

Along with the garments were illustrations of different types of lingerie offered by the company Movie Star. These images were not for consumers but were sent out to retailers. A gallery of the framed illustrations will hang alongside the Seventeen Magazines from the ‘60s.

Burgstaler is optimistic about both the reception party and the future homes of these special pieces from the past.

“It’s been so cool because I feel like I’ve had conversations with women that I’ve known for a while … who are like ‘Did you know I collect lingerie?’” she said. “Right now, there’s this climate of women bounding together and this is such a fun way to tap into that.”

One of the women who regularly shops in How Sweet It Was is Emilie Marchand, a burlesque performer known as Lola Torch. She’s hoping to find something glamourous at the art party that speaks to her.

“I absolutely love vintage lingerie,” she said. “I used to sell it myself on eBay and then in my store Preen when it was open. I sleep in vintage nightgowns and wear vintage slips.”

March and is currently designing and making lingerie and finds inspiration in vintage pieces like those from Kitty’s.

“I love the attention to detail, solid construction and candystore colors that occur in vintage pieces, and the glamour,” she said.

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Minnesota transplant Christina Holland said she hopes to find something special in the collection. Her family influenced her interest in vintage items from an early age.

“I grew up with a dad that was an avid street rodder, and I spent many weekends going to classic car shows in our 1933 Ford, so I often feel like I grew up in a different era,” she said. “I never really thought I’d get into ‘old stuff,’ but as I got older, an interest in vintage sparked.”

Holland always loved her grandmother’s vintage jewelry, which she credits for her career as a jewelry maker under the business name Christina Holland Designs.

Holland said her current collection of vintage clothes is small, as it can be difficult to find vintage in her size, and hopes to find something at the party that blends with her style.

“I’m a woman that celebrates her curves, so I tend to find it a big struggle to find vintage clothes that will fit me,” she said. “I’m pretty picky about what vintage I buy, so I’m really excited to see what kind of items are at this event.”

Burgstaler said everything about this large collection of vintage lingerie came together through pure happenstance. When she first opened those boxes, she didn’t know what she would find. She certainly didn’t think she would be throwing an art party in honor of a lingerie shop miles and eras away.

“I just kind of feel like I owed the experience, because it’s such a rare thing to present a collection as completely as possible,” she said. “It’s a very special thing, and I feel like I just want to present that to the community I draw from.”

For more information on the Kitty’s Specialty Shop Art Party, visit www.facebook.com/HSIWvintage.


Follow Jamie Verwys on Twitter.


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