Field Trip: Hunting for Vintage in Iowa City, Iowa

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Death by milkshake - the chocolate bourbon pecan pie shake

This past weekend, I attended the Hawkeye Swing Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. As far as dance events go, the University of Iowa has an ideal setup to run a weekend of dances and workshops, with a student union that has both a giant ballroom with a stage and an attached student-run hotel, where the event attendees can stay. Everything you need is within walking distance of the venue/hotel – shops, restaurants, bars, fro-yo, pie shakes…mmmmm, pie shakes. Ahem. Needless to say, I had a fantastic time dancing, meeting new people, and listening to some sweet music over the weekend provided by the all-star bands headed up by Bria Skonberg, Solomon Douglas, Chase Garrett, and those Seattle darlings, The Careless Lovers.

But what about the vintage? While Iowa City did not turn out to be the vintage Mecca I had hoped, it was certainly a lesson in vintage hunting, which is that vintage can be found just about anywhere, you just have to look for it. I photographed just about every swing-era item I could find, and some 1950’s dresses – my partner in crime, Beccy Aldrich, and I had a fun time scouring these stores and I am proud of our efforts. What is waiting to be unearthed in your corner of the world?

Waiting outside for a table because all the people waiting for shakes took up the waiting area inside

Our first stop, after sleeping in, was for brunch at the Hamburg Inn No. 2, which was recommended to my by Andy Nishida (foodie, dancer, alum). On the outside and inside it looks benign, a typical local, greasy spoon, but then you look closer at the menu and see tons of good eats, then there’s a chalkboard listing 20 different delicious pies, THEN you see in the menu that any pie on that delicious list can become a shake! The line at Hamburg Inn No. 2 was not to dine in, it was full of college students waiting for their shakes. And rightly so, it’s a fantastic way to have two desserts in one and, with it only available in size large, is an ample meal replacement. Beccy, my husband Lucian Cobb, and I split a chocolate bourbon pecan pie milkshake and it was divine.

We sent Lucian to the hotel for a nap and headed to our first stop, the White Rabbit, a wonderful little eclectic boutique with a selection of gifts, handcrafted items, and new and vintage clothing. In the back of the store were a few racks of vintage clothing and Beccy and I each found wonderful plaid 1950’s dresses (both of which were too small for our respective waists, meh). That was the extent of danceable vintage, so we ventured out to locate the next shop…

…which was a consignment shop called Revival. As far as consignment shops go, Revival is very hip and was packed with shoppers. They carry consignment and new clothing, as well as a couple of racks of vintage clothing, new and old accessories, gifts, and some other lovelies, knick knacks, and a cake plate of cupcakes for sale. Beccy found the only pre-1960’s item, which was a cheerful yellow 1950’s dress, which also ended up being tiny. They had some fantastic sunglasses, reminiscent of 1930’s sunglasses, and a lovely umbrella, but little else that would interest Lindy Shopper. Onward!

Our next stop was Ragstock, which I was warned is a chain store and we were not likely to find anything early 20th century here. They were right, however, Ragstock had a huge selection of generic Keds in every color and the sales clerk gave us a great tip on another place to try, so we ventured…

…to Artifacts, which was an antique store with some vintage clothing and a lot of cool other stuff. If I had larger luggage I would have come home with two Art Deco era cake carriers. This is the only store where we found swing era garments, one gorgeous 1930’s velvet suit/dress and a faille late 30’s/early 40’s dress in crimson with rhinestones. Deflated that the red dress was too small, I consoled myself with cheap bakelite bangles, which I purchased at a fraction of the cost of bakelite at other vintage/antique stores. They even had a collection of bakelite scottie dog pencil sharpeners which were, oddly, more expensive than the bangles. Rare? I have no idea, but the bangles were more useful to me anyway.

And that, my friends, is a wrap! Thanks so much to Beccy for being a wonderful companion for the afternoon’s adventures and to Joe Smith and the rest of the Hawkeye Swing Festival organizers for putting together such a wonderful event!

Love the color on this plaid dress at White Rabbit

The adorable plaid dress Beccy found at White Rabbit

Cheeky ties - Victrola tie for the DJs and cat-with-laser-beam-eyes tie for...?

The cheerful yellow dress Beccy discovered at Revival

LOVE these sunglasses at Revival

A rainbow wall of faux Keds at Ragstock

Gorgeous 1930's velvet dress/suit, but so fragile - at Artifacts

Gorgeous red faille dress at Artifacts *sigh*

Hi, bakelite!

Adorable bakelite scottie dog pencil sharpeners at Artifacts

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