I met Bess Dunlevy, who created the local event Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer, at a Yelp event earlier this year. She was a really fun person to chat it up with, and she was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions about her vintage collecting habits and talk about the next event, coming up on Saturday, Nov. 22!
If you're local to Pittsburgh, you can also enter to win two tickets to the vintage mixer below. :) How cool is that??
I'm hoping to make the Q&A sessions an occasional part of the blog, so enjoy.
Bess Dunlevy, 35 (pictured in the middle, with fellow directors Jason Sumney and Michael Lutz)
Castle Shannon resident; Washington, PA native
How did you become interested in collecting vintage items? What keeps you interested in it?
My mom would take me to flea markets when I was a kid in Washington County, and my grandmother, who lived in Murrysville, took me along with her to antique shops. Collecting has always been fun for me. In 2009, my pals, Jason Sumney and Michael Lutz, and I began selling vintage housewares on Etsy as Red Pop Shop. We were new Pittsburgh homeowners at the time and wanted to sell vintage to folks like us, who use vintage in everyday, but also want good quality but on a budget. We’re going on our sixth year selling together, and I’ve since branched out in selling small furniture and vintage clothing here in Pittsburgh. In my own life, midcentury furniture and vintage fashion are a big part of my personal aesthetic - it’s rarely about the value of the item for me. I just like old things.
Are there any particular items you tend to collect?
Yes. I have a bit of an issue saying no to 1950s dishware and certain midcentury patterns. Canonsburg Pottery, Royal China, Russell Wright - I have three china cupboards filled. I enjoy having dinner on a great plate, even when I’m dining alone or it’s just takeout. I think it tastes better.
What is your favorite vintage houseware you own and why? Favorite vintage clothing piece?
Around the house, it’s hard to say. I think it changes for me. This summer, I bought a funky vintage aluminum porch glider. It’s huge with brightly colored vinyl cushions that are still in wonderful condition. I had a bit of an adventure picking it up with friends. And I have used it every warm morning, afternoon, evening since! It will remain a staple on my porch so long as my neighbors don’t get tired of my gaudy outdoor decor. My clothing is really forever in rotation.
Is there anything in particular vintage item you aspire to have that you haven’t found just yet? If so, is there a reason why this item is hard to find?
Honestly, I surround myself with vintage pieces that match my personal style - it’s rarely about a certain item or designer. I pick up things along the way that I like. Sometimes they turn out to be gems; sometimes I use a table for a few months and realize it’s not a good fit for my little 1950s home. It’s fun to research the history of pieces that I buy. I love well made, casual furniture from the 1950s and 1960s and the hunt for new stuff is always the best part.
How do you feel about mixing items from different eras, places, especially when it comes to outfits?
I can’t imagine not mixing pieces. I think wearing items from one era only is a bit extreme and, perhaps, kinda boring.
All photos courtesy of Bess and pghvintagemixer.com
How did your interest evolve into your Etsy Store, Red Pop, and the annual Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer? Why did you start the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer?
The vintage fair came about over talks and plans between the three of us (myself, Sumney and Lutz) and mutual friends. We discussed the successes of vendor fairs focused solely on vintage and retro culture in other cities, and the wealth of vintage and antiques shops here in Southwestern PA. In 2011, we began planning the first Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer - a one-day vintage event with an atmosphere that would fall somewhere between a flea market and a high-end antiques fair. Our mission for the event, then and now, is that it focuses on genuine vintage, quality and variety, and remains accessible to collectors of all ages and budgets.
I heard that you only have vintage items that are true to their original form, not upcycled. Is there a reason for that?
That’s correct. Pittsburgh is lucky to have a number of wonderful upcycled small businesses in the region, as well as a thriving arts and crafts community, and we support and value the craftsmanship behind upcycled vintage. The Mixer has evolved into an event that recognizes vintage “in the raw.” Coats may have had a button reattached or lamps may have been rewired for safety, but ultimately, the Mixer is a place for genuine antiques and vintage sellers to show off their collections. It’s become a special part of the event. I think it sets us apart.
So when is it?!?!
The next Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer is our fourth event and our very first fall fair!
The Mixer is Saturday, Nov. 22, at The Teamsters Hall Local 249 on Butler Street (across from the cemetery), Lawrenceville. The event is 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. and will feature nearly 35 vintage sellers, local food trucks Franktuary and Mac and Gold, beverages and treats from 4121 Main, as well as music selections from a mix of local DJs.
What kinds of items should people expect to see there?
Vinyl, men’s and women’s fashion and accessories, furniture, decor, housewares, artwork, toys, paper ephemera and more.
What advice do you have to anyone that’s new to the vintage scene?
Talk to people. There are some wonderful vintage and second-hand shops here in Pittsburgh and inside are wonderfully interesting and knowledgeable shop owners. Chat with them, pick their brains, get to know what they sell and what you like to collect and in the meantime, enjoy the hunt!
Here's the giveaway to win two tickets to the event, which runs until midnight next Friday. Best of luck, guys!